Mid-October saw the finale of the Cantrell Creek project, a multi-part endeavor with multiple organizations helping to make it a reality. The main objective was to relocate the upper 0.75 miles of Cantrell Creek Trail up the slope and away from the creek channel. Ed Sutton with Trail Dynamics designed the layout for the new trail, moving the trail upslope, yet still connecting Squirrel Gap and South Mills River Trails. 

The project goal was to build the new trail, decommission the old section of trail, and do stream restoration for Cantrell Creek in the decommissioned site and close to where Cantrell begins to move toward the South Fork of the Mills River. The remoteness of the Cantrell Creek site meant that none of this would be easy.

Luckily, Trail Dynamics was up to the task to do all of the above. They not only transported machinery 4 miles over South Mills River Trail just to get to the work site, but then biked in and out the same distance each day. The crew worked in all weather conditions and worked efficiently to get the job done. 

The new trail now winds roughly 3 miles along the contour to the east, carrying a modest grade from South Mills to Squirrel, yet still with plenty of sinuosity and character. There are points on the path that you can hear Cantrell Creek, and at other points, when leaves are off, you can see the trail’s namesake in the distance bubbling along.

Cantrell Creek is now a model trail of sustainability and smart design. Water will shed more easily off of the side slope, with frequent reversals in grade helping water coming from upslope across the tread and downslope off the trail. Ed Sutton and his team skillfully crafted rock-armored crossings to protect the frequent drainages along the way. The rock helps harden the tread surface where it otherwise could stay wet, allows water to pass through easily, and provides a fun challenge for mountain bikers.

As legacy trails in Pisgah located on fall-lines continue to fail and cause loss in soil and water quality in the area, more and more relocations could look something like Cantrell Creek.

The other major component to the project was the stream restoration of Cantrell. Brady Dodd, Hydrologist with the Forest Service, was key in making that work happen. Brady instructed Trail Dynamics in the art of the log vein, a structure designed to provide support for eroding stream banks, while simultaneously providing fish habitat. A log vein is a combination of two logs – one inserted perpendicular to the stream and the other laid on top of it parallel with stream and reinforcing the bank. The void between the second log and the bank is then filled with rock and root balls to provide stabilization and habitat areas.

A final leg of the project was to rehab portions of Horse Cove Gap Trail – a project supported by the Back Country Horsemen of Pisgah. Trail Dynamics also worked on this project and helped stabilize most of the current trail, which was important since parts of the old Cantrell Creek Trail have become Horse Cove Gap Trail. This part of the project insured that there were no loose ends and that everything touched by the project yielded good results.

Thanks goes out to all the organizations who supported the Cantrell Creek project, including Trout Unlimited, Transylvania County Tourism, REI, The Pisgah Project, Can’d Aid, Back Country Horsemen of Pisgah, and the Forest Service. 

A huge thanks also goes out to Trail Dynamics for their excellent, professional work and for successfully tackling a complex and multilayered project.