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Project: San Mateo Memorial Park - Mt. Ellen Trails

Photo Albums: 1705-13 Memorial Park and 1703-29 Memorial Park Scouting

Our efforts to improve the Mt. Ellen trail network in San Mateo County’s Memorial Park continued on our Saturday, May 13, 2017 work day, which was focused on the Mt. Ellen Summit Trail. Bill Farrell identified this area as needing attention in the summer of 2016, and after our wet winter, the trail in some places was at risk of going back to nature with overgrowth.

As we had when we worked on the Mt. Ellen Nature Trail last September, we staged the trailer and volunteer parking at the lot immediately outside the main entrance of the park. Thanks to Ranger Dave Vasquez for taping off the area (and for coordinating with us on the work along with Ranger Matt Auda-Capel).

Our 15 experienced volunteers were greeted with clear skies and cool temperatures. The trail is mostly covered by a fir, oak, bay, and redwood canopy, and the soil has an organic texture that holds moisture without being mucky. We accessed the Summit Trail by hiking up the eastern end of the Nature Trail and started at the junction of the two trails near the “N” post.

We were excited to have Dave Taylor back on the job as a crew leader, and his crew began at the junction and covered the entire leg to first switchback, cleaning the inside edge, brushing, removing roots, and cleaning out a stretch bounded by a railing. Later they leap-frogged to two other sections. Crew-leader-in-training Karl Mosgofian’s team took the next leg, working to restore good drainage at the first switchback, scraping off much low vegetation from the tread and removing lots of soil from the inside edge to bring back the tread width. They moved on to several more sections before the day was out. Hank Magnuski’s crew was at the front initially and helped restore more bench at the next switchback where the outside edge had been lost in the turn. They also moved a lot of soil in the turn on their leg and took the opportunity to heavily cut back shrubs on the uphill side of the trail to ensure a clear corridor for years to come.

In several cases, as crews leap-frogged, volunteers were able to do a second pass on the trail to further improve the tread. After lunch, this all-pro team seemed to get a second wind and covered much more footage than you’d expect from this few people. We reached a more open section where lots of grass was growing and cleared that, concluding near the hairpin turn where the trail begins its westward run on the ridge. In total, nearly every foot of about 1/4 mile of trail was touched in some way to bring it back to standards.

We have enough work left that it will probably make sense to use our planned August 2017 return to Memorial to complete maintenance of the Summit trail. And there are a couple spots from the work day where we might want to follow up: possibly adding a retaining structure around the roots of a large Douglas fir where there’s not much bench left, and replacing a cracked railing on the first leg..

Thanks to Kathy Diamond, our volunteer coordinator, who ensures volunteers get good communication about the work day and manages sign-in, and to Larry Stites who provided the always welcome post-work snacks and beverages. Finally, we wouldn’t have had tools without the continued willingness of Dave Taylor to drive the trailer, which always seems to provide an extra challenge (in this case, it required hard-wiring the lights harness).

Judd Volino

The Tahoe Rim Trail Association (TRTA) along with Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA) and Friends of Incline Trails (FIT) are working on a project (started last year, will likely continue at least into next year) to open a historical flume route in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the USFS as a multiple-use trail between Mt. Rose Highway above Incline Village and the northern edge of Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park at Tunnel Creek Road.

Note: This project was originally incorrectly listed as being in Humboldt-Toiyabe NF.

From the FIT website:

The “Incline Flume” trail is located above Incline Village and is primarily accessed from Mt Rose Highway (Hwy 431). It has also become popular as a loop from Diamond Peak up the Tyrolean Trail and back down Diamond Peak.

This is a relatively flat trail, remaining at approximately the same elevation throughout (7600 ft). There are beautiful spring wildflowers and some spectacular views of Lake Tahoe.

It is popular with trail runners, mountain bikers, walkers and hikers - of all ability levels - and used by locals, visitors, by families and individuals.

The route runs along what used to be a “flume” for commercial logging in the Lake Tahoe basin during the late 1800’s. There are still some remnants of the original flume structure.

For more details on the project, see the page on Friends of Incline Trails website.

Here is a track that roughly shows the trail's route.

Location: Earlier information about the possibility to camp at Mt Rose Campground should be discarded. The Mt Rose campground will not open: "This campground will not open during the 2017 camping season due to facility damage, hazard trees”.

We will instead camp at the Diamond Peak Ski Area. The ski area is owned by the Incline Village General Improvement District - a quasi government organization. Camping is at about 6700’ elevation, outside the main lodge. They will open the restrooms for our use. Due to potential last-minute changes in plans, volunteers are encouraged to check the Trail Center website before departure for any final information on our camping location.

