March 8, 2009

Running the San Juan “Gutter” Trial

I’m not usually one to rant, but on this day I can’t help myself. Today I ran the San Juan trail that connects San Juan Hot Springs to Blue Jay campground. Apparently this is a popular route for mountain bikers, especially the sort that like to go real fast, downhill. I've been running for 20 years and I’ve never run on a trail so rutted out. It’s virtually a ruined trail for runners.

I have no beef against mountain bikers. Many of my friends are mountain bikers. Hell, I even own a bike that I ride, timidly, down the slightest grade. But here’s the deal. Single track trails only have so much surface area. When bikes descend these delicate paths, particularly those made of loose, soft terrain like the San Juan trial, erosion ultimately sets in. Long, deep trenches form. These are three to five inch wide, foot deep trenches. Turn a corner, and poof, trail turns to trench! If you don’t go head over heels, your feet slide into a bone crunching rut.

So what is the answer? I suggest the San Juan Trail be allowed a break from mountain bikers. Call it a furlough, a hiatus, a recovery! Just some time off from the whirling dervishes. After all, aren’t there hundreds of other trails to ride out there? During this time I think some serious work should be done by the US Forest Service and California Parks and Recreation to determine how to keep trials like this from getting mutilated. Maybe they should rotate the use by mountain bikers of single track trails like San Juan to every other year. Then, maybe, they would have time to heal. Then again, maybe they’ll never have the time to heal.


Mel-2nd Chances said...

hope someone who can make that decision reads your post :D

Greg said...

totally, there should be a ban. Besides the ruts in the trails, the speed at which they descend is a tragedy waiting to happen. I have heard from officials that they've had to pluck many an injured mountain biker from the SJ Trail.

Anonymous said...

I used to train there every Sunday 8 years ago and it was really bad I can only imagine how unrunable it is now. I was almost hit by a biker back then too. I love that downhill but it is very dangerous and should be taken care of. It has been bad a long time though, so who knows if anything will ever be done. Laura

Anonymous said...

the way to get something done is to go to the USFS and find out if and/or how such rules might be implemented. It's your tax dollars, it's your US Forest Service. If you want them to do something - tell them.

I'm not a mountain biker, but it's worth mentioning that the Warrior Society (mountain bikers) does a TON of trail maintenance work out on those trails (and I know of no running club that does any). Several times a year they have work days and go out and cut back the brush and (god bless them) poison oak. They like mountain biking and are committed to putting in time to have good trails. They may or may not be the same people doing the crazy down hill riding. But they would likely be an ally in any attempt to establish rules about use in order to maintain the trails. they, along with local trail running clubs might go together to the USFS and find out how such rules might be implemented. It might be as simple as closing down after rains (just like El Moro).

Will Cooper said...

Thanks guys for your input and comments. My post didn't even mention safety, but I agree with Greg that it is an issue. there are many corners on sj trail that are blind, which is a problem for riders and runners when people ride at excessive speeds. Molly, I plan to reach out to the Warrior society to see what their position is re the sj trial condition and if they acknowlege the source of the problem. Maybe they can be part of the solution. Thanks again for your comments!