British Columbia·Photos

Trail builders carve paths through Squamish rainforest in a labour of love

Ted Tempany and his company Dream Wizard built a popular mountain biking trail near Squamish, B.C., ten years ago. Now they're making it better.

'Big Red Ted' Tempany and Mike Reed say the work is tough, but addictive

“Big Red Ted” Tempany uses an excavator to build a new section of the Half Nelson mountain bike trail near Squamish, B.C., about 65 kilometres north of Vancouver. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

If you go mountain biking in Squamish, B.C., north of Vancouver on a regular basis, chances are you have biked down a trail built by "Big Red Ted" Tempany. 

Tempany has been building bike trails in Squamish for over twenty years. His company, Dream Wizards, can be credited for thousands of metres of trail builds and upgrades including sections of Diamondhead Trail, Stl'lhalem Stl' Trail and Sea to Sky Gondola Trails.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Half Nelson, one of Tempany's most popular trails. Half Nelson is a three-kilometre mountain bike trail in Squamish that attracts thousands of local and international cyclists every year. 

We recently joined Tempany and his fellow trail builder Mike Reed as they worked on a section of the trail that had not been touched since its creation in 2009. 

Ted Tempany, 45, is a full-time professional trail builder. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Mountain biker rides down the last section of the Half Nelson. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Mike Reed, 65, works with Tempany in the physically demanding job. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Build it safe and they will come 

Reed says the popularity of the trail arises from its versatile design which can accommodate beginners while still providing elements for advanced cyclists. 

The part of the trail that is being worked on, however, was too steep for beginners to get down safely. To avoid this, Dream Wizards is building a new section that will flow back and forth down the mountain on switchbacks before meeting up with the original trail. 

Trail building

When Tempany's excavations run into a rock on the new part of the trail, he frees it by chopping away the hard soil around it. 

Tempany chips away at the packed soil and rocks around a boulder. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Next, Tempany uses a ripper tooth extension on his excavator to pull the rock free from the soil. 

 

After Tempany frees the rock he notices something wrong with the excavator. The track isn't in the right position and they try a number of tools to fix it.

Tempany says that doesn't happen often, but it's a good example of the unpredictability of the job that requires constant problem solving. 

"There are days when the work is really defeating and days where you accomplish a lot," says Tempany. 

Tempany and Reed use tools to fix the excavator's track. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Ted Tempany drives the excavator down a narrow section of the mountain bike path. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Ted Tempany breaks up hard conglomerate with the excavator while Mike Reed rakes away rocks and debris on a new section of Half Nelson. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
The trail begins to come together, but the soil is still too loose for safe riding. Dream Wizards will pack the soil with their boots and machines. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
It’s taken five days of labour to transform the forest floor to a wide trail. Reed says it will take about another five days before the trail is ready for riders. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Doing a lot with little funding

Tempany attributes much of his success to the fact that he can do a lot with little.   

Squamish has over 200 mountain bike trails which all need restoration and upgrades over time, so there is never enough money. 

The Half Nelson, however, was the first mountain bike trail in Squamish to be primarily government funded with a healthy budget of $100,000. That's thanks to Mike Nelson, who stopped by while the men were working on the trail. 

Mike Nelson secured funding for the Half Nelson Trail while on the board of directors for the Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association (SORCA). He's the "Nelson" in Half Nelson. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Tempany used half of the funds to build Half Nelson and put the rest into other Squamish trails. 

Trail Building Anonymous 

Tempany admits he donates a lot of free labour to Squamish trails and says he's addicted to the work. 

 "I always joke about Trail Building Anonymous. Hi, my names Ted, and I'm a trail builder," he says.

The forest is Mike Reed’s happy place. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Reed has the same passion. After several brain injuries from mountain biking, Reed has a hard time with over-stimulating situations and says the forest is a place he can find peace. 

Ted Tempany takes pride in his work as a cyclist rides past him on the Half Nelson. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

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