The new year got off to a good start with 12 regular Trail Crew members, 2 newcomers, and 3 people from the California Conservation Corp working on their community service hours. Since we are just getting into the busy chainsaw season, John Collins held a brief review of chainsaw safety along with how to properly take care of hand tools (essentially clean the dirt off them at the end of the day). We haven't received a trail report from Kurt Leal so far this winter, so after reviewing the problem list on the office Big Board we split into two groups that would work issues along Skyline-to-Sea (STS) between Middle Ridge Fire Rd on one end and Hollow Tree on the other.
Mike’s Crew: STS South
Mike’s crew headed south on STS towards Middle Ridge looking for a 'large bushy tree' blocking the trail, but just after leaving the Redwood Loop Trail we came across an unreported Tan Oak laying across the trail. It was a stepover tree, but since we were there and had a chainsaw we made quick work of it.
About half way to Middle Ridge we found our target, a large bushy Tan Oak that pretty much made the trail impassable. As usual with these trees, it was the limbing that took the most time along with finding places to scatter the debris.
A little further along we came across another Tan Oak trunk that was laying diagonally across the trail and after chainsawing one end loose we were able to slide it down the hill and done!
After reaching Middle Ridge we decided to make the short hike down the other side of STS to see the large slide from Feb. 2017. It's still there and just as impassable. The last I heard, State Parks was hoping for FEMA money for what will likely be a trail reroute.
After eating lunch on the fire road, we hiked back down the trail toward HQ to check on a reported problem on the Hihn Hammond Connector between STS and Hihn Hammond (what else?) but found nothing, not even signs of recent work.
From there we drove out to the Gazo Creek Picnic Area and then hiked to the Maddock Cabin Site clearing one small problem along the way, repositioned the foot bridge crossing Opal Creek (someone had positioned it upside down), cleared another small tree on the far side before returning to the tool shed a little later.
Chris’s Crew: STS North
Peter, Michelle, David P., John Martin and myself drove up North Escape road to look into a number of trail reports on Skyline to the Sea. I was pleased to see that the washout on North Escape has been fixed and we can once again drive the entire length of the road. We parked just past the Maddock cabin. We had a report of a 3 foot circumference tree and we were wondering if it was really 3 foot around or just mislabeled and was really 3 foot across. We also had a report of multiple 12" trees obstructing the trail near the same section. We headed south and soon came across a tan oak across the trail.
I stayed behind with John while Peter, Michelle and David went on to look for the other site. I cut the log into two sections while John cleaned up the brush along the trail and stashed it. Peter came back in time to help move the sections off the trail. He and the others had found the multiple 12" trees just ahead.
Peter and John set to work using a hand saw to clear the first tan oak. I used the chainsaw to cut up the madrone and the douglas fir that was in the middle snarl. Michelle and David cleared and stashed the pieces once cut and used hand saws to break up the slash. We finished by 11:30am.
We had a report of a tree down on STTS close to Meteor. I drove my pickup up North Escape with the tools while the rest walked the trail looking for any issues. I parked at the kiosk and walked up STTS towards Hollow Tree but didn't see any trees blocking the trail. The other crew members didn't find anything walking the trail either. I'm thinking the first tan oak we crossed earlier must have been the 3' circumference tree reported and it was labeled correctly. We did talk to several hikers and one told us there was a large blockage on Sequoia trail up near 236. We headed back in the vehicles to check that out. We parked at the Sequoia trail junction on 236 and didn't find a large tree blocking the trail but in fact a slide.
We couldn't do much there but did try and cut some temporary steps on the one side that was more steep and treacherous. We assisted some families that were hiking through by offering a hand to steady themselves as they descended the slide.
We abandoned any further effort there and headed to the north gate of North Escape road and came back down from above. We cleared some brush in the road and came across a plugged culvert threatening to washout the road.
We fished around in the pool with branches and a McLeod for a while seeing if we could loose the blockage but had no luck. We checked on a final trail report of a madrone down on Dool trail between Gazos and Middle Ridge but that one turned out to be a goose chase as well. We met up with the other crew on Gazos creek by coincidence and all ended our day back at the tool shed in sync.
The park staff were grateful for the reports of the slide and plugged culvert. Hopefully they get that culvert flowing before the large rains hit this week. Sounds like the Sequoia trail will be closed from 236 to North Escape until the state crew can figure out what they want to do about the slide.
The crew put in 141 hours and thanks to Alicia Clark, John Collins, Michele Gelblum, Peter Gelblum, Jan Hill, Janie Liefhelm, John Martin, Mike Peasland, Dale Petersen, David Philleo, Aaron Poulos and Chris Young, two newcomers, Laurie King and Yagya Regmi, and Bryan, Daniel and Shane, from the CCC base in Watsonville, for getting 2019 off to a great start.