All According To Plan…Or Not.


Half a year it has been.  The weather has drifted from warm to cold and back the other way to hot.  The excitement of a new adventure has waned away, only to build again as the crew now turns to their next undertaking.  The members of the Lake Berryessa Trail Team showed up a hodge-podge of experienced conservationists and trail-workers, and over the course of the last six months they transformed into a family.  Like any family, this group has seen its ups and downs, its fair share of drama and hardships, and it has come through on the other side a hardened, close-knit community prepared to share its knowledge with the next generation of conservation leaders.  They said their hellos, and now they say their goodbyes.

The team began their journey with the understanding that it would be cutting a handicap-accessible trail over three miles, but as most people that work with rock learn, expectations are quickly abandoned.  From day one, the initial project was changed from the proposed ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Trail to another smaller one north of the initial proposal.  For two months the crew chopped and shaved away at the soil, building the Smittle Creek Loop Trail.  The team developed an intricate system of humorous conversation and an exceeding level of precision in leaving smooth tread behind them, but as soon as they had mastered the art of side-hilling, the trail was complete and it was time to find another task.  At this point, the team found its expectations changing drastically.  The project they thought was going to be their sole purpose now drifted further and further into the future, and the team turned their focus to building structures.  Timber steps, rock steps, retaining walls, and water bars are all structures not allowed on ADA trails, yet the ADA crew found themselves building all of these in many places.  The team brought together for one focus now found themselves travelling all over the lake and taking on the whole gambit of possible trail projects.  

After the Christmas break and the completion of the Smittle Creek Loop Trail, the team began to focus on developing their leadership skills as well as an array of technical skills.  Each member took over as subcontractor and was responsible for the logistics of the work day in addition to planning the crew’s travel and stay at the trainings that were lined up for the crew.  Over the course of the past six months, the team was supplied with trainings in rigging, crosscut saw use & sharpening, chainsaw use & maintenance, Leave No Trace education, and general leadership training in addition to the skills picked up from the now vast array of trail projects undertaken.  The team was barraged with a pile of things to do at work, at home, and at their ‘free’ time.  At times it was easy, it was hard, stressful, relaxing, tiring, revealing, dull, fun, and just too much but no one will forget this crew and what they learned from it.


They learned how to fall a tree.  They learned about building bridges. They learned trail survey and design.  They learned what it means to have ‘trail eyes.’   They learned teaching styles.  They learned leading styles.  They learned the meaning of tired.  They learned poison oak is evil.  They learned about themselves.  They learned about their crew.  They learned that when they share hopes and goals, they only hint at their priorities.  They learned that everyone is coming from someplace different and that everyone is going someplace different, and that sometimes those people collide on their way someplace else.  They learned that everyone sometimes needs new boots.  They learned that they have a voice.  They learned that others have voices, too, and they learned that when everyone uses their voice, nobody is using their ears.  They learned that simple things are not risky, and community is formed on simple things, and until those simple things are established risky things are off the table.  They learned that there is only one dirt.  And you can’t pick your family.  And you can’t know who somebody is when you meet them.  And you can’t know what you’ll understand until you learn it.  They learned that everyone has a story, and sometimes don’t want to tell it, and there is a story behind everything that has ever been learned.  Megan learned not to use liquid dish detergent in the dishwasher.  Stephani learned Ryan does not like sugar and she really does.  Ben learned how to look at a trail.  Andy learned to put a smile on his face is not always easy.  Chris learned that we’re all taking different paths, no matter where the trail is.  Ryan learned that the English major is sometimes a better teacher than a writer.  They all learned that they have a lot to learn.

Work Totals:

New Trail                             3603’

Trail Maintained               24044’

Trail Rehabilitated            3702’

Sites Rehabilitated          15

Stone Retention               63’ sq.

Log Retention                    40’ sq.

Bridges                                 3 @ 38’

Steps                                     101

Drianage Structures        20

Fence Const.                      120’

Structures Removed      7

Trash Collected                 60 lbs.


Student Outreach            63 students