But it’s all right now
I learned my lesson well
You see, you can’t please everyone
So you got to please yourself

(Ricky Nelson)

Last spring, the Crew cleared Separation Lake Trail to Separation Creek, descending several hundred feet in 5.6 miles through the Three Sisters Wilderness, the first of four days we would end up logging out trails in this region. Not a week later, I received a complaint passed to me from one of the Club’s hiking leaders that the lower part of the trail was brushy with plants, and because it had been wet, she and a friend got soaked when they hiked the trail.  

Garrett beginning to cut a log with dangerous side bind. The bend means the log will explode away from him, which it did. He is standing in the safe zone.He is also cutting far away from the area of maximum tension, which is on the convexity. We had two videos of this, one in slow motion.

Why didn’t you clear the brush?

I know the feeling. Several years ago, I hiked Cummins Ridge Trail on the Oregon Coast in the wilderness of the same name when I hit a stretch of tall, wet ferns about 3 miles in. I thought I could deal with the dampness without putting on my rain pants, but then I realized that wasn’t going to work, so I ended up stopping, pulling off my boots, putting on my rain pants, putting on my boots back on again, and continuing hiking, the only difference being that my wet pants were now covered and while they would not get wetter, they would certainly not get drier as long as I had the rain pants on.

Why didn’t they clear the brush?

Well, the trail is is wilderness, a place where many think there shouldn’t be signage or work done at all.  There are limited numbers of crews to do the work, which is why we have volunteer crews, like the one, the Scorpions, with whom I work. We try to log out the trails first, so we can get through them, because if the trail is blocked by a big blowdown, it doesn’t matter how up to specs in tread and width and erosion control is for the rest of the trail, one can’t use it. You can hike through brush and get wet, maybe lose the trail in places, but you aren’t trying to go under, over, or around fallen, potentially dangerous logs.

If we have time, we try to remove brush, too, but this is a massive chore. A log may be able to be pushed off or require one, two, maybe even three cuts, but those are done and the log pushed out of the way, the trail now open until the next log. Remove one, two, three dozen plants along the side of the trail and it looks the same. Remove maybe 300, and you can see a difference, until you reach the next plant. Every foot of a trail in the region of heavy brush has to be removed by clippers or loppers. How much can one remove in a day? With a pair of power brushers, which aren’t allowed in wilderness, where we can swing the brusher back and forth, we might be able to clear a mile of trail in a day.  A mile. The Crew Boss spent one logout trying to clear brush by hand over a particular difficult area of a different trail. He did perhaps 250 yards that day.  Separation Lake Trail is several miles to the creek. Even with power brushers, which are not allowed, it would take two or three days. For the record, there is another seven miles around to Horse Creek trailhead; Louise Creek Trail is comes off Separation and needs brushing, too, but it was a full day to log out 3 miles, which was only part of the whole trail.  It is wilderness, and one must understand that wilderness trips may entail more hardship. 

Working on the Louise Creek Trail.

BTW, it drizzled when we logged out the trail, so we all were soaked when we got to the turnaround point, too. So we do know how you felt. 

Bridge over Separation Creek. The turnaround point unless one wants to go another 7 miles to the Horse Creek Trail

Madam, the trail is now dry, because it hasn’t rained for a month. Good time to go.


“….(Olallie Mountain Trail) Was not maintained- overgrown with brush and blow downs, We turned back. I called the Forest Service and they said trail crew just worked on it NOT TRUE. I read this  AllTrails.

Where were the work crews? Where was the Forest Service? How dare they keep these trails in disrepair?  He didn’t write that; I did.

Poor guy. He was 6 days too early. I don’t know why I should have felt responsible for the issue. I am an unpaid volunteer who got up early two mornings one week to drive out to the trailhead, including the last 13 miles on a dusty road with potholes, in order to work in the hot sun (especially the first day) with only two others, logging out 35 logs in 1.75 miles, including some difficult, complex ones. The second trip, two days later, we had seven out there, and six of us finished the rest of the trail, removing some 50 logs, including a couple of leaners and one on a hill that kept on giving every time we made a cut.  That means that every time we removed a chunk, the log slid further down the hill, still blocking the trail. We needed one person uphill to push on the log with his legs while two of us were below the trail pulling the log our way. Eventually, we moved the whole thing off the trail.

Sir, Olallie trail is NOW CLEAR. At least until the next tree falls. I don’t normally post on such sites, but I did post something more polite on All Trails. You can read it there. And no, currently, I don’t want a premium account. 

The Crew Boss spent the day brushing this–and a lot more– by hand.

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