The weekend of October 20, together with the Mount Wilson Bicycling Association, CORBA hosted the IMBA Trail Care Crew for a visit to the Angeles National Forest. By all measurements, the visit was a great success, even as over 180 volunteers, 30 of them from CORBA, helped build trails in the Conejo Open Space on a conflicting event.
Jesse and Lori, natives of Missouri, are six months into their two-year tour as the IMBA Trail Care crew. Their visit to the San Gabriels started with a Thursday Night ride on the most recently re-opened singletrack trail in the San Gabriels, the Rim of the Valley Trail on Mount Lukens. This trail has undergone extensive restoration by a dedicated crew of City of Glendale volunteers, with earlier work done by CORBA’s former Trail Crew leader, Hans Kiefer a professional trailbuilding contractor and owner of Bellfree Contractors. The trail was in the best condition it has ever been in, aside from a burnt and mangled bridge near the bottom. The volunteer crew were able to cut a narrow trail around the bridge, though for most it will be a hike-a-bike. It’s a steep trail, with lots of very tight switchbacks and cliff-side exposure, definitely not for everyone.
Friday, October 19, day two of the visit, Steve Messer, and the TCC’s Jesse and Lori were joined by Gabriel Wanderley who is touring the country to learn about trail issues to take back to his native Brazil. He is hoping to get IMBA Brazil up and running over the coming year, expanding IMBA’s international presence. The four went up to Strawberry Peak Trail, for which CORBA has received a generous grant from REI to help rebuild, to map out a re-route. Messer had previously hiked the general corridor of the re-route with the Forest Service archaeologist, after the previous planned re-route was found to pass through a sensitive area. As the crew familiarized themselves with the terrain, the general route was marked and rough-flagged in prep for the following day’s class.
Land Manager’s Presentation
Later on the Friday afternoon, a dozen people representing various land management agencies took part in a three-hour session on sustainable trail design, demographics of the mountain biking community, and the socio-economic benefits to adding trails to the recreational opportunities available to the general public. While some of the information is more relevant to those designing and building new trails, much of it is applicable to the numerous legacy trails we have in Southern California. Forest Service, Cities of Monrovia, Pasadena, La Canada, Los Angeles County, Arroyos Foothills Conservancy, and the Forest Service were in attendance.
TrailBuilding and Maintenance Class
Thanks to the City of Pasadena, we were able to use the beautiful La Casita Del Arroyo for the morning classroom session of the workshop. Somewhat fittingly, the structure was built during the depression years from wood salvaged from a then-defunct cycling velodrome. The City had inadvertently booked an overlapping class for the room, but we were able to work together with the Pasadena Cooking Club and share the space for the overlapping time. About 30 people attended the class which covered trail design, tool use, planning and other processes relevant to building and maintaining trails.
After a great lunch spread supplied by CORBA, the class re-convened at Redbox in the Angeles National Forest. The class split into two groups. One group working on repairing a heavily eroded drainage, including replanting native vegetation and yucca to close off and hide the old, rutted out and failing route. The end result speaks for itself, with the new trail looking like it had been that way all along, and the old, unstable route indiscernible.
The other group went up to the planned re-route and began the process of fine-tuning. Using techniques learned in the class, clinometers and pin flags, the crew bush-whacked through head-high Poodle Dog bush to identify a route that followed the corridor approved by the archaeologist but was fine tuned to maintain comfortable grades of from 4 – 10%. The section of the Strawberry Peak trail around which we were re-routing was an unsustainable 35% grade or more, and has forever been a steep, rocky rut and prone to heavy erosion.
It’s rare that we get to plan new trail in the San Gabriels, even if it is only a re-route. The exercise was welcomed by everyone, and provided an invaluable experience and rare opportunity (locally). The NEPA process and paperwork is currently underway. The re-route will add a few hundred yards to the trail’s length at most, but will be relatively easy to ride or hike in either direction.
On Sunday, October 21, the Trail Care Crew took part in a large group ride up in the high country around Chilao and Mount Hillyer. With about 30 people in tow, we rode from Newcomb’s Ranch to Three points, then returned on the Silver Moccasin trail, which had recently been cleared of Poodle Dog bush. From Chilao road we rode out to Rosenita Saddle, and back up and over the Mount Hillyer trail. There were several newcomers to Chilao’s trails, but all agreed they’d like to return and ride the area regularly.
Overall, the crew were wonderful and completely surprised by the extent and quality of riding available in the area. Just to make sure they knew, they were presented with a signed copy of “Where to Bike: Los Angeles Mountain Biking”, a new guidebook to 60 rides around Los Angeles.
We sincerely thank Jesse and Lori (the IMBA trail care crew), Gabe from IMBA Brazil, and Marty Caivano who is the trail care crew’s coordinator. Special thanks to Mitch Marich and the Mount Wilson Bicycling Association for co-hosting the events, and to the Forest Service and City of Pasadena for use of their facilities for the informative sessions.
CORBA will continue to work on the Strawberry Peak trail over the coming year. If you’d like to assist in this effort and volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know your interest. Additional photos can be found here or view the slideshow below.
Update: Ten days later, there have been no reports of serious poodle dog rashes among the planning, routing and flagging student/volunteers and crew. When dried out in the late fall, the plant is much less potent, and everyone there were warned to cover up well.