This was my 16th year trailblazing and my 17th riding in Jamaica and I give thanks daily.
For the last 6 years I have been working the Westmorland Mountains of Jamaica's Westend and particularly in Red Ground & Good Hope that overlooks Negril's 7 mile beach and endless cliffs. I hacked my way around laying flags, marking my line choices and features found in the jungle that seem to be the most difficult, fun and tech worthy. Eventually I marked and roughly cut 3 Enduro style trails and 2 XC semi Enduro trails that were unconnected and sat in a raw state. Returning to Red Ground each year I would find a plethora of deadfall, overgrowth and general nastiness caused by the previous season's tropical storms that sometimes featured hurricanes. Needless to say it was a chore to bring back the raw trails to a ridable state each time and then leaving was depressing knowing the beating was comming. This season when I arrived Jan 6th I was in shock....a drought was underway during the rainy season, a dream come true.
My trails were clear and others left dormant were clear enough to mark and cut. I was finally in a position to build trails with actual trail tools. Our crew=Colin, Micheal, Spice, Goldteeth and myself began a two month trailblazing session.
Using the most basic tools we were able to bench cut and build berms. The Trail Boss Rogue Hoes were our main tools along with each of us carrying a machete, foldable saw and other trail tools including a sledge and pick axe. Harvesting dirt was now an option we never had before. Leaving my mark seemed to be the way to attack this system as I realized that just clearing and advancing was useless and is not sustainable. Like other footpaths I have been using for 17 years the riding problem in Jamaica is CONTINUITY. Returning to a trail a few weeks later you never know what you will find and what has changed. The riding here is sketchy at best with the crazy weather the landscape changes with every rain or seasonal change.Our 1st problem was penetrating the surface to bench cut. Not having motorized tools we picked, dug and hacked our way through the surface and it was not easy feeling we were getting no where. The top layer is a mix of hardened limestone, marl, chunks of baseball sized rocks , stones and even corral. Jungle surfaces are like a thick carpet woven from tough vines & roots. Some of the foliage including the roots have acidic sap and irritating surfaces that cause your skin to boil and bleed. I had to spend as much time learning about the flora and fauna as I did teaching my crew all the vast knowledge I have acquired about building sustainable trails and trail features like berms and rollers.To our surprise once we dug down the 6+" of thick jungle carpet we found black dirt-jungle gold. Using Rasta lore we worked on rain days cutting through the wet carpet and digging into damp limestone. The result is exactly what I was hoping for. The 2 problem spots, one being the jungle and the other the rock hard surfaces were now becoming my best trails.
Rusted Roots is the premier Negril trail that got the most work as once we started we just could not stop! Scrub'a'dub was cleaned and we removed all the pedal grabbing ground vines and painstakingly removed the overhead dead crap thats wound up like a spider web of overhead vines and dead branches that fall creating a dangerous ride. The XC trail, the Ganja Graveyard, got a major clean up including the removal of all ground vines and burying the roots.
We also had to tame down the insects and ants as some sections that were inundated with many species of biting ants were burned out and relocated. The biggest advancement was cutting a short 100' trail we named the 40 legged connector. Like the name says it joins the XC trail near it's end to all the DH trails so a massive loop was formed. We now no longer have to ride up the Whitehall paved road named "the monster" by a numerous very capable riders.The rides can now start in reverse by riding up the XC trail to the peak a 1/4 mile from where the 2W1LJ DH trailhead is located at the Great House. You can drop in to either Rusted Roots or Scrub'a'dub and then ride back up the Ganja Graveyard to start all over again. I consider the XC trail to be an intermediate to advanced uphill tech making it a fine compliment to the enduro style DH trails so a fit rider will not need a shuttle to session the DH trails. I have to admit I thought I was getting nowhere after 5 years and it seems the tide has changed and I now have a handle on the trailblazing in Negril's dry and tough surroundings. There will always be more fun and new sections to add to Rusted Roots but for now the premier trail sits in fine shape waiting to take on any rider or weather. Next build session will focus on applying the same treatment to Scrub'a'dub and the Ganja Graveyard. After those 3 key trails are done and complete with bench and berm builds I will start work on my long lost friends being 2 major trails=1st-the JAMBA NATIONAL DH, 2nd-Spanish Gold Teeth a longer XC trail that took a beating over the last 3 years. So it 2017 will feature the beginning of fun bridges, stunts, features and even creative rest stops. So much more to do.
A major thank you goes out to the people who have my back deep in the bush and to those who have supported my Rasta ventures over the decades leading me to this place i'm at and I can say it is a comforting spot I am in now after a long 7 years trudging back to where I once was. There are a lot of people who have fought my advancements and builds both local and foreign and I have seen my fair share of expats scheming to unhinge my visions and goals.
Thank you downpressors........that just made me stronger.
This year saw my first full sponsorships with support from a few key players. Lupine Lighing stepped up and has supplied me with enough lumens to light up Orange Hill in the form of Piko lights, Gretna Bikes has donated a few nice bikes to compliment my stable and we now have a driver and shuttle vehicle when ever we need it. Upon my arrival this season I discovered Rusty built me a bike repair shop on the main floor of his castle I have been staying at since ''99. I now have enough parts to repair any bike in the shop and most guest bikes down for tours. From hydro bleed systems, disc brake pads, gear cables, tyre sealant, and loads of important bits like valve stems, adapters, etc. including a rebar inforced safe place to store an ever growing quiver of nice mountain bikes loaded with UST knobby tyres. The major respect goes to my crew. These guys I consider my close friends work in any conditions and do not complain. Three of them have yards and farms that the Red Ground trails run through adding stop overs on the tours and security for our rides.
They have formed a bond between myself and the Red Ground people that is unmeasurable and who are also some of the warmest people you will ever meet. That's all for now. Keep the rubber on the trails, your ass on the saddle and start planning & dreaming. Save some cash and hang out in the Westend next winter. Much respect to all you dirtbags....Marsh.
Zion Mountain BikeJamaica
Trail Building 2016 & the 40 legger trail crew
40 LEGGER TRAIL CREW
40 LEGGER CONNECTOR
THE 40 LEGGER TRAIL CREW CONSISTS OF MYSELF, MY TRAIL BOSS GOLDTEETH, COLIN, TITUS AND MICHEAL,
THE FIVE OF US ARE THE BASIC TRAILBLAZING DIG CREW IN THE WESTEND OF JAMAICA WHERE WE DO MOST OF OUR TRAILBLAZING. I HAVE KNOWN AND BEEN A FRIEND OF GOLDTEETH'S FOR OVER 15 YEARS SINCE I FIRST VISITED THIS PARADISE. HE'S ONE OF THE HARDEST WORKING PEOPLE I EVER HAD THE PLEASURE OF WORKING WITH.
THE REST OF OUR CREW MEMBERS ARE ALSO FARMERS & LABOURERS WHO ARE WELL KNOWN AND RESPECTED IN AND AROUND OUR TRAIL SYSTEMS. HAVING THIS CONECTION WITH THE LOCALS HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN FORMING A WORKING BOND WITH THE PEOPLE WHO ARE RELYING ON THE VERY NATURE OF THE REMOTE JUNGLE SETTING.