A Dig Day W/ SAGE Trail Alliance
Words by: Liam Woods
Giving back to the trails and supporting trail networks is the main goal of Trail One Components, so it's only fitting to support dig days, especially on some of our local trails. The recent rain on the west coast, specifically in California, has caused a ton of damage to just about all the trails that we have. Many trails will require some serious work, like bringing in heavy equipment, building supports out of wood, sandbags, and bringing in drainage piping. Some just need some ruts filled, drains dug out, minor re-routing or fixing of a feature. Local to us here in Southern California is the SAGE Trail Alliance which has been serving the public trails around Santa Barbara county since 1988, and the executive director is none other than Dillon Osleger. With all this damage to some of the best trails not only in the area but to possibly one of my favorite zones in the state, we wanted to help where we could. From the sales of our Treasury products like valve stems, fenders, water bottles, t-shirts, titanium bolts, and other accessories we made a donation to SAGE to help some of the major restoration projects from the storm damage that they will be working on over the next few years, as well as support a dig day.
Dillon helped set up the dig day along with Max. We met up at 9 am on top of Santa Barbara’s picturesque mountains, a great location for a day filled with physical labor. There were about 20 volunteers for the day, and we split up with 15 or so heading down Arroyo Burro frontside (south) and the other 5 heading down Arroyo Burro backside (north). The reason being that some of the LPFA trail work crews already hit Arroyo Burro's backside and the trail was in pretty good shape, that is, once the mud at the bottom dried out. As we headed down, different volunteers were equipped with different tools, from trimming tools with loppers and weed whackers to dirt-moving tools like hoes and McLeods. I had my own McLeod and was appointed by one of the crew leaders to help direct digging and clearing of drains since I have quite a bit of trail-building experience.
As we worked down the trails, the trimmers went first, then the dirt workers. While the upper part of the trail wasn't too overgrown, lots of the drainage areas were filled with sediment, plus we discovered a few spots where new drains needed to be added. We worked down the trail for about 3 hours, filling ruts, clearing drains, and removing some set in overgrown brush and yucca plants. We kept heading down the trail, leapfrogging each other as some filled ruts or cleared drains. We got to a section that was really overgrown and the hillside had come down a bit from the storm, leaving the trail with about 6-inches of trail. This required trimming back the plants and re-cutting the bench cut to a usable 2 feet or so. Some trail work you don't notice, like trimming and drainage, but it’s often not as satisfying as doing something like a large bench cut section. When you do a large bench cut, it’s instantly satisfying and it feels good to have a few sections that you can really tell they benefited from your work.
We were about 3 hours in thus far, and had begun to fix a few things while working our way back up, when we came around a corner about 2 miles down the trail and found two huge rocks that had fallen down the mountain and ended up on the trail. The larger rock was about the size of a VW Bug and it was completely blocking the trail, and just 10 feet past that was another rock about 4x4 feet, both much too large to move. Luckily, there was a bit of ground we could work with to try and route around the boulders so the trail could keep flowing. This required cutting back some trees that had also fallen down with the rubble, and stacking rocks around a few other immovable rocks with the tools we had. Most of our crew headed up for the day to get lunch and beverages but I stayed with the crew leader to stack rocks, move dirt, and clear as much as we could without spending half a day on this one spot. We got this spot to be “good enough” for the day, since hikers could easily get past and some riders could make it. So we headed up the trail to join the rest to eat lunch and enjoy some well earned beverages.
3.5 hours of physical labor later, a spread of sandwiches was waiting at the top plus a cooler of ice cold beverages provided by SAGE. We sat and enjoyed the nutrition while chatting a bit about the trail conditions, how the other crew on the backside of Arroyo Burro managed, what bikes we are stoked on riding, and the conditions of other trails in the area. Volunteering for a local dig day is great in so many ways. Of course the actual fixing and maintaining of the trail is huge, all trails need work and there is seemingly never enough volunteers or organizers to make that happen. But there is also the physical activity that is beneficial to the individual - it’s a natural gym and after a few hours you are certainly feeling it. But one of my favorite parts about doing trail work is what you learn about the environment around you, especially as you work with crew leaders who know the area and can educate you on things you might not know. It connects you to the trail and the surroundings, and you can forever say you helped maintain that trail. If you are in the California area, there are a ton of trials that need work to be brought back from our record breaking storm year. Reach out to your local trail organization and see if there are dig days planned where you can help out!