Anything But Driftless

Rock Solid trailbuilders Jahmey Hamilton and Kyle McGurk put a section of fresh stonework to the test on War Eagle, one of the new lines they built on Grandad Bluff.

Anything But Driftless Planning with a Purpose in La Crosse, Wisconsin

The first time I ever heard of “the Driftless,” I was in the back of a work truck, heading home from a long day of trailbuilding and stinking of pine pitch, sweat and chainsaw mix.

My buddy Bill Kobs and I were chatting idly about trout fishing, and when I asked him where he grew up fishing, he told me of a place I had never heard of before.

“So in Southwest Wisconsin there’s this range along the Mississippi with huge rolling hills, these super-rad cliffs and all these beautiful rivers, just full of trout,” Bill said in his thick Wisconsin accent. “It was all missed by the glaciers, so the terrain is just sick!”

When I asked him if there were trails there, he laughed and told me the zone was in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where our trailbuilding company, Rock Solid Trail Contracting, had already put in some singletrack. Little did I know that the following summer I’d be sent to La Crosse to build my very first mountain bike trail as a foreman, high up on a rocky outcrop known as Grandad Bluff. The effort was part of the Gateway Project, which had recently been awarded a “trail accelerator grant” by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). The goal was to connect the city’s neighborhoods with a new system of biking and hiking trails that would link up with the existing Hixon Forest Trails and ultimately lead to the top of Grandad Bluff.

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