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Signature Project: Quartz Creek

Huge old growth trees, cascades of clear water pouring over orange-tinged bedrock, cool blue swimming holes all make the Quartz Creek trail in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest special. But until now, the trail has been a mess of hundreds of blowdowns. In 2011, WTA teamed up with the Forest Service to restore the trail and bring hikers back to the Dark Divide Roadless Area.

The Quartz Creek drainage was spared during the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, leaving it a cool and lush old growth corridor that is pocketed with waterfalls and certain solitude. The Douglas-firs and western red

Quartz Creek trail problems
WTA volunteers and Forest Service crews have been tackling the hundreds of trails down over the Quartz Creek trail in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Photo by Ryan Ojerio.
cedars on the Quartz Creek Trail are some of the largest in the western Cascades. Cascades of clear water pour over orange-tinged bedrock, filling cool blue swimming holes. This trail is an entry-way for the Dark Divide Roadless Area - luxurious, deep forest that is worthy of wilderness status.

Before WTA's Trail Work

While the trees and the setting are glorious, the same cannot be said for the trail. Years had gone by with minimal trail maintenance, leaving hundreds of trees down over the trail - many of them huge. For a long time, the Quartz Creek trail has been more like a crawl than a hike.

A few hearty hikers have attempted the route. WTA Trip Reporter "jaxflyfish" wrote in 2009, "While this was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been, please be aware that this is more like traversing a jungle gym with your backpack than it is a hike." He noted that the trail "was virtually impassable" and estimated more than 400 trees over the trail.

Enter Washington Trails Association

Quartz Creek volunteers sawing
Volunteers log out the Quartz Creek trail. Photo by Ryan Ojerio.
Beginning in 2011, WTA teamed up with the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to embark on a three-year effort to restore the trail. The Forest sent out a crew with chainsaws to cut out trees in the first 3.5 miles. Then WTA hosted a weekend work party followed by two Backcountry Response Teams to improve the tread, brush the trail and buck out some of the trees that the Forest Service crew didn't get to within the first 4.5 miles.

Still a few huge trees remain that were too big for our team's skills and equipment, and the rest of the trail beyond Snagtooth Creek is still a mess. The Forest Service crew had hoped to get farther, but were called away to fire duty this summer. Next year we'll team up again and push even further into the heart of the Dark Divide.

Further down the road we're looking forward to working with the Forest Service to replace a failing foot bridge at Platinum Creek and to provide a safe way to cross un-bridged Straight Creek at mile post 2.

>> Hike Quartz Creek
>> More about WTA's Signature Projects for 2011

WTA's trail work at Quartz Creek is funded in party by a generous grant from the South Gifford Pinchot Resource Advisory Committee through Title II of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.