Maintaining the Little Bigfoot trail in the Sandilands Provincial forest has been done by the Woodridge ATV Sandhogs for the past 14 years. But club president, Gary Hora says he’s never seen as extreme weather conditions as he has in the past two years, which has seriously affected trail conditions.  

“We've gone from last year's extreme drought, with very dangerous fires, to this year when we are sandbagging and all the flooding. It's the complete opposite. I mean usually we'll get a couple dry years and a couple of wet years, but this is like from one extreme to the other, which is really unusual. We don't control the weather right so, you gotta deal with what you got.” 

Hora says they’ve had to update their trail maps every couple of weeks especially with the recent heavy rains. There has been a lot more soil erosion in sections of the trail. “Especially closer to the north of our trail where it attaches to the Eastman ATV club because, like in Marchand and Richer, they received more than five inches of rain. That section of the trail system really took a beating with that soil erosion from the water. Mostly because they're a couple 100 feet lower than our trail system and they have a lot of water issues there. I believe even parts of their trail system are still closed.” 

Hora says, the “Little Bigfoot Trail” is classified as a multiuse trail because it’s located on Crownland and so there are all kinds of different means of transportation using the trail. The Sandhogs need to make sure it is in good condition for anyone using the trail including dirt bikes, folks on horseback, people riding mountain bikes or even hiking if you wish, it's not exclusive just for ATV's.” 

So then when these extreme weather conditions come, they need to get out to check the trails and repair them as soon as possible. These days, funding is their biggest challenge.  

Hora says, “since we have no sustainable funding, we rely heavily on our membership and volunteers to maintain the trails. Sometimes it's contractors that have machines who come out and help us out, but with the price of diesel nowadays and stuff, it's a little hard to find volunteers with a piece of equipment. We do make sure we flag-ribbon off those dangerous areas, we post signage like 'caution slow ahead'. But mostly, we ask that people use common sense when they're going there and you know, try to ride to the conditions, so that nobody gets hurt. Conditions do change and can change within days, so it's a bit of a challenge to keep on top of it as well.”  

Hora says that the thunderstorms recently have really done a number on several sections of the trail, creating finger-washouts and soil erosion. He explains a finger-washout is essentially ”where you have a hill or sloped area and you start to get a groove from where the water's been an eroding it out, so it’s cuts a big gouge into the soil. So, a finger-washout or you know, like a groove like that could be subtle, maybe 6-inches wide and 2-inches deep that's fine, but because of the amount of rain we’ve had recently, 4-inches or more, you’ll get cases where it could be 2 1/2 to 3-feet wide and the same in depth. So, if you were to come around a corner and down the hill on your ATV or bike, and your tire catches that, it's definitely going to throw a rider off their quad or potentially roll a side-by-side.” 

Hora adds they’ve been putting up caution signs where parts of the trail has been washed out. They’ve also put up barricades and detour signs if the trail is completely impassible.  

He says there are still some water holes on the trail that have been marked on the map. “Most of those water holes all have another way around. But some people like to go play in the water, in the mud and if they choose to go in there, then of course they're doing it on their own accord, because you never really know the depth of a water hole. Sometimes you'll go into what you think is only a foot deep and the next thing you know, it's 3 or 4 feet deep and your machine gets swamped. But there are ways around it.” 

Hora says, because of the mountain of snow they had this past winter and then all the moisture they’ve had since spring, the ground in the southeast is saturated.   

All that said, Hora still welcomes residents and visitors to enjoy the “Little Big Foot Trails”, but to do it safely.  

“It's always good practice to let people know where you're going. Ride in a group if possible, or at least in pairs. Always have a cell phone with you, though cell phone coverage can be sketchy or spotty in different areas, it is getting better in our area. Folks should always make sure they have proper riding gear on, such as a helmet and gloves. Also, make sure your machine is in good working order so don't end up with a breakdown on the trails. And always ride to the conditions you know. Conditions can change, but just be mindful of hazards. There could be a fallen tree from the winds from the night before that might be right around the corner so use common sense and enjoy the day and the ride. There is no need to rush it and injure yourself or maybe others and always check the fire hazards in the area as well. We're lucky this year our fire rating is incredibly low due to all the rains. But last year we had many trails were closed with the back-country travel restrictions due to the fire hazard and extreme dry conditions.” 

Updated map of "The Little Big Foot Trail" in the Sandilands Provincial Forest, as of July 29, 2022Updated map of "The Little Big Foot Trail" in the Sandilands Provincial Forest, as of July 29, 2022 (Photo credit: Gary Hora)