On Sunday April 15, as part of National Volunteer Week, about 40 Amgen volunteers gathered in Pt Mugu State Park to work on the Sin Nombre Trail. Most of them worked on fixing ruts and cutting back overgrowing brush, but 8 of us, all but one mountain bikers, split off to fix up the dangerous corner near the top of the trail at Ranch Center Road.
The problem is at a dip to cross a very small stream, combined with a tight left turn. After slowing to negotiate the turn at the stream crossing, the rider encounters a short but unexpectedly steep climb out of the stream. Because the trail has been downhill until this point, often people are in too high a gear and stall trying to climb the hill. When they put their foot down, they discover that the trail is also narrower than expected and there is little room for their foot, and they can fall about 6′ down the steep bank to the rocks of the stream. The problem is made worse by a rock near the middle of the trail at the start of the climb out that it high enough to bang your pedal on. Many riders have fallen at this turn; some were taken out by helicopter with serious injuries.
On Sunday, I enlisted a very experienced trailwork volunteer and crew leader for the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council to figure out what we could do to cut down on the number of accidents on that corner. His solution was to build up the outside edge of the trail with large rocks to make it a little wider, and to remove the protruding rock at the start of the climb out of the dip. So after a lot of digging and relocating really big rocks, the trail is almost a foot wider, all of it on the outside, so there’s more room to put your foot down if you stall out on the climb out. The rocks also armour the outside edge of the trail so it’s less susceptible to errosion and so will last longer.
As we were working, a large number of mountain bikers rode through, the vast majority of them thanked us for fixing up the trail. Some of them told us of stories of having fallen at the corner and injuring themselves. None of them appeared to be beginners.
One fellow fell in and hit his neck. He couldn’t move, being paralyzed in all his limbs and with no feeling in them. That lasted for what must have been for him the longest 10 minutes in his life, before feeling started to come back and he could move again. It turns out he’d sprained his neck. Talk about a close call!
Another rider said he tore his shoulder and broke his collarbone when he fell there.
We believe the trail is safer after our work, but it is still risky to people who are taken by surprise by the steepness of the climb. The trail is wider so it’s easier to put your foot down on the trail, but if you’re riding too close to the edge, you can still go down the bank. So always be careful on this corner, and advise less experienced riders to get off their bikes and walk!
You can see photos of the work on the VenturaCountyTrails.org photo gallery.