Report on the 2016 Santa Monica Mountains Trail Days in Pt Mugu State Park, April 22-24

The largest trailwork event in the Santa Monica Mountains is held every year at the end of April in Pt. Mugu State Park. This past weekend, volunteers from CORBA, the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council (who organize the event every year), the Sierra Club and others converged on the Danielson campground to help out. Besides trailwork on Saturday and Sunday, the festivities included a barbecue dinner, a huge prize give-away and optional overnight camping.

Clearing mustard on the Sin Nombre Trail

Clearing mustard on the Sin Nombre Trail

On Saturday morning, 140 volunteers split up into crews of about 10 and dispersed to various trails. The crew that included most of CORBA’s volunteers shuttled to the top of the Sin Nombre Trail and started the day by cutting back mustard that was crowding the trail. When that was finished, we worked our way south, spending our time fixing deep ruts. That involved cutting down the berm that forms on the outside of the trail and dragging the dirt back into the rut, and also building up the inside of the trail to restore a gentle outslope. The outslope allows water to run off the outside of the trail, rather than running down it and eroding a new rut.

Fixing a rut on the Sin Nombre Trail

Fixing a rut on the Sin Nombre Trail

The north end of the Sin Nombre trail is very rocky in sections, so it took a considerable amount of work to restore the trail to it’s original condition.

While the CORBA crew was working southward, two other crews were working north from the bottom of the trail. They also were fixing ruts.

After lunch on the trail, a few from the other crews came up to help the CORBA crew. The extra hands allowed us to finish our work an hour early – the help was very much appreciated! With three crews working, we were able to repair all of the ruts along the length of Sin Nombre that were repairable.

Fixing the tight, rocky switchback at the bottom of the Wood Canyon Vista Trail, part of the Backbone Trail.

Fixing the tight, rocky switchback at the bottom of the Wood Canyon Vista Trail, part of the Backbone Trail.

A crew consisting of mostly MBU members and led by Steve Messer, CORBA’s president, worked their way up the Wood Canyon Vista Trail. They started by rebuilding the first very tight switchback which had become rocky and difficult to navigate in recent years. When that was done, they headed up the hill to generally clean out old drains and build new ones where needed.

A journalist from the Ventura County Star accompanied the MBU crew. You can view his photos and video on their website.

Other crews worked on Sage Trail, rebuilding walls and drainages, Old Boney Trail near Sorreno Valley in the Boney Mountain Wilderness Area, and a group of youngsters and their parents cleared brush from the side of the Blue Canyon Trail. Building Bridges to the Outdoors Sierra Club worked on Coyote Trail.

Decorating the dessert cakes for Saturday's dinner

Decorating the dessert cakes for Saturday’s dinner

There hasn’t been any rain recently so the dirt was bone-dry and turns to dust when we dig into it. Because of this, it’s not possible to pack it down firmly despite our best efforts. Be careful when riding these newly worked trails – parts of them are pretty loose still!

Saturday afternoon was spent relaxing around camp, chatting with friends and rehydrating, often with light- to dark-brown beverages. Some people went hiking or riding and youngsters helped decorate the desert cakes with colored icing and sprinkles.

The barbecue dinner, cooked and served by Park staff, was fabulous as always – barbecued tri-tip, chicken and veggie burgers along with salad, garlic toast and baked beans. During dinner, Tony Hoffman from State Parks, along with a pair of young volunteers, called ticket numbers for the prize give-away. The very best prizes (tents, sleeping bags and such) were gone by the time this correspondent’s number was called; even so I got a gift certificate to a nice restaurant in Thousand Oaks that I like.

David Szymanski, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and Craig Sap, superintendent of State Parks Angeles District dropped in during the afternoon and dinner to chat and thank the volunteers for all their help.

After it got dark, slide shows were given by State Park scientists on the archeology of the area, especially with respect to mudslides over hundreds of years and their effect on native inhabitants, and the ecology of recovery after the Springs Fire two years ago.

Saturday night barbecue dinner and prize give-away

Saturday night barbecue dinner and prize give-away

The number of volunteers for Sunday’s trailwork was much smaller, as happens every year. Two dozen people broke into three crews; one worked on “Toe-stubber” a second continued clearing overgrowth from the Blue Canyon Trail, and the kids did some easy trail smoothing nearby with their parents.

CORBA would like to thank all the volunteers and Park staff who made this year’s event a rousing success!

You can view many more photos of the event in CORBA’s 2016 Trail Days photo gallery.

 

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