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).