Lefthand Canyon Rock Crawl - 2008
by Adam Mehlberg, photos by Rich Horiuchi
Some of you may know of the Lefthand Canyon OHV area, some may not. Lefthand sits on the eastern edge of the Boulder Ranger District where you enter the public lands on Boulder County Road 94. It is a large OHV network that sees heavy use because it is within easy access of Boulder, Longmont, Louisville, and Loveland. Recently there has been a lot of Forest Service activity in the area with volunteer help from area motorized groups and restoration groups.

In mid summer of 2008 the Forest Service contracted work to be done on the Fireman Hill road (FR286.D) to resolve the severe erosion and multiple routes that had been created over time. The project involved cutting in new switch backs and rehabilitating the old route. Working with the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers and the Jamestown Watershed Initiative, the old roads were restored and post and cable route control was installed. Along with this work the Carnage Canyon road below Fireman Hill was closed. The closure of Carnage Canyon was not very popular, but it was inevitable after the Final Decision for the Lefthand Canyon Travel Plan released in 2006. Input from the public received during the Lefthand Travel Planning helped influence the Boulder Ranger District to include two new Challenge Routes to replace the Carnage Canyon route. The upper one on top of Fireman Hill was created as part of the Fireman Hill re-route work.

Before the Lefthand Travel Plan was finalized many projects had been implemented to protect access to the network of roads and motorcycle trails in the Lefthand network. In 2002 a $230,000 State Trails grant was secured by the Trailridge Runners 4WD Club to restore the meadow. Post and cable was used to control the route and the 8 foot deep gullies created from erosion due to the de-vegetation of the meadow were filled in. Walsh Engineering designed the restoration that was then put in place by volunteers working with the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers. The meadow has recovered and no one has ventured off the designated road into the meadow. This success and responsible use has helped to keep the Boulder District engaged in further projects.

Over the years two sections of road have been repaired due to frequent rollovers, and more restoration of user created hill climbs has taken place. The annual Lefthand Canyon Cleanup has continued to protect access by cleaning up targets left by irresponsible shooters. Level 2 road maintenance and route signing has also been completed. The designated motorcycle trails have been maintained and signed as well. The Lefthand Travel Plan included more than just closures. The additional single track trails, FT837 and FT836, added to the Lefthand area after the COHVCO appeal of the travel plan have been signed and opened. The two additional roads added to the system, FR286.H and FR288D, have received numbers and been signed. Plus plans to open a long single track trail that was added to the system in the travel plan are under way for 2009.

The new Rock Crawl, or challenge route, includes two loops. One is off the Fireman Hill (FR286.D) road, which is a short dual loop up on top of a hill of rocks and boulders. The second, called Ice Spider 4WD Road, is off of a new user route that the Lefthand Travel Plan added to the system called Fairview View (FR286.H) named because you can see Fairview Peak from the road. This second Rock Crawl route is longer and has five rock outcrops that represent the challenge. Both routes were designed with input from Trials Riders and Rock Crawlers. Though the users from both groups tried to maximize the possible challenges, the Forest Service had to maintain a single route in the design, so some obstacles may have more approaches than will be allowed.

After the route was laid in volunteers were recruited to haul up concrete, posts, cable and water to be used to put up the route control. A backhoe was used to drill all the post holes and modify the obstacle approaches. The volunteers cleaned out the holes and installed the posts. Once the concrete had set up, cables were strung and secured. Both routes are still closed presently as the final approval of the winch anchor points is completed before their installation. There will also be a plasma cut sign made for the entrance to the Ice Spider 4WD Road indicating the challenge level. Barring any problems the routes should be open by early 2009.

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