Late Season Trail Work Progress

Stephanie Wright - Trail Crew Leader

PP16- Trail Crew spent the first hitch (8/9-8/18) of our back to back time at Fish Lake working on trails 39, 263, and 465, to the junction of North Moose Creek. We cleared 316 trees (not including USFS crew) cleaned 80 drains, brushed 2 miles of trail and rocked 3 miles of trail and 700 feet of re-tread. We also spent the last day of the first hitch clearing trail 211 from Fish Lake Cabin towards McConnell Mountain.

Trail 263/465 could use approximately 2 miles of on-and-off re-tread. Everything is passable, but the trail itself is uneven and slowly creeping downward. It is also slightly brushy… another thing a crew could do out there if they finished the re-tread.

PP17- Our second hitch (8/21-8/29) we cleared 211 from Fish Lake Cabin to McConnell Mountain (trails 213, 60, 211) After finishing that loop we worked 3 miles up 917. There were 139 trees total, 50 of them were in one blow down above wag meadows. Hiking a total of 66.5 miles and rocking 3 miles of trail. The trail was lost hiking north down McConnell Mountain—retread would help with that (it’s also an old burn, and a secondary trail).

ICT Work @ Marble Creek

Hitch #4 Blog Post by AJ Baeseman - 2016 Wilderness Ranger Intern

On a hot, sunny day in July, volunteers and SBFC members met up in Yellow Pine to take on the most famous section of the Idaho Centennial Trail, Marble Creek. Everyone had different motives for giving their time off to do work improving our trails; some were avid ICT hikers trying to make the trail more accessible, others to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the RIver of No Return, and others still who just love to roll up their sleeves and move some logs.

Lida Wise, Payette Lead Steward (above), lining out the plans for the week with the crew.

During the week, our fantastic packers, Bill and Joe, shuttled our kitchen and extra gear to our camp. A few volunteers even got to work on their horsemanship skills.

 

Bill shows Hannah some riding skills. The most technical and strenuous work, however, started about 6 miles in when the crew collided with the renowned marble creek log jam. A combination of beaver architecture and avalanche behavior, the log jam was a formidable obstacle for both hikers and trail dogs alike.

Bill shows Hannah some riding skills.

The most technical and strenuous work, however, started about 6 miles in when the crew collided with the renowned marble creek log jam. A combination of beaver architecture and avalanche behavior, the log jam was a formidable obstacle for both hikers and trail dogs alike.

Lida and Dave assessing the situation on the far side of the jam The very real challenge when dealing with log jams is that everything is connected. Moving one log has consequences that can be far reaching and interfere with the disposal of other logs, or even create more danger for the crews working there. Every cut made has to be carefully thought through, and even when you have the perfect plan, proper execution can be challenging. Trees can be very heavy and unpredictable.

Lida and Dave assessing the situation on the far side of the jam

The very real challenge when dealing with log jams is that everything is connected. Moving one log has consequences that can be far reaching and interfere with the disposal of other logs, or even create more danger for the crews working there. Every cut made has to be carefully thought through, and even when you have the perfect plan, proper execution can be challenging. Trees can be very heavy and unpredictable.

A hard earned lunch time Everyone put a huge amount of effort into making Marble Creek a better trail, and for that we thank you! However, there still is a lot more work to be done and Lida will be returning with another group of volunteers in late August to try and finish what we have started (some brave souls are returning for the second trip!)  

A hard earned lunch time

Everyone put a huge amount of effort into making Marble Creek a better trail, and for that we thank you! However, there still is a lot more work to be done and Lida will be returning with another group of volunteers in late August to try and finish what we have started (some brave souls are returning for the second trip!)

 

Smiles for Miles

Hitch #5 Blog Post by Jesse Bergeson - Powell Trails Liaison

The Selway intern crew spent their final field days working the beautiful Walton Lakes Trail.  We are happy to report that the trail is clear from the Walton Lake TH all the way to Savage pass.  They were lucky to have beautiful fall-like weather while they cleared fallen trees in this lovely (unburned) area.  

The crew was not alone as they enjoyed warm sun, they also witnessed a marmot defend his rock crag home with high pitched chirps and warning calls.  The lakes are a popular overnight trip or day hike for fishing.

