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Volunteers Connect the Dots on the Pacific Northwest Trail

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Oct 20, 2021 11:44 AM |

During our 2021 summer season, our volunteers worked on 11 unique sections of the Pacific Northwest Trail, working across the state to keep this oft-remote route up to national scenic trail standards.

From the snow-drenched peaks of Glacier National Park to the foggy shores of the Olympic Coast, the 1,200-mile Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) makes up the longest stretch of national scenic trail running through our state. It encompasses some of the west’s most idyllic landscapes, and some truly incredible sections of Washington's public lands.

In addition to its breathtaking scenery ... the PNT is also well-known for its occasionally rough and rugged trail conditions. Some backcountry sections of the trail have been hit with wildfire damage, washouts and overgrowth that have made them difficult for hikers to traverse, and are at risk of becoming lost. While some close-to-town sections have been seeing increased foot traffic and need smart, sustainable improvements to keep them thriving into the future.

We aimed to address some of these issues during our 2021 summer season of trail work — so our volunteer crews headed out to 11 unique sections of the Pacific Northwest Trail, connecting trail segments from across the state and keeping this route up to national scenic trail standards. 

Appleton Pass: In the northern Olympics, Appleton Pass is an idyllic backcountry destination traversing from the Olympic Hot Spring Road to the Sol Duc River. It's a favorite location to work for many of our backcountry volunteers, and there's a lot of work to be done to get this trail in shape. This summer, our BCRT crew worked between the Boulder Creek campground and up to around 3,100 feet to remove 41 fallen trees from the trail and brush back 1.7 miles of the trail to clear the corridor for hikers.

Tubal Cain: When hiking westbound, Tubal Cain is a thru hiker's first foray into the Olympics. It's a popular frontcountry spot for day hikers and backpackers alike, and our annual maintenance since 2016 has helped keep it in tip-top shape and withstand the foot traffic. This year, our volunteer crew built a new foot log across Copper Creek for safer crossing, added 12 new drains to keep the trail surface dry and benched 300 feet of trail to ensure a sturdy and wide tread.

A volunteer saws a fallen log on the trail
A volunteer saws a fallen log on the Tubal Cain trail. Photo by Scott Dallasta.

Deception Pass and Tursi Trail: Deception Pass State Park is Washington's most popular state park — and it's no surprise why. There is so much to see and do here from the rocky Puget Sound overlooks to the serene evergreen forests. And of course, it's home to a short yet bustling section of the PNT. We had several crews working throughout the park this year, one of which, our All Women BCRT, worked to improve the connection between Deception Pass and the Anacortes Community Forest Lands. The crew worked near Pass Lake and the Tursi Trail to build and improve 48 drainage dips and remove root and rock tripping hazards from the path.

Park Butte and Bell Pass: Park Butte is a highlight for many hikers within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest with epic views of Baker and magnificent berry patches, if you time it right. Our BCRT crew did some heavy water mitigation work several miles in from the Park Butte trailhead — improving 5 water bars, installing 1 new water bar, clearing out 9 drain dips and fixing up 200 feet of tread. And along the Bell Pass trail along the PNT, the crew installed 2 check steps to control erosion, cleaned up 5 drain dips, and fixed up another half mile of tread.

Celebrating the remove of some large logs around Baker Lake
Those are some big logs! Volunteers celebrate a clearer path around the Baker Lake trail after improving the rough tread caused by fallen logs. Photo by Meg Bushnell.

Baker Lake: The PNT converges with the Baker Lake trail for its 14-mile entirety, and it is a bit of a mild reprieve after coming down from the mountains. It's also a year-round backpacking destination thanks to its lower elevation location and mild winters. WTA volunteers were stationed toward the north end of the lake at Noisy Creek campground for maintenance this year, working to remove a non-functioning culvert and repair tread around a root ball just to the south. To the north, the crew worked on more tread repair and addressed damage caused by previously fallen trees.

