The California-based Forest Trails Alliance creates whimsical trail features (left) using the same technique used to build Fruita, Colorado’s town mascot—Grrrrta the dinosaur (right, obvi).
Over the years, we’ve witnessed mountain bike trail building evolve to a fairly high level of craftsmanship. Flow-enhancing lines, finely sculpted berms, rock armoring and stout wooden features are now commonplace as bike-specific builds have proliferated. We recently ran across the work of a Nevada City, Calif.-based non-profit called the Forest Trails Alliance (FTA) whose whimsical touches put a premium on creativity and character. Below is a look at just a few of the defining elements they’ve incorporated into their trail builds.
1. The Manzanita Bridge
Photo by Blair Hickman
The Manzanita Bridge looks like just that—manzanita wood—but it’s actually made of cement. To build the bridge, the FTA employed ferrocoating, the same technique used to create the oversized fruits, full-scale dinosaurs, giant donuts and bigger-than-life Paul Bunyons you might see on the American roadside. For the Manzanita Bridge, reinforcing wire was bent into a tree limb shape then coated with a Portland cement mixture to give it strength and texture. After sculpting and curing, the cement is stained and, finally, crushed gravel is added in the molded bridge deck to create the pathway. The FTA built this particular bridge on private property, but the ferrocement technique is one of many in their bag of trail building tricks.
Photos by Blair Hickman
2. Scott’s Flat Trail Rock Bridge
Detail-rich character elements on display in this FTA-constructed bridge on the Scotts Flat trail in Nevada County, Calif. Photo by Blair Hickman
Artisan rock work is another hallmark of the FTA and they use it extensively when building retaining walls and bridges. For a rock bridge on the Scott’s Flat Trail in Nevada County, Calif. they combined their stone masonry acumen with more ferrocement technique, crafting handrails that look like tree limbs. To add even more whimsical detail, they hand-sculpted a bridge gargoyle.
Photos by Blair Hickman, Forest Trail Alliance