Mid-summer, while doing some trail reconnoissance, Rob Hammerlund found that one of the two bridges that are on the north end of the Wilderness Trail was sitting cockeyed on the creek-bank.  It turns out that a Spring flood had washed the fill out from under one of the support beams on its west end.

On July 26th I made a quick trip to the site and assessed the problem and potential fix.  Apparently, the creek takes a hard turn just under that bridge, and the fill had washed out on the downstream side.  These two bridges were put in by the DNR back when the trail was first laid in, which implies that I was not quite sure how they were engineered. Turns out the bridge deck was made of 2″ x 6″  treated boards and the beams were two 6″ x 6″s  One deck board had come loose and another was damaged.  We weren’t planning on using the Wilderness Trail for the Enduro and we had enough to do to get ready for that, so fixing this bridge got put on the back-burner.

In the days leading up to today’s workday, I used my Solidworks CAD software to design up a “crib” that could hold fill under the ends of the bridge beams regardless of the flow erosion of the creek (theoretically).  The design required three 4″ x 6″s to be used to support the bridge beams and some 2″ x 6″s to hold the fill.   A couple of short signposts were to be used to anchor the stack of 4″ x 6″s.

I put out a call for volunteers and ended up scoring three club guys and two hangers-on.  Rob, Chris Palmer and his two friends Josh Johnson and Jason Naughton, and Bill Lawson filled out the crew.  My biggest concern on this project was how to hold the bridge up and out-of-the way while we did the work under its end.  It turns out that three guys easily lifted the end of the bridge while two of us placed some ten foot long 2″ x 4″s under the bridge beams and on top of some cut logs to hold the bridge up.  Super quick and super simple.

After some head scratching and measuring, we determined that the three 4″ x 6″s stacked up were just the right height (5.5″ x 3 = 16.5″) to support the bridge beams to the height that we were looking for.  The design I came up with in my office called for the 4″ x 6″s to be perpendicular to the bridge beams.  We decided it made more sense to angle the 4″ x 6″s so that the water would be partially turned by them, instead of having to be turned almost 90 degrees by the creek bank.  This should take some pressure off of the dirt bank and maybe keep it from eroding further.

After leveling the first 4″ x 6″ in place under the bridge, we decided to build the “crib” up on the bridge and slip it complete under the bridge and into place.  Getting the completely assembled “crib” under the bridge got to be a little tricky, but it sure was easier than trying to build it under the bridge.

With the “crib” in place and under the bridge, there was no way to pound the signpost anchors into place.  That was solved by removing the first three deck boards, which opened up the space above the retaining wall to allow use of the post pounder.  With that solved, we anchored the wall of 4″ x 6″s and staked the sides of the “crib”.  The “crib” was now built and in place.

It became clear pretty quickly that we had not removed enough dirt from under the bridge to fill the “crib”.    If you know the site, you probably know that the trail going up the hill from the bridge is kinda steep and is a gradual turn.  Over the years the ATVs have worn ruts in the hill, and one rut is much deeper than the other.  Did I mention that I had asked each volunteer to bring a shovel?  I grabbed my bigger “goddammit” (a mattocks’s ax) and headed up the approach hill and started loosening the dirt on the high-side rut.  We formed a “shovel brigade” and started hauling the loose dirt down and into the “crib”.  With all of those shovels and all of those guys, it didn’t take very long and the “crib” was filled with nice, gravelly dirt.

With that, we lowered the bridge onto the retaining wall, re-installed the deck boards that we had removed and screwed the bridge to the wall with 10inch timber screws.  A little more “shovel brigade” work and the fill at the end of the bridge was packed down and was slightly higher than the bridge deck.  Done, done and done.  All that was left was to load up the tools and extra lumber onto the ATV, take a few photos, head back to the trucks and, after a little break, go riding.


