Advanced Trail Training
Dates: May 29th to June 1st 2019
Instructors: Samuel Commarto and Garrett Villanueva from the Forest Service
Length of Training: 4 days – 1 day new trail flagging and scouting, 3 days of rock work
Location: Cold Spring West Fork and Cold Spring East Fork
Participants: ~20 crew leaders, 7 SBMTV Crew Leaders, Volunteers from LPFA, SB County Trails Council and some from other small advocacy groups from farther away.
Seven of our crew leaders attended an advanced trail training course over 4 full days. The course was taught by visiting Forest Service Trail building professionals, Garrett Villanueva-Forest Service Regional Trails Manager and Samuel Commarto-Forest Service Recreation Officer.
We spent our first day flagging new slide bypass trail ideas on the West Fork of Cold Spring Trail. This involved using a Clinometer to check trail grade frequently, bush-whacking, a lot of climbing up and down steep slopes and more.
We broke up into 4 teams and flagged and scouted these 4 routes: the historic trail that began about a half mile before the slide, a ridge trail that began on the switch back before the slide and connected up to the trail below the water tunnel, the current bypass trail and a trail that split of the bypass near it’s high point and involved a lot more traversing inorder to slacken out the trail grade.
After reviewing all our alternative trails, the trail that appeared to be the best alternate through the slide was none of them at all, it started to look like the best way to fix the trail would be to make the trail go through the same spot that had slid.
Our Santa Barbara mountains are very steep and not highly compressed, Why is that? We learned one reason is because there were never glaciers on these mountains compressing the dirt. These mountains are quite young and can be easily changed by the weather and the trail use they receive. This makes our area a tough spot to find locations for trail bypasses and new trail.
We try to keep our trail grades averages around 15-20% and in a lot of other places they can actually hit averages of 7%.
For day 2, 3 and 4 we met at the bottom of Cold Spring East Fork. There we focused on rock work. We learned how to safely move rocks with rock bars, rock slings, pick mattocks and a lot of communication and planning.
We learned how to make an armoured berm and armoured rolling grade dip–it involves finding rocks that will fit together well, and if they don’t using rock hammers to fine tune the rocks so they do fit, you have to have good contact. The other thing you need is ‘crush’. You set rocks around the main structural rocks that make up the berm or dip and then you set them in by crushing the smaller rocks around them with rock hammers. After that you do a kick test and if they budge you create more crush around them until they pass the kick test – no budging.
The main project we worked on was building a rock wall to create trail tread in an area where the trail tread was lost. Through this project we learned about key-stones, moving large stones, using electric rock drills and hammers, the batter or degree of lean you need to use. You can see the product of this work at the bottom of Cold Spring Trail. But, don’t think we built it all in the 3 days at the site. SBMTV and LPFA crews spent a few more weeks finishing up the wall, another BIG thing a lot of us learned at this advanced trail training was Rock. Work. Takes. Time. It really does to do it well and properly you have to move slowly. The rocks might not look that big and heavy from across the creek, but they really are.
Overall we learned a ton! Garrett and Sam were amazing super knowledgeable instructors.
We are very thankful to them for coming out and teaching, and to Bryan Conant from LPFA for organizing the event.
We are excited to do more rock work in the future. Santa Barbara does have some rocks eh?
PS – We also learned how to create a ‘junk wall’ a quicker wall that is actually a permanent trail supporting feature — they are able to be built more quickly because they are built at a 1-1 ratio, batter, instead of a 4-1 ratio.