Tree Clearing on Aptos Creek Trail

19 October 2003

When the Advocates workday began on Sunday, October 19, it had all the potential of being a great day! The weather couldn’t be more perfect. Everyone was jovial in preparation for a beautiful hike on Aptos Creek Trail to deal with a tan oak that was creating a formidable obstacle on the part of the trail known as “The Switchback”.

Tristan Rozelle and Carol Cuminale are into some dusty work!
Tristan Rozelle and Carol Cuminale
are into some dusty work!

Chris Foster proceeds to clear a path over the trail.
Chris Foster proceeds to clear a path
over the trail.

Harvey Hartman is working to improve drainage on this section of trail.
Harvey Hartman is working to improve drainage
on this section of trail.

Michael Graff (State Parks), Jim Belcher and Chris Foster size up the “saw snafu”.
Michael Graff (State Parks), Jim Belcher
and Chris Foster size up the “saw snafu”.

The “top” of the tree covering part of the switchback on Aptos Creek Trail.
The “top” of the tree covering part
of the switchback on Aptos Creek Trail.

For those of you who are not familiar with Aptos Creek Trail, here is some background. Aptos Creek Trail is 5 miles long and follows the Aptos Creek Canyon. This area is literally inaccessible during the winter months because there are two stream crossings. If that isn’t enough of a deterrent, the trail is subjected to heavy rain that can change the condition of the trail to “impassable” in the blink of an eye. As a result, every year requires at least one trail reroute dictated by Nature.

Sunday’s workday was not because of rain damage. Sunday’s workday focused on a tan oak that decided being upright was no longer possible. It couldn’t have fallen in a worse spot – the switchback (3/4 of a mile of serious uphill that feels more like 3 miles!!!). The tree wasn’t blocking one section of trail but two. As seen in the bottom photo, the top created just as much of an obstacle as the trunk.

The workers who were to handle the tree consisted of three – Michael Graff (with State Parks), Chris Foster and Jim Belcher (Advocates who have been chainsaw certified by State Parks). But the tan oak wasn’t going to agree to being removed without a fight. No sooner had the cutting started than one of the chainsaws became stuck. As seen in the fourth photo, Michael, Chris and Jim had to start brainstorming to free the chainsaw. It was a very fortunate thing that more than one chainsaw was packed in. A second chainsaw was started and several cuts later, the first chainsaw was free.

he rest of the crew focused on trio maintenance, a technique demonstrated to the Advocates by State Parks previously to address water drainage around and on trails. On such a beautiful day it was difficult to be concerned about rain! And as shown in the top picture, conditions were really dry and dusty, which made it difficult to work in one place too long. Tristan Rozelle, pictured, has only been in California a short time having moved here from New York State. This was her introduction to the Forest of Nisene Marks. We hope to see her again!

The Advocates motivation for removing the tree was to prepare this trail for a running race that will take place the following Sunday. But our efforts also benefit hikers and we saw several while we were working who expressed their gratitude. We DO make a difference!

The volunteers who showed up for this adventure are: Jim Belcher, Carol Cuminale, Chris Foster, Tristan Rozelle, Harvey Hartman, Jeff Hicks and, yours truly, Margaret Hicks (who operated the camera too). Michael Graff represented State Parks.