Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Trailwork Report

Like I said in my last post, I went down to San Jacinto to a trail work training session. I puked on the drive down (bad gas station deli hard boiled eggs or just really windy dirt Black Mountain Road), then spent Friday, Saturday, and half of Sunday learning to work a griphoist. Basically this is a fancy winch device capable of controlled tension and release of a wire rope under up to 4,000 pounds of pressure. Anchor the griphoist on a tree, attach the wire rope to a big rock, crank the handle, and the rock moves. If the rock is really heavy, put a block (pulley) on the rock, thread the wire rope through the block and anchor it back on the same tree in order to get a 2:1 mechanical advantage. Or instead of doing a direct or directional pull, you can set up a high line or high lead and fly (a very generous term, they're not actually flying or even moving that fast if you're being remotely safe) big granite boulders down a slope.

Anyway, I had a pretty good time. The training was run by the Student Conservation Association (SCA), with PCTA, Forest Service, LA Conservation Corps, and California Conservation Corps participants. That made for a very different makeup than my previous trailwork experience, but the only bad thing about that was the attempt at forced enthusiasm/cheering/get-to-know-you games that clearly is not my style.

Here are a few pics:
This rock fin is pretty recognizable, about 3/4 mile south of Black Mountain Road.
Rigging a chain basket around a nice 700-lb. piece of granite
Pulling same rock down high lead


And a few thoughts:
When hiking, I am annoyed by, in order, 1)overgrown brush, 2)non-existent and thus hard-to-follow tread, 3)downed trees over the trail, and a distant 4) poor rock placement. I have a really small sample size (two), but I haven't super-loved my trailwork experiences because I hiked right through the areas where we were going to work and thought the trail was in fine shape since conditions (1), (2), and (3) were all fine. Apparently, however, horses and donkeys weigh a lot, cannot take sharp corners, and like there to be big granite steps all over the trail. I actually dislike steps since the 1.5 to 2 foot drops are jarring to the knees. But the group spends the whole time working on a really small section of trail that I didn't think needed any improvement in the first place, meanwhile I know for a fact the next 8 miles of trail is overgrown and impossible to hike without getting your arms and legs really scratched and covered in sticky plant oils.

There are really only two points to this. One, I need to sign up for brushing or logging trail work instead of rock stuff (or just ask my friend to machine me a pair of loppers with carbon-fiber handles, strap them to my pack, and go running/maintaining by myself). And two, I have no love of creating fine craftsmanship, I don't care about details, and I prefer quantity over quality. So please, if you know of quantity-based trail projects, let me know.

P.S. Granite weighs approximately 96 pounds per cubic foot.

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