With the Enduro coming up in two weekends, I got the call from Rob Hammerlund that there was a super deep, ugly rut @ the west end of the Bridge sequence that we have crossing the Little Net River on the Harlis Bypass Trail.  I had an inkling that this spot might become a problem when we re-routed the trail a couple of years ago.  Well, now it was officially a problem!

We figured that three 8ft long boardwalks would do the trick.  We decided to build them at Rob’s house during the week.  On Tuesday after work I ran to Menard’s and bought the necessary lumber, etc… and headed for Rob’s house.  His son, Holden, got in on the construction.  With the three of us going at it, the cutting and construction went really fast.  It only took 1 1/2 hours – it was done before dinner time.

This morning I met Rob and we headed up the “Interstate” trail (a minimum maintenance road) to the de-facto parking spot on the west end of the Harlis Bypass.   We had to drag the boardwalks and haul the tools down the singletrack about a mile to the bridge-site.  It took a couple of trips, but it wasn’t long until we were ready to place the boardwalks.  Once more I was glad to be wearing my knee-high rubber boots as the rut was muddy, deep and wide.  It was a really hot day.  We placed the first boardwalk and headed back to the trucks for some fluids and some forgotten tools.   Three hours from start-to-finish and our quick fix was in place.

I spent the last two weeks trying to work out a fix for the narrow snowmobile track boardwalks that got installed on July 25 – 26.   Luckily, I have Solidworks CAD access at work, so I could draw things up and do “what if” scenarios with various ideas.  I also put together one boardwalk at home so that I could build prototypes and see how things fit together and looked.  After trying out several ideas, I came up with simple, treated wood, 10inch wide “wings” that could be installed on either side of the sno-track boardwalks.  This would make them go from 15″ wide to 35″ wide.  I designed them to be as easy to install as possible.  I got them all built up ahead of time, which was quite a job since I needed 2 times 110 feet of “wings”.  Needless to say, I was highly motivated to get the boardwalk problem fixed and into the rear view mirror.  I was loaded up and ready to go on the evening of Aug 7th.

I gave myself two days to get the “wings” installed.  I hadn’t asked anyone for any help.  I pulled into the cabin driveway very early in the morning.  Hauling was the first order of business.  It was going to take several trips.  When I got back from dropping off the first load I found John Otto parked at the end of the Northeast Extension.  He had planned to do some brushing for the Enduro.  We talked briefly and I told him what I was up to.  Without being asked, he dropped what he was doing and started pitching in to get this project done.  By sheer luck he had his ATV, rather than a bike, along on this trip.

Another load or two and we finished hauling all of the stuff, including some extra lumber to support the edges of the “wings” if they needed it.  The “wings” were made in three different lengths, based on the known lengths of the boardwalks.  We grabbed the first 12ft long “wing” and got started.   After a little digging and shimming it looked like a fit, so we screwed it into place.  I won’t say that it was easy, but it wasn’t too bad.

And so it went, one “wing” at a time; digging, shimming and fastening.  We started on the dryer end of the long rut, and things started to flow as we figured out the formula for getting the “wings” set and attached.  It took all of 9 hours (11 for me) from start to finish to get the whole thing done.  Shortly after we got the first half of the job done, play riders started showing up at the site.  This gave us a chance to see bikes using a long, completed section of the modified design.  The boardwalks were now easy to ride on, and we got a few “thank you”s for making the trail improvements.    I’m still concerned that the construction might come apart from extended use.  We’ll just have to see how things pan out over time.  In the meantime, it’s the most unique fix that we’ve installed.  A long, curved boardwalk with snowmobile tracks running down the center.  You won’t confuse it with any other fix anywhere else.

The previous Fall we had acquired a good number of snowmobile tracks from a connection Rob Hammerlund has at Polaris.  They were prototypes that needed to be discarded after testing.  We didn’t have a specific plan for them, but figured that something might come up.  After some discussion, I decided to figure out a way to use them to fix the >100ft, twisty rut discussed in the July 18th blogpost.

