The massive rock we had to remove.
The Sonoma Overlook Trail is coming up on its 20-year anniversary. In twenty years of heavy use, the trail bed can become quite eroded, thereby exposing rocks that can become tripping hazards. Recently the trail stewards in charge of trail maintenance have begun a concerted effort to transform particularly rocky sections of the trail into smooth paths by removing rocks and filling the resulting holes with packed aggregate and soil. We call this activity “Rock Patrol.”
The last two standing monthly work days were dedicated to performing this work on two sections of trail under the Upper Meadow. Today, the section we worked on included a rather massive boulder (see picture) that we dug out and rolled off the trail. Now, instead of that tripping hazard there is smooth trail.
The final result (note the big rock on the left that we removed).
We recently set a goal to create 18-24″ of smooth path for the entire length of the trail, realizing that there may be some sections where this is not possible. Of course those of you who are familiar with the trail will understand the enormity of this undertaking, and therefore will likely also understand that this work will take years to accomplish. We won’t just do this work in group work days. Rock Patrol can also be a solitary activity, as sometimes all that is required to make a section of the trail safe is to remove a solitary “trip rock” from the middle of the trail. That can be accomplished by a single volunteer.
Maintenance Team members Kurt Teuber, Priscilla Miles, and John Donnelly with the refurbished section of trail.
Every month on the first Monday, the Sonoma Overlook Trail (SOT) Maintenance Team has a standing workday. Sometimes we do “rock patrol” where we remove rocks sticking up in the trail and fill in the holes, sometimes we pull invasive thistle and cut back poison oak, and other times we engage in more traditional trail maintenance activities, like we did today.
Today a team of four stewards on the Maintenance Team worked to shore up a section of trail that was in danger of falling away, and spread gravel to create an outslope that encourages “sheet flow” of water directly off the trail when it rains. This project was assisted by the remnants of rock and gravel left behind by the American Conservation Experience (ACE) crew who recently worked on three sections of trail to make them easier to traverse and more sustainable.
After the ACE work had been completed, volunteer stewards Bill Wilson, Fred Allebach (both of whom were instrumental in getting the ACE work completed) and I walked the renovated sections of trail and identified the portion of trail we worked on today as needing work. With four of us working, and the materials we needed close at hand, it only took us an hour and a half to complete the job.
Yesterday the partial trail closure on the Sonoma Overlook Trail was removed, as the work that we had contracted with American Conservation Experience (ACE) to accomplish was completed. They ably reworked three sections of trail that have been problematic. These stretches were rocky, hard to traverse, and presented drainage issues.
Volunteer Bill Wilson competently and thoroughly planned the work, coordinated with ACE and the City of Sonoma (also a participant in this work), and managed it in association with the ACE Team Leader. Volunteer Fred Allebach was the on-site supervisor for the SOT Stewards and the City, and also helped out crushing rock and other trail construction tasks.
We hope you enjoy the improved sections on your next hike!
A portion of the City of Sonoma’s Overlook trail will be closed to walkers and hikers for repairs to trail surfaces from March 23 to April 14.
During this period, the affected trail segments are not safe for foot traffic, due to the movement of heavy materials and the need for trail crews to work unimpeded.
Walkers and hikers may still access the Upper Trail’s summit by using the Toyon trailhead in the Cemetery. Park at the kiosk and follow the temporary signage on foot through the cemetery to the Toyon entrance.
The Toyon entrance may also be reached on foot through the cemetery entrance at the top end of 2nd Street East and then following the temporary signage.
The main trailhead and part of the lower trail will remain open for those desiring only a short walk to the junction of the Lower trail with Rattlesnake Cutoff, or who wish to connect with the Montini trail at Norrbom Road via the westernmost portion of Rattlesnake Cutoff.
The Montini trail will remain fully open during this period. It can be accessed via the entrance behind Field of Dreams or the main trailhead at 4th Street West.
Work is funded by the volunteer Sonoma Overlook Trail stewards and the City of Sonoma. It is being performed by youth work crews with American Conservation Experience. ACE is familiar with the trail as they performed extensive rehabilitation on other parts of it in 2018.
Every first Monday of the month we have a standing trail maintenance day. This month it was postponed a week to the second Monday. Today six stewards came out to take on several jobs: Elizabeth Garsonnin, Priscilla Miles, Dan Noreen, Kurt Teuber, the SOT Chair, and myself.
We started with a project to reinforce the railroad tie steps not far in from the Kiosk and parking area at the main trailhead. We used our recently acquired wagon to haul 30 cement pavers in to stack under the railroad ties. We had shims and a rubber mallet to drive them in. That didn’t take very long, so we went on to the next job.
We weeded and swept the steps at the kiosk (see picture). With six people, again the job didn’t take very long and then we were off to the last jobs we had lined up for the day.
Two of us were sent off to the set of upper steps not far below the upper meadow to weed and sweep them. Getting the loose rock off the steps prolongs their life, as it prevents hikers from grinding the rock into the steps and wearing them down faster.
The remaining four of us took on a “Rock Patrol” assignment. There was a particular rock we had in mind that not only was a hazard to hikers, but would also likely cause problems for the trail crew coming out soon to do some major trail work (see “before” picture).
Dan easily levered out the boulder, which came out surprisingly easy, and then we worked to fill the hole with soil collected nearby (see “after” picture). Since we were so quickly successful, I looked around and discovered a number of other rocks right in the trail that we could remove to create a smoother tread. All told, we probably removed about a dozen nuisance rocks from the trail, filling in the holes.
We accomplished quite a bit in just under two hours of work.