Hanging Moss and Mist

06 March 2011

Moss covered treeIf you’ve read any of the announcements of trail work events on the first Sunday of each month in Wilder Ranch, you’ve seen the boast that, “We work rain or shine.” Some years we get through the rainy season without getting wet. Other years we might see one rainy workday. March 6th was the fourth wet workday of the 2010-2011 season. Okay, so it wasn’t a real rain as the previous workdays had been, with rushing runoff and ‘artesian’ gopher holes. The fog and mist hung in the air the way the moss hung on the trees up on Cowboy Loop where Ranger Jamie Stamps sent us to see if we could do something about the heavy erosion that was going on there.

Only four volunteers turned out to work under the low hanging clouds: Dan Chen, Chase Cummings, Harvey Hartman, and Greg Lydon. All four have worked multiple days earlier in the season including rainy days. Their first challenge was crossing Wilder Creek. The puncheon bridge was downstream at the end of its tether where the high water had deposited it. Four strong backs were just not enough to lift it back into position. And, Blossomsthough the water had gone down some since floating the bridge away, it was not clear that the bridge was long enough to reach ground high enough on both sides to keep it above water. Harvey was the only one wearing knee-high rubber boots or wellies as Greg likes to call them, and he wasn’t offering to carry anybody across.

Draining standing water off the trailThe trail follows the creek up a gentle grade at first. But there are flat areas where water draining across the trail accumulates and stands on the trail. To encourage the water to move on its way, we worked to shave down the slight berms on the creek side of these areas. After working several of these wet spots, we came to the main attraction, a steep traverse where running water had cut major ruts in the trail. We weren’t really prepared to do a major re-route or to reshape the trail. So we concentrated on getting water off the trail creating drains above the worst of the ruts and higher up the hill. This kept us busy for the rest of the shift.

Composite photo of eroded slopeOn the hike out, we again encountered the Wilder Creek crossing. Perhaps it was just fatigue, but the rocks and logs that had served to keep feet relatively dry on the way out seemed a bit less stable as we were coming back in. Despite wet feet, Brian Smith, our State Parks driver, was able to get smiles from the happy crew for this group shot.

Greg, Harvey, Chase, and Dan