Trail Maintenance: tools of the trade...

So you want to do trail maintenance?  You want to wake up in the middle of the night with numb hands from all the gripping of tools?  You want to nurse your blisters?  You want to soothe your muscle aches and pains?  You want to clean and dress your nicks and cuts?  You want to treat the areas that were exposed to poison whatever?   You want to swing, chop, whack, saw, cut, fling, grunt, swat, sweat, and lop?

Then if you are going to work alone, and not on an organized trail work day, you will need to get yourself some basic tools of the trade and have at it!!!

Here's my preferred group of goodies I keep in the truck (note the most needed can of Cutters to keep the flying critters away from me as best that I can).


Due to the race out at Lake Ahquabi, and my desire to volunteer to help keep things open for all trail users - be it hikers, bikers, fishermen, etc... - I find myself doing trail work out at Lake Ahquabi every spring, summer, and fall.  I have some free time in the summer due to the nature of my job as a college professor.  So I am happy to volunteer and give back.  After having used power tools (mower, chainsaw, weed eater) on trails, I've grown to prefer using tools that get the job done under my own power.  It's better for the environment, doesn't scare the wildlife or disturb other State Park users, and is easy to hike in and out of various trails carrying light tools.  That's for the maintenance stuff.  If major work needs to be done, pulling out the brush hog, or big power equipment to remove fallen trees is necessary. 

But there is a cost on one's arms, wrists, hands, back from all the swinging, chopping, whacking, sawing, etc... .  The days and weeks leading up to The Mullet Fall Classic race, my hands and wrists go numb with all of the work.  This year, in an effort to spread the work out, I have been doing work throughout the summer so that I don't have to cram all the maintenance at the end.  Last week, this week, and next week are target weeks to get as much done as possible before the academic teaching year begins at the end of August.

Miles of trail to keep the growth from spreading into the way of bikes keeps me busy getting the track ready for The Mullet Fall Classic.


So it is I awake at 2:30 a.m. with both hands numb and in pain last night.  That followed 2 days of trail maintenance out at Ahquabi that had me using the grass whip (scythe), machete, loppers, and the saw to remove a fallen tree.  It all was only about 4 1/2 hours of work, but that is enough to make the hands ache for a long time.  I know my hands were going numb in last Sunday's bike race due to the trail work and I expect the same this Saturday at Ida Grove.  I have to shake my hands out every now and then during a ride when my hands feel like this so I can use the brake levers and shift.

I am heading out to do a lap or two today to see how things look around the entire loop and what is left to address maintenance wise.  Growth had stagnated in July when the rain stopped.  We've had a few rain showers lately and got 2" on Monday which, along with the cooler temperatures, has reignited growth from the canopy and the grass.  Things are trimmed back enough that walking through with the machete, or brush swipe is a good way to chop back anything that is creeping out into the trail space. 

HELP NEEDED:  The DNR used their new brush/hedge trimmer attachment to clip the sides of the trail canopy on the west side of the lake.  What they clipped is all along the ground on the side of the trail and much of it is in the path of wheels.  It needs to be moved.  If you have time and desire to help, it would be nice to walk through the western section of the trail and pick up the dead limbs and toss them deeper into the woods to get them off of the trail.  When I lop with the loppers, I take great care to toss all branches deep into the woods.  We just need to help out the DNR and do this step for them.  Thanks to anyone willing to help do this!!! 

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