As alluded to in a previous post, I got an early start in the woods, more specifically in earthworks—working with cinder blocks, logs, rocks, and sod—building dams, forts, and trails. My sister shared this photo with me the other day, to remind me of my roots, after I shared a photo of the days work, and that inspired this post.
Twenty years ago, I volunteered at Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon, as a weekend tour guide, as well as helping with trail restoration and invasive species control. Wishing to do contribute locally, I contacted the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and was thrilled accept an invitation to volunteer on Nounou (Sleeping Giant), and work with interns from KUPU Hawai`i Youth Conservation Corps. It’s the least I could do since I used these trails as if the mountain was my own front yard.
The project was nearly finished by the time I joined the team, and they had done some really awesome work, including cuts and fills, abutments, diversion trenches, retaining walls, and especially blocking “shortcuts” using fallen trees and brush which the crew removed from the trail. Some of these “shortcuts” had been used so heavily that it was often difficult to tell whether erosion brought about the shortcut or if overuse had actually caused the severe erosion observed in several places.
In some cases, only minor intervention was necessary to preserve the trail. Elsewhere, a little structure had to be added to stabilize the grade and/or simplify the ascent or descent for hikers. In the area shown below, what had been the trail was simply peeling off the slope, so the crew added poles, anchored with steel rebar, to retain what soil remained and channel some of the runoff so that the fill was less likely to wash away with the next rain.
Occasionally, erosion was so extreme that alternate diversion trenches as well as extensive structure and back-fill were required to restore the trail in cases of total washout. The last time I hiked the East Trail, this was an area I had to vault across or scramble through clinging to the red dirt wall at right with my bare hands because my chin was at about the same level as the restored trail. As you can see, diversion trenches were dug well above the former pit.
Being the steepest approach to the summit, this trail frequently winds around or runs along solid vertical faces that do not lend themselves to alteration. The retaining wall shown below was cut from the stone face above it. I recall this switchback from earlier treks as a smooth blend that was slippery in all weather and reminded me of trying to climb up a spoon. At the left corner, it’s still a little slick, but thanks to the Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the Hawai’i Youth Conservation Corps, that “spoon” is much shorter and narrower.
A few of the interns did some really nice work in stone just up the trail from where I was working with the everyone else on a series of back-filled abutments, retaining walls. Regrettably, I forgot to photograph the stonework, but wanted to share the photo of the area where I made a contribution. Shown below are two levels of log abutment (a third level lies below left), and a rock retaining wall through the center of this photo to the white rock above center.
Before I could get there the next day, the crew finished another abutment and back-fill further down the trail, and afterward, a few interns who had never completed the hike were taken on a guided tour to the summit. Meanwhile, I look forward to working on Nounou again in September.