24 October 2015

Madulce Trail

Los Padres National Forest

Madulce Trail needs some trees cut out and I decided to get in on the action. We could go in Friday morning and get in two days of work or Friday afternoon and get in just one and I chose to go all in. If my arms did not hold up all the way to the second day, there would be new arms to take my place anyway. The work was originally scheduled for the previous week, but was moved for fear of rain. The rest of us thought Mike was being a wimp at the time, but the changes in the road from that weekend show he was extremely justified in changing the date. Unfortunately, it did thin out the workforce a little.

23 Oct 2015

We arrive at Upper Oso a bit early, for the most part, and wait for our escort through the gate. The first part of the road is an OHV route, but we get to drive it in vehicles wider than 54 inches. A lot of these are the same people I saw coming out as I went up to 19 Oaks and they are quite impressed at the changes in the road after what was a little rain in most places. The rains this year seem to be gushers in the few spots they deign to fall. A second gate marks the end of the OHV route and we travel slightly rougher roads to Bluff Camp to disgorge our gear from the trucks. A few more miles along very rough road gets us to the trail and about a mile of walking gets us to the start of work.

Madulce Peak
Madulce Peak is a thin ridge dropping sharply on either side. We follow the south side until the first peak, then around the back side.

Santa Cruz and company
We can just make out the broadcast antennas on Broadcast Peak and Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands. Very sharp eyes can also pick out San Miguel Island. Anacapa is visible from other spots.

northern view to Sierra Madre
We have quite a distance of view to the north, too.

We split into smaller groups that each attacks the logs along the trail. There are many. Most are simple and the first one we go after to is small enough that we elect to cut it once and then just give the 20 foot section at the top a good shove around to get it off the trail. We make good progress until coming to a tangle of tall tree lodged in an oak on one side and on rocks on the other. Large branches are everywhere and most are still attached. This is the Complicated Tree. Investigating the base, it is still attached and twisted. It cannot be known if that is still under tension and will do wild things until we get rid of the weight at the end of it and see. Some of the branches also show signs of being ready to spring. We take the whole afternoon gradually removing limbs while making sure there is always an escape route and spending as little time as possible underneath the mess. We are finally ready to cut the main trunk, which quickly becomes a one person job as the far side does not seem safe. When the cut is done, it just drops. None of the feared dangers manifest. More work is required to clear it from the trail, though, and we have no more time.

24 Oct 2015

Today we can start work a couple hours earlier since we do not have to drive quite so much dirt road in. We have more people now, but the procedure is the same. Head down the trail, now a mile and a half, and start cutting out the trees that lie across it. As I get to the tree we left yesterday, it is somehow already gone. While I was cutting away about half the very thorny bushes further up the trail, someone decided that with a small cut and a good shove, the rest of the tree would be cleared from the trail and has successfully performed the experiment. We move through many more of the simple trees downward.

lower in the canyon
Getting lower in the canyon as the trees are cleared.

One of the trees that looks simple enough at first glance turns out to be a difficult one. It is larger than the rest. In fact as we follow it up, we find we have just cut its top on the switchback above. The first cut is smooth enough, but the second cut binds so tightly that even wedges are not giving the saw enough room to continue. We have to cut it from below, which is unfortunate for a process that usually uses the saw's weight to help with the cut. The tree cracks and rumbles its unstable nature, so the second man has to abandon his position. The procedure for a single man to cut upward with a two man saw is quite something, especially for 2 feet of a 3 foot tree. Unfortunately, they missed the cut and had to do a bit more work to get the tree to fall. When it does, the tree drops simply. The danger was not there after all, but the alternative to caution is unthinkable. A good shove and the cut part of the tree takes about 20 rolls down the steep hillside then suddenly stops and slides like a toboggan into the underbrush.

Others have continued on to the rest of the trees we are aiming at today. These include one that comes up after a long clear stretch of over half a mile and is lying along over 60 feet of trail. Getting this huge tree removed may not be possible with hand tools. The other team has removed every limb on one side leaving a bit of trail next to it that will have to do. They have even continued on to one more tree that was not in the plan. Besides a short section where the scrub oak leaves just enough room for a hiker to get heavily scratched on both sides, the trail is now cleared to stock specifications for the section we were going after. It is time for work to finish again anyway, so we turn to head out again.

Redondo Potrero
A distant potrero to the southeast. The islands are visible to the south again today.

Madulce Peak
A last look at Madulce Peak.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 2 Nov 2015

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Valerie - Thanks for coming on the trail project and writing about it. Hope to see you again out there soon.