I took some measurements and figured out a way to support each track with three lengthwise 2″ x 4″s screwed to the bottom side, one on each outside edge and one down the center.  Three to five small 2″ x 4″s cross-ways would stiffen things a bit.  This would make a “boardwalks” 15inches wide by 10 – 12feet long.

Because most of the track prep (cutting off paddles and some of the guide bumps on the bottom) had been done in some downtime, making these boardwalks was pretty easy.  They ended up being pretty light, relatively speaking, which make hauling lots of them in my rig less of an issue.  Hauling was completely solved by not assembling some of the boardwalks until I got on-site.  That way I could pile up some of the tracks in the back of my truck instead of trying to fit so many completed boardwalks in my trailer with my ATV.

This weekend’s volunteers included Roy Fleming, Kelly McQuay and his son James.  We had three ATVs.  Roy used his trailer to get the boardwalks and miscellaneous lumber to the Yellow Birch close point.  Rather than tie things down, we just had someone ride in the trailer to hold things down and stop Roy if something fell out.  Very scientific…

It took several trips to get the first load of pre-built boardwalks and tools to the close point and then to drag the boardwalks from there to the work-site.   I also brought some drain tile to put in the trenches that Steve Long and I made on July 18.  Somewhere in there I ripped the hitch-ball off of my ATV trailer hitch.  We used old-fashioned rope and smaller loads after that to do the dragging.

We started out by installing the drain tile tubes, which didn’t take long.  We then started installing the boardwalks on the “easiest” end, where the rut wasn’t as deep and was just about exactly the width of a snowmobile track.  It went surprisingly well and we got the jist of how things were going to go.  Still, it took all of 4 hours to get that first, not-so-bad part in place and mostly anchored.  With that, we measured how long the “harder” part was so that we knew how much boardwalk would be needed to finish the job.  Then it was time to head back to the trucks, take a break and build those remaining boardwalks.

After the break and build, off to the site we went, with the last boardwalks in the trailer.  These got hauled in, and after some discussion of what was to go where, the work started again.  Because the rut was so deep here, it took a more calculated approach to get the boardwalks to lay in place end-to-end and level(ish).  My knee-high rubber boots came in really handy here.  While working, we were “disturbed” by a few groups of riders that came through, including a guy with a European accent riding a BMW R1200GS!  It was interesting to see how they navigated the narrow (15inches wide) snowmobile tracks.  It was about 50-50, with half staying up on the tracks, and half going off the sides.  Not a good omen…….

After a lot of dirty grubbing, placing, anchoring and joining, the job was finally done.  It was time to load up all of the tools and leftover lumber and head back.  It ended up being an 8 1/2 hour day, with everyone pretty glad to get back to the trucks, load up and head out.  Roy’s ATV and trailer looked pretty bad having gone through so many puddles on the Yellow Birch.  He had work to do when he got home.   Roy and Kelly headed for home that night, I stayed over.

In the morning I went back to the work-site, and hauled in some wire decks that had been left over from a previous job.  My plan was to fix some of the small stuff that I had noticed on July 18th when I was there with Steve and Kylie Long.   I started by “harvesting” the last wire deck that I discovered on the old trail alignment.   I used two decks to smooth out the transitions on a previously installed wooden boardwalk.  This worked sweet.

While I was doing some brushing to “let the sun in”, some more riders came through.   I watched their varying success on the snowmobile tracks.  It was not good.  After all of that work, this “fix” wasn’t really a fix at all.  If anything, if it was left the way it was, it would get all torn up from riders going off the side of the snowmobile tracks.  It was going to be back to the drawing board (literally) in the coming days.

I noticed that we hadn’t really anchored down some of the boardwalks and I had forgotten to put screws in some of the anchors that were there.  So I spent an hour putting in a few new anchors and putting screws in anchors that I forgot to install the day before.

