Turns for the Better

8:00AM – 4:00PM, Sunday, March 30, 2014 until Monday, March 31, 2014

Two Day Comprehensive Indoor and Outdoor Workshop

Location: Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park, West Virginia

The Session:

Learn how to design and lay out a perfect direction-reversing Sweep Turn or Switchback on various side slopes.  Use ordinary tools to create a geometrically precise layout, minimize construction time, and connect the approaches at the proper grade.  Gain an understanding of the effects of different slope angles on layout, construction, traffic wear, drainage and maintenance.  One day of classroom instruction, one day of field exercises.  Recommend bringing a compass and clinometer.

This class is largely about the structural geometry of direction-reversing turns (sweep turns, switchbacks, and some of their variants), and the fundamental role of both sideslope angle and soil integrity in that geometry. We will be focusing on turn layout, in particular how to make it accurately reflect the turn geometry and respond to site terrain limits, and on what that layout should tell us about construction difficulty, traffic flow through the turn, and long-term durability. There will be a fair amount of angles and math to wrestle with (a pocket calculator will be handy at times), but you will receive a binder of text covering everything we’ll talk about so note-taking should be minimized.

In the classroom, which will last from 4 to 6 hours, we’ll cover the basics of sweep turns (both slope-grade and controlled-grade), fishhook turns, standard switchbacks, full-bench switchbacks, and “simple switchbacks”. In the field we’ll first acquaint ourselves with the role and use of the clinometer (I know – “been there, done that”) and the magnetic compass (as a field protractor – I do not expect us to get lost!); you should bring one of each. Then in teams you will get to lay out a variety of turns on varying sideslopes, and decide which turn type best fits a particular site, weighing such factors as traffic type and volume, minimum tread width, minimum turn radius, drainage difficulties, and both tread and terrain stability.



The Instructor:

Mike Shields on Colorado Ridge Trail

Mike Shields on Colorado Ridge Trail

Mike Shields started working on trails in 1960 at Olympic National Park, in the days of axes, misery-whips, and 90-lb loads in a Trapper Nelson pack. In his NPS career he’s been a Crew Leader, Ranger, Roads Foreman, Maintenance Mechanic, Trails Foreman, and Facility Manager, but primarily and always a trailman, and has worked trails in Big Bend, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, North Cascades, Kings Canyon, Rocky Mountain and Denali. Two of those parks (Canyonlands, North Cascades) were brand new and he helped “invent” the trail systems in both. He became adept at timber felling, log and rock construction, mule packing, rigging, using explosives as a precision tool, and suspension bridge and tram design, and has been teaching the following since 1972: Trail design & layout, trail construction & maintenance, terrain dynamics, blasting safety, technical blasting & rock mechanics, rigging safety, abandoned explosives disposal, bridge design, crew management, and field contract administration. Since his retirement as Denali’s Chief of Maintenance in 1996 he has been a small contractor providing training, trail layout, and technical consulting services from Alaska to West Texas and California to Colorado. In 2010 he received American Trails “State Trail Worker Award” (Alaska) for his efforts at training younger folks.

Gabe Travis has been a professional trail builder since 1996, and over the past 18 years has worked in Glacier National Park, Chugach National Forest Cordova Ranger District on Alaska’s Prince William Sound, and Denali National Park. In 2008, Gabe and his wife, Christine Byl, began their trails contracting business, Interior Trails, in recognition of the need for specialized trails expertise in the state of Alaska. In addition to layout & design, assessment & prescription, and hand & mechanized construction for clients statewide, Gabe has taught introductory and technical trails courses for the past 10 years. Gabe is also a visual artist who brings his eye for design and detail to the trail layout and construction process.



We will meet in the Stonewall Resort, Room TBA at 8am on Sunday, March 30.  It is likely, depending on how the class progresses, that we will go out into the field in the Afternoon on Sunday for preliminary field layout.  Monday, March 31 we will meet again at 8am in the lobby of the Stonewall Resort, and head out to the outdoor worksite (10 minute walk) for the entire day.  Please be prepared to spend time outside on both days.  Lunches will be provide at the Stillwaters Restaurant on both days.



This workshop costs $165 early registration ($180 after March 14) for this 2 day workshop, for the extra expense of the high instructor: participant ratio, equipment and fuel, and other workshop logistics.

You will also need to purchase the All-Inclusive Conference Package of $125/person per day on each day of the workshop. This gives you all meals and breaks throughout the day, and conference/meeting rooms and resources.

Lodging costs $90/night (single or double occupancy).

Maximum of 24 participants.


Enter Shopping Cart