Duckabush Trail Closed, Getting Repairs
On August 31 last year, an abandoned campfire triggered a wildfire that consumed over 1,300 acres along the Duckabush Trail. The fire began at Five-Mile Camp, burning the steep slopes to the north in a patchy swath in both directions between Two-Mile Camp and up and over Big Hump.
Since last fall, the trail has been closed and the Forest Service is ready to levy fines on those who ignore the signs and hike the area. It's unknown when the trail will reopen, though it is possible that hikers will be allowed to hike as far as Five-Mile Camp at some point this summer.
To get the trail back in shape, Forest Service and Washington Trails Association trail work crews have been working to make it passable again. Over the past few weeks, WTA has put two Backcountry Response Team crews to work on the trail. The first crew did extensive logging out between Two-Mile and Five-Mile Camps. Nutmeg wrote about her experience in a May 28th Trip Report, and definitely felt the danger of "charred snags and huge fir and cedar supported only by burned roots." She spoke to the loose rock and branches coming down without any wind.
The second crew, out last week, found that conditions had improved considerably. With the snags removed by the first BCRT crew, one group of volunteers set to removing the rocks and repairing tread between Two-Mile and Big Hump. The other group of volunteers removed downed trees between Big Hump and the Olympic National Park boundary. Forest Service sawyers will need to remove the largest trees before the trail can be reopened, and a fire inspection must also be preformed.
Volunteer Mike Bonomo warns that it will be years before the slopes are stabilized enough that this section of trail will not suffer damage each winter. The area where the fire burned is extremely steep, and now lacking organic material, they are much less stable. This will cause trees and rocks to fall with regularity until mosses and plants take hold once more.
Still, there is much to see along the Duckabush. Always resilient, wildflowers have already returned. In places, the canopy has opened up and is allowing sun to reach new spaces. And a waterfall that previously could only be heard, can now be seen near a lunch stop midway up Big Hump. When the trail reopens, it will certainly be a new experience for most hikers. But please don't go there yet. We'll let you know when Olympic National Forest gives the go-ahead for hikers to return.