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Small But Mighty: Backcountry Crews Make Big Strides on Lost Trails

Posted by Washington Trails Association at Dec 09, 2020 09:14 PM |

Our pint-size backcountry crews were able to get a lot of work done — donating over 6,000 hours of work to lost trails across the state! We want to share a few highlights from our 2020 season to give you a peek at everything these crews accomplished.

Every summer, our volunteer crews head out to the backcountry to restore fading trails as a part of our Lost Trails Found campaign. And this summer was no different! Well... aside from the fact that our usual 12-person crews had shrunk down to only six members and masks were a new essential.

Although our trips were a bit smaller this year, we were thrilled to be able to get out in the backcountry with you all thanks to our modified safety protocols. And despite their size, these pint-size crews got a lot of work done — donating over 6,000 hours of work to lost trails across the state! We want to share a few highlights from our 2020 season to give you a peek at everything these small-but-mighty backcountry crews accomplished.

A happy volunteer sits next to some recently cleared logs.
Those are some big logs! Hikers on the Bogachiel will enjoy a much easier route. Photo by WTA volunteers.

BOGACHIEL RIVER

The Bogachiel is a long, lonely trail in the northwestern reaches of the Olympic Peninsula. Meandering through a lowland river valley, the Bogachiel River trail generally stays snow-free and accessible year-round  making it a truly great choice for hikers who still want to pack on the miles during the colder months.

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Despite being next-door neighbors with the popular Hoh River trail, the Bogachiel receives a fraction of the visitation... and also a fraction of the maintenance. Surrounded by such a dense canopy, fallen trees are commonplace along the trail, and the lush rainforest understory is known to encroach on the narrow trail corridor.

We've been sending out backcountry volunteer crews (BCRTs) to address some of the maintenance backlog for years, and we were happy to continue that tradition in 2020. Back in June, we hosted an 8-day BCRT along the upper reached of the Bogachiel. Our nimble crew of six volunteers cleared an impressive 78 logs from the trail — ranging in size from a few inches to several feet in diameter!

The crew was also able to take a break from their saws and knock out some much needed brushing. They cleared back vegetation and widened the trail corridor one mile west of Hoh River junction as well as nearly three miles to the east of Flapjack camp junction. To top off their week, they even added in a few stock-friendly improvements, working along four small stream crossings to make them safer for our four legged friends.

Volunteer working on tread at Shedroof Divide.
A volunteer preps some tread along the Shedroof Divide trail. Photo by Holly Weiler.

SHEDROOF DIVIDE

On the other side of the state lies another long, lonely trail: Shedroof Divide. This highcountry backpacking route traverses some of the most spectacular scenery in the Colville National Forest, and is one of our favorites to visit. Worksite views encompass the Okanogan Highlands to the west and the spectacular Idaho Selkirks east  plus there's always a chance at seeing some of our elusive wild neighbors like moose, wolves or even woodland caribou.

Our volunteers made it out on two BCRTS to Shedroof Divide this July, tackling some much needed work along remote sections of the trail. As another hot spot for fallen trees, our volunteers focused much of their time on removing blowdowns from the trail corridor.

During these trips, the crews cleared nearly 150 fallen trees along a 4.5 mile stretch of trail near Thunder Mountain, and another 55 trees logged out near Shedroof Mountain — a huge difference for backpackers who are exhausted from climbing over and under logs! The crews also spent time clearing over 30 drain drips and repairing erosion damage to ensure a sturdy (and dry) trail surface for the upcoming season.

The North Fork Skykomish crew ready for a week of work.
The first of our Skykomish crews masked up and ready for a week in the woods! Photo by Nate Schmidt.

NORTH FORK SKYKOMISH

The North Fork Skykomish River is a destination itself, but it's also an incredible connector route. This river valley in the Central Cascades is home to one of only a few trails that lead into the wild and rugged Glacier Peak Wilderness. It's also a perfect route for creating backpacking loops with Quartz Creek or West Cady Ridge.

Up until last summer, a road washout had prevented vehicle access to the North Fork Skykomish trailhead, making it difficult for trail crews to reach deeper sections of trail. With years of under-use, the trails became overgrown and increasingly difficult to traverse. But with a new road in place, we were able to send two volunteer crews into the North Fork Skykomish valley, preparing the trails for an influx of new hikers.

In late June, our 6-person crew got an early-season start along the North Fork Skykomish trail itself addressing tread issues, repairing drains and cleaning up winter storm debris. From there, the crew navigated stream crossings and snow drifts to address some brushy sections further up, cutting back woody shrubs from the path and ensuring that hikers  and horses  could easily find the path in front of them.

In July, our second crew headed out to the Pass Creek trail, an offshoot of the North Fork Sky the connects up with West Cady Ridge. This crew had the opportunity to really work in the dirt  prioritizing projects that would help this trail stand the test of time. Over their long weekend in the woods, the crew installed 10 wooden steps to prevent erosion and constructed a new retaining wall to ensure a sturdy trail surface and minimize the chance of a future washout. Oh, and they also fixed up nearly 2 miles of drains!

Taking a break on the North Fork Skykomish.
Rest is just as important as the work! These volunteers are taking a well-earned break along their freshly graded section of trail. Photo by Jay Tarife.


We can't wait to return to the backcountry next summer and continue restoring access to these remote destinations. Thank you to all of the members and volunteers who make this work possible — we couldn't do it without you! To keep up with the latest on our Lost Trails Found campaign and to find out how you can help, head to wta.org/losttrails.

Comments

Hiking addict on Small But Mighty: Backcountry Crews Make Big Strides on Lost Trails

I know a handful of trails in need of saving in the Olympics.

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Hiking addict on Jan 26, 2021 12:23 PM