Brushing Cowboy

07 June 2009

As the trails dry up and get dusty during the summer months, so too does the enthusiasm for trail work also tend to dry up. That said, this month’s turnout for trail work in Wilder Ranch State Park was particularly gratifying. Dan Chapman and Kevin and Alex Amato joined frequent trail workers Cristina and Bertrand Teplitxky, Harvey Hartman, and Greg Lydon with Greg stepping up to fill the shoes of our usual fearless but absent crew leader. Not bad for June.

But what to do. Several possible projects were discussed over coffee and bagels without identifying anything that urgently needed our attention. When Dan Johnson arrived with the park service truck that would be our transport to the day’s work site, he informed us that Cowboy Loop was in need of brushing. Horseback riders and other trail users had been complaining that the trail was overgrown with grass in many places exposing hikers, bicyclists, and horses to ticks. When Dan offered to fetch a couple of power string trimmers, we agreed to take on the challenge. With the string trimmers on board, we stopped at the Trailworkers’ tool shed to select a complement of McCleods and loppers before heading out.

Dan drove past the corral, turned right immediately after crossing the Peasely Creek Bridge, and stopped after just beyond the ford at Wilder Creek. Not a long ride, but, with the fuel, power tools, and their respective support kits, much appreciated. Tools unloaded, Harvey and Bertrand began to suit up for some weed whacking, chaps to protect against flying debris, harness to support the weight of the power tool, and helmet with ear protection and flip-down face screen.

Unfortunately, one of the trimmer motors would not start, so Bertrand joined the hand tool crew and headed back the other way around Cowboy Loop toward the puncheon bridge. Team Amato, Kevin and Alex, accepted spotter duty, staying with Harvey and the functioning string trimmer. Their job was to watch for trail users and safely alert Harvey of their presence so that he could shut down the trimmer to allow them to pass. They had several opportunities to do so.

At quitting time, the hand tool crew came looking for the weed whackers. Having another event to get to, Kevin and Alex headed back to the ranch on foot. After gathering up the string trimmer accessories, the rest of the crew began to follow. But as we approached the ford, we noticed a picnic table several yards off the trail. It was completely overgrown, almost hidden in the tall grass and not very inviting to potential users. With exactly the right power tool in hand, it just didn’t seem right to walk on by without liberating that table. Afterward, we sat down and enjoyed a light picnic lunch before returning the tools to the shed.

June crew prepares to go to work.
June crew prepares to go to work.

Some horses don’t like to get their feet wet.
Some horses don’t like to get their feet wet.
One of these guys had to be led across
the Wilder Creek ford.

Note the pant cuffs stylishly tucked into the socks.
Note the pant cuffs stylishly tucked into the socks,
one approach to warding off ticks.

Cristina claims the newly liberated picnic table.
Cristina claims the newly liberated picnic table.

As crew photographer, Greg put his thumb print on this photo.
As crew photographer,
Greg put his thumb print on this photo.