Directions: Take Interstate 80 East to Truckee then 267 to Incline Village. Use Routes 28, Country Club Drive and Ski Way Road to get to the Diamond Peak Ski Area. Diamond Peak is located at 1210 Ski Way, Incline Village, NV 89451. Park in the "lower" parking lot (Diagram below - click or tap to enlarge). Travel time will be 5 to 5 1⁄2 hours depending on traffic and stops.

Supervisor: Hank Magnuski

Project Lead: Sue Hughes (Friends of Incline Trails)

Additional Information: The USFS requires that each volunteer have the following personal protective equipment: a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, sturdy boots (no sneakers), work gloves and a hard-hat. The sponsoring organizations may be able to supply a hard hat if you do not already have one, but the other items are your responsibility.

Participants should also bring a small day pack to hold items such as water, lunch, snacks, sunscreen, sun-glasses, rain gear, camera, etc.

For camp and trail work consider the following items:

  • Tent or other packable shelter
  • Sleeping bag and pad - temps can get down to 30 at night
  • Eating utensils, plate, cup, bowl
  • Personal hygiene items - this is a back country trip, so plan accordingly
  • Large water bottles or the equivalent - hydration is very important at this altitude
  • Sun screen - SPF 30 or better - you're two miles closer to the sun here. Don't forget your sunglasses, too.
  • Bug repellent - something with plenty of deet is best
  • Portable camp chair, if you have one


Project: Alum Rock Park - City of San Jose

Photo Albums: 1704 Alum Rock Park and 1703-26 Alum Rock Scouting

On Saturday, April 22, we returned to Alum Rock Regional Park to work on the South Rim Trail switchbacks above the confluence of North Penitencia and Arroyo Aguague Creeks. The trail has been closed due to slide damage and a large downed tree and root ball across the trail. (Original plans were to return to Sycamore Switchbacks Trail to complete the work begun on December 6, 2016, but two severe slides during the winter storms now require major engineering and reroute of the trail, and Sycamore will remain closed for the foreseeable future.)

The weather was mostly clear, with temperatures in the 50’s at the outset and in the high 60’s when the workday ended. Following winter rains, the soil was quite workable. The work area was almost entirely under tree cover.

Volunteers parked in the Youth Science Institute lot, and Ranger Huy opened the gate to allow Dave C with the tool trailer access to the staging area at Sycamore Picnic Grove, immediately adjacent to the Sycamore Switchbacks trailhead.

Approximately 30 volunteers helped make the day a success. Dave Kison and Ranger Valerie greeted the arrivals in the parking lot, distributing parking passes and collecting sign-in sheets before directing them down the ½ mile Penitencia Creek Trail to the base of the switchbacks. After another ¾ mile hike to the top of the South Rim Trail switchbacks, the work began. Aaron’s crew had the upper portion of the trail, brushing and widening the overgrown tread, removing outside berms, defining the inside bench, brushing overhead, and adding a couple drain drips. What a difference! Dave C’s crew (the Earthmovers) cut the trail into the hillside to divert around a slide (undercut by a fallen tree), improved the ramp onto SJ Park’s engineered solution through a tree root ball (where same tree had come to rest), and opened a scenic vista at a switchback where fallen trees had blocked the view and posed head hazards. The scope for Larry’s crew included brushing, definition of inside bench, inside drains at switchbacks, new drain dips, and one awesomely beautiful new viewpoint. The top of the trail served up a spectacular panorama for lunch, complete with a view of MC Hammer’s house (maybe).

The Trail Center believes that the trail can now be opened to hikers. Ranger Mike is considering what work the City may want to complete prior to opening (road grader removal of rock slide on Penitencia Creek Trail and possible improvements to a large retaining wall at the lowest end of the switchbacks). The Trail Center is also considering a return to Alum Rock later this year to complete the lighter work on the lower half of the switchbacks and to add a retaining wall to the aforementioned trail diversion.

Bill Farrell

Project: Sugarloaf Mountain Open Space - City of San Mateo

Photo Album: 1703 Sugarloaf Mountain - Amphitheater Trail

After four consecutive cancellations due to regional rainouts, washouts, mud slides and road disasters, the Trail Center finally launched its 2017 season at Sugarloaf Mountain in Laurelwood Park of San Mateo City. We had a day of perfect weather and 37 (!) volunteers eager to start helping to repair the damage from this winter's wonderful storms.

