Report on and photos of 2012 Santa Monica Mountains Trail Days

Over the weekend of April 28-29, about 200 volunteers had a great time chatting, chowing on a fabulous barbecue meal, taking in the scenery, winning wonderful prizes, and if they liked, camping overnight in the Danielson Multiuse Area in Pt Mugu State Park. The reason for the revelry was the 31st annual Santa Monica Mountains Trail Days where outdoor enthusiasts of all varieties got together to repair trails for everyone to enjoy.


When we arrived on Saturday morning, the staging area at Danielson Multuse Area was bescattered with a couple dozen brightly colored tents of people who had arrived Friday evening and camped overnight. The CORBA volunteers grabbed some tools and shuttled to the top of Hell Hill to work on Guadalasca Trail. Our job would be to clear the brush that was overgrowing the trail.

The 34 mountain bike volunteers, including a half dozen members of the Channel Islands High School Interscholastic SoCal Cycling League, split into three groups, led by crew leaders Hans Keifer, Steve Messer and Steve Clark. We were to hike down the trail, cutting back the overgrowth as we went. Helping us were two State Parks staff who were ahead on the trail. They had chain saws to cut back the largest branches. Keifer and Messer followed with their crews, armed with loppers and small saws, to remove brush and branches of an intermediate size. Bringing up the rear was Clark, wielding a power hedge-trimmer, and two brave assistants, who cut down the smaller brush and swept it off the trail. This included a huge section of poison oak that was flourishing on the top part of the trail, above the first switchback. On the way down, this last group cut back poison oak that the other groups had left. Near the bottom, on the old ranch road section, the power hedge trimmer was also used to cut back thistle near the trail. We wanted to cut it out before it developed seeds for next year’s crop of prickles.

Guadalasca is now in much better shape. It is clear of overgrowth over most of it’s length, and the risk of contacting poison oak is much reduced.

While the CORBA crews were working on Guadalasca, other crews were working on Blue Canyon Trail and Old Boney Trail. Both these trails are in the State Wilderness Area and are closed to mountain biking.

The crews finished about 2:00 pm and headed back to the staging area for some R & R before the barbecue dinner, consisting of salad, tri-tip, chicken, vegi burgers, baked beans, garlic toast and hot dogs, with cake for dessert. The grills were manned by State Parks maintenance workers who had volunteered to help out. Dinner was augmented by snacks and amber/red/white beverages that adults brought for themselves.

While dinner was being prepared, tables were laid out with dozens of items that were to be awarded to volunteers during the prize giveaway. They were there for people to oggle and figure out which they would pick for themselves when their ticket was drawn. Tickets were given out to people in line for dinner. The giveaway itself was held after dinner. Everyone won a prize, but of course the people whose tickets were chosen first had a larger selection to pick from. Among the prizes were two $350 RST M29 Air 29″ forks. New this year were grand prize drawings, in addition to the regular prizes, for a North Face down sleeping bag, a North Face 2-person tent and a mountain bike helmet.

All the pictures of Saturday’s activities are available for viewing in the Saturday photo gallery.


Most people headed home Saturday evening after the prize drawing, but a few stayed on for another night of camping. A few of those left on Sunday morning, but many stayed for another morning of trailwork, and were joined by a few who drove in for the day.

Trenched trail with bushes blocking the view around bends

The CORBA crew consisted of four mountain bikers, three Americorps volunteers and three State Parks employees. We headed over to Sin Nombre Trail in two groups. The State Parks staff, along with their power hedge trimmer, started at the top and worked their way down. They were accompanied by two bikers who worked with loppers. The remaining five started at the bottom and worked their way up.

The bottom group worked on the tread and brush in two areas. The trail in the first area was deeply trenched and had large bushes growing next to the trail on the inside of bends. We built two rolling dips to prevent rainwater from running straight down the trail, thus keeping the trenches from getting deeper (they’re already deep enough that you can easily hit your pedals on the side of the trail as you climb up). We also partly filled in the trench so it’s not so deep now. We would have filled it in completely if we’d had time.

Cutting back the bushes on the inside turnsThe large bushes growing right next to the trail on the inside of bends present two problems. First, they obscure the view around the bend so you can’t see people coming the other direction. The trail is moderately sloped here, so people riding downhill can’t see others coming towards them, and don’t have much time to react to avoid a collision. Similarly, people coming up the hill can’t see if a rider is coming down towards them. Second, the bushes are so close to the trail that there’s no room to lean into the turn without running your torso into the bush. Riders need to slow down so much that they’re not leaning, or else ride off the outside of the trail, thus widening it over time. We fixed these problems by cutting the bushes back about three feet from the center of the trail, giving much improved visibility around the curve.

The oak tree on the left used to grow to the edge of the trail, blocking the view of this turn at the bottom of a small hill.

The second area was at an S-turn at the bottom of a small hill. An oak tree at the bottom of this hill obscures the view of the turn, resulting in some mountain bikers missing the first turn and running up a small bank, then being in a poor line for the second turn and possibly falling or running off the trail and down a grassy bank.

The top group and bottom group happened to meet at this point, so the top group worked on trimming back the tree to improve visibility while the bottom group widened the trail by about 18″ to make the turns a little more gentle.

While we were working on Sin Nombre, a second, slightly larger group had headed back up the Blue Canyon Trail to work there.

We got back to the staging area about 1:00 pm for a quick lunch before the second prize giveaway. In addition to the regular prizes, the grand prizes were another 2-person tent from North Face and a $100 gift certificate for Westlake Cyclery.

All the pictures of Sunday’s activities are available for viewing in the Sunday photo gallery.

The 2012 Santa Monica Mountains Trail Days were organized by the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council in conjunction with California State Parks. Other groups who helped out were CORBA, the Sierra Club, Crenshaw Eco Club, California Native Plant Society, SMM Natural History Assn., Malibu Creek Docents, Temescal Canyon Assn., Ray Miller 50/50 Run and the National Park Service. A special Thank-You goes to Barb Thomas who was the coordinator of this event for the SMM Trails Council.

If you missed the fun and excitement this year, this is an annual event so you should plan to come out next year for the 2013 edition!


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