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Desolation trail work

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2022 6:40 am
by balzaccom
Now that I am an official part of the volunteer team for the Desolation Wilderness, I am supposed to spend a few days actually doing something there--as if I needed a reason to spend more time in the mountains!

So I spent that last two days hiking up to Maud and Gertrude Lakes, cleaning up the trails as I want. I made sure that campsites were regulation size, shape and location, and even spent a little time chatting with hikers at the trailhead, just making myself available to them if they had questions or concerns. 
Of course, I did get to spend two days out on some of the most beautiful trails in the Sierra...

And I hiked some great trails, met some great people, and even watched a Search and Rescue operation...from the trailhead. 

And did I mention it was beautiful? 

In all, it was good fun.  I spent a few hours chatting with hikers at the Twin Lakes Trailhead,, where I met and talked with more than a hundred hikers. I moved more rocks and branches than I could count, and was thoroughly impressed with the visitors to Desolation Wilderness, who left very little except some footprints. 

As usual, here's the link to all the photos:

And a link to the full trip report on our blog: ... trail-work

Re: Desolation trail work

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2022 7:59 am
by AlmostThere
Good for you! Everyone should spend at least a weekend doing trail work. If just a thousand people did one weekend in the Sierra, think of the difference it would make.

To further elucidate:

Why volunteer in the local forest/park?

Budgets (especially in the National Forest) are slim, due to repeated cutbacks for public land management. Trails are going untouched for years at a time, with the focus of the remaining resources on the very popular ones.
Volunteering for either a nonprofit or the forest directly allows the agency to write grants for funding. A nonprofit trail crew can receive letters from the agency which can then be submitted to a long list of corporations and/or funds to support efforts to maintain public access.
Volunteering frees up the staff to get more work done, when there isn't enough budget for adequate staff. Last weekend I went out with a Forest Service intern, as the local forest intern program had low turnout this year and they patrol and do trail work in groups not solo. Pairing up with a staff person for safety reasons spreads the thin budget further.
Often parks/forests provide free trainings for those who want to engage in tasks on various programs. I have participated in trainings learning how to operate a snow mobile to participate in snow patrols on the forest, been certified in use of a chainsaw and crosscut saw (never having touched a saw before in my life), and trained in use of other tools. I also got wilderness first aid training.
If you can't even walk a trail, you can operate a front desk - educate visitors, issue permits, answer phones. One of the remote offices of my local National Forest is staffed each summer by a retired couple who are given a cabin to live in and a stipend to be there to man the station. It's easy work and there's a great view off the back deck! Someday I'll sign up for this one, when I'm old and creaky.

Re: Desolation trail work

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2022 10:04 am
by balzaccom
Obviously, I totally agree, AT,

Did you read my report? I think you used to do some SAR work. I was impressed by the fact that they ended up with an even dozen SAR team members (including the one who ran the communications center down at the trailhead) supported by a couple of deputy sheriffs. That's a lot of manpower for a hiker with a sprained ankle, less than two miles from the trailhead!

Re: Desolation trail work

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2022 12:03 pm
by AlmostThere
I used to be SAR, yes. You would definitely need a dozen people to carry someone out - six to carry, six to swap in to carry when the first six get tired.... No one goes anywhere alone in SAR. The ideal group size is four - that way if someone gets hurt, there's one person to stay with the victim, two to go for help. That's of course the plan prior to two way devices - and is still a good plan, because devices can fail.

Re: Desolation trail work

PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2022 8:25 am
by balzaccom
Thanks AT--this last Saturday, we also saw a medi-vac chopper in action...

Here's an update: I spent another two days in Desolation Wilderness, taking out a few more campfire rings, knocking down some more camp furniture, picking up some more trash, and generally trying to Leave Less Trace than there was before.

If you're interested in exactly what that means, there are more details (and more photos) here; ... trail-work

Re: Desolation trail work

PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2022 8:17 pm
by AlmostThere
I've been in Kaiser Wilderness the past couple of weekends doing the same thing. Tearing out fire rings that replaced rings that were torn out several weeks ago. Picking up trash. We found chicken bones, bananas, an empty half gallon glass bottle, rusted cans, lots of foil (from the fire rings especially), lots of TP (we buried in place, with a real shovel, hoping it would stay buried this time), and in some places just a couple feet from the water, actual feces that were obviously human.