I grabbed my tools and started to ride back to the truck when I remembered another little bad spot near the close point.  I stopped there briefly and took a little measurement.  That last boardwalk at the cabin would fit in there nicely.  So I went back to the truck, hitched up the boardwalk and headed out again.  It took about an hour to dig out the spot and get that boardwalk placed, but it fixed a spot that has been bad off-and-on for a long time.   Good stuff.

Now – how to fix the fix………..



Steve Long and I had been discussing some problems he saw with the Iron Pipe Trail near the Cowcatcher Bridge.  Something about long, deep, water filled ruts.  This weekend we went up to check out the problem spot and try to figure out what to do next.  Access would be from the Yellow Birch close point.  I knew of a couple of bad spots on the singletrack near the close point, one of which could use 2 or 3 boardwalks to cover a hole that has been there, like, forever.  Steve volunteered to build a couple of boardwalks and haul them up for the weekend festivities.  There was already an extra boardwalk left over from a previous weekend sitting at “Andy’s Cabin” that we could use if we needed a third one.

Steve brought his daughter Kylie (13?) or this work weekend and I wondered how that was going to go.  Turns out she helped some and kept herself occupied the rest of the time.  She didn’t mind getting dirty and seemed to be having fun so it worked out great.

We used Steve’s trailer and ATV to haul stuff down the Yellow Birch and out to the spot, which beats my kludged up dragging rig any day.  It was another good day for the knee-high rubber boots as we proceeded to lay 2 of the boardwalks into/over the first problem spot.  The fix was quick and easy and Kylie found a frog to play with.

We then headed to the “real” trouble spot, the rut near the Cowcatcher.  It was in a spot that already had several boardwalk and wire deck fixes.  For some reason this spot never really seems to dry out.  The rut was long (~100ft), twisty and ugly.  Steve started in digging a trench to let some of the water out.  Wow!  It was surprising how much this helped.  Old boardwalk that had been floating was left high and almost dry.  I made a mental note to bring  in some drain tile (perforated tubing) to put into that trench to keep it from silting up later.

After sizing up the “main rut”, we walked down the trail and noted a couple of other spots with smaller problems.  Steve found another spot to dig a trench so we went at it again.  This one worked out well too, with the added benefit of us finding some old wire decks that were placed when the trail was routed a few feet away in the distant past.  I made another mental note to make sure we “harvest” all of the wire decks that might be hiding in the weeds at that spot at a later date.  It seemed to be another good spot for drain tile tubing too.

We did what we could at this site and started to head back.  On the way, we stopped at another problem spot near the close point that to fix just needed some major brushing for about 10 yards.   We had time and the equipment so we went at it until we were satisfied that riders could easily avoid the rutted corner there.

It was a successful days’ work.   Now – how to fix that long, ugly rut…….?

An earlier ride through the north part of the Iron Pipe Trail practically took my shoulder out.  First, there was a low spot between two ridges where we had previously put some wire decks on either side of an existing shipping pallet “bridge” built by some unknown ATV’er.  The untreated pine pallet had rotted enough that it had collapsed in the very middle of the intermittent flowage.  That spot was super soft, and a very deep hole had been dug there by the many bikes that had no doubt gotten stuck in the gap between the decks.  Also, some hapless riders had actually removed some the decks and tossed them aside after they had gotten stuck on them.   It was a mess for sure.

The second spot was one where I had put in a row of wire decks to fix a soft spot that reared its ugly head shortly after we rerouted the trail a few years ago.  I was sure that the row of decks was continuous.  When I went to ride through, there was a puddle in the center of the run that I thought that I would just splash through.  Well, somehow the center deck had disappeared.

The hole was deep and when I dropped in, my bike just stopped and I almost went over the bars.  The jolt messed up my throttle thumb and my clutch-side shoulder.  I went looking for the missing deck, but it was nowhere to be found.

I built three boardwalks the week before the 15th in my garage at home.  I bought material for four, thinking that I would fix the second spot by building a deck on-site that was just the right length to fill the gap between the wire decks.

