Working Is the Habit of a Lifetime : At 83, He Makes a Rocky Trail Smooth

Community Correspondent

Clifton McBride paused briefly to adjust the light blue cap covering his full head of white hair. He wiped his brow with the sleeve of an Izod warm-up suit and started back to work, pushing a heavy rake back and forth across the pea-sized gravel covering a narrow path.

McBride, 83, has been maintaining this trail for four years. “I’ve raked this trail from one end to the other four different times besides doing regular repair work,” he said, as dust from the churned gravel curled around the walking shoes he has had re-heeled three times.

The foot trail begins at Crest and Highridge roads and runs about 200 feet past homes in various stages of construction until it links with a wider city trail beneath bluffs overlooking the Pacific. The two trails add up to a two-mile hike, according to the pedometer McBride always wears on his right hip, and he maintains the entire stretch. He walks the trail two or three times a week and says he gets a sense of satisfaction knowing he is largely responsible for its upkeep.

And nothing makes him angrier than to see the results of anything heavier than foot traffic on the trail.


Tractors Scar Trail

“Those doggone tractors just cut the dickens right out of it,” he said. It’s left to him to fill in the tracks with his rake and shovel.

His 28 great-grandchildren call the path “Papa’s Trail,” and McBride’s careful maintenance is a labor of love. He began walking the trail when he and his 78-year-old wife, Vida, bought a condominium at Highridge and Crest 5 1/2 years ago. Worried that he might stumble on the rock-strewn path, he began tossing the stones to the side. It wasn’t long before he began shoveling dirt into potholes.

His latest effort has been to haul gravel in paper sacks from a leftover construction mound 70 yards away to fill in a spot at the trail head frequently made muddy by landscape watering.


“I put three shovels full in each sack and made more than 30 round trips,” he said. “I needed to have something else to do.”

Way to Stay Active

McBride said a doctor’s tests show he has the physical stamina of a conditioned 60-year-old, but it wasn’t the doctor’s advice that put him on the trail. After a lifetime in the construction and plating businesses, he needed to stay active, said McBride, who described the trail maintenance program as “purely selfish.”

But his efforts are appreciated by the homeowners whose property abuts the trail.


“I think its fabulous, because there’s just all kinds of stuff all over the trail and nobody does anything about it,” said JoAnn Anderson, who moved into a new home along the trail five months ago. “The city is supposed to maintain it but they don’t. He does.”

The city schedules a heavy-equipment crew to clean up the trail every six months, said Kevin Smith, who works in Rancho Palos Verdes’ Public Works Department. Beyond that, anything residents do to keep the trail easement maintained is appreciated, he said, “because we are stretched” financially. Abutting property owners are charged for trail maintenance once a year on their property tax bills, Smith said.

Came From Idaho

Walking the picturesque trail under a cloudless vault of blue recently gave McBride time to reminisce as he tossed aside a few more meddlesome rocks. He came to Los Angeles in 1926, a 24-year-old Idaho farm boy who needed work. He and a brother-in-law had crossed more than 1,000 miles of unpaved road in a Model T. McBride found a job building oil-derrick foundations and never went back to Idaho for more than a visit.


“I can’t take the cold weather, he said, looking off toward Santa Catalina Island. “If I ever leave here, I’ll go farther south.”

As unofficial keeper of the trail, McBride has killed two rattlesnakes while on maintenance patrol; one he gouged to death with a stick and the other he crushed with a large rock. He has moved boulders as well as small stones. He has picked up trash and concealed larger debris in stands of cactus growing on the the slope beneath the path.