Sunday — Work & Depart
It was a chilly morning, but everyone was in high spirits after the big meal and campfire the night before. Everyone had their own breakfast supplies, and we broke camp after enjoying some hot drinks and small meals. We removed our footwear and forded the river once again. Each group returned to their respective work zones to continue work and push to finish as much as they could in the limited timeframe. The winter work parties have to deal with the cold, the water, and the lack of daylight. Especially in the canyons where the sun can disappear quickly, and the temps can drop sharply.
The group on the rock wall made considerable progress with the demolition hammer. Breaking off substantial chunks of the cliff, creating a safely passable corridor across for future trail users. The high group made even more progress clearing trail on the north end, almost connecting to the section of trail that breaks from the canyon and makes for the Ridgeline. The bottom group continued reinforcing their work and benching sections of trail to near perfection.
After pushing hard to finish what we could, Matt rallied the troops. We hauled the tool stash down trail, closer to the camp, where work would continue on the next campout. The group had a quick lunch break after admiring all the hard work. We made for camp, and forded the San Gabriel River one final time (just kidding, we crossed it many more times on the ride out:).
Everyone was in high spirits on the climb out. There’s something very rewarding about putting in long days on the trail. It helps build a physical connection to that specific zone. The unique smells, textures, and feels all build an unforgettable bond between person and place. The Lowelifes crew has an intimate relationship with the San Gabriels, many of them knowing the trails like the back of their hands. We reached the cars as the temps dropped right before sundown. The group exchanged high fives, indulged in the leftover baked goods from sign up, and posed for a quick group photo.
Sunday night I spent hanging with Matt, the co-founder of Lowelifes. We showered up and headed out for some delicious Thai food. Matt and I chatted about the nuances of trail building over laarb and Thai tea. Matt has a breadth of experience and a charisma about him that makes it easy to understand why he has such a loyal crew of volunteers — remember, most of the volunteers come time and again. Matt talked in depth about the very real struggles of dealing with wildfire damage, and heavy winter rains. We chatted about their biggest project, the Condor Peak trail, and what made it so successful and unique. Unfortunately with storms rolling in the day before and day after, we were unable to ride it this trip, but I am excited to come back and have Matt show me the trail. The overall consensus is that the trail is legendary — a backcountry experience under an hour from our countries second largest city. After dreaming of single track heaven, we headed back to his place to crash for the night.
Monday — Back to the Real World
Erik came over first thing in the morning for a quick chat with me about Lowelifes, his role, and perspectives. He offered many similar perspectives as his fellow Lowelifes leaders, but also had some very unique ideas on how trail stewards should act. Erik is currently pushing the “Be Nice, Say Hi!” campaign, which encourages trail users (specifically Mountain Bikers) to be kind trail users. The trails of the Angeles National Forest are all multi-use, and it is of paramount importance for advocacy groups that the cycling community play nicely with the other user groups. Erik lives this ethos on and off the trail. After our chat, Matt was kind enough to drive me and all my stuff to the airport. It was pouring in LA that day, which was something I had never experienced. The LA river was almost overflowing, and the drivers were struggling with all the water on the roadways. It was easy to see how such high levels of precipitation can affect a place that sees rain so infrequently. My flight was on time, and trouble free.