Enchanted Day at the Ranch

03 January 2010

What a beautiful day it was to start a new decade of volunteer trail maintenance in Wilder Ranch. So beautiful, in fact, that nine good folks came out to spend a part of their New Year’s weekend grubbing in the dirt under a clear blue sky. Steve Orr and Terry Hart could not have chosen a better day for their introductory trailwork experience. Doug Blaisdel is becoming a familiar face on our Wilder work crews. Long time regulars Roy Spadaccini, Bertrand and Cristina Teplitxky, Greg Lydon, Harvey Hartman, and crew leader Chuck Wisse filled out the ranks for this month’s effort.

At the trailhead.. time to get to work
At the trailhead.. time to get to work

Assessing a failed drain
Assessing a failed drain

The crew gets busy on the upper drains
The crew gets busy on the upper drains

We installed a large new drain near the top
We installed a large new drain near the top

Steeper slopes require larger drains
Steeper slopes require larger drains

It was a good day on Enchanted Loop!
It was a good day on Enchanted Loop!

Ranger Jamie Stamps came out to meet the crew and discuss the possibilities for the day’s project. Ranger Stamps replaces our former favorite ranger, Gary Ferrens, but seems more than ready to work with us to keep up the trails in Wilder Ranch. On this day, we agreed to work drainage on the upper steeps of the Enchanted Loop Trail. We knew it had been a while. Turns out that it was over four years since we last worked this wooded traverse of the north-facing wall of Baldwin Canyon. It’s steep and rocky with lots of exposed tree roots and could undoubtedly benefit from our expertise.

Park aide Brian Smith provided our ride to the work site with his crew cab pickup truck. First stop, the tool shed where we picked up McLeods enough for most of the crew, a few Pulaskis, one mattock, and a token pair of loppers. Opportunities for grubbing in the dirt would be plentiful; encroaching underbrush under the dense forest canopy, not so much.

Even with its cage and disabled inside door handles, the perp seat of a park service truck can be appealing on a rainy day. But with weather like this, the best seats for the Wilder Ridge Tour would be outside on top of the toolbox behind the cab. It’s about a four-mile ride to the work site. From the rear-facing toolbox seats, the 500-foot climb gradually opens a panorama of Monterey Bay that extends from Moss Landing across the mouth of the Salinas Valley to the Monterey Peninsula.

The Enchanted Loop Trail splits from the Baldwin Loop Trail near the top of the singletrack side of the loop where it follows the edge of Baldwin Canyon. Enchanted immediately drops over the edge of the canyon and under the trees. The rutted mudstone near the ‘entrance’ presented a drainage challenge that would keep Chuck and a couple of helpers busy for most of the shift. The rest of the crew spread out down the trail performing basic drain cleaning and improvement.

Around the corner, past the first switchback, there was a fallen tree beside the trail. Although it was not really blocking the trail, several broken branches protruding toward the trail presented a potential hazard to trail users. A folding pruning saw took care of them.

The tree work marked the far point of our progress when time came to turn around and head back up to our starting point. Brian was already waiting for us when we got back to the top of the hill. After mugging for a couple of groups photos, we piled onto the truck for the ride back to the parking lot, tired but contented with the knowledge that trail users would continue to be enchanted in part because of our work.