Thursday, March 19, 2009

Trail Maintenance on Diablo's Oyster Point Trail

I had volunteered a couple times with the Trail Dogs group in the past, but this was the first year I was signed up for a race (in fact, 2 this year) which required trail maintenance work.  Angeles Crest 100 Mile further requires that the maintenance be on a trail that is part of an ultra race.

Last Tuesday (March 10th) I had the day off after coming off a series of overnight shifts. Although I was anxious to get a long run in, I noticed on the Trail Dogs website the project for that day was the Oyster Point Trail in Mount Diablo State Park. I knew this trail was part of the Diablo Trails 50k course I am running this Sunday the 22nd, as well as once again part of Pacific Coast Trail Run's Diablo 50 Mile in April. So I figured I should take advantage of the opportunity to fulfill some of my "part of an ultra" AC 100 volunteer requirement without, for instance, having to drive up past Auburn on one of my few free weekends. (With two small kids, this isn't going to happen any time soon.)

It was hard to wake up since I was so sleep deprived from my tough overnight shifts between which I mismanaged my sleep. I had told the coordinator John I would arrive a little late so I could drop my kids off at their respective day care and preschool.

Parking was not allowed at the trail head off Finley Road, so I had to park 3/4 a mile back where I saw the cars of other volunteers. Good thing I run...

the trailhead

Past a small barn...

About 1.5 miles from the trailhead, I caught up with the group, who had already started on the main goal, cutting and removing a large tree that had been blocking the true trail for months or years.

The real trail which was completely blocked an hour earlier is at left, with the alternate up to the right. When muddy, the alternate route was reportedly very treacherous to navigate.

John dispatched me and the other volunteering ultrarunner, veteran (Kap'n) Kirk Boisseree almost another 3 miles to the end of Oyster Point Trail, where it ends in a 5-way intersection, the official Diablo Trail continuing onto Black Hawk Ridge Road. To prune.

Our fast hike out was beautiful, and notably hillier than I'd expected. We swapped war stories (obviously he has more, having been ultrarunning longer than I).  I really enjoyed getting to chat with him since we run at a different pace so wouldn't ever during a race.  I also picked his brain about survival strategies during races that take longer than 30 or 40 hours.

 On our way back, we hacked branches, cleared brush and pruned bushes along the trail, applying the "3 year rule"-- assume no one's going to do this again for three years, so hack more than you think you need to hack.  I also have this ongoing personal vendetta against Toxicodendron diversilobum, a.k.a poison oak, so my clippers kept snapping.

Rock formations on Knobcone Point.

Kirk approaching the downed tree site.

The trail was originally less obvious eastbound, so we asked the rest of the group to make it really clear where to go:

Kirk in the cleared trail.

Forgot to take a group photo.  I also should've taken more photos off the Diablo Trail to the east, but had to get out to clean up the kitchen and pick up my boys.

My long overdue first real race of the season is in a few days.  I guess it's reassuring to know I'm very familiar with maybe a ninth of it.


Peter Lubbers said...

Great way to scout out the course, Mark. Good luck with the race this weekend!

Rick Gaston said...

Mark thanks for clearing some of that Poison Oak! I'll be silently thanking you guys again during the Diablo 50M. Met Kapn' Kirk at Bighorn 06. Nice guy. Great work on the trail. That's one more thing I have yet to do. I volunteer at races all the time, pace, crew, etc but have yet to be part of a trail clearing crew. Good luck on your race this weekend.

Bong said...

Hi Mark. I'm a new runner who just got lucky to discover your interesting blog. I'm so impressed with ultramarathoners, who have family, kids, work but could still find enough time to train for such a gruelling and challenging sport.

Have fun on your race this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Dude. You guys have such a nice trail system out there. I'm totally jealous. I don't know what it would be like to be able to run and not come back to the house without my legs cut to shreds.