On this morning, I used the Yellow Birch Trail to tow the 3 boardwalks to the first spot.  I left the tow wheels on the Birch, and dragged the boardwalks the rest of the way through the woods to the work-site.  Job one was to fish out all of the broken pallet parts and toss them aside.  Did I say that I was wearing knee-high rubber boots?  Oh yeah, these were practically a requirement in the deep water and soft mud.  The next order of business was to gather up all of the wire decks that were scattered around.  A couple were hidden pretty well in the weeds.

Placing the boardwalks wasn’t bad, but there were some roots that needed to be grubbed out, which was not much fun.  Needless to say, I splashed dirty water all over my face swinging the ax…… again.  I brought in some 4″ x 4″s to support the boardwalks over the soft spot, which worked nice.  Once the boardwalks were in place and hooked together, it was a matter of laying the wire decks in place on the approaches, anchoring them and tying those together.  The finished product looked great when I left it AND it looked great after the Enduro.

When that was done I hauled the tools and stuff back to the truck and took a break.  After I was fed and watered, I loaded the boardwalk materials and build tools onto the ATV and headed back up the Yellow Birch.  I jumped off at the close point (500-399).  It was “interesting” riding a loaded ATV down the narrow singletrack to the second spot, trying not to roll sideways down the embankment on the right side.

I was just finishing building/installing the short (5ft?) boardwalk when two play riding SAER members (Todd Lofstrom and Kelly McQuay) showed up.  They proceeded to tell me about some other spots that could use some work.  That’s helpful as I don’t get much of a chance to see a lot of the trail during the summer as I’m busy fixin’ stuff.  I eventually relayed that report to the appropriate Section Leader.


Today’s the day to lay down the ~90ft boardwalk.  I finished building 6 more boardwalks during the week.  Canvassed for volunteers to help with the installation and scored only one club member, Roy Fleming.  It was going to be a big job and I wasn’t sure two of us could get it done in one day, so I planned on staying an extra day.

I got there before Roy and started hauling in boardwalks.  Access to the singletrack and the work-site was just a short walk, so Roy didn’t need a bike or ATV.  We hauled 5 of the 6 boardwalks in, reserving the last one in case it was needed.  Then we stared at the site for awhile and decided how to get started.  I’m guessing that Roy was a bit worried about the project getting done in one day because once we got started, he was relentless in keeping the job moving.  The job required a fair amount of root chopping, root sawing and root removal.  I was glad that I bought that cordless Makita Sawzall two years ago.  It made getting through most of the roots a bunch easier.  That, along with the ax and the chainsaw, took care of what needed to be taken care of.

It was lay one down, see what was needed, fool with roots and/or add treated wood supports, lay it down, figure it’s good and link it up with the previous unit…..one boardwalk after the other for 6 hours.  In the end, 11 of them did the job.   We looked down the row at what we did with satisfaction.

These newer-style boardwalks are narrower than any we had done in the past.  We formerly made them 4ft wide so that we could ride an ATV across them, which helps when we’re going in to do maintenance.   This time they were 32inches wide, which meant that my ATV only had one set of wheels on them when I drove across.  So this crossing is no fun for your average ATV rider.  We don’t seem to get any ATVs on this trail segment so it’s kind of a moot point.

The hard work got done on Saturday.  I visited the site again on Sunday morning and spent a little over and hour driving in anchors to keep the thing in place over the shaky ground.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a bike and I didn’t see any bikes cross the thing, so I didn’t get a reading on how the update worked.  I heard later that it was a welcome fix over an ugly part of the Corduroy.

I finished the morning by adding that last boardwalk to the chain we put in on June 13th.  The day we put it in, that chain looked like it was one boardwalk short.

Started building boardwalks for the ~90ft project last week at home and got 6 done.  I can’t haul eleven and my ATV all at once in my rig, so I was planning on two trips.  My wife agreed to help me deliver the 6 finished boardwalks to the site today, after which we headed to Carlton to ride the bicycle trails there.

