MWBA Trail work 101

Would you like to be an active part of our trail conservation movement and help maintain/build sustainable trails?  But are you hesitant because you don’t know what to expect? That’s perfectly normal. Most of us when we first got involved with trail work had no idea what we were doing, nor did we know how much fun it would be to play in the dirt. (No really, it is!)

Before you leave the house…

Whenever you do trail work with MWBA, we ask that you bring the following:

  • long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • a hiking shoe that is a bit more rugged than tennis shoes
  • eye protection (sun glasses will suffice)
  • gloves
  • WATER and something to snack on- Bring at least 16 ounces per hour, minimum! Don’t forget to drink it! If it’s super hot, we recommend you drink 32 ounces 2 hours before you start trail work. If you’re a super nerd like us, check out this link on hydration
  • sunscreen
  • a change of clothes, you WILL get dirty and you may stumble into poison oak

You’re at the meeting site, where are you guys?

Now that you know what to bring, make sure you show up to the scheduled trail work day at the correct location and on time. If we meet somewhere in the Angeles National Forest where an Adventure Pass is required, don’t worry, we will provide you with a day pass. Look for a bunch of guys and gals wearing long-sleeved green shirts. (We’re hard to miss, we’re the ridiculously good looking people milling around. :)) Don’t be shy, come up and say howdy, and grab a banana or donut.

Green is the new black
  • Once you find us, you will need to fill out lots of forms (feel free to download one of them, the MWBA Waiver and bring it with you to save some time, or if you are worried you’ll be signing away your first born and/or you enjoy reading fine print)
  • You will hear our safety spiel
  • Learn how to hold and walk with tools
  • You will be issued a tool, a hard hat and some gloves if you didn’t bring yours
  • Lastly, bring your smile, we will take a large group picture before we take off

Picture taken, time to roll!

All it takes is team work and big smiles to move mountains.

Sometimes we caravan, sometimes we hike and sometimes we bike to the site. If we bike, we will let you know on our event invitation page found on our website.

Once we get to the trail work site, you will reconnect with your Crew Leader. If this is your first time, your Crew Leader will also be the Trail Educator. This is where the real fun begins. The Trail Educator will go over the fundamentals of trail work including information about your tools, and instruction on how to build sustainable trails and the reasons behind the engineering. You’ll learn some new terms and you may be amazed how interesting trail maintenance is.

What will you do?

Being new to trail work and to MWBA, we won’t  ask you to work on complicated projects or work with equipment/tools you are not comfortable using. A basic rule of thumb is we strive to make the trails look as natural as possible. The goal is to build sustainable trails without creating an eyesore or installing features that are not natural. Sometimes it’s not possible due to the terrain, location, and scope of work.

Brushing: Cutting back new growth encroaching or will soon encroach into the visual and physical path of the trail user. This usually means cutting 1-3ft back from trail edge where needed.

Tread work: Tread work is pretty generic, it encompasses a lot of different types of work. In the San Gabriels, most of the tread work we do is to fix the tread due to water damage and/or use. Typically we rock armor areas where we need to divert the flow of water, create knicks to help displace water off the trail or create grade reversals depending on various factors.

Swamping: Follows behind someone who is trimming the growth with loppers or a hedge trimmer to make sure cuttings from tools are swept off the trail.

Before you know it it’ll be time to pick up your tool and apply the techniques that you just learned! Feel free to ask questions. Don’t forget to drink water even if you don’t feel thirsty and sit in the shade if you think you are over heated. If you injure yourself, immediately stop working and alert your trail crew leader. But most of all, have fun! We are out there because we love it, not because we have to.

Mission accommplished!

nom nom nom!

The lunch whistle blew! Time to pack up what you brought in and take it back down to where we eat lunch. Make sure you pack out whatever you brought in. If you see other bits of non-organic material, take that out too. Make sure you turn in your tools, hard hat and gloves to your Trail Crew Leader.

Most people who come out with us on a regular basis know we take our volunteer lunches very seriously. We hope you can feel and taste all the love we have for you. We firmly believe one of the best ways to show you know how much we appreciate your help is by providing you with a good meal after a long sweaty day. You will never walk away from an MWBA Trail work day feeling hungry.

One of the other ways we like to show our geniune love and affection for you is our after lunch raffle. That’s right, we want to give you stuff. All you have to do is show up, dig in some dirt, enjoy a nice lunch and stick out your hand for a raffle ticket.  If we call our your number, well,  you know the routine. OK, we’ll say it anyways, you’re a winner! We all win, but most importantly, our trails win. Go ahead and add trail work volunteer to your resume. YOU my friend, are a trail conservationist!


Now What?

It’s true, you will go through a few days of withdrawal symptoms once we part ways. You’ll dream about trimmers and McLoeds. You’ll break out into cold sweats remembering the rush you got from rock armoring the tread. And you’ll yearn to reconnect with all of the hikers and bikers who thanked you for your work as they passed through.  And you’ll longingly remember the laughs and good times with your new friends.

It’s OK.

You can come back.

We do trail work every 3rd weekend of every month. Sometimes we do more. Come back, learn more, have fun. Who knows, maybe one day you will be one of our crew leaders!