Thanks to the suggestion of Kathy Diamond, we were able to find a workable venue that had easy access and repairable problems, a not insignificant task considering that many trails and access roads on our list are still closed. There were three main problems on the Amphitheater Trail (which the Trail Center constructed a few years ago) that needed our attention: mucky steps at the beginning of the trail, a mucky causeway further up and a super-mucky switchback that caused serious problems in proceeding up the trail.

We were fortunate to have three experienced crew leaders to direct our volunteers. Bill Farrell was assigned step repair, Dave Croker took on the switchback challenge and Luke Lempart handled everything else in the middle. We also wish to thank Larry Stites for again dealing with our after-work refreshments, Kathy Diamond for rounding up the volunteers, Justin Knowles for helping with the survey and Dave Croker for trailer hauling.

There are very steep steps at the beginning of this trail, and continuous water seepage was making the step surfaces slippery, muddy and unsafe. Drains would be difficult to do given the terrain, so a plan was made to top off each step with two or three inches of base rock that would provide for some drainage and at least improve the traction on each step. The rock would also provide a hardening for this very heavily used staircase. Kathy arranged for a ton of base rock to be delivered, and the City came through on the request. Midway, however, we thought we would be significantly short of material required, so Bill creatively mined nearby gravel and rock to supplement the fill used. These larger rocks greatly improved the potential drainage and strength of the stairs and by the end of the day the really hard working volunteers had filled and topped each step. The resulting improvement was dramatic.

Luke's crew handled a lot of drain cleanout and refurbishing. After a winter season such as we had it becomes very obvious why good drainage is needed. Our consensus, after looking at long stretches of this trail that were in perfect condition, is that we did a pretty decent job of planning and building at the front.

The mucky causeway was fixed with some inside retaining walls to divert the seepage and all the base rock we could haul to the site to fill in the top surface. (Note: Dave C. and Kathy returned later in the week to this section to create more of a drain behind the retaining walls.)

Dave's switchback project required digging into the hill to remove a slide, repairing a lot of the tread and creating an inside ditch to divert the water.

There were some other bonus repairs we were able to complete at the end of the day, and the net result was a tremendously improved and hike-able trail for the community.

Thanks to all the volunteers that helped make this happen. It is an excellent beginning for our 2017 year.

Hank Magnuski
Trail Boss

A few miles north of the main portion of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park lies the Fall Creek Unit, "a second-growth redwood forest with a fern-lined river canyon and remnants of a successful lime-processing industry. Fall Creek is open for day use only, and includes almost twenty miles of connecting trails." (source)

As with most parks in the Santa Cruz mountains range, you should come prepared for any type of weather and layered clothing is recommended.

Park Home Page (external link)

Location: Fall Creek Unit, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz County, California.

Directions: The trailhead is located just outside the town of Felton, on Felton Empire Rd, on the north side of the road, about 0.5 mile west of CA Hwy 9. GPS Coordinates are 37.049212, -122.083412, or roughly 828 Felton Empire Rd, Felton CA, 95018.

Coming from the Peninsula or Valley, use Hwy 17 south towards Santa Cruz, and take exit 3 for Mount Hermon Rd towards Felton/Big Basin. Turn right onto Mount Hermon Rd. Continue 3.5 miles, then turn right on Graham Hill Rd. Cross Hwy 9, then look for the driveway to the trailhead parking about 0.5 mile on your right.

Google Maps link

Agency: California State Parks - Chris Pereira, Supervising Ranger

Supervisor: Dave Croker

Project Lead: Judd Volino

Additional Information: Participants should bring water, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, lunch and normal precautions against poison oak exposure (work gloves, long sleeved shirts and long pants). The Trail Center provides tools, training, gloves, and refreshments after the workday.

Assemble at 8:30 a.m. for our safety talk and crew assignments. Work begins at 9:00 a.m.

This beautiful park has serene walking areas and trails leading to Sugarloaf Mountain. Laurelwood Park & Sugarloaf Mountain (225 acres) is the City of San Mateo's largest contiguous park and open space. This park contains a play area, picnic areas, and restrooms.

Sugarloaf Mountain is San Mateo's green thumb that sticks up just south of Hwy 92. It comprises of open space land that is largely undeveloped, either with homes or trails. There are five steep fire breaks that ambitious hikers use to get to the top for probably the best viewpoint on the mid peninsula.

