Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Has been hot Green Transportation: Jim LaFortune and the MAMBA Challenge

By Jeanne McHale, Co-op Volunteer Writer
This column is written with a divided heart.  It features a man who left a wonderful legacy of trails enjoyed by hikers, bikers and skiers on Moscow Mountain.  In his 51 years, Jim LaFortune had more fun outdoors than three normal people. I am obliged to tell you about his generosity and the continuation of his trail-building work, and yet I want you to keep it secret. A web of well-maintained trails laces Moscow Mountain, accessible from Foothill or Moscow Mt. Rd. and roughly centered at Four Corners.   The trails are the work of Moscow Area Mountain Bike Association, with co-operation from Bennett Lumber and private landowners. Moscow cyclists love these trails and drive their cars to use them. How do I work that into a column about Green Transportation?

In the early 90s Jim and Kathie LaFortune were new to the area. Jim and his dog Bones began to explore Moscow Mountain looking for trails. In those days, the land was littered with shotgun shells and beer cans. The first trail Jim and friends cleared was North Contour in 1991, now a 1 mile “beginner” run. Soon he was collecting money for trail-building tools and developing a partnership with Bennett. Thanks to this groundwork, cyclists are now seen as good stewards of the mountain, and so is Bennett lumber.  But Kathie says Jim’s devotion to carving these trails was really a selfish act.  “He realized that Moscow was going to be his home for quite a while and needed a place to ride.”

The popular Headwaters Trail makes a roly-poly loop above Pond 9 on the west side. Its meandering switchbacks suggest a trail built for entertainment rather than transportation. Some of the trails are obscenely difficult to bike. The ridge road, which I used to climb on my road bike, is tame compared to Deep Vee.  I wonder if I could ever be as good a biker as Jim was, even in the last few months of his too-short life. I can’t handle the black diamonds on MAMBA trails, but I’m not scared of a little gravel and regularly cycle-commute from our home near the west parking area to town.  

I would like to thank the 500 or so MAMBA members who maintain the trails for all to enjoy.  

If you’d like to help, meet at Rosauers at 8:45 am on Aug. 6 or 27, bringing water, snacks, and gloves.   I would also like to issue this Green Transportation challenge.  Consider designating Foothill Road one of the official trails, call it “Washboard,” and letting your Moscow Mountain adventure begin right in your driveway.

Jeanne McHale looks forward to circumnavigating the wild Weitas Roadless area by bicycle on her upcoming vacation.