Soon, outdoor enthusiasts will be hiking and mountain biking down a new trail through the shade-covered Umpqua National Forest, catching glimpses of Lemolo Lake between the evergreens.
A trails enterprise team through the U.S. Forest Service started constructing 4.5 miles of new trail in the Diamond Lake Ranger District on July 19, connecting the freshly cleared dirt path with existing trails and the North Umpqua Trail to make a 10-mile loop around Lemolo Lake. The most recently built trail, on the east side of the lake, was completed in 1992. The Forest Service is completing the loop now after mitigation funding became available through the North Umpqua Hydroelectric Project.
“This portion of the trail will be as family friendly as humanly possible,” said Miguel Amat y Leon, project lead and recreation specialist for the Umpqua National Forest. “We’re trying to make it as wide as possible so families can walk side by side and bikes can pass each other.”
Before construction began, he and fellow Umpqua National Forest staff member Vern Shumway hiked the area multiple times using a global positioning system application on their phones and planning where the trail should go, blazing it with bright pink flags.
Now, the trails enterprise team’s machinery pushes through the fallen branches, rocks and soil to create the path. The soil derives from pumice, a light, porous volcanic rock that in its dust form has the consistency of fluffy flour. One of the crew members likened it to cake mix that needs eggs and water to make it stick together in a batter ready for baking. The powdery pumice needs some light rain to compact it down into an easily passable trail.
“The pumice was new to me,” said Sean Gwin, one of the three trails enterprise team members working on the project this week.
“It was funny seeing floating rocks,” he noted of the buoyant porous rocks.
The team travels around the country to create and maintain trails, and Gwin said the pumice reminded him of when the team worked in volcanic soil in Hawaii.
The Forest Service is planning to let the trail undergo a winter of rain and snow to compact it down before officially opening it up with a ribbon cutting in 2018. In the meantime, signage, kiosks, benches, parking areas, wooden bridge crossings and other trail improvements will be put in place along the Lemolo Lake Trail.
Pedestrians can still use the trail after its construction is completed this Sunday.
“I’m excited to come here and hike it or bike it,” Amat y Leon said. The new trail will go by several campsites and Lemolo Lake Resort.
The project also includes improving portions of the existing trail and designating 0.7 miles of a forest road and 2.5 miles of the new trail as a Nordic winter trail, connecting it to the existing winter and Nordic-use trail.
According to Amat y Leon, it’s rare for the Forest Service to create new trails.
The team follows Forest Service standards, which call for sustainable grade reversals, meaning parts of the trail should change from climbing up to descending so water doesn’t build up along the path.
Rick Pinson of Tehachapi, California, part of the trails enterprise team, said the crew is trying to keep the trail as flat as possible for pedestrians and cyclists, while keeping the grade reversals in mind.
The big trees in the area have roots that come right down to the edge of the trail, and Pinson said the crew had to consider that while digging through the earth so as not to take out the roots.
“There’s lots of compromise,” he said, adding that he enjoys working under the shady canopy of the forest next to the lake.
For more information about the Lemolo Lake Trail, search for it through the Umpqua National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/umpqua.