In 2006 San Mateo developed an in depth master plan for trails on Sugarloaf Mountain with improvements to adjacent Laurelwood Park. In 2011 the city received a grant and highly renovated the playground, picnic area, and added a restroom to Laurelwood Park. But the Sugarloaf Mountain side of the plan was delayed indefinitely for lack of financing and priority. Tom Morse, a Trail Center member, approached the city about getting a trail built on Sugarloaf. By using volunteer labor and just the cost of materials, the City became interested. It took almost 3 years to go through the planning and political process, but finally we were given the "green light" to make this happen. The result was the Amphitheater Trail that climbs from the Tenderfoot Trail near the Laurelwood facilities to access the top of the mountain.

Our project will be to transform a social trail connecting a switchback of the Amphitheater Trail to the Salson Trail.

Park Web Page: Laurelwood Park - City of San Mateo Website

Location: Laurelwood Park/Sugarloaf Mountain, San Mateo, California

Directions: The park is located at 3471 Glendora Dr., San Mateo, CA.

From Interstate 280,take Hwy 92 east:

  • 2nd exit is DeAnza Blvd, exit then make a right turn to be heading downhill on DeAnza.
  • Park across the street from 1400 / 1404 DeAnza.
  • Walk down paved path to meet in front of restrooms.

From Hwy 101, take Hwy 92 west:

  • Take West Hillsdale Blvd exit, then make a left to go downhill.
  • Make a right at stop sign (Gendora Dr).
  • Make a left at first stop sign (Shasta Dr).
  • Follow Shasta Dr till it dead ends at bottom, be aware of red zone parking.
  • Walk down paved path to meet in front of restrooms.

Agency: City of San Mateo

Supervisor: TBD

Project Lead: Marilyn Green

Additional Information: Participants should bring water, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, lunch and normal precautions against poison oak exposure (work gloves, long sleeved shirts and long pants). The Trail Center provides tools, training, gloves, and refreshments after the workday.

Project: Alum Rock Park - City of San Jose

Photo Album: 1612 Alum Rock San Jose City Park

On Saturday, December 3, we had a huge turnout of volunteers and staff to work on the Sycamore Switchbacks Trail.

The weather was clear, with temperatures in the high 40’s at the outset and in the mid 60’s when the workday ended. Following November rains, the soil was quite workable. The work area was almost entirely under tree cover.

Volunteers parked in the Youth Science Institute lot, and Ranger Mike Peasland opened the gate at 8:00 am to allow Dave with the tool trailer and Lianna with the snacks to access the staging area at Sycamore Picnic Grove, immediately adjacent to the Sycamore Switchbacks trailhead.

Approximately 70 volunteers helped make the day a success. Matt and Bart from San Jose Parks and Recreation supervised 20 middle school students and their 4 accompanying adults, removing slough on South Woodland Trail during the morning. Three Trail Center crew leaders supervised the remaining volunteers (including 26 students from Santa Clara University) beginning at the lower trailhead of Sycamore Switchbacks Trail. Crew leader Dave C. was assisted by Kathy in the lower portion, Judd was assisted by Julio in the middle leg, and Woody was assisted by Larry at the upper end. Each crew had a similar scope: brushing, slough removal, definition of inside bench, repair of drain trenches and insloping at switchbacks, and fixing or adding drain dips as required. The work progressed up to Switchback 7 (the location of the seating benches and interpretive sign), approximately 0.4 miles from the lower trailhead.

The steep canyon wall, with the trail doubling back almost on top of itself, presented the potential hazard for dislodging rocks onto lower work areas. The crew leaders did an exceptional job of managing this risk by coordinating relative positions of the crews and staggering them when necessary.

We look forward to returning to Alum Rock to complete similar scope on the upper 0.3 mile portion of Sycamore Switchbacks Trail and possibly to brush South Rim Trail immediately east and west of its junction with Sycamore Switchbacks.
Thanks to Ranger Huy Mac for coordinating with us on this project, walking the whole route during scouting, promoting the event via the park kiosks, ensuring availability of the Sycamore Picnic Grove, and closing the trail during the work. Thanks also to Matt, Bart, and Ranger Mike for their help throughout the day.

Bill Farrell

Project: Bay Area Ridge Trail - Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve

Photo Album: 1611 Saratoga Gap OSP BART Service Day

On Saturday, November 5th, we had an absolutely great turnout of volunteers and staff to work on the Saratoga Gap Trail project. The weather was perfect, the logistics and planning paid off, and volunteers were busy all day moving rock, fixing tread and cleaning up this trail segment. At the end of the day everyone was tired but really satisfied with the new look of the trail.