Huckleberries can still be found if you know where to look, with some green ones still on their way to sweetness.  

Get out and explore the area during this great time of year!

A Legacy of Self Reliance

Hitch #4 Blog Post by Lida Wise - Payette Lead Steward

As far as the eye can see for 360 degrees -- mountains.  Not a single road or roof in sight.  Standing on top of Lookout Mountain in the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, I slowly spin around and around, soaking it all in.  I’ve had a tough past couple days, and this vista was just what I needed to reaffirm my desire to be out here.  I remind myself, Wilderness is not supposed to be easy.  If it wasn’t challenging at times, it would not be wild.  And that’s exactly one of my reasons for coming out here - to overcome the challenging times so I know how strong I can be.  I lay under a pine, close my eyes, and listen to the soothing sound of the wind in the needles.  The breeze is a welcome respite on a hot day.  I watch a cloud shift shapes - just a bunch of dust particles rolling around itself.   These simplicities bring me back to center.  I am content.

Later, we fix dinner on the remains of a fire lookout tower.  Who lived here before?  What was their story?  More than ever before in my life, I feel a part of a legacy.  With no signs of recent human activity and very rare visitor contact, we are always surprised to come across such permanent-seeming signs from the past quickly vanishing back into scree and soil.  Besides the old concrete lookout foundation, we come across telephone insulators, rusty tin cans, an old game of horseshoes.  Humans have forged into remote rugged areas for years before I’ve been around, and it hasn’t been easy.  I like to think that I am continuing the legacy of self-reliance in Wilderness.  Like the lookout who occupied this mountaintop before me, I am living devoid of modern communication, technology-dependent entertainment, and easy access to food and water.  It is not always a stroll through a green grassy park - sometimes the trail is steep and hot and dusty and you take it one grudging step at a time.  But inevitably, you emerge a more resilient individual, more capable of appreciating simple things, and with a respect for the legacy of self-reliance in the Wilderness.

Warm Springs to Grave Peak back to Saturday Ridge

Hitch #4 Blog Post by Eric Schweitzer - Fenn/Moose Creek Trail Liaison

For Hitch three I joined the four Nez/Clear Interns to work from the Warm Springs Trailhead, towards Grave Peak, and loop back around on “Saturday Ridge” Trail #89 through “Warm Springs Pass” and back to the trailhead. You can never be sure what a work rotation will hold for you. How many trees will there be? Will we have mostly digging to do? Did I bring enough food? Are three packs of Ramen healthy for an average adult? I don’t know! Our base-camp was located in a prime spot, used by an outfitter, and was a treat to be at for three nights. There were many downed trees on the trail; beetle-killed, burned, and some from wind events which made our work difficult at times.

With such a high volume of trees we were all able to improve our skills with Cross-cut saws and axes. Calle enjoyed using a double-bit ax she took to calling “Lucy”, Mickey and Mark were an effective team clearing trees with the saw, and Dani was able to move large logs without needing to cut them using lifting techniques she uses in the gym. We were moving well through our time to Grave Peak and enjoyed a night at Wind Lake looking up at the Look-out. I was able to put my fly-fishing rod together and through the clouds of mosquitoes caught a nice Cut-throat Trout. After that we continued to hit large sections of downed-trees on the trail and eventually had to walk over 78 logs after working our full time. It’s always an experience to be out in the Wilderness and even if we didn’t get all of the trees we still got 1,076 off the trail. See you out on the dusty trail!

 

2 Miles, 6 Days & 900 Trees later....................

Hitch #4 Blog Post by Calle Ries - SBFC Wilderness Ranger Intern

As we first approached the trailhead of the Swamp Creek Trail 22, we had no idea what was in store for us. It was just the four of us; Jesse, our trail crew leader, Mark, one of the ranger interns, Kelley, our ambitious volunteer who was coming out on hitch with us, and myself. When we first saw the beginning of the trail we knew that we were going to be cutting a lot of trees, but we couldn’t guess just how many there would be.