The ranger was also checking permits. Oh, the lies people tell about why they don't have a permit... we spent the night and just 100 feet away, so did a dad and little girl - he swore he was just day hiking. With a tent, he used to spend the night with... One couple said "Jennie Lake doesn't require a permit, this lake doesn't either" - mmmm, no, that's not right.

So very frustrating.

Re: Desolation trail work

PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2022 9:07 pm
by balzaccom
Our ranger wasn't fooled. He sent at least one group hiking back out to the trailhead at about 4 p.m. no permit, no camping!

Actually, I am impressed with how clean Desolation is. I averaged about two pieces of trash per day!

Re: Desolation trail work

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2022 5:16 pm
by balzaccom
More trail work that is, this time hiking out of Wright's Lake to Grouse, Hemlock and Smith Lakes. As usual, the goal was to pick up trash, clean up the trail, and remove any fire rings that might have been built.

Well, there was no trash, really. I did pick up a small plastic Sutter Home White Zinfandel bottle that someone probably dropped, and a few bits of micro-trash, but that was about it. And I found only one fire ring--ironically, way up on the ridge above Grouse Lake where I had decided to camp. I made quick work of that in the morning.

But my goodness, there were a lot of unnecessary cairns on this trail---even on the section that I had cleaned up only two weeks before. I must have knocked down at least sixty of the things, some of them directly across the trail from each other! And on the way back down, I found that someone had added another 15-20 of I knocked them down again.


Meanwhile, I heard from a couple of hikers that the fire rings I removed two weeks ago from Twin Lakes were back...and happily, I was able to share that with another volunteer who was headed up that way, and promised to take them down again.


I did get a nice sunset--and a few more photos, as well as some wonderful conversations with other hikers. The link to all my Desolation Volunteer photos is here:

Re: Desolation trail work

PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2022 8:22 am
by balzaccom
I've met a lot of really interesting people as I work as a volunteer in the Desolation Wilderness. One large group of a few adults and lots of kids got my attention recently. I suggested that they split up to avoid falling foul of the regulations, which limit groups to twelve or smaller. They had no problem with that, and quickly set off on two separate trails. But I noted that the kids were not fluent in English, and I asked where they were from.

"Sacramento," one of the adults answered. "But before that, Afghanistan. We thought they deserved a day up here, after all they've been through."

There wasn't a hiker on the trail who begrudged them the obvious joy they felt.

If you want to hear about some of the old-timers who've shared their stories, the full post is here:

Re: Desolation trail work

PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2022 6:59 am
by balzaccom
I keep going back for more...

I'm just back from a four-day trip into Desolation Wilderness, but this time I started at the Glen Alpine Trailhead, near Fallen Leaf Lake, and worked on the Tahoe Basin section of the wilderness.

Gosh, is it beautiful. We set up a base camp at Suzie's lake, about four and a half miles in, and then worked on eliminating illegal campsites and fire rings, all the while picking up trash and burying clouds of toilet paper.

People, please. Pack it out.

We did find some odd items, including a perfectly good Luci solar light, a very nice Buff, and a hammer. Yep--somebody thought that there were no rocks in Desolation Wilderness, and brought a hammer to pound in the tent stakes.

Meanwhile, we heard a very amusing bear story, got posed a puzzle by a mysterious bear canister, and managed to clean up a number of lakes: Aloha, Heather, Suzie's, Half Moon, and Alta Morris. We met well over a hundred people on the trail, from PCT thru-hikers to elderly meandering day-hikers, and enjoyed truly spectacular scenery--and the most wonderful juniper trees anywhere.

Oh, and wildlife sightings included the cutest pika ever, a soaring osprey, and more than enough grouses (grice?) exploding out of the bushes to give anyone a heart attack.

All in all, a great four days. And if we can ask one favor from anyone who reads this: Please.

Leave. No. Trace.

Thank you.

the photo log is here: This trip starts on August 22.