Six crews were formed to address the work that was identified. Two headed south from our staging point, two headed north from this point, and two started at the Charcoal Road trailhead and worked south.

The staff of MROSD supplied us with lots of base rock to lay down and also with a couple of logs which were used as retaining walls.

The burritos arrived on schedule and everyone enjoyed one for lunch.

All critical areas on our list got attention and repair, and at the end of the day we celebrated with refreshments and a raffle.

I received many compliments about the project, and considering the size of the operation it went very smoothly.

Some details:
We had about 43 volunteers plus six crew leaders, a supervisor, three rangers, a burrito runner and representatives from MROSD, REI and BARTC. It was a full house. I wish to sincerely thank our crew leaders for a great job - Lisa Jewett, Dave Croker, Aaron Heiber, William Farrell, Judd Volino and Woody Collins. We couldn't have done this without their help. Thanks, too, to Kathy Diamond for organizing the volunteers. The staff from MROSD was extremely helpful, supplying planning, advice, logistics and equipment. We also wish to thank reps from REI, MROSD and BARTC for joining us at this event. And, of course, our burrito runner Susan.

Hank Magnuski

Eighteen Trail Center volunteers spruced up the Mount Ellen Nature Trail in San Mateo County’s Memorial Park.  For a nature trail, it was quite challenging with steep parts and large roots obstructing the trail.  Dave Taylor was the day’s Trail Boss and he was assisted by Hank Magnuski, Judd Volino, and Larry Stites/Kathy Diamond as Crew Leaders.  The effort focused on general trail maintenance.  Plenty of duff and leaves had accumulated which needed to be removed.  Roots had been exposed in considerable numbers and needed to be removed or “topped off.”  Volunteers constructed a few drain diversions and a temporary trail diversion around a location which had, until recently, had a large Douglas Fir blocking the trail.  The Ranger, Dave Vasquez and a Ranger Aide, Mike, helped by constructing a step down from a particularly large root after this unsafe situation was pointed out.  Finishing off the day, all three teams joined up to create some new drainage diversions and fill in some gullies near the entrance to the trail.  Crushed rock from the temporary trail around the Doug Fir was repurposed to help fill in the troughs we decommissioned the temporary trail.

The day was beautiful and everyone got a good workout, even without extensive digging required.  All agreed that the trail network was confusing, but everyone found his or her way back down. Several locations were identified where retaining walls would be beneficial to get around large roots half blocking the trail.  This is a project for another day.  A special thanks to Bill Farrell who scouted and wrote up this and some pending Memorial projects and Judd who walked the trail help scout it out for the work day along with Dave.

Dave Taylor

Portola Redwoods has a rugged, natural basin forested with Coast Redwoods, Douglas Firs and Live Oaks. There are eighteen miles of trails, a 53 site campground, four group campsites and two beautiful creeks, the Pescadero and Peter''s Creek, that run throughout the park.

The Sequoia Nature Trail, which leads to the Pescadero Creek, introduces visitors to the natural history of the area.

Visitors should come prepared for any type of weather. The park receives between 40 and 60 inches of rain per year and the summer months can be foggy and cool. Layered clothing is recommended at any time of the year.

Location: Portola Redwoods State Park, San Mateo County, California - Upper Coyote Ridge Trail (northern end)

Directions: From Highway 35, turn west onto Alpine Road. From the point at which you start on Alpine Rd. from Skyline Blvd., go 3.4 miles to a Y-intersection. At this intersection, DO NOT follow the sign to the left towards Portola Redwoods SP. Instead, bear right, continuing on Alpine Rd. for another 0.4 mile to the junction with Buffalo Valley Drive. At that point, continue STRAIGHT onto Camp Pomponio Rd. (you'll see a sign for Pescadero Creek County Park) which becomes narrow and rough, for 0.9 mile until reaching the gravel Tarwater Trailhead Parking lot on the left side of the road.

View destination on Google maps

Due to mountain roads, expect a 1 to 1 1/2 hour drive from most Bay Area locations. There is no gasoline available at or near the park. There is no store in or near the park.

Agency: California State Parks - Chris Pereira, Supervising Ranger

Supervisor: Judd Volino

Project Lead: Judd Volino

Additional Information: Participants should bring water, sunscreen, sturdy shoes, lunch and normal precautions against poison oak exposure (work gloves, long sleeved shirts and long pants). The Trail Center provides tools, training, gloves, and refreshments after the workday.

Assemble at 8:30 a.m. for our safety talk and crew assignments. Work begins at 9:00 a.m.

Park Home Page (external link)