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  1. #1

    Default Question about cutting new trail

    Hi,

    Hope this is a good place to ask this.

    I've been volunteering with Alabama Hiking Trail Society on extending the Pinhoti trail farther south, someday to connect with the Florida Trail. Wanted to know if anyone has ever considered, or heard of, a plow or blade attachment built for a DR brushmower that could be used to cut side hills for new trails on slopes that weren't too rocky? The AHTS already owns the mower; using it only for mowing, and DR makes a snow blade attachment already for the thing, but it is too wide and not adjustable. I'm thinking if I could build such a thing, it would save lots of mattock and hoeing by hand.

    Edwin

  2. #2

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    We ran into a horsedrawn plow that was being used in the Cascades on our PCT hike to build or improve the trail there several years ago. IIRC, it was dragged behind the horse and had multiple chains and edges to dig up the soil.

  3. #3
    Registered User Lyle's Avatar
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    There are some commercial machines that are sold as a trail-building implements. A couple of years ago, some involved with the NCT were seeking to buy one, but the project got put on hold until the machine and the results could be studied more.

    If I remember right, the initial feeling of our National and Regional Trail Coordinating staff and our NPS partners was that it would have limited use and could inadvertently cause serious damage to the corridor. This was not an attachment for a DR, but a stand-alone piece of equipment. I believe this was designed for professional trail builders, thus had a very high price tag and serious liability concerns as well.

    They were supposed to be seeking a demonstration by the manufacturers, but I don't know what the results of that were, or if it even took place.

    Years ago, one of our prolific lower Michigan trail builders modified a garden tiller for trail building in our very sandy soil. While it got trail on the ground quickly, it was not properly graded and sloped, so many areas ended up as a shallow ditch to walk in - not ideal by any stretch of the imagination. This technique has been totally abandoned.

    Check out this to see some of what's available commercially:

    www.fs.fed.us/eng/pubs/pdf/96231207.pdf

  4. #4
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    Good luck hooking up with the FT. Everytime I go on a repeat section, they've relocated it. It no longer goes down to Lowery Lake by Goldhead and the section through the Bardin Booger Woods has been turned into an abandoned railroad bed walk.
    I'm not really a hiker, I just play one on White Blaze.

  5. #5

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    My experience with other DR walk behind equipment is that it would not be heavy to effectively dig into the soil enough to matter. Without enough mass to keep the drive wheels firmly on the ground, I suspect they will just spin and dig in, rather than pushing any reasonable amount of dirt. And if you hit a substantial root, forget it. I've seen ATV's (a blight on the face of god) with snowplow blades having the same problem, they just aren't heavy enough to keep a good grip. If you have to go motorized, I'd look into renting a skid-steer (Bobcat) wiht a bucket. Many have a caterpillar tread kit available which would reduce some of the damage you are going to do. Also remember that you have to dump what your are scraping off someplace (typically downslope), you can't do that if your machine can't pivot.

    Cosmo

  6. #6
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    To create such a sidehill machine, you're basically fighting the soil mechanics. Soil particles adhere to each other in the ground much more so than much lighter snow. Something that can push snow or loose piles of dirt around, is much easier to build than a bulldozer.

    There are a couple of China specials in the Northern Tool catalog for maybe $20k, but the ticket for professional trailbuilders doing sidehill is the $60k+ SWECO trail dozer with six way blade. Could have seen one maybe last week? in Asheville at the Professional Trailbuilders Association conference.

    I have seen also fellows doing such work with a mini-trackhoe, a more common piece of equipment than a SWECO, but still something in the cost and experience realm of someone who routinely does such work.

  7. #7

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    A horsedrawn plow sounds as good as anything mechanized requiring more than 3 feet of space to work in like the accursed ATV or more massive machines. I'm only wanting a footpath, not a multi-use trail here. But this would be on side hills up to 30 degrees, so I wouldn't be sitting on a 4 wheeler for sure. An old plow with a cutting coulter out front, sharp enough point, angled down and laying the loosened earth downhill, might keep enough weight over the wheels of the DR to cut small roots I'm hoping. I am the retired dairy farmer, so I have memories / visions of plowing in my head already.

    Thanks for the ideas so far.

    Edwin

  8. #8
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    Default

    One partisan of the mini-excavator explained how a 4' machine can cut a 2' trail. It's called half-bench - the uncompacted sidecast falls away within months in a humid climate.

  9. #9
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    Bill Ristom was talking about building something like this. But I wouldn't expect it anytime soon as he has many irons in the fire and is going to start the PCT soon.
    SGT Rock
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  10. #10

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    the link Lyle gave me to the Forest Service publication explains pretty well whey they are going with the SWECO 450 dozer whenever there is some money available and few of us volunteers. They also said a 48" cut soon grows back so it looks like only a footpath when there is nothing but foot traffic on it.

  11. #11

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    You can rent a mini excavator w/dozer blade on the front along with the hoe. They are on rubber tracks so they are less damaging to surfaces. A skid steer will rip the crap out of the ground on sharp turns but if you rent one make sure the bucket has teeth or it will be hard to dig down any. Whatever you do, make sure you don't disturb enough soil, more than 10,000 sf, to require a Erosion Control And Sedimentation Plan or permits.
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Thomas Jefferson

  12. #12

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    I'm not gonna spend money, nor time getting approval, on renting any big machine that I'm not familar with, with my own money. This is a continuing small project we volunteers are doing on land of either Alabama Forestry Commison or Talladega N.F. at the moment. The Forest Service used the Trails Unlimited SWECO dozer last fall but the money went only so far I guess. We are trying to finish some spots they skipped. No big deal digging bit by bit, by hand, we can still walk the trail even if it's not cut level yet.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by ednotmilkman View Post
    I'm not gonna spend money, nor time getting approval, on renting any big machine that I'm not familar with, with my own money. This is a continuing small project we volunteers are doing on land of either Alabama Forestry Commison or Talladega N.F. at the moment. The Forest Service used the Trails Unlimited SWECO dozer last fall but the money went only so far I guess. We are trying to finish some spots they skipped. No big deal digging bit by bit, by hand, we can still walk the trail even if it's not cut level yet.
    Maybe some one here that's near you that can offer to provide a machine and operator to save your back from the Pulaski tool. The mini machines are easy to operate so I hope you find some help.
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Thomas Jefferson

  14. #14

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    I'm new at this and have never seen any of these mini- backhoe or mini bobacts at work. Would rather see it , THEN do it. Although I have operated a JD skid-steer and Ford front-end loaders many years, back when I was edmilkman. The reason I'm stepping up to ask is simply I'm a dreamer when it comes to "how to do stuff" different and hopefully better. Also the other leaders don't do so much online study.

    Thanks again for all your thoughts.

  15. #15
    Registered User Slosteppin's Avatar
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    The Grand Traverse Hiking Club of the NCTA looked at one such machine and 2 of us operated it to build some trail. We recommended not to purchase for different reasons. I thought it was too much money (over $20K) for the trail building to be done, I may have been wrong but we do get a lot of volunteers. The other person from GTHC thought we wanted something more like a rototiller.

    The GT Regional Land Conservancy had arranged the demo and did purchase the machine. There is still some hand work involved but a 3 man crew can build trail much faster than 15 people with hand tools. It takes some practice to use the machine effectively. The machine really shines when it comes to building a lot of sidehill trail. GTRLC trails are mostly on sidehills. In the wrong hands it can rip up a lot of ground quickly.

    Slosteppin

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