Hitch Leader Erik
BLM Lacks Creek, CA August 2nd-11th, 2010
The fifth hitch of our season marks Wild Corps’ first hitch outside of the King Range Conservation Area. After breaking down camp at the Whitethorn barracks and saying our farewells to the King Range staff, we headed north along the coast towards our next work site. Monday, August 2nd, started early with the morning commute to the regional BLM office in Arcata. Upon our arrival we met our new agency contact, Bruce Cann, who gave us a tour of the office and then led the way towards Lacks Creek, where we would spend hitches five and six. Several locked gates and dirt roads later we arrived at our new site. Bruce briefed Megan and I on the work we were to complete and gave us a tour of the two work sites where we would be making new trail. While Bruce, Megan, and I were out the rest of the crew set up our first front country base camp, equipped with sun shelter, kitchen, sump, latrine and personal tents. Upon our return, and shortly thereafter Bruce’s departure, we made dinner and fell back into the camping routine. After dinner we were visited by a small film crew from the BLM office in Sacramento. A few of us were interviewed for a BLM video while the other members of the camera crew snapped still photographs of us cleaning up, playing cards, and trying to juggle looking natural and busy. They left once the sun had fully retreated and the mosquitoes became unbearable.
The next morning, August 3rd, the film crew returned to complete their interviews and get some footage of our morning stumbling over coffee and the tying of boot laces. We headed to work after our morning stretch circle, complete with calisthenics and personalized yoga positions. Our second day of hitch would be spent at the first work site, a section of unfinished trail lingering between two sections of new trail completed by an SCA crew sometime earlier in the season. We split up into two groups and went to work clearing, benching and smoothing out the tread at a width of 3-4 feet for multipurpose usage, with hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders in mind. By the end of the day we had completed the unfinished section, adding an additional 544 feet of out sloped tread to the trail. We finished right at quitting time and started the hitch off ahead of schedule.
On day three, August 4th, we moved to the second work site. This second site is another yet to be named stretch of new trail connecting old timber roads to future camp sites. The California Conservation Corps had started work on the trail earlier in the year and our job was to continue where they left off. We brought tools to the site in the morning and created a cache; we then scouted the trajectory for the new trail and got to work clearing rock, duff, roots, and any organic soil. Again, our goal was to have 3-4 feet of tread with the corridor extending 8 feet high as to allow proper clearance for horseback riders. Knowing we would be spending the duration of the hitch on this trail we focused on making a well defined trail with compact tread, a difficult feat considering the rocky terrain and the amount of organic matter. We cleared one fallen tree that was lying across a section of the trail that the CCC had completed. Day four, August 5th, was spent continuing the trail. Our plan of attack was to split into small groups, with each group focusing on specific sections of trail, then “leap frogging” onward after each section was complete. Day four saw the completion of two 20 square foot drainage dips and the building of rock support for tread cutting through some hill side benching. After lunch we headed into Arcata to re-supply our food inventory, since we did not have time earlier in the hitch due to our re-location and travel time. Since the work day was officially over while we were still in town, we met up with a friend from the King Range for some locally made organic ice cream before leaving Arcata to make it back to Lacks Creek before dusk.
Day five, August 6th, was spent clearing more trail until we came to an impassable point in the trail, blocked by a goliath rock. After a rock bar workshop and refresher course we split into two groups, one group working on tread and drainage while the other put their heads and rock bars together to move the giant stone obstacle. Our agency contact, Bruce, came out to check on our progress and drop off some additional tools and ice. While Bruce and Megan discussed the work we had completed and what was left to do, the rest of us went to work on the rock. After lunch we finally moved the rock, quite successfully, off the trail. With the trail corridor open we filled it’s cavity with crush and mineral soil and continued working on tread. Dave went ahead to prep the trail by clearing rock and pulling stumps with the weed wrench. Chris cleared the vertical corridor with the pole saw and loppers. Megan worked on drainage, while Emily, Leah, and I benched and put the finishing touches on sections of tread.
Day Six, August 7th, was more of the same. We cleared more stumps, removed football sized rocks, cleared the trail corridor of overhang, benched, and worked on tread. On the steeper sections we continued to use larger rocks to support the outer sections of tread while maintaining a grade of out slope for drainage purposes. Megan and Emily created another drainage dip, 25 square feet, while Chris worked on creating a wide banked turn at a switchback for the future enjoyment of mountain bikers. We created a new tool cache further along the trail, taking careful inventory of all tools present in the field, we decided to take the rock bars and one of the weed wrenches back to camp in order to keep the cache more manageable. More than halfway through the hitch and we were making good progress.
On Day 7, August 8th, we worked on some projects around camp in the morning. Leah, Dave, and Chris modified the new spring that the BLM had drilled. They moved the basin from the old dried up spring and relocated it under the pipe from the new spring. In addition, rocks were added to support and cover the new pipe. Emily and Megan took food inventory and organized the trailer, an important task when working “front-country”. As hitch leader, I was kept busy with some paper work and made sure that records were being maintained and no work was going unrecognized. Once the base camp work was complete we headed into the field to continue blazing new tread at the second work site. We continued clearing rocks and stumps, benching, tamping, and adding larger rocks on the outer boundary of the tread. Chris and I back tracked and widened some section which Bruce had mentioned might be to narrow during his visit earlier in the hitch. After widening and tamping the tread, the trail looked much better and would be more manageable for horses and mountain bikers.
On Day 8, August 9th, Megan and David started out the day by clearing the vertical trail corridor for the more recently completed sections of trail. The pole saw and loppers really helped to open up the dense understory. The entire day was spent working on clearing and refining the tread. Three drainage dips were also added to the trail, totaling in fifty square feet of drainage.
On Day 9, August 10th, our last day at the work site, we managed to power through and get a good deal of new tread cleared. Rock and timber support was added to retain the tread. The corridor was cleared up to the last part of completed tread. At the end of the day we had constructed, for the hitch, a total of 1,493 feet of new trail, six drain dips totaling 12 feet in length, one drainage ditch that was 175 square feet, 210 feet of rock retention, and cleared one blow down. In addition, we modified one spring.
Day 10, August 11th, was spent as most last days of hitch often are, cleaning tools and breaking down camp. All the tools used were cleaned and sharpened, the trailer was organized and re-packed, tents and personal gear were packed away. All in all, the hitch was successful; we made serious headway on the project and the crew was respectful to each other, everyone worked hard, and spirits seemed to be high from beginning to end.
-Erik Schmahl, Hitch #5 Leader