It was a perfect day for riding in Malibu Creek State Park, and 28 smart riders came out for the free Basic Skills Clinic, which is always held the first Saturday of the month. This was by far the largest group we’ve had in over a year! The park was also full of hikers, and we even saw a couple of equestrians. You can see the photos in our April photo gallery.
Archive for the ‘Santa Monica Mountains’ Category
California State Parks will be performing maintenance on all fire roads throughout the park. The project is underway and will take several weeks. This is considered routine maintenance, to restore the fire roads to their intended purpose, as well as to prevent further degradation of the roads and impacts to the environment.
Every time maintenance of this type is done, we know that there are many experienced mountain bikers who don’t like the changes. Having our favorite “challenging sections” smoothed over often comes as a surprise. On the other hand, some riders welcome the improvements. But regardless, the fire roads will change.
Why is this being done? Fire roads are primarily transportation corridors for fire fighting, emergency vehicle access, administrative work within the parks, and for recreation. Over time, all dirt fire roads degrade and begin to develop ruts and water channels form. Once the ruts begin to form, rain will then extend and deepen those ruts. This creates additional challenge for cyclists, but it also makes it more difficult for the State Parks administration to do their job of managing the park. Their primary mission is to preserve the park and it’s natural resources for us and our future generations.
Currently fire road maintenance work is being done on the Eagle Springs loop to repair existing damage, reduce future maintenance needs, and to provide additional protection of the environment. The Regional Water Quality Control Board mandates State Parks and other land managers to reduce sediments washed into the creeks and streams. Studies have demonstrated that fire roads are major contributors to this problem. State Parks had to determine which fire roads were causing the most erosion and sediment runoff in both Malibu Creek State Park and Topanga State Park. They have identified Eagle Springs loop as a priority project.
State Parks are currently outsloping as many areas of the roads as possible. We always try to outslope trails when we do trail maintenance. Outsloping helps shed water off the trail or road. Insloped roads carry and channel water and the more water carried causes more erosion. In some particularly bad areas in Topanga State Park, roads have lost about five feet of material across the whole eighteen feet of width of the road.
The sediment washed off these roads heavily impacts streams and creeks in the parks as it makes its way to Santa Monica Bay. On a state-wide basis State Parks has turned to outsloping all back country roads and trails. This has shown to reduce erosion and be a more sustainable maintenance practice. In the long run sediment runoff will be greatly reduced, further protecting the streams, creeks and the environment as a whole.
Eagle Rock Fire Road was given the highest priority in Topanga since it showed the heaviest erosion. It was no longer accessible by vehicles. It was also causing damage and erosion on Musch Trail, which joins the road.
State Parks appreciates your understanding, and CORBA, supports their efforts to reduce impacts to the environment. We all want to protect the places we play and ride. If that means grading over a section of road to make it more sustainable, we’re fine with that. The alternative is to decommission the road and close it to all users, something none of want to see.
During and for some time after construction, the roads will not be very pretty, and may be soft and loose until the tread gets packed down. In time, they’ll return to a more natural looking state. Most mountain bike injuries occur on fire roads, due to the ease with which we can gain speed. So as we ride these newly graded roads, remember to be safe, and that there is a 15mph speed limit on all trails and fire roads within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
The New Millennium Loop trail system in Calabasas is very popular among mountain bikers and others, but it has very little if any maintenance since the trails were built a number of years ago as part of The Oaks gated community. In general, they have held up pretty well, but nature is taking its relentless toll.
Recently, high-schoolers with the SoCal High School Cycling League, with help from CORBA and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, have been helping to restore these trails. On January 31, they helped complete a new trail along the Historic Loop segment that bypasses the swamp. This past Saturday, February 28th, ten kids from Calabasas and Newbury Park mountain bike clubs and 5 young sailors from Naval Base Ventura County, with guidance from CORBA and Trails Council trail crew leaders, repaired about 0.8 miles of the Bark Park Trail.
With the heavy rains in December, ruts started to develop along the trail and a sinkhole about 6′ long and 3-4′ deep appeared. We were going to fix that and address the drainage issues on the trail above it that caused it to appear. Sometime in the couple of weeks before our trailwork day, someone filled in the sinkhole, saving us some time, but we still needed to widen and level the trail around where it had been. Also, the tread had to be repaired so the water would run off it, rather than down it and enlarging the ruts.
