- Published on Wednesday, 29 April 2009 03:18
- Written by Carol Crites - Special to the Town Crier
This is the third in a series of monthly articles that highlight local volunteers.
Los Altos Hills resident Dave Lautzenheiser is a volunteer with Ventana Wilderness Alliance, an all-volunteer organization that protects the wildlands of the northern Santa Lucia Mountains and the Big Sur Coast.
Q: How did you hear about your organization and for how long have you volunteered?
A: After having a very miserable hiking trip in the Big Sur wilderness, I went online to seek information about difficult trail situations. I found reports of conditions on the Ventana Wilderness Alliance Web site written by folks who had actually been hiking there. I have worked with them for five years.
Q: What tasks do you perform?
A: Our focus is on trail restoration in the greater Big Sur wilderness area. This involves two main tasks. The first is removing the brush that has grown into the trail or has fallen on the trail from above and is generally done with heavy-duty pruning tools. Some larger items require sawing with pruning saws. In the case of fallen trees, a number of volunteers have large, two-person manual crosscut saws that we use. The second general task is restoring the trail tread, the part that you walk on, using a variety of digging and raking tools. We remove debris from the trail and dig out and level any areas that have fallen rocks, dirt or brush roots in the trail tread.
Q: What is your favorite part of volunteering?
A: The best part of this particular "job" is the huge transformation in the usability of a trail. We take areas that are virtually impassable and convert them into a "wilderness freeway" in a short period of time. Often while we are out working on the trails, hikers come through and their thanks only adds to the satisfaction.
Q: What skills are needed to do this job?
A: The leaders of the work trips provide the small amount of instruction needed to accomplish most of the tasks. For those who have the inclination to take their hand at the two-person crosscut saws, there are classes to become certified in accordance with Forest Service regulations. Every trip begins with a mandatory safety briefing. The crew leader for each trip works closely with new volunteers to be certain that they are using tools properly, are adhering to appropriate safety practices and are, most importantly, enjoying the time in the wilderness!
Q: What is the time commitment?
A: Work trips are generally two-day events on weekends and we camp out at night. There are some opportunities for one-day trips that are a great way to get started. There are also a few longer trips, generally three or four days, particularly if we are working a trail remote enough to require a long hike into the wilderness. Trips are planned for at least one weekend per month from October to June. I personally try to do four or five trips per season; others are out every month and some folks come out only once a year.
Q: What do you get out of volunteering?
A: This activity is all about making a difference for hikers to enjoy this wonderful area of the state. Our goal is to improve the trails so that a larger number of users can enjoy them and, if we can increase the use of the area, perhaps the Forest Service will get additional funding to restore other facilities that are beyond the scope of our activities.
Q: What type of people might enjoy this volunteer job?
A: Anyone who enjoys outdoors and hiking is a good candidate. Also, a desire to camp out overnight in a remote area is a definite plus but many of the two-day trips can be done without the luxury of sleeping out under the stars in one of the most beautiful wild areas in the state!
Q: How may others contact your organization to volunteer?
A: The Web site is www.ventanawild.org. Click on the "Trail Crew" button on the left side of the page for more information.