Sunday, June 14, 2009

National Trails Day Report and Photos

It was a beautiful sight to see so many cars pour into Skofield Park this past Saturday AM. You always wonder if the turnout is going to be enough to get the goals accomplished. In this case the turnout was so great just about every last tool available was being used. The main objective of the day for the 100 or so volunteers would be to clear a shale like material or "dry ravel" covering the trails and repair water drainage structures in preparation for the upcoming rains.

The crew of 14 I led was dropped off at the bottom of Tunnel Trail and we worked on Tunnel between the trail head and Rattlesnake Connector. It is extremely tiring work cleaning a trail following a fire. Beneath piles of rubble lies the trail, getting to the trail required pulling tons of this shale material and rock from above the trail to prevent future slides and then off the trail itself. Most of this work is accomplished by using Mcleods, which is a tool that was invented for wild land firefighting but has become a staple in trail building. Vegetation that was lost in the fire clearly had a huge role in the stability of these hillsides. My hat goes off to the 14 who helped on Lower Tunnel and the other 80+ volunteers that worked on Upper Tunnel, Jesusita, Rattlesnake, and Cold Springs- all trails effected by the Jesusita Fire.

We were proud to participate in this event sponsored by the USFS, City, and County who did a excellent job of organizing it. The agencies told the crowd at the beginning of this event what factors are going to be taken into consideration before re-opening the Front Country Trails damaged by the Jesusita Fire. They included a re-evaluation of the trails to determine the safety of the trails and further maintenance, whether or not a "hydromulch" is to be used on the burnt hillsides, and respect and privacy of the homeowners near the trail heads who are still trying to recover from this fire.

Thanks to all that showed up and helped out at this event, below are some photos from the crew working on Lower Tunnel Trail. Dave on behalf of the MTC.

The Crew(still clean)

Uncovering a Switchback

Shale Removal

Shale Covered Section- Before

Shale Covered Section-After

One Of The Few Plants That Survived- Yucca

Creating Dust
The Crew(dirty)

Uncovering Trail

Hiking Towards Rattlesnake

Lot's of Work

The Trail is Under There Somewhere

One Of The Worst Sections On Tunnel

The View

Creating Water Control Structures

One of Many Sections of Trail That Was Damaged

Rattlesnake Connector

Heading Into Rattlesnake Canyon

View From Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake Meadow

Monday, June 1, 2009

Off Topic- The Whitney Day Hike Adventure 5/31/09

Every year I head out to Lone Pine to tackle the tallest mountain in the lower 48. I like doing the day hike because of the challenge and it's something I can do then be back to work on Monday and tell everyone about. This year was the 16th time I got to the top, 14 of them being day hikes.

The weather was a big factor in this years adventure. I had invited my two friends that just moved to Lone Pine in Sept but had never climbed Whitney. After watching the weather and hearing reports of trail conditions, there were some scattered snow showers but nothing that was creating much of a problem. Sunday, the day of our hike the forecast called for little or no precipitation and reduced chance of thunderstorms from the two days prior.

Starting off the weather was great, sunny and hardly a cloud in the sky. My friends, F.B. and his wife S.B. are good hikers and have had lots of outdoor experience so I was not concerned about the small amount of snow we might encounter on the trail. The trail was patchy in spots leading up to trail camp where there were numerous snow sections leading to the switchbacks and trail crest. You could see the snow level where fresh snow had fallen over the last two days, it appeared to be sticking somewhere around 13,000.

Following the cables S.B. decided that she had had enough, worrying that the snow fields above might be above her level of capability. She turned around as we headed to the top. Somewhere near Trail Crest the trail became completely covered in snow all the way up. We made it to the top just as some clouds decided to roll in and a tiny bit of gropple began to fall. After getting the photos out of the way, F.B. and I headed down(the time was about 12:30 pm).

Just as we got off the top of the mountain off in the distance a flash of lighting was seen followed quickly by thunder. Over the next two miles to Trail Crest the snow fell harder and the thunder and lighting got closer. I was the first to make it back to Trail Crest where I waited just away from the saddle. At this point the thunder and lighting was all around me and a bolt actually struck about 50 feet in front of me near the "Trail Crest" sign.

After waiting out the near blizzard conditions and lightning for about 15 minutes the rest of the summeteers arrived at TC. All eight of us decided it was a bad place to be so we headed back down the switchbacks. I am pretty sure most went down the switchbacks but a gentleman and his son decided to take the chute. It was tempting but there had already been 6+ inches of new snow today and I didn't want to trigger anything loose.

As we descended the switchers the trail became less treacherous and the snowfall began to lighten up. By the time we made it to Trail Camp it was hardly snowing at all but there was probably 3-4 inches of snow on the ground. I felt sorry for those people at Trail Camp who would have to hike up through the probably foot or more that fell on top the next day.

On the return trip the trail was completely covered in snow all the way down to Trailside Meadow. Below that it was pretty evident that it had rained throughout the day. Good thing for my boyscout training that had us prepared with the right gear. My friends were prepared to do the hike in trail runners rather than boots. Had the storm not come in this may have been a possibility, good thing we didn't plan our trip according to the weather forecast. Every year is different up there on Whitney, maybe another reason why I do it every year. -Dave
P.S. Doug please bring the shower back to WPS!

Trail Side Deer
Lone Pine Lake

The Switchbacks and Trail Crest- AM S.B. Contemplating the Cable
F.B. Crossing A Snowfield Below Trail Crest
The Snow Field @ Trail Crest
Looking Up Top
The Hut and Spa
F.B. and Me
The Backside
The Snow Field @ Trail Crest- PM
F.B. Crossing a Snow Field With 6" New
Two Guys in the Chute
The Switchbacks
Trail Camp
The Cables- PM
The Switchbacks and Trail Crest- PM