Over the next few hours, about 15-20 drainage nicks were built and parts of the trail were restored to their original flat but slightly out-sloped state, to enable rainwater to run straight off the outside edge. Three switchback drains were also cleared of vegetation and silt to restore them to their original condition.
When we were finished, we moved to nearby Sharky’s for a hearty lunch of Mexican food.
You can see more photos of the event in our Bark Park trailwork photo gallery. Thanks to the high-schoolers and sailors who came out to help – everyone did a great job!
You’re invited to a free presentation by one of CORBA’s and IMBA’s founders, Jim Hasenauer. The presentation is called “Mountain Biking in the Santa Monicas” and is a part of the MRCA Chautuaqua Talk Series. The talk will be held at 7:3o p.m. on March 17, 2015.
An appreciation of off-road bicycling in the Santa Monica Mountains with a focus on its history, its growth, bike advocacy, and relations with other trail users. Once called the “new kids on the block”, mountain bicyclists have now been riding the trails and contributing to the trails community for more than thirty years. Come learn about the evolution of the sport, public policy, and sustainable trail design. Learn where to ride, what to ride and how to ride. What does the future hold for mountain bicyclists in the Santa Monica Mountains NRA?
The talk will be held in Woodland Hall at the Temescal Gateway Park, 15601 W. Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades (Map).
As part of the restoration process of the trails in Pt Mugu State Park after the heavy rains and mudslides in December 2014, twelve volunteers from CORBA, along with about two dozen hikers, trail runners and navy personnel, spent this past Saturday working on the Wood Canyon Vista Trail, a segment of the Backbone Trail. Trail crew leaders from CORBA and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council led the volunteers, showing them how to properly, safely and effectively fix the trails using hand tools.
We had three tasks: repairing the ruts caused by water flowing down the middle of the trail, creating and repairing drains to direct water off of it, and leveling the tread where mud had flowed across it, making it uneven.
About two weeks previously, a smaller crew had worked on the bottom one-third mile of this 1.8-mile long trail. The remaining 1.4 miles was split into three; CORBA was assigned the lowest third. The trail runners worked on the top third after most of them ran to their work area from the parking on Potrero Road. The rest of us carpooled from Potrero to the bottom of the trail on the main Sycamore Canyon Trail in as few cars as possible.
On the hike to the work area and during the frequent rest breaks, we took in and talked about the carpets of green and fields of wildflowers next to the trails – lupines, California poppies, wild hyacinths (blue dicks), shooting stars and more. I’ve never seen so many wildflowers there before, and never more than a few California poppies. On Saturday, we saw thousand of them, if not tens of thousands, with every indication that there would be more to come! The last time we were here was after the Springs Fire when the ground was barren and charred. What a difference a little rain can make!
When we were finished, long stretches of the trail were leveled to remove the center rut, and many drainage nicks were cleared of debris or built anew. In some places, the old ones were so full and covered by grass that we couldn’t tell where they used to be.
All in all, a great group of volunteers contributed to another successful trail restoration project!
You can view more photos in our photo gallery for this project.
Here is what I found when I rode all the multi-use trails a few days after Pt Mugu State Park re-opened on January 30th. The park had been closed since mid-December when heavy rains brought mudslides to the fire-denuded park. During the closure, heavy equipment was used to clear up the extensive damage on the fire roads, and small groups of volunteers were fixing some bad spots on singletrack trails, using hand tools. In fact, volunteer groups will be converging on the park throughout February to help fix the trails. You can help! Here’s the schedule: 2015-01-22 PMSP Trailwork Schedule.
My first impression was that there were a lot of people in the park for a Tuesday morning. No doubt they were as curious about its condition as I was. (There are a number of photos below that show a typical condition, and a much larger photo gallery to show more trail problems, large and small.) One pleasant surprise was that the wildflowers are coming out, in abundance in some places. I’ve included pictures of some of them in the photo gallery.
I entered the park from the north end, through Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa. There are signs posted at the entrance to Pt Mugu State Park (PMSP) indicating that you can’t get through to the coast, and that there is no water in the park.
On the main Sycamore Canyon Fireroad, there were numerous shallow mudslides that had come down the hill and crossed the road. Some were narrow and others were quite wide. All of them had been cleaned up. The whole road was smooth and quite broad. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the campground because the road was closed south of the point where Overlook Fireroad comes into it.
Sin Nombre and Two Foxes Trails had had lots of tiny mudflows across them, leaving small ridges perpendicular to the trail. They make for a bit of a bumpy ride. There were several ruts in the hillside above and below the trail where a small stream crossed, but did very little or no damage to the trail. There were a few spots where larger streams did damage the trail, leaving ruts and/or rocks and dirt.
