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ACE work on the Buckeye Trail

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Re: ACE work on the Buckeye Trail

Postby gfelsman on Tue Feb 13, 2018 9:12 am

Yes, without the VWA working with the USFS, ACE Crews, Volunteer Rangers and other Trail Crew Volunteers the trails would continue to deteriorate making for unsafe conditions on many of the trail in the Big Sur Region. I just wish there was more funding and staffing to increase the overall effort. Trails don't maintain themselves.

Great job!
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ACE work on the Buckeye Trail

Postby jbl on Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:48 am

I've been hiking the Buckeye Trail since the mid '00s and seen it go from bad at that time to much worse, with numerous sections of very uneven trail with steep dropoffs and some super-narrow spots where a misstep could lead to disaster and lots of brush encroachment. I remember leading a hike with some experienced hikers about 3 years ago and having someone step on the sketchy edge of the trail and suddenly find themselves 20 feet downhill, luckily uninjured but it was hard for him to get back up onto the trail. I have now hiked the entire restored Buckeye trail between Cruikshank Camp and Salmon Creek Station and am amazed at the transformation, kudos and many thanks to the VWA and the ACE crews for this very impressive achievement!
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ACE work on the Buckeye Trail

Postby Trevor W on Mon Feb 12, 2018 4:59 pm

In January of 2017 the VWA planned to deploy a series of NFF-funded ACE hitches based out of Buckeye Camp to restore the Buckeye Trail between the camp and the junction with the Soda Springs Trail. Significant winter rains made the access to Buckeye Camp via previously restored segments of the Cruickshank Trail and Buckeye Trail unsafe for both foot traffic and pack stock, so the project was delayed to wait out the storm. Eventually the rains saturated the western slopes of Big Sur to the extent that several sections of California Highway 1 became unstable and started to slide into the Pacific Ocean. This caused the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge to become structurally unstable, forcing the California Department of Transportation to demolish and reconstruct the bridge — a project that closed Highway 1 for eight months. Additionally, the historically active Paul’s Slide and Mud Creek Slide became active again, doing serious damage to Highway 1, resulting in multiple closures of the highway. The VWA was able to deploy a single five day NFF-funded ACE crew hitch from the Salmon Creek Station under the supervision of the VWA’s stewardship Program Coordinator (SPC) Trevor Willits to work on the Buckeye Trail. Heavy rains once again made the trail unsafe for work and caused yet another landslide at Ragged Point, completely cutting off access to the trailheads in the Silver Peak Wilderness. This project thus became such a logistical impossibility that the scheduled ACE hitches were canceled and postponed until the autumn of 2017.

When the project resumed on October 4th, 2017, the route from California Highway 1 to Buckeye Camp had sustained sufficient damage from winter storms to preclude pack support for backcountry hitches. Since the Mud Creek Slide blocked access to trailheads in the Silver Peak Wilderness from the developed Forest Service campsites to the north, the Salmon Creek Station was used as a base of operations. While ACE crews worked to restore the Buckeye Trail between the junction with the Soda Springs Trail and Buckeye Camp, volunteers worked to repair the route from California Highway 1 to Buckeye Camp. After three hitches based out of the Salmon Creek Station, the ACE crews moved their base of operations to Buckeye Camp to shorten the hike time. Volunteer packers provided stock support, bringing in provisions from Highway 1 via recently-repaired segments of the Cruickshank Trail and Buckeye Trail.

ACE Crew working throught the dust.JPG
A hot October day on the Buckeye Trail

VWA trail crew volunteers have been working on the Salmon Creek Trail but are far from reaching the goal of making it stock passable to Spruce Camp. The original plan for work in the Silver Peak Wilderness called for three NFF-funded 80 hour ACE hitches and 40 volunteer hours to restore the Buckeye Trail between the junction with the Soda Springs Trail and Buckeye Camp to stock passable standards and two 80 hour ACE hitches to repair stock damage on the Cruickshank/Buckeye/Soda Springs Trail and begin restoration of the Salmon Creek Trail. However, owing to inclement weather and the complications that came with it, restoration work on the Buckeye Trail required all five ACE hitches scheduled in the Silver Peak Network to complete, with no time left over for working on the Salmon Creek Trail. In total, ACE worked 4,892 hours and volunteers donated 615.5 hours to restore the Buckeye Trail.

AI-512 Ventana Wilderness Alliance PHOTO #6.JPG
Buckeye Trail before tread realignment

AI-512 Ventana Wilderness Alliance PHOTO #7.JPG
and after

Despite weather-related delays and complications, the combined efforts of volunteers and contracted ACE crews removed brush from 5,454.5 yards of trail, repaired 5,978 yards of tread and reconstructed 529 yards of tread. Thirteen structures were repaired and 15 were built, including three rock retaining walls, four check steps, and eight new drains. Twelve fallen trees were removed from the trail and six pounds of trash were packed out of the wilderness.

The Buckeye Trail still has two obstacles preventing safe passage for stock that will require blasting to remove, but hikers and backpackers can now enjoy a safe hike on this freshly restored trail. Setbacks notwithstanding, this was a successful project, and the hiking community of southern Big Sur has expressed gratitude for combined efforts of the volunteers and contracted crews who contributed to this project.
ACE crew on the Buckeye Trail.JPG
ACE Crew and SPC on the Buckeye Trail

This project was funded by Matching Awards Grant #AI-512 from the National Forest Foundation and a grant from Sean and Alexandra Parker/Neraida, LLC.
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