I was a bit surprised to see the main path from the parking area to the center was completely blocked!
I could tell just by looking that the project had nothing to do with the usability of the gulch. My guess was that they had to update the culvert or whatever drainage system takes the creek under the road, but I found more info when I got back to the car. Water main stuff.
It was a very strange coincidence, that as soon as I got out of my car, another guy showed up, also using poles! He went up the OG trail to the West, which was perfect because my plan was to head East. I was originally going to practice with the poles heading up via the tracks and then back via the Eastern trails, but since I had to enter from the Eastern trailhead, I just walked that way instead of going back down to the tracks.
I really like walking with the poles! There are a lot of advantages to using them, especially this time of year. The plants along the trails are making a huge comeback, so much that my right foot was completely soaked just by wet grasses and leaves brushing up against me. There are tons of vines and branches creeping in, and having poles to push them out of the way is nice. The main benefit is all the added stability, but having an extra tool for investigating things is quite handy. The path I followed is one of the muddiest, but I was able to tell that a lot of the mud was perfectly fine to walk in by poking at it with a pole. Sometimes it'll look really deep, but will just be a half inch or so on top of very firm gravel. Quite nice. I eventually had to turn back because of mud, but it was nice to find out just how deep it all was without having to sink into it myself.
I made my way up to Garbage Fire Plateau for the first time in a while and confirmed what I've suspected from seeing it above: someone has cleaned up all the garbage and even removed the garbage can!
I was about to say a disadvantage of the poles is how long it takes to put the straps on, take a picture, put the phone away, and then take the straps off, but now that I know I'll be using the straps, that's no longer the case.
Since I was forced by the trail mud back to the center trail sooner than I planned, I decided to investigate some crossings I've been avoiding. First up, the scary old bridge I spotted recently.
If you remember the closer picture of it from the last time I mentioned it, you will not be surprised at all to find out that a board snapped and I fell through. Luckily, it didn't hurt at all because the sand wasn't that far beneath. So, if I ever go that way again, it'll be if the creek is so dry that I can just walk across. I don't know if that ever happens.
Next up, the rocky crossing at the bottom of Bowling Ball trail. If I could add a bridge anywhere in the gulch, it'd be here. I suspect the mountain bikers ride right through here, but it's really hard on foot. I surveyed it and decided I would definitely go across the the poles without worrying about it, but decided not to yesterday because I didn't actually feel like walking up that trail, so I'd have to cross it twice for no reason. But I'll do it soon.
The poles emboldened me enough to tackle one spot I've never had the guts to try. You've seen me post it again and again hoping it'll be improved, but it never is.
It was easy! I took it pretty slow and went sideways a lot, but I never had to worry about falling down because I was propped up the whole time. And I'm glad for that, because that's the second to last way from the center to the West, which is how I wanted to approach the car because of the construction at the bottom. And the last way is another rock crossing in the creek, surrounded by tons of overgrown bushes. I've never gone that way without getting covered in burrs and pollen and stuff. And there's never been a reason to go that way because it's a boring path through a meadow that can also be quite muddy. But I would have tried it yesterday just to get back to the car.
4.45 miles in 2:12, 9,569 steps, 573ft gain
Every video I can find shows people advancing a step with their poles for every step they take with their feet. I did that some, but I walk pretty fast and that was a bit too much arm movement. It made my normal walk into more of a march. I'm a lot more comfortable if I move each pole far enough that they go half-time as compared to my steps. I think most walkers who keep pace with the poles probably walk a little slower than I do.
Oh yeah, another awesome thing happened. I've been trying to get a video like this for ages.
Full version on flickr: