Hiking, biking trail under construction at French Gulch | SummitDaily.com

Hiking, biking trail under construction at French Gulch

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Summit Daily/Kaylie Miller

BRECKENRIDGE – About 60 young volunteers digging dirt, moving rocks and shoveling duff today in French Gulch Valley are building a 1.5 mile trail for hikers and mountain bikers.

Turk’s Trail will start about a mile east of Country Boy Mine, beyond the mounds of cobble surrounding the Reiling Dredge – a deteriorating mining boat from the early 1900s that yanked tons of rocks from underground in search of gold.

The planned singletrack meanders south of the site in a loop that includes bike obstacles amid lush vegetation.

A couple of the trail’s four bridges preserve tiny streams lined with moss that “kind of looks like a fairy land,” said Tom Wiley, a trail tech with the Town of Breckenridge.

The volunteers, aged 12 and up, include locals as well as Front Range kids recruited through Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. They operate in crews of about 10 people.

Crew leader Kevin Benavides, 15, of Bennett, took a break from hacking at a root with his Pulaski to explain the work. He said it takes about an hour to create 100 feet of trail. He’s volunteered with VOC for three years.

“I’ve done a lot of trails in Frisco and Cherry Creek,” Kevin said, adding that he’s in it for “just helping the environment and having fun.”

Turk’s Trail is named in honor of Turk Montepare, a key figure in acquiring the 1,842 acres of Golden Horseshoe backcountry that includes the trail.

The $42,000 project includes a grant of about $32,000 from the Colorado State Trails Grants Program, with the town and Summit County covering the difference, said Scott Reid, Breckenridge open space and trails planner.

“This was a big one, for sure,” he said, adding that having volunteers for the “vast majority” of the roughly 5,000 hours of labor helps lessen the cost.

The price includes the bridges and such support as on-site EMTs.

Wiley said creation of the trail began with ribbons tied to tree limbs to give a general idea of its path. Then big logs and other objects were removed.

Because Turk’s Trail will primarily be a mountain bike route, certain obstacles – like boulders, drop-offs and even tree stumps – were left intact.

“We put twists and turns and choke points,” Wiley said. “We’re trying to keep the corridor tight.”

Little red flags mark a more precise guide for the trail under the ribbons. Some of the areas include duff – squishy, forest-floor vegetation that includes pine needles, leaves, bark and more – as deep as 2 feet.

Susan Shain, 22, a U.S. Forest Service volunteer, was collecting duff in a bucket on the trail Saturday.

“We’re trying to get to the dirt layer so we can have a nice mountain bike trail here,” she said.

A turnpike is also being built to preserve a particularly moist part of the trail. Wiley said turnpikes elevate trails in part through rock fill “folded like a burrito” in a blanket.

Historic objects along the trail – like mining equipment and collapsed structures – are to be left untouched.

Fletcher Jacobs, youth program manager with VOC, said the “good turnout” this weekend may have something to do with the s’mores and camping the volunteers would enjoy Saturday night.

“We’ve done a lot of half-day or one-day programs in Denver,” he said, adding that overnight projects don’t happen so often.

He said the program would include education on mountain pine beetles from Forest Service and Friends of the Dillon Ranger District.

Reid said more volunteers are needed next weekend to have the trail complete by the end of July 26.

He said Friday will be more of a locals’ day, with Front Range volunteers helping the remainder of the weekend. About 100 people have committed to helping, but about 150 are needed.

For more information on volunteering, visit voc.org.

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