During our six days of clearing Trail 22, we covered 2 miles and cut out around 900 trees from the trail. It was slow going the first few days, and we could hardly walk for 30 steps before we approached the next jumble of trees. On the bright side, at the end of the day when we walked back through the trail we had just cleared, it was a shocking difference to see how nice of a trail it was. There was a certain sense of accomplishment felt when we could enjoy the trail we had put our blood, sweat, and tears into clearing, and, in my opinion, that’s one of the most rewarding feelings.

On the third day of the hitch, we saw a fire start up that was only on the other side of the ridge right next to us. We saw the smoke plume get bigger as the days went on, and by the last day the entire sky was filled with smoke. We were never in danger from the fire, but for me, I felt a sense of awe at being so close to this wildfire. It turned the sun a strange orange hue, and it was as if we were in a perpetual golden hour, or some kind of apocalyptic world. Luckily, between the smoke and the heat, the insects were mostly kept at bay besides some flies that pestered us a good while. The fire definitely added an interesting element, and it made my experience richer and just that much wilder.

All in all, it was a fantastic hitch and we put in a lot of good work. Our volunteer Kelley was a hard worker and helped us get to our lofty total tree count.  Kelley made the hitch that much more enjoyable! I hope that whoever goes out on that trail next is able to enjoy the scenery and the wildflowers as much as I did, with a clear trail hike on.

Huckleberries & High Spirits - Nez-Pearce/Clearwater NF

Hitch #3 - Blog Post by Mark Vandlik - SBFC Wilderness Ranger Intern

Despite a shaky start, the 3rd Hitch went smoothly for the ranger interns working in the Nez-Pearce/Clearwater National Forest.  Inundated with heavy rain and crashing thunder on our hike in, the first night was a rather wet one.  Despite waterlogged boots, however, the crew's spirits remained high and the weather eventually shaped up.  Interns Danilo “Mickey” Figueroa, Dani Jones, Calle Ries, and Mark Vandlik hit the Warm Springs (Jerry Johnson) Trail #49 with Moose Creek Trails Liaison, Eric Schweitzer.

Our plan was to clear the trail in a loop from the junction of Warms Springs Trail #49 and Wind Lakes Trail #24, up to Wind Lakes, along Saturday Ridge (Tr. #89), and back down the Warm Springs Trail— a total trip of around eighteen miles.  The going was rather slow with a lot of downed trees and several stream crossings, but we eventually made our way up to Wind Lakes, battling bloodthirsty mosquitoes and nettlesome no-see-ums all the while.  The ladies on the crew decided to forgo the bites and instead donned black funeral veils, adding a somber tone to the days’ work.  That evening made up for all the trouble, as we watched the sunlight slowly recede along the rock face above Wind Lake’s seemingly out of character placid waters; casting our flies to rising cutthroat in the shadow of the old Grave’s Peak lookout, made famous by Missoula’s Norman Mclean who stood atop the point back in 1919. 

After climbing out of the lake and taking to the high country, the bugs subsided enough to allow us to gorge ourselves on the prevalent huckleberries in relative peace.  And so we ended our hitch fat and happy, just like the black bears we shared the trail with.  In the end, we weren’t able to finish the entire assigned task, but our work was admirable as it opened up that much more beautiful territory to be enjoyed by our fellow lovers of wilderness.  

 

Clearing Blodgett post Microbursts

July 14-17 was spent getting the Blodgett Trail cleared.  A series of microbursts left a multitude of downed trees in tricky jacksaw configurations that required a ton of limbing and site clean-up before any good assessment of how the trees could be cut and moved could be done.  The project went well, thevolunteers had fun, but the work was tough going.  We were able to cut about 1.25 miles of trail beyond the campsite at 7-mile meadow.  Four saw teams cut 151 trees, many of which were in the 35-40 inch diameter range.  That said, they had some dynamic trees that moved a lot when cut and quite a few root balls that stood up with quite a bit of tree trunk still attached.  With safety and caution a priority we completed the project in good shape. 

Hikers who came from the Elk Summit/Big Sand Lake area in Idaho said the blowdown continues to the junction of trails 19 and 310 with a considerable amount of blowdown over in Idaho as well.  The hikers estimated that there are about 300 more trees down on the trail between where we finished and Blodgett Pass.

We are moving hitches around to focus on getting Blodgett cleared which means other trails will be left for another year.