Building a Gravel Forest Road with Rock Jumps!


Everything that comes and goes from Berm Peak,
be it bikes, supplies, or the Gator was traversing this little patch of lawn next to my driveway. As you can see, it wasn’t a good long term
solution. And so BP1 was born…hastily. It’s a short double-track forest road that
connects the driveway to the trails and while it’s a better solution than the lawn, it’s
not gonna work either, at least not in its current state. Now, I would have improved BP1 a while back,
but it’s not singletrack. It’s not really a mountain bike trail at
all, so I honestly don’t even know where to start. Luckily my friend, James does. If James looks familiar it’s because he
owns Squatch bikes which we’ve featured several times. But in a past life, James was a professional
machine operator. He now refers to it as therapy. Since the summer, James has been itching for
some machine therapy on Berm Peak, and I’ve been resisting it. But BP1 isn’t quite a shining example of
hand cut singletrack, and James has our best interest at heart. So I ordered whatever James told me to and
had it delivered to the house. That included about 30 tons of gravel, which
we’re storing in the auxiliary parking spot. Ironically, that spot is what really needed
the gravel. We also took delivery of stone—lots of stone,
some of which we hand picked to ensure we’d have the right shapes and sizes for the project. To move the stone and gravel I borrowed my
neighbor’s tractor. And on the morning of the job, James’s therapist
arrived. James used the excavator to place boulders
on the low side of the road so we could build it up with gravel. With much smaller boulders, Gary the stone
mason built rows across the road to keep the gravel from sliding down. James recommended we hire Gary and I’m glad
we did. But that left me as kind of the new guy on
the job, trying desperately to be helpful and not make too big a fool of myself. My first job was to use the tractor to transport
stone around the back of the jobsite. So one by one, I gorilla’d stone into the
bucket. I’m sure a more experienced operator could
have made quick work of this, but I’ve actually never operated a front loader before. Learning to control the loader was surprisingly
easy and only took a minute. But learning the machine’s capabilities
and limitations took all weekend. When there’s a load in the bucket the tractor
handles completely differently. And when traversing uneven terrain, how you
position the loader is essential. I damn near flipped this tractor on my first
few runs, but with repetition things got easier. You may notice that we’re completely destroying
the lawn that this road is meant to protect. We knew this going in, and have plans for
it. But if any of you were wondering why I’ve
been avoiding large machinery it’s because of this. Still, this project is gonna be well worth
the mess. As we got the stone in place, James had me
run gravel to the jobsite so we could start building the actual road. The gravel first gets graded with a rake,
and then compacted with a plate tamp. At first it looks almost like concrete, but
in a few months all this gravel will sort of blend in like a normal forest road. As the day wore on we fell into rhythm, and
things started moving along real quickly. By nightfall, we had made it about 3/4 of
the way to the end, but rain was in the forecast for the following afternoon. So we’d have to wait till Sunday to finish
up the road. But the following morning at the crack of
dawn, I set out to get a side project done before the rain came in. The day before, James stealthily placed some
rocks in key locations along the road. The counterpart to these rocks, would be a
dirt lander. And I only had only a few hours one before
the place got soaked. Some of the gravel in the parking spot got
mixed in with the clay underneath, so I used the tractor to scoop a bunch of that dirty
gravel into the gator to use on the landing. Between the dirt excavated from the road and
that dirty gravel, there was more than enough material to build a landing. But if we were gonna ride it this weekend,
it would need to get compacted a lot. I got the landing done just before it started
raining, and we only had one more day to work on the road. Sunday morning, we set out to finish the last
bit of road before noon. But there was a problem. The rain from the previous day made running
the tractor—really sketchy. We considered running it down the road we
just built, but I didn’t want to risk it on the steep part with all that weight in
the bucket. So, we used the git’r. Yes, these gators are available with power
dump beds, but I didn’t pay extra for that. But we made it work, and the job started picking
up momentum again. By the afternoon, we had reached our goal
for the weekend and started wrapping things up. And it was finally time to test out the jump. The the first lip is obviously this little
diving board rock off the edge of the road. It can’t be more than a 5 foot gap, but
if you boost off this rock further back, you can prehop the entire thing, lip and all. Of course, it all connects to the snake pit
skinny which used to end in a muddy disaster. But these fun, intuitive rock features were…a
little out of place on Berm Peak. We needed something sketchy. Option three was a little bucky, meaning it
wants to throw you over the bars. So we did a little shaping with gravel to
make the transition smoother. While the gap isn’t all that big, you need
to clear it off a 4 inch rock. And that’s exactly the kind of sketchiness
we like around here. But for maybe the first time on Berm Peak
we have a really good approach. And, two other really intuitive options. I named this feature the Squatch jump after
James’s bike shop, and later that day both of James’ mechanics, Sean and Pat, stopped
by to try it out. James and Gary got a real kick out of watching
their work being enjoyed in this way. it’s hard to imagine walkways and staircases
eliciting the kind of reaction this rock feature does. I’m looking forward to the spring when we
can transplant some rhododendrons along the edge of this road and make it blend back into
the woods. And I’m really looking forward to my yard
—not looking like this. Anyway I hope you enjoyed watching us build
a gravel road, and if you have any ideas for what we should with all that speed after the
landing, put it down in the comments. Thanks for riding with me today and I’ll
see you next time.

100 comments

  1. Since you all like sketchy and building things, how about a wallride. I think that would be a fun transition, and you can end it in the driveway or connect the bridge into another trail.

  2. Tip for using front loaders:

    Always drive around with the bucket low when there’s something in it (obviously not too low)

    And if you ever start to tip or if your wheels come off the floor then slam the bucket down to stop you moving.

  3. I'm telling you, you really should buy a tracked wheelbarrow. I've seen multiple uses for it around Berm Peak. Would be a great investment. It would let you move around large amounts of material to just about anywhere you want, without creating much damage to the ground.

  4. After the squatch jump you should try and build a little step up going into your lawn, that would be really cool and scratchy, the way we like it

  5. So if youre still trying to keep out of the yard with the trails, then the next logical thing would b a big berm to help keep the speed into another feature. Maybe a big fuck off gap, like a larger version of what u built here with multiple lines to hit

  6. What to do after landing… double berm.

    Inside track over Flat Top drop on path.
    Outside track around Flat Top.

    I’m picturing a left since that’s my strong side… but either way.

    Time it so inside is harder option but gains half second or so… maybe berm is extended up Flat Top with a lip to ensure you keep going correct direction.

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