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January 30, 2011 / elodie kaye

Under Construction

Part of the bluff trail that I run almost every day looks like it’s being ripped asunder.  There are bulldozers, men in safety vests and hard hats directing walkers, runners and bicycles.  Young men and women, dressed differently — students, volunteers, they look ecologically conscientious, not like the construction workers — are moving succulents, ground cover, and huge mounds of earth from one side of the path to the other, and re-planting.  Today I noticed a small sign explaining what was happening, the trail is undergoing a face-lift because of trampling from overuse.  In the winter wet season, parts of this trail turn into broad fields of thick, black, sticky mud.  The soil here has natural tar and oil deposits.  Once, I ran through a mud patch and my left shoe stayed planted in the mud while my foot continued blithely on its arc.  At its highest point, I stopped.  Panic-stricken, I teetered on the right foot, trying to deduce what had happened.  I tried to hop to the lost shoe, but of course the right shoe was now trapped, too.  I ultimately escaped the muddy quicksand, but the sock could not be saved.

In order to avoid the mud, people go around into the grassy meadow, or toward the edge of the bluff which is home to flowering succulents.  One end of this section of the trail abuts onto Del Playa, the party hub of UCSB which is home to frat boys and surfer dudes.  They bike with their boards on the trail to get to better surf.  Faculty also live along this trail and they walk with their children in the mornings and evenings.  At the other end of the trail is an elementary school.  Of course, there are also plenty of runners.

Back home, a trail with this much pedestrian traffic would be paved.  I confess I’m ignorant of the ecological or geological reasons why this might be necessary, but I hate paved trails.  To me, that makes it a sidewalk, not a trail.  The plan for this section of the bluff trail is a surface of decomposed granite.  I’m not sure what that is, but it sounds better than pavement.  All this tearing up and re-routing has made the trail much less appealing to run on, but it makes me happy to know there are places such as this, where a mile-long dirt path entirely out of reach to vehicle traffic can be overused by people walking, running, motoring under their own power.

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4 Comments

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  1. Anne / Jan 31 2011 9:00 am

    I like the city’s solution to the trampling. You’re right – it would be so easy to just legitimize the compounds holding the dirt together by bringing in the entire asphalt family of chemicals and calling it a trail. Then can you imagine the foot and bike traffic?!

    • elodie kaye / Jan 31 2011 10:26 pm

      I like that the town is trying to preserve some of the atmosphere of that trail. It’s looking a bit bedraggled lately, but there are beautiful views. Coincidentally, UCSB also has a lot of skaters. There’s already been some campus friction over congestion on the bike paths from the combined volume of pedestrians, skaters and bikes. I’m sure we’d have more of the same on the trail if it was paved.

  2. gpetitto / Jan 31 2011 11:50 am

    Once, I ran through a mud patch and my left shoe stayed planted in the mud while my foot continued blithely on its arc. At its highest point, I stopped. Panic-stricken, I teetered on the right foot, trying to deduce what had happened. I tried to hop to the lost shoe, but of course the right shoe was now trapped, too. I ultimately escaped the muddy quicksand, but the sock could not be saved.

    HA! I love it! I was running a trail race in Alaska and after we came down from the ridgeline we were faced with a terrible slog through a marshy area. There was a gal running in front of me and she stepped into the mud and upon pushing off one of her shoes stayed down in the muck. I couldn’t help but laugh, but I at least stopped to make sure she was all right. She was and I ran on, glad to have both of my shoes still on my feet.

    • elodie kaye / Jan 31 2011 10:27 pm

      After that incident, I remembered not to run through at full speed. At least it doesn’t hurt too much to fall into mud, only bruises your dignity!

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