Marty, normally the septic project foreman, had an interesting trail project for us that lasted about a week. There was an old discontinued trail that needed to be put to bed, or returned back to its natural state. Old trails could not simply be abandoned and forgotten because as long as the old trail broke the contour, it disrupted the natural drainage down the hillside. Erosion problems would be amplified as long as the old trail remained.
We hiked up past the High Sierra Camp, turned left, and started down the ol’ Rafferty Trail. Right before we got down to the meadow, Marty took us off trail for a few yards to a very faint, largely overgrown trail. This old trail looked familiar to me. I turned around and looked back toward the Rafferty Trail. I knew what this was! This was that old trail I had found coming back down from Rafferty Peak! I had thought it was an old cavalry trail, but it wasn’t nearly that old. It was the reroute attempt around Rafferty Meadow to solve the rutting problem.
Trail dismantling was pretty easy, but requires close attention to detail. When a trail is built, a flat walking surface is dug out of the hillside. When a trail in dismantled, the hillside’s contour is simply restored. The uphill and downhill edges of the trail are broken down and smoothed back into the hillside. Any rockwork such as water bars are torn out and the rocks randomly scattered.
If the dismantling stopped right there, the trail right of way can still be noticed if you are looking hard enough. The right of way still needed to be replanted with native flora. We would go at least ten or fifteen yards off the right of way to find a healthy plant and dig it up, making sure we kept the root system as intact as possible. Then we replanted it in the old trail right of way. This took a careful eye, too. You couldn’t just plop plants in the ground right down the old right of way. The man-made straight line of the trail had to be broken up and camouflaged. That meant the plants had to be scattered enough across the right of way that it would be impossible to see the faintest outline of the old trail. All that time I spent in high school studying camouflage finally paid off!
When we finished, it was impossible to tell where the old trail had gone. I might have been the last hiker ever to have used that old reroute—my claim to fame!