Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pacifica Trail Work

Sarah Spelt of Pacific Coast Trail Runs posted a message on Facebook asking if anyone needing to meet a trail work requirement for a 100-mile run wanted to help trim back trail for the Pacifica Trail Runs on Saturday July 3rd.  The requirement for Angeles Crest specifies the work must be for an ultra distance race, and like almost all the PCTR runs Pacifica has a 50k distance.  (I did work for the race last year, but the race was cancelled.  We didn't have to pay the entry fee again, but did have to do the trail work.)  I had a hole in my schedule the Tuesday before, so eagerly signed up.

After dropping off my kids off at camp and preschool (our younger one is too young for the day camp), I drove out across the San Mateo bridge and over the ridge to San Pedro Valley County Park in Pacifica.  I was sleepy from working late the night before, but the day was beautiful and it was good to be off work and outside.

Armed with my clippers, back pack with snacks, 2 bottles, iPod, the course map, and my pocket camera, my plan was to cover all the single track on the course and trim away.

I saw two animals early on.  1: Snake, sunbathing.  It freaked out when I tried to step over it.

2: Rabbit.  Unlike the snake, it didn't freak out.  I thought as part of my duties, I should move it off the trail.  It would really suck to accidentally land on it and have bunny-guts splatter all over your legs.  Had I shovel, I would've given it a proper burial.

I usually don't see ripe blackberries until August, but I guess the plants on the hills had plenty of sunlight, so I got to enjoy several.

As it turned out, it was the rapidly growing blackberry branches that really needed to be cut back.  Some at mid shin level

and some farther up.  I would have felt guilty, but those thorns hurt, and I realized that you can never pick the berries farther back because of the thorns, so I wasn't really lowering the number of available berries.  Several of the switchbacks on Hazelnut Trail were so overgrown not just blackberry shoots, but also pointy dagger weeds, hidden poison oak and numerous other plants, that in retrospect I could have spent the whole day trimming just this trail.

After cresting the summit of Hazelnut, I started descending.  I noticed the trail was much wider and looked not just trimmed but majorly cut back.  As it turned out, several young people working with the Student Conservation Assocation were clearing away large piles of branches that had been felled by a large hacking machine earlier in the week.  We thanked each other for being out there.  I confirmed that they were NOT going to be working on the section of trail I had just toiled so hard to trim back, as that would've made all that effort redundant.  I thought that maybe I should have asked if the piles of branches were going to be cleared by Saturday, but then realized even it they weren't, what did it matter?-- it's not like the race would need to be cancelled, and would just make the course a little more technical.

The SCA workers were going from top to bottom, so after I passed them, I had to climb over these large piles or branches and plants completely obstructing the trail.  I noticed poison oak in some of the piles, and knew that I would be itching later.  But all for a good cause!

My Nano died so I went to my car to get my other one and refill my bottles.  Then I headed up Brooks Creek and Montara Mountain Trails until I hit the North Peak fire road.  There was less to trim, so I ended up jogging a fair portion of this section.  I would have liked to run up to the summit, but I had to make a school board meeting at 7, and figured there would be traffic.

Apparently Caitlin Smith rocked the course, winning overall with 4:27:41, BEATING the men's course record by 2 minutes!  Whoa!  I'd like to think that my hacking gave her at least a few seconds of buffer.

post-race with frequent volunteer and Pacifica resident Stan Jensen of run100s.com
photo by Rick Gaston

Aside from a couple of other 100 milers to finish first, I'm all set for Angeles Crest!  Thanks, Sarah!

picasa photo album (32 photos, mostly scenic shots)


Jo Lynn said...

Poor little bunny. :(
I saw my first rattlesnake of the year at Garin yesterday. Yikes! I think it's going to be a bad year for snakes. I'm just sayin'.

miki said...

Dude, I got poison oak all over my legs. You sure you did your trail hours????? ;-p

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Sorry, Miki, couldn't get it all. Trust me, it was significantly worse. I actually ran into a woman who said she had stopped running that park a couple of months ago due to the overgrowth, and then she thanked me for the visible improvement. Maybe you're just a poison oak magnet!

Yikes, Jo Lynn, where did you see the rattler in Garin? I haven't seen one there yet.