Fun, Food, Prizes and Improved Trails; It’s all part of Santa Monica Mountains Trail Days!

Clearing brush on Guadalasca Trail

The 30th annual Santa Monica Mountains Trail Days took place this past weekend at Point Mugu State Park. Organized by California State Parks and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council (SMMTC), the goal is to improve the state of the trails in the park while having a lot of fun. Along with State Parks, SMMTC, participating organizations included CORBA, the Sierra Club, California Native Plant Society, National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains Natural History Association, Malibu Creek Docents and Temescal Canyon Association. Cal Coast Machinery, Inc., loaned State Park a John Deere Gator for the weekend to haul tools and people around.

When we arrived at the staging grounds at the Danielson Multiuse Area on Saturday morning, there were a large number of colorful tents errected on the grass. People had arrived the night before to take advantage of the free camping that is offered to the trailwork volunteers. Some of these camper left that evening while others camped over another night and left Sunday, either before or after the trailwork. Breakfast in the form of bagels, speads and coffee was provided for campers.

If you missed this event this year, you should try to take part in the future for the camping opportunity alone!

Serving the freshly barbecued dinner

The CORBA volunteers and others, about 20 in all, were driven to the top of Hell Hill, then hiked the 1.3 miles to the top of the Guadalasca singletrack. Our assignment was to clear the brush that grew next to, and often over, the trail. The abundant rain we got this winter helps keep our lawns green and gardens growing, but it also stimulates the growth of plants in the wild. Without the help of thousands of volunteer hours every year, our trails would soon be so overgrown that they would be impassible. It was our job to correct that situation as best we could. We owe a special thanks to Barry from the SMMTC who cut out about 30′ of dense poison oak on both sides of the trail that had narrowed the corridor down to about 2 feet!

Other crews worked on other trails: Coyote Trail, Upper Sycamore Trail, Blue Canyon Trail. One group hiked over 3.5 miles up to Chamberlain Rock on the Chamberlain Trail to clear brush!

Because of the density of the brush, we weren’t able to clear the whole Guadalasca Trail as we would have liked. However, we did clear all the brush from the top to somewhere between the second and third switchback. And on the hike out, some of the workers headed down and lopped off major branches that were impinging on the trail all the way to the bottom.

As we were working, a number of mountain bikers came through, and all of them thanked us for the work we were doing to keep the trails up.

This table holds only some of the swag to be won!

We took a break for lunch about 11:30, then continued until about 2:00 pm when we started to pack up and head out. When we got back to the staging area, we refreshed ourselves with cold lemonade and whatever beverages we brought in our own coolers, chatted with each other, and watched the falconer with her hawk that seemed happy enough with the attention he was getting, and willing to pose for pictures next to anyone who was brave enough to have such a large raptor breathing in their ear. There was also a terrarium that held a 6-foot long king snake. 

Dinner, consisting of fresh barbecued tri-tip, chicken legs and garden burgers with sides of salad, garlic toast and baked beans, was served about 5:00. My hat goes off to those State Park staff who cooked up that amazing meal! There was enough for people to have seconds if they liked, but they loaded so much food on my plate that seconds weren’t needed. But a number of people couldn’t resist more of that delicious barbecue!

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As we stood in line for dinner, tickets to the prize drawing were handed out. When dinner was nearly finished, the drawing started. When your number was called, you went to the prize table to choose your booty. And what a load of booty there was to choose from! Kids toys, games, books, camping gear, $25 gift certificates from local bike shops, T-shirts, folding camp chairs… The best prize I saw was a $125 windbreaker from Patagonia, but I saw only a few of the dozens and dozens that were up for grabs. Everyone won something!

After the evening festivities were over, volunteers either caravanned out of the park, or camped down for another night under the sycamores and stars. Everyone was tired but happy.

Clearing brush from the Old Boney Trail

Sunday’s event was much smaller. When we arrived in the morning, almost all the tents were gone. Campers had either caravanned out of the park or were getting ready for a half day of trailwork. Everyone worked on the Old Boney Trail, immediately south of the east end of the Blue Canyon Trail. The Blue Canyon Trail and this part of the Old Boney Trail are part of the Backbone Trail. There were about 20-25 volunteers who headed up the trail in two groups. As we hiked up the Blue Canyon Trail, we could tell by the wide, brush-free trail where people had been clearing brush the day before. As with Guadalasca Trail, we concentrated on removing brush that was overgrowing the trail, but we also did a little tread work. Overall we cleared out 0.36 miles of trail, most of it with a commanding view of the west flank of Boney Mountain towering above us in the very clear air. Being in the Boney Mountain State Wilderness, this trail is closed to mountain biking, so many CORBA volunteers and other mountain bikers got a view of a beautiful part of the park that we don’t normally have a chance to see.

Over the two days we cleared a lot of brush off the trails, but even with the approximately 150 volunteers, there are still miles of trails that we weren’t able to fix up. Hopefully next year we’ll have even more people come out and help us preserve the trails that allow us to explore this jewel of land that is Point Mugu State Park.

The SMMTC has also written up a summary of this event with links to more pictures.

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