Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Fog rolls up Temescal Canyon, creeping up a ridge where a state parks trail crew has set up a spike camp along the Backbone Trail in Pacific Palisades.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Ruben Armstrong, 21, left, and Jean Luke Tabarez, 20, cut through overgrown brush along the eroded Backbone Trail in Pacific Palisades.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

The crew heads off to work along the Backbone Trail in Pacific Palisades.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Irvin Centeno catches a nap in camp after a morning of trail repair in Topanga State Park. "This work brings me a lot of peace of mind," Centeno said. "It gets me away from where I live."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

In back, Irvin Centeno, Ruben Armstrong and Jean Luke Tabarez repair an eroded section along the Backbone Trail in Pacific Palisades. The trio from urban L.A. have traded the streets for trees, chaparral and overnight camp-outs.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Jean Luke Tabarez pauses for a drink of water on a warm day while repairing an eroded section of the Backbone Trail.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Jean Luke Tabarez throws cleared brush into a canyon while repairing an eroded section of the Backbone Trail.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Jean Luke Tabarez walks back to camp after clearing overgrown brush along the eroded Backbone Trail.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Irvin Centeno walks back to camp after clearing overgrown brush along the eroded Backbone Trail in Pacific Palisades. Centeno and his trail mates labor outdoors from dawn to dusk, breaking to eat and rest in temporary overnight camps. They rise in time to hit the trail by 6:30 a.m. and knock off 10 hours later, earning not quite $10 an hour.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Irvin Centeno pauses while walking his dog along Pico Boulevard near his home in urban Los Angeles. Centeno recently completed 200 hours of community service, a consequence of a tagging escapade. "I was caught red-handed," he said.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Back in Mid-City, Centeno and his dog, Ruby, make the neighborhood rounds.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Irvin Centeno helps his mother Vicenta Lopez prepare dinner. Centeno had been with L.A. Conservation Corps, he is now working for California State Parks repairing trails.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Irvin Centeno walks out of an art supply store along Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. He used to be a troublemaker on the streets of L.A. Then he discovered the rugged life of trail work and found a path to fulfillment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

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Young crew member gains perspective working on the Backbone Trail

By Martha Groves

Irvin Centeno’s tagger friends would hardly know what to make of him on the Backbone Trail.

Wearing a hat, bandanna and sunglasses to protect against the blistering sun, he used a power hedger to mow down yards of buckwheat and smilo grass crowding the path. Hours earlier and miles away, above Chicken Ridge Bridge, he and two other California State Parks workers had bent over shovel, mattock and rake hoe to dislodge years’ accumulation of parched soil to fill a rut carved by mountain bikers and rainwater.

It’s grinding work, especially for a recovering troublemaker who grew up glued to his Xbox, snacking on bacon-wrapped hot dogs.

Like the uniformed Civilian Conservation Corps workers of the Great Depression, Centeno and his trail mates labor outdoors from dawn to dusk, breaking to eat and rest in temporary overnight camps. They rise in time to hit the trail by 6:30 a.m. and knock off 10 hours later, earning not quite $10 an hour.

Some early recruits couldn’t hack it. They complained about the heat, the food, the work and the overnight spike camp accommodations, and they didn’t stick around.

Centeno, 22, wasn’t one of them. “This work brings me a lot of peace of mind,” he said. “It gets me away from where I live.”

See Martha Groves’ story: New vantage point

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