— Trail construction from a beginner’s point of view

When I signed for this position, I had zero experience in this type of work. I went in with a mindset of being a clean slate with a mission to learn as much as possible. My first month has been just that: absorbing and putting it into action. First day on the job I was put into the field working on the Ben Johnson Trail out in Muir Woods. Some problems to be fixed are erosion, switchbacks, and steep grades. I was taken up the trail from the bottom starting at Muir Woods and ascended to the worksite to get a full scope of the area and its rich history- it is for sure a constant steep incline to the top. Once at the worksite I was greeted by highlines up high in the redwoods.

The highlines were set up by the trail crew months prior and are being used to transport redwood logs and rock down the mountain to a staging area about 300 ft down. The redwood logs are reclaimed wood that were drowned in a reservoir made by the Marin Municipal Water District; the redwood is also old growth. Despite their sad death it is an honor to be able to work with ancient relatives and continue to incorporate them into this project.

The Highline

Getting situated with the highline was both easy and hard. Easy because it’s really three mechanisms you gotta learn: the grip-hoist box, the belay, and the chain hoist. The hard part is the amount of strength one needs to operate the grip-hoist box and the endurance to keep going on the chain hoist. The belay requires the least amount of strength, but it is also the most dangerous to operate. The grip-hoist box is what slacks and tensions the line; the chain-hoist is what is used to lift a sack of rock or logs by pulling on chains; the belay uses a porta wrap system and it’s what’s being used to lower the rope that then moves the load down to the staging area. As previously mentioned, the belay is the easiest to operate but if you lose control at any point that load of rocks or logs will go flying down the line at full speed with a high probability for catastrophe. Once, the load is at the staging area it is lowered by the chain hoist. The high line can support up to 12,000 pounds, To make sure the the loads don’t exceed the 12,000 lb. capacity, the crew uses a dynamomter to measure the weight.

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