Guest Post by Euan Forrester
I love stumbling onto new trails: shiny new woodwork, the smell of newly cut cedar and fresh dirt, the excitement of not quite knowing where you’re going to end up. When you ride into a place you’ve been a million times before, then see a brand new trail snaking off into the forest, it gets your gears turning.
I have been hiking and mountain biking on the North Shore for 16 years and over time, I’ve become more curious about how trails I frequent come to be. When I heard through the grapevine that Martin Newman and Penny Deck – mountain bikers, hikers and skilled volunteer trail builders – were going to build an entirely new trail on Vancouver’s North Shore, I asked if I could tag along with my camera. I wanted to document the process from beginning to end: How do they decide where it goes? How do they protect it from erosion before it is complete? How does it feel to work in the forest, day after day, night after night? What drives them?
It took nine long months of hard work for Martin and Penny to build the trail. As they slung shovels and filled buckets, I took 21,262 photos. Over the months, I learned what it means to be trail builders. They are an essential piece of the outdoor-recreation puzzle. They make space for people to play in nature. It takes teamwork and friendship (plus bouts of exhaustion and loneliness) to build a trail. I wanted to share those moments: the things we miss when we’re riding the trail, walking through the forest, running over bridges.
When the work was done, I chose 20 of the best photos and made large weather-proof prints to place along the trail. We didn’t want to nail anything to live trees, so we devised a solution. A cedar slat was tied to the tree and the print was tied to the slat. In places without a suitable tree, Martin and Penny made cedar easels.
This project aims to help people notice the little touches. Whether it’s making the trail a bit wider to help get around a corner, or ferns planted alongside to make it more beautiful, it’s all done lovingly by people who like building trails as much as we love using them. Although this trail was built by mountain bikers, it’s for everyone. All trail users chat with one another as they consider the photos and the people who build the trails.
You’ll find this outdoor art gallery on the Penny Lane and Good Sir Martin trails on Mount Seymour in Vancouver until September 2016. Informational placards are found at trail intersections to explain the project and maps show exactly where the trail begins and ends.
It’s called Evidence of Trail Fairies; you can see the entire project online.
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