Saturday, May 21, 2016

Welcome to Alamden Quicksilver, VOCal!

No, we didn't welcome a choir or a capella group at the park cherished by my Quicksilver running club. VOCal, also written V.O.Cal or V-O-Cal, stands for Volunteers for Outdoor California, as the name states, a group of volunteers working on trail maintenance and trail building around the Bay Area to promote outdoor and hiking activities in the area.

This is a very well organized group which puts half a dozen of these trail projects every year, weekend-long projects gathering around 100 volunteers every time who camp on site on Friday and Saturday evening. Impressive logistic with a kitchen and Chef, quite a few boxes of equipment and even 4 showers!

Beyond all this equipment, there is also well trained volunteers and well established roles and responsibilities. For instance we were welcomed by volunteers to ensure we had signed the proper liability releases (hey, we are in America! ;-). I also met Francesca who was officiating as Camp Manager this weekend (green fleece in first picture above). Then the Chef and his cooking crew offered us a light breakfast and a sandwich station buffet. Morris Older was the project lead today and had spent several days working with the local Rangers to plan the work. Morris also gave us the background of this project.

Then Craig led a most needed stretching and warming-up session to get the blood and muscles flowing!

 Pro VOCal volunteers, Chris and Inome enjoying the early morning sun:
Finally, the Trail work leader, Chris, split us into 5 crews/groups so we could received tools and more detailed instructions and guidance from our respective team leads.

It was VOCal's first time project at our park but the 4th time they were working for the Santa Clara County Park Rangers. With more than 50 volunteers this time, we got a lot accomplished on the New Almaden Trail which is actually also the trail that our Running Club has adopted and maintained for the past 20 years under our Chief Trail Officer's leadership, Paul Fick.
For instance, I was helping last September on a section which was the center of this weekend's work. Back in September, we removed a series of uneven wood stairs then lowered the trail plunging into a deep gulch covered by a wood plank bridge. This time, 2 groups worked at removing that unstable bridge and significantly changing the access to the creek by creating a new trail segment.

3 other groups where dispatched further on the trail to take care of 13 sections. My group was led by Chas and we started with section 12, then 10, broke out for lunch then moved to section 9 and I left the group at 1 pm when they were starting working on section 7. Our team lead, Chas, in the foreground:

The weather has been quite unstable this week. While we had a nice breeze for our 100K race last weekend, the heat wave hit on Tuesday and Wednesday with temperatures above 90F. Then, today, we got some rain which is really unusual that late in the Spring. Barely enough to really get more wet than the sweat generated by hard trail work, but enough to catch a few interesting flower shots on the way back to base camp (Mockingbird Lane entrance).

Remarkable manzanita trees too, especially after the rain shower (their bark looks like human skin in places and like the tree was suffering some torture).

Big thanks, kudos and shout out to the V-O-Cal organization and their very friendly and dedicated volunteers, as well as the volunteers who joined from the neighborhood for first-time trail maintenance experience and way to give back after enjoying our local trails. Not only we are blessed to have all these nearby hills and protected parks, but we also have these volunteer organizations to support our official Park Rangers and complement their limited means to maintain these hundreds of miles for us to enjoy! Way to go VOCal!!!

And way to go, Santa Clara County Parks, celebrating 60 years, 1956-2016!!!

PS: we'll see tomorrow at Ohlone 50K if all that upper body strength training is paying off. Or not... ;-)

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