Time Trails

The “Time trails” were a major project of the 2020 pandemic trailbuilding season. Time Flies (1.4km), Time Out (1.3km), and Wrinkle (200m) were started in late August, after we finished Clark Kent, and mostly finished by late December.

The trails are in an area of mixed granite bedrock, thin glacial till soils, and pocket wetlands. It is lumpy terrain with no overall slope. Most of the pine/lichen barren vegetation burned in the 2009 forest fire, so there are few adult trees but plenty of dense shrubs and pine saplings.

The trails were designed as loops that connect interesting corners of this landscape with a variable trail that combines drops, ledges, stretches of smooth granite and small berms. Time Flies passes along the outflow creek from Flat Lake, including the main beaver pond and dam.

The trails are located on HRM Park Land, and accessed from the Attic and Schnitzel. (Thanks to Darren Talbot for new mapping)

All three time trails are rated black diamond. Advanced skill and balance are necessary for mountain bikers and hikers may need to scramble and jump. There are no large built jumps or features, but there are large natural drops/step ups, elevated structures and rock gardens, and significant fall risk in some areas. Every mountain biker should be prepared to stop, inspect and walk features of the trail, especially on their first time through. The trail can be unforgiving if you make a mistake or misjudge the trail, and abrasive granite and boulders are everywhere. You can seriously hurt yourself.

Time Flies starts with a qualifier drop off the Attic, right beside the trail sign. This drop requires air, and if you aren’t ready to do it then other features on the trails might also be beyond your current ability as a mountain biker. For hikers there is a walk around, but it may still require scrambling or a jump. The first (last) 70m of Time Out at Schnitzel also has several difficult, exposed moves to alert you.

Direction: The trails are bidirectional for foot traffic. The trails are bidirectional for bikes too, for now — unless traffic eventually becomes too great to allow this safely. Please keep your head up and yield as appropriate. For mountain bikers, the intended ‘flowier’ and probably easier direction is clockwise around Time Flies and Time Out.

Time Flies. The triangular boulders on the inside corner were placed and split to provide an alternative exit/entrance to the big boulder.

Intended experience and user: The goal was to provide a hectic but engaging trail that tests many different mountain biking skills, and can be ridden relatively quickly by a skilled rider who knows the trail. A less skilled rider will find some features slow, awkward, unridable, or too risky, but will hopefully want to progress. Hikers and runners will probably find there is a lot going on; not many moments when one can just tune-out and run. Trails like Duck N Run and the new Granitude are intended to be fun for almost everyone. The Time trails are not like that.

Rain and freeze/thaw advisory: The Time trails have considerable amount of dirt (most of it moved by hand) and are located in a lower, flatter area than the Attic and Schnitzel. Please avoid using them during freeze/thaw conditions when the dirt becomes ‘fluffed up’ and sensitive. Rain should not be a problem in summer, as the trails drain well, but give the trails a break for a day or two if it has rained a lot.

Layout and build details: The trails were scouted and laid out in 2014 by MRWA directors Plug and Croucher, as part of the phase 1 trail plan and land agreements with HRM.

The trails were handbuilt by MRWA trail crew (2600 hours) and volunteers (>500 hours), which works out to roughly 1h/m. Director and volunteer Plug supervised the building with assistance by Russ Deveau, and built the structures and split rocks with lots of help. The MRWA crew has members with plenty of experience and worked very independently (you folks are awesome, ed.). Kim and Peter Dodge put in many volunteer hours on rock work that, as usual for them, will never move underfoot.

We had less contribution from other volunteers than usual owing to gathering restrictions. However, Dillon Consulting put in a huge day on Time Out; ECMTB.net hauled lumber; a Wild Outside group from the Canadian Wildlife Federation helped with clearing and lumber hauling. Numerous individuals joined the crew one at a time (thanks for the donuts too!).

The trail project is only possible because of broad community support from the people who help MRWA with bookkeeping, mapping, serving on the Board, and so on.

The trail names? The trail crew was a cerebral bunch (at times, haha), and went down rabbit holes of Latin sayings about transience and life as suffering (must have been all the grubbing…). Latin sentences don’t fit on trail signs, but the Time theme stuck and seemed appropriate in a pandemic year of uncertainty, transition, and the need to seize moments on the trail when one lives in the present. Plus, the build season flew by.

Trailforks Checkins. To covert to absolute use, multiply by ~15.

Caution: Please remember that the trails are rated Very Difficult. Since they were first opened in spring, the usership on the Time trails has soared (they have quickly become among the busiest singletrack in the system, for MTB). This is great, but we often see or meet people on bikes who might underestimate the difficulty and/or risks.

If a feature is unridable for you, please carry your bike on the main line. Don’t create your own easier line. Save the lichen and shrubs (you like blueberries, don’t you?). Plus, what appears to be an easier line today is probably an organic mat that will quickly wear away into a more difficult and unsustainable route.

Splitting granite with wedges and feathers, and a rotary hammer, to get it out of the way and to build a transition.

Trail crew personnel (not all at once): Eric Renouf, James Gosselin, Taylor Corrie, Matt Campbell, Elyse Quann, Alexi Rodriguez, Solana Purdy, Shedler Fervius, Ross Szendrei, Hannah Machat.

Thanks so much to Clean Nova Scotia for their summer internship program, and all the trail sponsors who make the trails possible.