Last chance: See Glen Canyon’s Outback Trail before it’s Tamed

If you love the secret, twisty mysterious Outback Trail that runs along the west side of the creek in Glen Canyon, this would be a good time to see it. The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department is just about to start improving it, to make it the lower end of the “Creeks to Peaks” trail that will go up to Twin Peaks. It’s going to be a lot less adventurous experience – more like the existing trail on the other side of the creek. A lot of the branches that have to be climbed over or ducked under will be gone.

We think it’s a bit like widening and paving a narrow country road to make a 2-lane highway; it’ll be easier to use but a lot less charming.

For a story from the Glen Park News, which supports the changes, detailing what’s planned over the next 15 months, click HERE. (They call it, for some reason, the ‘Banana Slug Trail’ though we’ve always heard it called the Outback Trail or the Secret Trail.)

In brief:

  • Some 32 trees will be removed, including many of the twisty willows.
  • The trail will be regraded and compacted.
  • Retaining walls will be added on both sides of the trail (steel posts, plank walls)
  • A bridge across the creek, with concrete pylons, and railings.

THE OUTBACK TRAIL NOW

We went by there at dusk recently. A lot of undergrowth has been cleared since we first visited it perhaps three years ago, making it much more exposed than before. Nevertheless,  it was magical.

through low tree tunnels

Trees arched right over the trail, which wound beside the creek. In some places, they looked almost like a maze.

spiral grove

This is the Darlene Tree; someone inscribed the name of their beloved on it.

daphne tree

twisty tree

This one’s called the Whomping Willow (Harry Potter fans will get the reference!). Sadly, it may be under threat of removal. SFRPD will try “heavy pruning” first. That probably means most of the trunks and branches will be gone even if some of the tree is left.

whomping willow

whomping willow sign

This is the Rainbow Tree, and it’s being removed.

rainbow tree

rainbow tree sign

This is the beam crossing the creek. It’s going to be replaced with a bridge with concrete pylons and a boardwalk.

beam bridge over the creek

THEY’RE TRYING

Back in January 2012, when the San Francisco Forest Alliance first learned of the plan to remove nearly all the willows, we created a map of the trail and trees in an effort to save them. We think that SFRPD is actually trying to preserve some of these trees, though without the horizontal branches that give the path its character. In response to a query, Karen Mauney-Brodek said, “Please also note that we are attempting to prune rather than remove trees whenever possible and will have our contractor retain a taller than usual trunk for the “ticket tree” unless trunk decay is determined to be a hazard to children and trail users.”

The beloved quirky trees of Glen Canyon Park

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