Thursday, July 30, 2015

2000 AHS Volunteer Trail Project for Washington's Chinook Trail Association

The Chinook Trail Association has a goal for a 300 mile rimtop loop trail circling the beautiful Columbia River Gorge through Washington and Oregon. Our American Hiking Society volunteer trail crew was based in Beacon Rock State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.

Beacon Rock was first described by Lewis & Clark on October 31, 1805, en route to the Pacific Ocean, marking the location where they first noticed the effects of ocean tide. Beacon Rock, like a huge pillar on the north (Washington) bank of the Columbia River about 35 miles east of Portland, Oregon, rises over 800 feet above the river level, and is one of the major landmarks in the Columbia River Gorge. Here's a photo of it...

It was bought by Henry Biddle in 1915 to save it from destruction as a quarry. He built a trail to the top in 1917-1918, quite an achievement for an individual. The trail is 4500 feet long, 4 feet wide, with a maximum grade of 15%, and has 52 hairpin turns, 22 wooden bridges, and over 100 concrete slabs, all carried up by hand or mule. The photo below gives a feel for the trail he built...

...and being hikers, one of our first requests was to make the hike/climb to the top of Beacon Rock.

In 1935, the Biddle family gave the property and 260 adjacent acres to the State of Washington. Later acquisitions made it a 4000-plus acre park, one of the larger gems in Washington's state park holdings.

The system of 300 miles of trails circumnavigating the Washington and Oregon sides of the Columbia River Gorge are the result of the volunteers of the Chinook Trail Association, a group of 150+ hard-working, dedicated citizens, and they served as our host agency and many of the members came out to meet us, hike with us, and/or work alongside us. Thanks to all! Additional trails have been added to waterfalls and to Mt. Hamilton (2445 feet above sea level), and our volunteer project worked on 2 of these other trails.

The whole crew labored on the first of two trails we worked on, the start of a reroute of the "Overlook Trail" for handicap access. Since the trail section we finished led to a rock slide and abruptly ended (to be finished later by others), we called this side trail the "Underlook Trail." Pictured from left to right: Nell, Chuck, Ralph, Bob, Bert (Bertha), Jim, Charli, Debbie, and Betty

Many huge boulders were encountered which we had to unbury and then move off the trail, some of which required much digging to uncover, and then several people on two pry bars and several others trying to muscle it out of the ground and off to the side.

The last 2 days we worked on the start of a lengthy reroute of the Hamilton Mountain Trail designed to get hikers off the old logging road and into the cooler, more scenic forest. Much of the trail we created crossed a slope ranging from 45 degrees to 60 degrees, making footing a precarious proposition. Pictured are Roger, Bob, and Jim, with the new tread becoming obvious in the dense forest.

Here is the the entire hard-working crew after the last day's work. This project was a real joy because of these fine people whose work ethic and dedication to the hiking community became evident from the first day. Ages ranged from 23 to 69 with most being in their 50s and 60s, but no one used age as an excuse to avoid contributing and all pitched in with camp chores and conversation. Commaraderie and banter predominated in camp, on our hikes, at the work sites, and each evening around the campfire.

Kneeling: (L to R): Nell, Betty, Roger
Standing: Bob, Chuck, Bert, Charli, Jim, Debbie, Ralph

We even did the jitterbug around the fire one night! It was a pleasure and priviledge getting to know these wonderful folks!

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