Reporter does some real work: Tahoe Rim Trail crew
Safety … fun … building trails.
Before we started work Thursday morning, that’s what I was told were the most important aspects of working on the Tahoe Rim Trail – in that order.
I was safe.
I did have fun.
And I even helped build a little bit of trail.
Shortly after 9 a.m., we left the northern Kingsbury trailhead and headed for our destination. A hard hat on my head, gloves on my hands and tools in both my arms, I was joining three others for a day of work on the Rim Trail, a 150-mile loop around Lake Tahoe that is open to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.
I had never hiked this part of the Rim Trail before.
I had been mountain biking and snowshoeing there, however, and hiked from several other trailheads. So I had seen the spectacular views the hike affords before: a glimpse of green Carson Valley to the east, a dazzlingly blue Lake Tahoe walled in by tree-covered mountains to the west.
I was happy to have the opportunity to help with maintenance of the trail. It was my first time working on the trail; however, my co-workers Brisack, Malcolm Beggs and Nada Vogt each are finishing up their second year of volunteering.
And finishing up is the right word. Only three Saturdays of building new trail near Mt. Rose are left, and for the crews that work Tuesday’s and Thursday’s cleaning and maintaining trails, there’s only a handful of days left. An end-of-the-year workday and celebration is scheduled for Oct. 9.
That’s why I wanted to help out. It’s something I planned to do for a long time, and I didn’t want to wait another season.
We hiked about two miles into the forest. Where we stopped, the trail ran through a miniature wetlands. Even this late in the season, the route was muddy, and mountain bike tracks were sunken deep into the mud. I can imagine in the spring and early summer, the muddy route is likely nearly impossible to navigate.
What Beggs, Brisack, Vogt and other volunteers have been doing is rerouting the path around the small meadow, building the trail up more on a nearby slope. Thursday, we widened that trail because it was too narrow for bikers. And when you widen a trail on a slope, it requires putting large rocks below the path to stabilize it.
So we spent most of our time – and energy, obviously – moving rocks, big rocks. Rocks that were 100, 200 and even 300 pounds. Maybe more.
We used a wheelbarrow, a pulley and our own hands. It’s not like we lifted the rocks. We rolled them, drug them and pushed them.
Beggs said rock work like this was part art and part craft. Then he corrected himself.
“It’s mostly craft, but if you want to call it art that’s OK with me,” he said, smiling.
At the very least, I think it’s a developed skill. I couldn’t do much more than what they asked of me. They put a supportive rock wall together like a puzzle; I only helped with the grunt work.
And at the end of the day … Well, I don’t know what happened at the end of the day. I left early. (I had to come back and write this story.)
There were more than 6,500 volunteer hours accumulated in 1998, and the Tahoe Rim Trail Association expects to surpass that this year. About five of those will be mine.
As I was leaving, I wished them luck on finishing the trail, and Brisack said: “If we don’t get it today, we’ll get it done before the end of trail building season.”
Even though I only spent a few hours there, when I hike over that area again – and I will, I know – I will feel a sense of pride I was able to help. That’s no big deal, though. I’m sure I’ll volunteer in the future, and one day I’ll feel pride not only for certain sections but for helping on the whole trail.
Work first started on the Rim Trail in 1981. About 10 to 12 miles have yet to be completed, and the goal is to be finished in 2001. However, maintenance will always be needed – as will volunteers.
More information on the Tahoe Rim Trail is available at (775) 588-0686
By the numbers
Started in 1981
Expected to be finished in 2001
150 miles long
138 miles complete
24 to 36 inches wide
Slopes usually no steeper than 10 percent
Mountain bikes can use 60 percent
50 miles are shared with the Pacific Crest Trail
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The reopening of U.S. Highway 50 starts 8 a.m. today for residents and property owners in preparation for its full opening 8 a.m. Tuesday.