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As posted previously, just as athletes use the summer to build fitness for the upcoming season, so too do the trail groomers/maintainers. Just as athletes have unexpected setbacks due to injury or sickness, so too do the trail groomers/maintainers.

This summer, Vermont has had its share of heavy rains. On July 10, 2013, the National Weather Service put out a warning for heavy rainfall and flash flooding. Living near the top of a hill, the idea of being effected by flooding is pretty much dismissed. Right about 3:30 PM, three inches of rain fell in just ten minutes. The creeks and low spots blew out and water covered most of the ground.

The DPW worker and excavator are great for scale. The smoke break is taken waiting for the ten-wheeler to deliver crushed stone

The DPW worker and excavator are great for scale. The smoke break is taken waiting for the ten-wheeler to deliver crushed stone

Another view of the washout.

Another view of the washout.

Normally, the water level sits four feet below the road surface and has never filled the culvert even during spring snowmelts. During and after the afternoon rain, debris carried by this thick blanket of water plugged the three foot diameter culvert running beneath the road, water backed up and and began pouring and scouring the hardpack. Eventually, water found its way along the culvert and swept the road away leaving a twelve foot wide gash in the road. The flash flooding had found us with the subtleties of a rake handle catching the unexpected gardener who happened to have stepped on the tines.

The creek, normally crossable with a large step, became a twenty foot wide raging torrent with enough power to remove large trees from the banking and reset the channel. The display of force was awesome. Being stuck on the side away from the house getting home might be an ordeal. Wanting to avoid winning a Darwin Award, the decision to try and cross at the road was abandoned and thoughts turned to heading downstream to where the creek enters the swamp. With luck the angry water will have mellowed and finding a safe way across would be easy. I could also try to find the phone pole bridge surly washed away and rendered little more than bio-degradable litter scattered about the forest. Jill, my wife, came along and we headed out on the stream crossing adventure with moral support and help each other through the mud and intimidating flow.

Approaching the bridge we fully expected it to be gone and to our amazement it hadn’t moved at all and was a dry way to cross the stream. The deck was covered with mud and sticks and otherwise unharmed. The walk from the cars to the house took almost 30 minutes and was fairly exciting.

The bridge in place. Note the flattened vegetation in the foreground

The bridge in place. Note the flattened vegetation in the foreground

Just downstream of the bridge the channel is three feet deep and six feet wide. Here it is blown out with water engaging the floodplain.

Just downstream of the bridge the channel is three feet deep and six feet wide. Here it is blown out with water engaging the floodplain.

After assessing the house had pulled through just fine, I grabbed a camera and the dog for a tour of the ski trails. The trails can be very wet and if the road had flooded over the walk was hoping for the best and expecting the worst. Over the past three summers the family and a few neighbors have spent a fair bit of time keeping the small culverts free from debris. We’ve spread grass seed leftover from landscaping jobs and work pretty hard to build erosion resistant trail-side ditching based upon the riparian corridor reconstruction work I have done. To my astonishment and delight, the trails held up extremely well with a few trees being uprooted and only minor erosion taking place. Most of the erosion can be fixed in a few hours with an iron rake and some seed. There are a few more trees to remove and many of them were in the way and their demise is a bit of a blessing.

One of many trees uprooted when the soil was washed out of the root zone.

One of many trees uprooted when the soil was washed out of the root zone.

The ski trail acting as a creek bed. Eroded but easily fixable.

The ski trail acting as a creek bed. Eroded but easily fixable.

Not an easy fix  but the trail crosses perpendicular this canyon seed. Unfortunately, this slit runs about 100 meters up the hill and will be difficult or impracticable to repair.

Not an easy fix but the trail crosses perpendicular this canyon seed. Unfortunately, this slit runs about 100 meters up the hill and will be difficult or impracticable to repair.

This is the worst of the ski trail erosion.

This is the worst of the ski trail erosion.

In short, we got out lucky. Because we live at the end of a dead-end section of road and were essentially stranded by the gash where the culvert had been, the DPW had the road patched up by nightfall. By Saturday morning the water level was back to the mid-summer trickle and the only evidence of the flooding is mud flats and bent over vegetation. The workload became a bit larger than expected but we should be able to get things in good nik by the first snowfall.

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