Swift Creek: Swift Creek is a minimally maintained section of the PNT connecting the popular Lake Ann trail in the north to Baker Lake in the south. The densely vegetated river valley has some tricky river fords depending on the season, and overgrown sections can require a bit of route-finding to navigate. There's a lot of work to get done here — but our volunteers overhauled 0.6 miles of tread, installed 4 new check steps (steps built into the trail that slow down water) to prevent erosion, removed 8 fallen logs from across the trail and installed 6 new drain drips to keep the tread dry.

Hannegan Pass: This summer, we hosted over a dozen day work parties on Hannegan, along with a BCRT back in July. As a popular day hike destination and important link on the PNT, this trail gets a lot of wear and tear. The BCRT crew worked on some key projects like installing 6 new check steps to control erosion, and fixing up 2 pre-established steps. They also built and cleaned out several drainage dips and cleared out some rock tripping hazards from the trail tread.

Boundary Trail: The 80-mile Boundary Trail runs through the Pasayten Wilderness and is one of the most remote stretches of the entire PNT. Due to its remote nature and propensity for wildfire, the trail needs considerable maintenance to stay in hike-able shape. We've been sending volunteer crews into the area for years to clear out the Boundary Trail and its access trails, and this summer, our first ever backcountry pro crew enjoyed an 8-day stretch out in the Wilderness. They logged out the entirety of the Chewuch trail — a key access point that meets up with Cathedral Lakes — and a 5-mile stretch of the Boundary Trail itself between Cathedral Lakes and Tungsten Mine.

WTA's pro crew saws out a log from the Cathedral Lakes Loop
WTA's pro crew sawing logs in the Pasayten Wilderness. Photo by Kathryn Conley.

Clackamas MountainAnother remote section of the PNT, Clackamas Mountain Trail travels up to the summit of Clackamas Mountain with great views to the west. It then traverses down the north side to Cougar Creek Road. Our goal was to upgrade this stretch to the standard of a national scenic trail by improving tread and cleaning out drainage to minimize future erosion damage. The crew fixed up some of these issues along the worst problem spots, and were also able to clear 4.5 miles worth of fallen trees between the trailhead and Hunter Spring Camp.

North Fork Sullivan Creek: The entirety of North Fork Sullivan Creek is on the PNT, connecting thru hikes from the Salmo-Priest Wilderness to the town of Metaline Falls, and it is often used in conjunction with other trails in the Colville to form multi-night backpacking adventures. The trail was closed for a few seasons due to a failed bridge, and our crews are still tackling the deferred maintenance that built up on the trail during the closure. Our volunteer crew focused on the stretch of the trail between the Salmo-Priest Wilderness boundary and the junction with Crowell Ridge — clearing out fallen logs, finishing up 1,000 feet of treadwork and heavily brushing 1,500 feet to clear out a wider trail corridor.

A volunteer saws a fallen log on trail
Never not sawing on these backcountry trails! A volunteer cuts out a fallen tree from the North Fork Sullivan trail. Photo by Holly Weiler.

Jackson Creek: Jackson Creek is a lovely alternate to the official PNT and an important access point to the Shedroof Divide trail from across the border in Idaho. The trail has been facing some neglect lately, so our BCRT crew went in to tackle a bit of the maintenance backlog. Our volunteers brushed 1,150 feet of trail to reopen the trail corridor, fixed up 500 feet of tread for safer footing, constructed one new rock wall to support a failed section of trail and removed 10 fallen trees. Up past the Shedroof Divide junction, the crew even made time for another 350 feet of brushing, 250 feet of tread repair and one fallen log removal.

Thank you to our volunteers and members who made this packed summer of work possible!


abkoch on Volunteers Connect the Dots on the Pacific Northwest Trail

Correction on the Baker Lake photo. As much as I enjoyed reenacting Dr. Strangelove, we didn't cut those, FS did the logout before we got there. We repaired the tread that got taken out when those came down.

Posted by:

abkoch on Oct 21, 2021 10:21 AM