|Soaking up the morning sun|
For the first time, an AMC Adult Volunteer Trail Crew worked
in sunny southern California. From March
15-22, 9 AMC volunteers and staff partnered with the Pacific Crest Trail
Association to work on the PCT just north of the Mexican border. Working in the desert chaparral ecosystem is
quite a bit different than working in our rocky forested New England Mountains,
and added to that, the PCT is a hiker/equestrian trail meaning there are
different standards to meet in the trail work.
|A Lizard Lunch (photo by Linda Guinter)|
Each day, we were greeted with sunny and 70-80 degree
weather – a much needed respite indeed from the never ending winter in New
Of course, it is also very dry
down on the border, so there is no moisture in the soil; this made working on
the tread like working on a beach and prevented us from using any power tools,
even in non-wilderness areas, because of fear of a spark leading to a wild fire.
On top of that parched beach sand was
crumbling rock, baked constantly by the sun and battered by the fierce winds,
which breaks it down making it hard to construct trail structures.
Underneath those crumbling rocks though are a
wide variety of unique species, including snakes, ground squirrels, lizards,
and poisonous centipedes that sting and eat the bigger lizards!
Desert survival is not for the faint of
|Deberming with a McLeod - a rare tool in New England|
In addition to all of those native species, the PCT is home
to horses as well. Equestrian trails are
not common in the northeast, and the PCT’s sister trail, the Appalachian Trail,
is for hikers only. Maintaining a trail
for equestrian use requires meeting different standards. The tread has to be wider, the corridor
bigger, and structures are kept at an absolute minimum.
|Switchback before our work|
|Switchback after our work|
It is okay though that structures are used sparingly because
the PCT was designed where many of the older trails in the northeast developed
through social use without any planning at all.
In New England, most trails are considered fall line trails, meaning
they climb ridge lines straight up the side of the hill.
This allows for a shorter trail distance, but
substantially increases erosion as the water rushes straight down the gullied
This in turns requires an
increased number of rock and timber structures to drain and retain the tread,
further increasing our recreational impact on the land.
Conversely, we worked to deberm the tread on
the PCT to allow water to flow gradually off the side, and we rebuilt a
switchback as well.
allow PCT users to gradually climb a hillside and keep the need for soil retention
and drainage structures to a minimum, which is good for the land as well.
|Cleaning the Roost after Dinner|
Despite these differences though, it was still good trail
work. We enjoyed the warmth, the good
hard work, and the delicious meals at the Red Tailed Roost Volunteer Center. Most importantly, by the end of the week, we
had improved nearly 1-¼ miles of the PCT through our efforts and we cannot wait
to return in 2015!