Reports from the Section Leader of the Corduroy segment pointed to some real problems with a couple of the soft spot crossings.  It turned out that beavers built a dam somewhere out there on Westholm Creek, which backed up water onto and across the Corduroy Trail.  Also, one of the historic, long swamp crossings finally gotten out-of-control bad (deep ruts, no fill left, tons of exposed roots, etc…).

This weekend we brought in some boardwalks and made a little bridge thingy to allow the backed up river to cross the trail.  Mike Hillestad, Dave Anderson and I dragged ’em in, set ’em down and made a little support in the middle to allow water to flow under.  It was pretty easy as the problem was right next to the access trail.

We then went and looked at the problem swamp crossing, which was close by.  It was torn up pretty badly and was on its way to getting worse.  We got out the 100ft tape and decided that ~90ft of boardwalk would do the trick.  That’s at least eleven 8ft long boardwalks to build.  Better get on it.

Plenty of time and effort lead up to today’s Bridge raising project.  The Bridge, which spans the State Line Creek on the Bearhunter Trail, had settled down onto its lowered/washed out concrete supports, a result of last year’s Spring flood.  It was still serviceable but was susceptible washing out again to even lesser floods.

A good group of volunteers showed up.  Andy Gunderson drove his John Deere tractor to the site from a parking spot on the Foxboro/Chaffee Rd in Wisconsin.  Bill Spaulding trailered his Bobcat T200 (a tracked cat) up the Bearhunter to within 200 yards of the west side of the Bridge.

Andy made short work of moving the east ramp out of the way with the pallet forks he brought.  He also picked up the old concrete support and hoisted it out of the way.  It was then time for Bill to pick up his end of the Bridge and drag it west.

It took some stopping and staring to figure out how to get started on the east retaining wall, which needed a 90 degree angle to hold back the fill.  Once everyone was on board on how to lay in the first two 6″ x 6″ timbers, things started to happen.  Unbeknownst to the rest of us, Andy went off and found a rock garden.  Once the first three levels were laid down and fastened together (and a deadman installed), Andy showed up with a bucket full of boulders for fill.  That was great but the next bucket needed to be dirt to fill in the spaces.

Three more levels and a bunch more fill got things looking OK, but the fill was mighty wet.  It looked like that might be a big problem but we just kept working around it and it eventually turned out.  Once the east wall was done, both Andy and Bill picked up the Bridge from their respective ends and moved it over so that it was mostly on the east side.  A repeat performance of retaining wall building got started on the west side, this one simpler because we were now “experienced” and there was no right angle needed.  Bill also had nothing but good, dry fill to work with and another “rock mine” that he found somewhere.  The tracked bobcat also just plain worked better for this job.

With both creek banks now artificially rebuilt with retaining walls and fill, it was time to pick up the Bridge one more time and place it on the supporting crossways timbers that were to hold it up above creek bank level.  With a bit of jockeying and probably too much work direction from the foreman, the Bridge was set onto its (hopefully) final resting place.   The support timbers were then screwed in place, including the stacked ones for the ramps.

Almost the whole crew pitched in to pick up the old, east ramp and set it in place.  It was screwed to the support timber and Andy brought in more fill to bury the far end.  While that was going on I got some of the rest of the crew started on building the west ramp, which went pretty fast with all of the help that was there.   It was another group grab and haul and this ramp was in place.  After it was screwed to its timber, Bill got busy with the last of the fill on his side, burying the end of the new ramp.

With all that done some temporary stops were put in place to keep the Bridge from sliding off the timbers in a high water event.  The temporary features will be replaced with some more substantial guides (sometime soon) so that it won’t shift unless we have a 100 year flood.  We’ll install a chain to keep the Bridge in the vicinity in case we do get that monster flood.

P.S.  It’s two weeks later and the permanent guides have been installed and the Bridge is chained to a tree on its southwest corner.   A couple of logs were also laid in to keep the fill on the trail tread.  The Bridge is done!  Long live the Bridge!