Rick Weber: "Over the life of Muir Valley, one of our biggest challenges was: 'Where can we put all these cars?' "
"Muir Valley's exploding popularity in the early years meant creating an adequate parking lot. At that time we built one to accommodate 40 cars. But, pretty quickly we found that on busy weekends, we had to overflow cars into our driveway leading off of this lot. And, as the number of visitors grew, it was necessary to build an overflow parking lot near the main lot. This worked for a while.
"But soon—yeah, you guessed it — on busy 3-day weekends, we filled the main and overflow lots and our driveway with over 100 cars. So, another lot was built with capacity for 20 cars in 2018."
Muir's parking area during its first year. That pop-up tent in the background was the extent of our infrastructure at that time.
Muir Valley's main parking lot in 2014 with a capacity of 32 vehicles.
Roger VanDamm, Carol and Tim Yates building a new overflow parking lot in 2014 by covering a layer of geotextile with gravel.
The first two restrooms were added to the maintenance building in 2007.
The Shelter was built in 2009 and provides meet-up and picnic functions as well as good place for training.
The 120-step stair system on the Main North Trail. Built of treated wood, steps coated with anti-slip grit, and handrails, it provides safe direct access to the Valley floor.
When it pours, the creek becomes a roaring torrent. Here a bridge that was once over 4 feet from the water level is overflowed.
Live and learn. Rick Weber built this tiny bridge in 2005—one of the first in Muir Valley—at the crossing to the Bruise Brothers wall. A few days later a flash flood hit it with the force of a freight train, and submerged it with at least a foot of fast-moving water going over... that is until it was ripped out of the ground and floated away downstream. It was also too narrow to accommodate a rescue litter and litter bearers, as we would learn later.
The high bridge near the base of the South Main Trail. Believe it or not, during a particularly spectacular flash flood in 2017, the surface of the water flowing under this bridge came within 6 inches of the bottom of the beams. Photo by Kate Gille.
Our just-completed overflow parking lot in 2014. Used climbing ropes are secured to the ground by long staple-type anchors to form the parking spaces.
Liz eagerly anticipating the opening of a new Vault toilet installed along with two others on the Valley floor in 2013
Muir Valley's almost-completed shelter pavilion. Headquarters for volunteer groups and Muir's Trail Day.
A long section of stairs down a slope too steep for foot traffic, thus preventing a significant erosion problem. (Muir has over 400 feet of staircases).
Stairs and Bridges
One of the biggest challenges to owner/managers of climbing preserves is preventing soil erosion caused by hundreds of climbers struggling with steep slopes on their way to and from the climbing walls. Too often, developers don't provide sustainable trails to their climbs, more often than not they are too steep. The simple solution would seem to be building trails less steep in grade. But, this requires longer trails that switch back and forth up the side of the approach slopes. This works great at minimizing erosion, but in many climbing areas—especially in the Red—this cannot be done due to the geological nature of the approaches.
This is where stairs come in. The supporting posts disturb only the bare minimum of soil and provide a safe, easy means to go up and down steep slopes. Muir Valley has installed hundreds of feet of stairs to accomplish the goal of minimizing erosion, and to date it has worked very well throughout Muir Valley.
Bridges were another challenge. The docile little brook that flows along the Valley floor most of the time can occasionally become a raging and frightening torrent of water. The watershed above Muir is huge, and when the rain comes faster than it can absorb into the soil, it all goes over the seven miles of cliffline and into the Valley. We learned early on (and painfully) that bridges had to be built, not for the 99 percent of the time that they cross a babbling brook, but for the real gully washers that roar through from time to time.
This is how bridges are now built in Muir. Gabion baskets filled with several tons of large rock built around pressure-treated wood pylons sunk deep into the ground. And, built wide enough so that litter bearers can carry a litter safely over a creek. Roger VanDamme, a seasoned and dedicated Muir Valley volunteer designed these and supervised the construction of many of them throughout the Valley.
The bridge near the base of the North Main Trail. Several years ago, we added a "Watch Your Step" sign as a couple copperheads had taken up residency in amongst the rocks. They come back each year. Kids named them Jake and Josie.
The meadow at the base of the Main North Trail during a flash flood August 21, 2014. The normally docile little brook can, on an occasion like this, overflow its banks.
Of course creek crossings for vehicles need to be more substantial than those for foot traffic. And, they also need to withstand the rigors of flash floods. This one, shown just after it was constructed of concrete, is located near the Solarium. It has survived several flash floods through the years.
Muir Valley's emergency road through the Valley serves a valuable function when an ambulance is needed. Fortunately these times are rare, but when they do happen, a good road for emergency vehicles can be the difference between life and death.