Springtime in February

06 February 2011

For the first time since the rainy season got under way back in October, our monthly trail work day in Wilder Ranch State Park fell on a day with clear skies and sunshine. Air temperature was already 68° by eight o’clock in the morning and headed for the mid-seventies. The beautiful spring weather brought eleven volunteers out to the main parking lot. There were three bicyclists: Tom Wilson, Matt O’Hara, and Matt Lezin; the whole D’Andrea family: Tonya, Jeff, and son Talon; three high school students: Simone Williamson, Chase Cummings, and Luke Banke; trailwork regular, Harvey Hartman; and crew leader, Greg Lydon.

The crew gathers in the main parking lot.
The crew gathers in the main parking lot.

The D’Andrea family carves out a new drain.
The D’Andrea family carves out a new drain.

Here comes Brian with news of the bridge crew’s success.
Here comes Brian with news
of the bridge crew’s success.

The community service crew cleans a drain near the top of Old Cabins Trail.
The community service crew cleans a drain
near the top of Old Cabins Trail.

While the volunteers got to know each other over coffee and bagels, Greg consulted with Ranger Jamie Stamps to determine which trails were most in need of attention. They decided to break the crew into two groups sending the bicyclists on a mission to restore the puncheon bridge on Wilder Ridge Loop and assigning the rest of the crew to work drainage on Wild Boar Trail. The cyclists headed out. Park aide Brian Smith would join them by ATV after transporting the drainage crew and tools to the junction of Wild Boar Trail and Engelsman Loop near the top of Clay Ridge.

The puncheons in Wilder Ranch are simple wooden structures that are laid across narrow stream beds with one end on each bank. They are intended to protect the eggs of critters that spawn in Wilder’s creeks from silt that might otherwise be stirred up by trail users. The increased flow that accompanies winter storms often floats these bridges off their moorings. They don’t get far because of the steel cable that tethers them to an anchor buried near the stream bed.

The puncheon bridge on Wilder Ridge Loop is near the western end of the single-track section that meanders across the marine terrace below the ridge, the trail formerly known as Old Dairy Trail. The bridge is just down the hill from the junction with Zane Grey Cutoff. By the time Brian caught up with the cyclists, the bridge was back in place. With a little leveling and grading of the approaches they were done.

Wild Boar is a trail loop at the top of Engelsman Loop Trail. It has received little attention partly because the wider ranch road section has stood up well over the years. The single-track section that connects the lower end back to the Engelsman Loop gets pretty soggy in the rainy season, but it runs close to the natural drainage of a shallow swale then turns straight up the slope of a low hill. The opportunities for creating alternate paths for water to drain are limited in these circumstances. In some places the only drop available was an entrenched trail segment that had been abandoned by trail users. Where there seemed to be a little drop to one side of the trail, we cut through the low berm to outslope the trail toward the lower elevation.

As we worked our way around the bend at the bottom of the singletrack, Brian paid us a visit on the ATV. On up the hill toward the juction with Old Cabins Trail, Jamie arrived with her pickup truck to check out our handiwork and transport the crew back to the ranch.