Mission Pine Ridge


Oct 2, 2014
It was my privilege two weeks ago to help clear one of the roughest and scariest trails I’ve hiked. The Mission Pine Trail is the most spectacular trail in my local haunt, the San Rafael Wilderness. I hiked the east end of this trail three years ago, three days into a weeklong backpacking trip. The trail disappeared into the brush at one point, but I was saved from becoming epically lost when I found fresh footprints and flagging where a friend had been working on the trail the previous weekend.

Since then I’ve been hoping to go back with enough manpower (or an illegal chainsaw) to make that trail safe for someone hiking through the first time. The local volunteers organized two weekend trips to this remote trail, and I was able to attend the second.

Since we were on official forest service business, we drove through the locked gates, travelled 20 miles up the fire road, and headquartered at an old ranger station.

At the locked gate

Views along the Big Pine - Buckhorn Road

We drove to the top of the ridge to start the first day's work - had to hike 3.5 miles of spectacular country first

Some bad trail


I reserved enough energy to hike back up the mountain to the cars and enjoy a meal at the ranger station prepared by our 'chefs.' It was a wonderful starry night with an 'administrative' fire and excellent fellowship. Then back out the next morning with two more fresh workers. I was moving a little slow after the previous day's work and fellowship.

Checking the data

We attacked the worst of the trail that had challenged hikers for years. Ended up 5.5 miles from the cars when we stopped to get back before dark.

Looking back at our work

Then it was back to the station where a chef-cooked meal and hot shower awaited. A very satisfying weekend.

Featured image for home page:


I walk
Jun 25, 2012
Great TR and great work maintaining our foot paths. Thank you!
Looks like that cabin has some settlement "issues", no?


Sep 17, 2014
As someone else that's put in some respectable effort clearing trails I add my thanks. On the chainsaw I am ambivalent; although I want wilderness designation in the Special Management Area near the ranch owned by some of my family most everyone else there doesn't because of the problems not EVER being able to use chainsaws with many hill and mountainsides sadly filled with beetle kill. Then there are some trails in the region I'd be happy if they were never mantained again. Being able to use chainsaws in that special management area is quite nice although arguably illegal even with Forest Service blessing.

I'd like to see the Forest Service alone able to use chainsaws in wilderness and then held accountable for actually getting something done.


Oct 2, 2014
Ha ha, the cabin looks quite crooked in that picture, but I think it's mostly my cheap camera and shaky hands. Nothing I've noticed from being inside. There are several people who take care of that cabin regularly and I haven't heard any discussions of the foundation. The hot shower is special.

The forest service never lets us use chainsaws, which miffs us because they are used in the CA national parks all the time, and we have fire and chapparal issues the NPs don't have. I'd thought this would be a good place to sneak a chainsaw because it's so remote nobody would be bothered, it had been a decade or so since the last trail project here, who knows how long until the next one, and someone could easily lose this trail and find themselves in serious trouble. In the end we had enough manpower and time that it wasn't necessary. I know of a few instances of rogue chainsaw use in the local wildernesses, and have enjoyed the results. But I haven't been part of that - it's just something we speak of wistfully over beers with sore backs.
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