24 June 2011

Washington Trails Association

A couple of months ago, I joined the Washington Trails Association. Given that I spent the majority of my "growing up" years here, loved hiking from a young age, the fact that the first year that the WTA started running trail crews was the first year I ever went backpacking, and the fact I believe in supporting grassroots programs that support things dear to my heart, it is truly shocking that it took me this long to finally sign up for a membership and a trail crew.

I won't lie, the number one shove to do so was the desire to be in the woods with a pulaski in hand, for any reason, this summer. After I had signed up for a trip on the Chancellor Creek Trail (to the East of Ross Lake) and another in the Tomyhoi Peak (near Mt Baker) area, I was so stoked that I ran around the house whooping excitedly to myself and Elli the dog. I was still hopping when I told friends about it at dinner, 2 hours later.

When the trip finally rolled around, I did get nervous, but not too awfully so: I'm plenty competent at backpacking, carrying and using tools, and am only your average amount of socially awkward; plus it was a volunteer situation. It wasn't like I could get fired, or would be scorned if I couldn't keep up with a bunch of freakishly swift and strong hikers.

Pulaski in my hand and smile on my face

Everyone turned out to be great--a good blend of personalities and backgrounds, from nursing to nuclear engineering; originally from New Jersey to originally from Mercer Island; and across the age run from 20ish to 60s-ish. Mountaineers, hikers and backpackers. Good stuff.

Our work was primarily re-establishing trail beds across slides, though we managed to get in a lot of brushing and log and rock removal as well. The trail starts at the Canyon Creek trailhead, just off of Highway 20, a few miles east of Ross Lake. I have used this trailhead for 3 different ventures now: Crater Peak, the Team I-Can't-Make-You-Love-Me-If-You-Don't 60-mile circuit hike (which is definitely worth a post), and now this trip. The branch we took cuts up into a more eastern drainage than the other hikes did, leads to the old town site of Chancellor, and provides a "shortcut" to Sky Pilot Pass. According to the Forest Service trail crew leader, Dan, who accompanied us for a day, the Chancellor Trail is the oldest trail on the district. It was used heavily by miners way back in the day, before any dams were on the Skagit River, and when the "road" upvalley from Marblemount was known as the Goat Trail. It was also the original location for the Pacific Crest Trail through these parts, before the PCT was moved over a little further east, to its current location.

The bridge at Cedar Crossing, on the way to Chancellor town site.

Fruits of our labor! The single one (in my hand) was the first one found. 
Once we believed, we found quite a few more.

                  The women!                               Old PCT Crest--been there a while

 An old mining cabin, and claim corner marker. 
Some mining claims have been grandfathered in, and are still mined today.







One of our slides, just as we began to work 




A honkin' rock: it took all five of us, in the end, to sit and push that thing off the edge. Trundling rocks down steep embankments to the river below was one of the highlights of the work.





A trail beginning to show... 






...And a trail at last!





Logs on trail...





No more logs on trail!!
The Wrecking Crew, AKA the Luckey Seven Trail Crew, because there were seven of us! 
Macken, Karen, Eric, me, Kevin. Not shown here: Mike, and the Artiste, Maria.

I had a wonderful time, and I encourage you to sign up for a WTA trail crew, or membership, or both, if this is your corner of the country. This trip was what is known as a Backcountry Response Trip, but there are lots of front-country, single-day trail crew outings, if hauling yourself into the backcountry is not something you're interested in or able to do. If trail maintenance is not your thing, but you'd like to support the preservation of Washington's trails, then a membership is an easy way to help. Here is a list of 2011s trail work schedule.

Many thanks to Mike Torok, the WTA crew leader, who led us, and whose photographic talents are shown here in all of the crew photos, that is, the last 7. More of Mike's photos and crazy adventures can be found at http://mtnmike.com/