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Re: Cobblestones

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avatar Cobblestones
July 06, 2014 09:07PM
I'm hoping to get an answer from someone who knows horses and/or Yosemite history better than I do. On the trails that climb out of Yosemite Valley, the steepest stretches usually have something like steps. In some places, though, instead of steps that are more or less level on top, there'll be a ramp-like arrangement paved with sloping stones like these:



I've noticed these especially on the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail (where that ^ picture was taken) but there are also a few ramps like that on the Four Mile Trail. Cobblestones with the usual sprinkling of gravel are hideously slippery for hikers so I kept wondering why the trail builders would have used them. I've come up with a possible answer but I thought I'd get a few more opinions:

Horses?

From what I've read, I get the impression that when those trails were built, more people rode up and down them than walked. It seems to me that a horse might be able to lodge the edges of its hoofs in the gaps between the stones and maintain pretty good traction that way, but I know very little about how horses actually walk. How about it -- could those cobblestone ramps have been built with horses in mind, and would they work well for horses now? Better than for hikers, at least?
avatar Re: Cobblestones
July 07, 2014 07:05AM
I do know that the powers that be were trying to decide if they should make
stock and hiking trails separate. In the end they decided to make the trails
suitable for both stock and foot travel. Granite is very durable... so the
trail has been "paved" as such in many areas. Classic example like this
is the trail up out of Merced Lake up Lewis Creek.
After decades the rocks get polished like that with soooo much traffic...
and you end up with a painful... and quite honestly... very dangerous surface
to walk on.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Cobblestones
July 07, 2014 10:06AM
It's called riprap and you'll find it along many trails in Yosemite and beyond. Frankly, I prefer riprap to the loose jagged-yet-round-and-still-moves rocks they put on the High Sierra Trail as you get into the Kern river canyon and I believe we saw it again near Forester Pass a few years ago. The rocks are pointy, and since they are not fixed in place, move. Prime areas to sprain ankles, in my opinion, and seriously tiring to walk on. I'm not sure what they were thinking. We were hoping that they were unfinished sections of trail that would be "filled in" but we visited those sections a few years apart and they were still sharp jiggly rocks. I have no idea what they call that kind of trail surface!
avatar Re: Cobblestones
July 07, 2014 01:23PM
Quote
JustKeepWalking
It's called riprap and you'll find it along many trails in Yosemite and beyond. Frankly, I prefer riprap to the loose jagged-yet-round-and-still-moves rocks they put on the High Sierra Trail as you get into the Kern river canyon and I believe we saw it again near Forester Pass a few years ago. The rocks are pointy, and since they are not fixed in place, move. Prime areas to sprain ankles, in my opinion, and seriously tiring to walk on. I'm not sure what they were thinking. We were hoping that they were unfinished sections of trail that would be "filled in" but we visited those sections a few years apart and they were still sharp jiggly rocks. I have no idea what they call that kind of trail surface!

You missed this:
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,71757,71991#msg-71991

What a pain. I know you are doing the JMT soon... and I will be thinking of you heading up Mather.
Just... Keep... Walking... (and try not to swear too much)
smiling smiley

Have fun



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Cobblestones
July 07, 2014 10:51AM
Since first setting foot on the Mist Trail several years ago,
I've been fascinated about the hiking trails in Yosemite.
Who built them, how many people were involved, what
equipment did they use, etc. Last September, I went
to the Ansel Adams Gallery and asked some guru for
any written info on the subject. He knew of none in
print form. The quest continues.
avatar Re: Cobblestones
July 07, 2014 01:26PM
Most were installed by the army for patrol purposes in the early days of the park. Additions were made during the depression and now most of the trail work is for maintenance.



Old Dude
avatar Re: Cobblestones
July 07, 2014 01:30PM
AD,

http://www.nps.gov/yose/historyculture/lindagreene.htm

Volume 1. Pg. 77 and on

Good stuff (if you like that kinda stuff)



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Cobblestones
July 07, 2014 01:39PM
Quote
AnotherDave
Since first setting foot on the Mist Trail several years ago,
I've been fascinated about the hiking trails in Yosemite.
Who built them, how many people were involved, what
equipment did they use, etc....

You've probably already found most of these but I thought I'd list them anyway:

-- Near the Four Mile Trailhead on Southside Drive, and I think also near the bottom of the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, is a display with a picture of James McCauley, John Conway, and a nine-man trail crew taking a lunch break. I found the same picture on p. 94 of The Yosemite Grant 1864-1906 (I got my copy at the Conservancy bookstore next to the Valley Visitor Center).

-- Conway himself mentions some details here, about 3/4 of the way down the page.

-- There's a little more about McCauley, Conway, and trails here and here. I found those by Googling on [john conway yosemite].

-- NPS lists what they officially know about the Four Mile and UYF trails here and here. I'd take some of the "info" there with a grain of salt. "Motorized Equipment" indeed! tongue sticking out smiley

-- A couple of years ago I visited the research library (upstairs in the Museum building, if I remember correctly). The librarian was very helpful and handed me a thick folder of clippings about Conway. I photographed some of the items but I don't have the pics on this computer. I think it was Conway's obituary that described how his sons used to scramble "like lizards" over the rocks when they were helping him lay out the trail.

-- Last year (May and June) I saw a modern-day trail crew at work on the stretch of the Four Mile that's just below Union Point. I'm sure some of the techniques they were using had evolved far beyond 1872 technology...





...but the stonework they were doing in the same area looked just like the vintage 1872 (or at least 1920s) stuff:



(I wrote a tiny bit more about those "zipline" pictures here.)

I'm sure there's lots more out there. If anyone comes across it, please let me know.
avatar Re: Cobblestones
July 07, 2014 06:39PM
Often those "steps" were water bars at one time. They were to guide water off the trail but over time created a waterfall on the downhill side of the bar and the erosion created a step. Water bars have gone out of favor and various kinds of trail armaments are being used. Puncheon, wood or rock, have been successful in slowing down erosion of the trail.
Re: Cobblestones
July 07, 2014 07:04PM
Chick-on & Gopher,

Thanks for all the heavy info. Once again, this forum comes through.
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