On the Wood Canyon Vista Trail, a segment of the Backbone Trail, there were five notable kinds of features on the trail. Most noticeable was the lack of serviceable drainage dips. Of the 84 drains we installed after the Springs Fire in 2013, almost all were choked with debris, and many couldn’t even be distinguished from the rest of the trail. Large stretches of trail had mud and water flowing across it, leaving small ridges perpendicular to the trail. Other large stretches had water running down the trail, removing all the dirt and sand, leaving a very rocky surface. The clay stretch about 2/3 of the way up has become deeply trenched and rutted. Finally, some trailwork has already been done, and there the surface was generally smoother and outsloped, but slightly loose.
Climbing the old ranch road section of Guadalasca, I saw a lot of damage. However, it was mostly easy to avoid because the trail there follows an old wide roadbed. The top 20% of the singletrack downhill, where we had worked after the Springs Fire, was in very good shape. However, it was a different story for the rest, where it had already been quite rutted. Most of it was only slightly worse, but the worst sections were much worse than they had been. You can avoid the ruts now by using the very edge of the trail, but that won’t be an option once the vegetation grows up again. In the two places where the trail crossed a small stream with a culvert under the trail, the culvert had become blocked and the upstream streambed was completely filled with silt, while below the trail, the streambed was scoured down to bare rocks. The trail crossing the stream had acted as a dam and held back the dirt and rocks that were washing downstream. Finally, the lower old ranch road section had also become much more rutted, and the culverts under the trail had become exposed.
During the Santa Monica Mountains Trail Day in April 2014, a large group of volunteers essentially rebuilt the Sage Trail. After the December flooding, the trail remains mostly intact, but we were very lucky that it wasn’t annihilated. The trail runs near the outside edge of an old roadbed. For most of it’s length, water and mud streamed down between the trail and the hillside creating a wide trench, crossing the trail occasionally and flowing off the edge. Most of the armoring rock walls we built to protect previous washouts were intact, but the water flowed around them to enlarge the washouts, generally on the downhill side. Two of the armoring walls didn’t fare well at all.
Finally, here’s what you can see in one spot at the side of the Wood Canyon Vista Trail.
Don’t forget, you can help restore the trails! Here’s the schedule for volunteer work days: 2015-01-22 PMSP Trailwork Schedule.
Riders, coaches and parents from Calabasas HS, AE Wright Middle School, Royal HS and other schools in Simi Valley spent six hours this past Saturday to build 300 yards of a new trail. This was half the length of a trail that was roughed in last year to bypass the swamp along the Historic Trail, part of the New Millennium Loop trail system in Calabasas.
The day started at 8:30 AM when the 27 volunteers, including a trail crew leader from each of CORBA and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, plus Pat McQuaid, fire crew chief for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (who owns the land we were working), listened to the safety talk, grabbed tools, then hiked the half mile to the work area. CORBA’s crew leader explained the work that was to be done, then demonstrated how to use the tools safely and effectively. The work was to widen the trail from the current 1-foot to 3-4 feet, ensuring a slight outslope so rain water would run off.
The teams started to work on the trail in groups of about 6, each with their own section of trail to complete before moving on to another section. Because of recent rains, the soil was soft and easy to dig into, but as we got a little deeper, we hit heavy, sticky clay that often stuck to the tools, making them much heavier to lift that they otherwise were.
At noon, we broke for a hearty lunch of Subway sandwiches, delivered by CORBA’s president, Steve Messer. After the half-hour break, we headed back to work for another hour. Pat McQuaid showed us the technique the fire crews use to build trails – the pace picked up a lot, but it was probably too tiring for volunteers to use for the whole day.
These teams, part of the SoCal High School Cycling League, are committed to several trailwork days in the year, and this was the first for 2015. The next ones will be squeezed into their busy spring training and racing schedule.
CORBA thanks the teams, their schools and the league for the support of maintaining and building new trails. Everyone did a great job and we’re looking forward to the next event in about a month!
You can see more photos of the event in our high school trailwork photo gallery. (Thanks to Diana from Simi Valley for adding her photos to CORBA’s!)
On Thursday January 22nd, we got an update of the status and future of Pt Mugu State Park by Dale Skinner. Dale manages trail maintenance for the State Parks for the SMMtns.
