WMTC-newsletter Jan a_1-compressed

Meet Rachelle Lyons

Board Officer, WMTC

Location: Plymouth NH

Start date with WMTC: Summer 2019

Why I'm involved with the WMTC: As an educator and adventurer, stewardship ethics are central to my professional and personal pursuits. WMTC is doing important work to actively steward the natural resources that are essential to the cultural, social and economic well-being of the region. WMTC amplifies the good work of countless individuals and numerous organizations to fully realize the ‘collective’ impact and is strengthening stewardship efforts across the region.

Interests/activities: Skiing, skiing, skiing and when there is no snow, I hike and bike.

Favorite muscle powered activity to partake in: Backcountry Nordic skiing


Favorite trail in the Whites and why: Tough to say…maybe the Baldface Circle Trail (in Evans Notch). I just love exploring and nerding out on nature. Every trail has something to offer – it could be cool mosses or lichen, or interesting geology, or a great swimming hole.

Favorite piece of outdoor gear: Darn Tough socks

Favorite color: Smoky blue

Something most people don’t know about me: I have thru-hiked the AT, LT and the Colorado trail. I’m currently trying to ski the length of Vermont on the Catamount Trail.

Best meal I’ve ever had while camping or out on the trails: Pringles that a kind soul gave me on top of one of many summits on a long-distance backpacking trip. I was soooo hungry.

Three words that describe how I feel when I’m out on the trails:  Capable, invigorated, grateful

Life outside of the WMTC: As a research assistant professor at Plymouth State University, my teaching and research span content in food system sustainability, community scale change in complex systems, natural resource stewardship, hunger/food waste reduction and environmental justice. Much of my work has focused on developing field-based, service learning opportunities that connect students with community/partner identified needs and interests. I hold multiple certificates and degrees: Teaching Earth System Science Certificate (University of New Hampshire), Food System Leadership Professional Certificate (University of Vermont), M.A. in Education w/Environmental Science focus (Plymouth State University), and I’m in progress for an EdD in Leadership & Community with an environmental justice focus.

Cutting Bench & Building Tread: Part 2

By Olivia Carle, Director of Volunteer Engagement

In December, we covered many of the basic components of bench-cutting, like the critical edge and backslope. This month, we will build on that knowledge to discuss more components, as well as concerns that arise as soon as trail workers start the process of building tread.

Scratch Line - a narrow and shallow trench carefully dug into the cleared corridor, usually demarcating where the critical edge should be. Trail workers will use digging tools to make this trench before they build the rest of the tread so that they have a guideline to follow. It can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when a trail worker is digging and their head is down, so this line helps mitigate the risk of building the new trail in weird and detrimental directions. Not every trail worker uses a scratch line, but many do.

Spoils - soil and debris (like roots, rocks, stumps) that have been removed from the hillside/trail corridor as tread is being built. Spoils will be thrown or moved onto the downslope if there is one (i.e. the trail isn’t being built through relatively flat terrain). Spoils is one among many names used by trail workers for this concept.

Half-bench - a phenomenon in which soil and debris accumulate and pack down on top of and next to the critical edge on the downslope side, appearing to be tread. Half-bench is the result of not properly removing spoils from the surface of the tread while it is being built. It is crucial for the spoils to be removed properly so that the tread is actually structurally sound, sections of the trail aren’t at undue risk of falling away or caving in, and the genuine tread remains wide enough.

Grade - the rise (or height) over the run of particular sections of trail, often calculated in percentages. Trail workers will use a tool called a clinometer to measure the grade of each distinct trail section. Grade is a crucial element in trail design and the building stage. According to the U.S. Forest Service’s Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook, “grades range from 1% for wheelchair access to 50% or greater for scramble routes. Most high-use trails should be constructed with an average trail grade in the 5% to 10% range. Trails of greater difficulty can be built at grades approaching 15 % if solid rock is available. Trails steeper than 20% become difficult to maintain in the original location without resorting to steps or hardened surfaces.” For example, I was on a project building a multi-use trail for which the grade between switchbacks could be no greater than 12%.

Reverse Grade - a naturally occurring and/or constructed dip or hollow in the tread with gently graded, sloped sides and a slight hump or rise on the downhill side of the dip called a freeboard, according to The Student Conservation Association’s “Lightly on the Land.” This manual also clarifies that reverse grades are specific to sidehill trails on “descending pathways.” On a well-designed sidehill trail, there will be natural grade changes, which trail workers can use to their advantage to fully implement reverse grades in the tread; you can read more about this in the manual. Reverse grades facilitate drainage off the tread, which we will discuss at length in a future blog post!