Archive for May 8th, 2022

RECOVERING A TRAIL

May 8, 2022

The first time I saw Winberry Divide Trail on a work party, a year ago, it was hot, and we had to start clearing brush in the first ten feet in order to walk any further. I couldn’t imagine why anybody would want to work on this trail or who even knew the trail was out here.  We cut out logs and worked our way up the trail with power brushers to remove growth coming in over the trail,  and about two feet on either side of the trail, slow going in the heat,. We cleared about half a mile and then returned. Not much to see. 

The very beginning of Winberry.

We came back the following week, finished power brushing the mile of the trail to where it crossed the Forest Service road we had parked on down below. We walked back down the road to the cars, rather than taking the trail, so we could cut out the numerous trees that had fallen and were blocking the road, because the next time we came we were going to drive up the road to the second part of the trail.

Opening up the road.

That following week, two of us drove to the top of the passable road, where the second part of the trail ended and where the third part of the trail began.  While we did that, others used power brushers from below and we worked our way down, cutting out logs that some cutters had cut part way through and then had left.  That’s not good form and at the least should be flagged as a hazard with colorful tape, which was not done.

The trail went right through there. Now it does again.

Several weeks later, because in summer our priority is cutting out logs in higher elevation wilderness areas, we started doing some tread work. When fall came, and the high country was getting snow, we continued the tread work on Winberry, removing plant material on the side, throwing the soil well off the trail, and recovering what had once been a well graded path that had had some love years ago.

By December, we were ready to tackle the top part of the trail, 1.2 miles, climbing several hundred vertical feet to a ridge between the Winberry and the Lookout Point reservoir drainages. We had logged it out; we now needed to power brush the whole trail and then do tread work on all six thousand feet of it. We worked in a snow drizzle using multiple pairs of gloves each day, digging, getting on our knees to pull out Salal and some Oregon grape, and we worked the tread more than a yard wide as we moved up the ridge. I was one of two who power brushed the whole trail.  After we finished, we then continued to improve the tread, refurbish some steps that were abandoned in 2007, leaving only at a root wad hole and a spot where the trail needed to be rerouted to be future work. I learned on Wiinberry how important good rain gear is for trail work.

Tailgate session at the bottom of the third part of the trail

At this point, the Crew got a big thanks on social media from a contingent of mountain bikers who were thrilled someone was recovering the trail.  I never mountain biked, but I was a 60K + miler roadie, so I know the importance of having good routes to put spoked wheels on. Winberry would be a beautiful trail to ride.

Steve power brushing the trail
After we put rocks in the holes of the steps that were first placed in 2007
Completion

In April, I led a four member crew to the ridge from the reservoir side and we power brushed the mile stretch that formed part of the E2C—Eugene to Pacific Crest Trail.  Two weeks later, I led a hike with the Club to show what 13 visits to a trail (12 of those visits I was on) can do. Hikers occasionally need to see what kind of work goes into a trail, for falling trees and encroaching brush don’t disappear without some work by someone. Four days later and 20 degrees cooler, much wetter, five of us drove up the road, around the bushes that pushed out over the grade, through large puddles, now able to avoid cut stumps that once almost took out one of my headlights, in order to tackle the root wad hole and make the trail safer.  We worked in rain and mud, using cut logs or rounds to support a series of three retaining logs, one we found that used to line the trail but was no longer relevant there; the other two came from a nearby tree.  We filled in the holes with rock that we found 100 yards or more away and had to be towed with a rope to the work area, lowered down a hill in a bucket, or hand carried near the trail and passed off to another. The trail looks great now. We still have work to do, but it is now safe to hike, in a pretty woods, especially higher up, and doesn’t get a lot of use. 

I love the rock wall near the top of the trail, a place that stays cool in summer, has a covering of almost turquoise moss in places, and where the trail is by necessity narrow with a drop off into a small ravine.

The rock wall

I look forward to the time when we can add a switchback to the trail to avoid a steep spot that when wet is difficult to negotiate when wet and will lead to erosion. I went by spots where I ate lunch, lying on my back and looking up at the trees and sky while I rested. And now I can add the root wad repair to my list of places on the trail where I spent hours one day and learned about the trail by seeing, smelling, and touching, and when mud splattered, by tasting.

The author on his knees working on the second part of the trail.