By way of background… The Springs Fire of May 2013 burned all the chaparral and some of the large trees throughout the park and the plant roots that normally hold the soil together were destroyed. Without this support, the heavy rains in December resulted in large mudslides in the park, burying or washing away some of the trails and impacting almost all of them. The photo below shows what remains of the main Sycamore Canyon Fireroad.
You can see more photos of the damage in this Pt Mugu State Park mudslide gallery.
Since the mudslides, the park has been closed while bulldozers and other heavy equipment are used to restore the trails.
State Parks superintendent for the SMMtns, Craig Sap, is considering opening the north half of the park before repairs are completed on the south (ocean) side. The boundary would be the Wood Canyon Vista Trail, both at the bottom on the main Sycamore Canyon Trail and at the top on Overlook. That is, the trails would be closed south of the Wood Canyon Vista Trail.
It’s not yet know if this would happen, and if it does, when it would take effect. We may not know until the end of the month, when the current closure order expires and a new one would be posted.
It seems certain that at least the south half of the park will be closed past Jan 31. That’s because the damage to Sycamore Fireroad was extensive. Dale mentioned some ruts that are 4′ deep. Basically the stream overflowed its banks and decided that the road would be the new streambed. State Parks is trucking in tons of dirt to replace what was washed away. The dirt is coming from the PCH and other areas where stuff was washed down from the hillsides. It sounds like they’re going to elevate the road a little, I guess so future floods won’t go down the road.
The parking area for Chumash Trail was filled with several feet of dirt and the bottom of the trail was washed away. The dirt has been removed and it sounds like the bottom of the trail has been rebuilt (I’m not certain about this, but I do know that the Chumash Trail is one of the most popular trails in the SMMs).
Other trails didn’t fare so well. The La Jolla Canyon Trail was completely eliminated at the waterfall, not too far from the bottom. It’s just moved itself to the bottom of the ocean. Dale figures that trail will be closed for a year while they rebuild it. If you’ve every hiked up that trail, you’ll understand why it will be a huge effort to rebuilt it. To get past the waterfalls, they essentially had to carve steps into the rock cliff.
The Upper Sycamore Canyon Trail is also washed away in at least one spot, but Dale hopes that can be re-opened in a month or two.
Regarding the PCH, Dale thinks CalTrans is optimistic in their assessment of when it will re-open. There are two washouts where the road, at least in part, has collapsed all the way down to beach level.
I hope this has been somewhat illuminating about what’s going on. For now, it looks like we’ll have to wait until the end of the month to see when the upper part of the park will be opened.
As we wait for the park to re-open, the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, with support from CORBA and other groups, has organized a number of work days for volunteers to help restore the trails. Because of many years of budget cutbacks, State Parks is not able afford to fix the park by themselves and they rely on volunteers to help.
Our Meetup group is having a work day on Feb 21st to help with restoration work on the Wood Canyon Vista Trail segment of the Backbone Trail. Everyone would be grateful if you’re able to volunteer to help out! No experience is necessary, and we’ll provide the tools and instructions on how to use them safely and effectively.
You can sign up for the restoration event here: http://www.meetup.com/CORBAmtb/events/219897835/
We’re hoping to get 15 volunteers but currently we are far short of that goal (Thanks to those who have signed up already!).
The Trails Council trail crew has a number of other work days set up for February on various trails. Below is the schedule and contact information if you’d like to help out. The meeting time is 8:30 am and return to the cars by 2:30 pm.
Saturday, January 31: Wood Canyon Vista Trail (multiuse segment of the Backbone Trail), contact John Kross/Jerry Mitcham (805) 587-0721
Wednesday, February 4: Serrano Canyon Trail, contact Barry Dydyk 805-499-5627.
Saturday, February 7: Chumash Trail, contact Dave Edwards 805-985-3728 h 805-279-3029 c
Wednesday, February 11: Chumash Trail, contact George Sherman/Dave Edwards (805) 490-0381
Saturday, February 14: Blue Canyon Trail (segment of the Backbone Trail), contact Jerry Mitcham 818-406-1269
Wednesday, February 18: Hidden Pond Trail, contact Norm Simmonds (805) 523- 7250
Saturday, February 21: Wood Canyon Vista Trail (multiuse segment of the Backbone Trail), contact the CORBA Meetup Event.
Wednesday, February 25: Wood Canyon Vista Trail (multiuse segment of the Backbone Trail), contact Norm Simmonds (805) 523-7250.
Saturday, February 28: Fossil Trail, contact John Kross/Jerry Mitcham (805) 587-0721.