Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sweeney Ridge trail maintenance:
Getting sore for the pure pleasure of it

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I use local hiking trails every chance I get, so I figure I ought to do a little work on them once in a while. When the Golden Gate National Recreation Area teamed up with REI to organize a Saturday's maintenance project, I signed up. Sweeney Ridge runs along the spine of the hills that separate the ocean from San Francisco Bay a few miles south of the city. The trail includes the "Discovery Site," the reputed location where Spanish explorers saw there was a huge body of water -- the bay -- over the mountains.

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The group I joined was working to improve the condition of some of the hundreds of wood-demarcated steps on the trail. See that shadow at the right lower corner of the picture? It's presence means the earth behind the step has sunk, creating a tripping hazard.

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Our small crew of volunteers spent a morning shoveling earth into plastic buckets and hauling it --mostly downhill -- to fill in those steps.

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That is, we acted as inefficient, under-muscled mules.

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Dumping the buckets was satisfying.

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After we'd filled in a step, we stomped the new earth flat.

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After about eight trips up and down the hill with the weighty buckets, it was time for some water and a laugh.

I'm lucky. This kind of work hurts since I don't do it often, but I find it profoundly relaxing. The steps are marginally improved. They'll last a winter, perhaps. It's not a huge accomplishment to have shored them up, but it was a pleasant way to spend a November morning.

UPDATE: This project was also sponsored by the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council.

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