Improving the Drainage on Old Cabins Trail

04 March 2012

It was another fine spring day in Wilder Ranch. Seven volunteers arrived to once again do their magic on the trails. Today’s crew consisted of Robert Ouye, Nancy Smith, Jordon Hoskinson, Dave Robinson (our Master Tamper), Greg Lydon, Harvey Hartman, and Chuck Wisse. There had been some light rainfall over the last couple of weeks, so the conditions for working on the trail tread were nearly ideal.

Dave and Jordan are not really dueling
with trail tools. Jordan is using his McLeod
to scrape the sticky clay
off the bottom of Dave’s tamping tool.

Everybody’s tamping now!

Duty and service with a smile.


We had a short discussion on which trail needed our help the most, while enjoying coffee and bagels generously donated by Greg. It did not take us long to decide on the northern side of Old Cabins Trail, which works its way up the ridge line to the Eucalyptus Loop. Some of the sections on that part of the trail are quite steep. It had been several years since we had worked that section of trail and some of the drains had become inoperable. When we do finally get some substantial rainfall, whenever that may be, erosion in those areas will become a real problem. Our plan was to try to fix the situation before that happened.

After grabbing our tools, the Park Aid shuttled us up to the southern trailhead of Old Cabins Trail. We hiked down the trail from there, clearing several partial blocked drains as we went. We crossed the creek at the bottom and headed up the other side, clearing a few more drains before finally reaching our destination; the start of the climb up the ridge.

The first drain that we encountered had failed and needed work. We widened, deepened, and reshaped the drain, allowing the water to more easily exit the trail. We used the surplus dirt from the drain reconstruction to and rebuild the eroded trail tread just below the drain. 

When we were satisfied with this rebuild, we moved on up the trail to the next troubled drain. Second verse, same as the first… Over and over, one drain after another. The number of drains reworked this day was not that large. But the amount of work that went into them and the amount of material moved was very significant (not to mention having to cut through a bunch of rock on one particularly stubborn drain).

As the trail gets steeper, the size and slope of the drain become fairly critical. If they are too small and shallow, they will become ineffective in a very short period of time, and there goes the trail. It was interesting that most of the hikers and bikers that passed us as we worked seemed to understand what we were trying to accomplish. But one older gentleman didn’t seem to get it. We were not too impressed by his question asking us if we were trying to build a freeway. Oh well, like they say, you can’t please all the people all of the time. So we laughed it off and continued to do our thing.

We eventually worked our way up the ridge to the northern trailhead. Exhausted and dirty, we were very happy to see our ride shortly after we arrived. It was a beautiful day for a truck ride out of Wilder.  There is still some significant work that still needs to be done to the drains on Old Cabins Trail. But on this day we were all very satisfied with what we had accomplished. We really do make a difference.

More in this category: Draining the Poison Oak Swamp »