Sunday, August 2, 2015

2004 AHS Volunteer Trail Project in Washington's Goat Rocks Wilderness

Washington's Pinchot National Forest covers 1,368,300 acres and includes Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The Goat Rock Wilderness (108,096 acres) is part of the magnificent Cascade Mountain Range between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams. In fact, before beginning this project, I backpacked a section of the Pacific Crest Trail in the wilderness, and had marvelous views of Mt St. Helen, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.

Packwood Lake (photo below), on the edge of the wilderness area, was formed 1200 years ago by a large landslide. It is a 462 acre natural lake located on the western side of the Cascades at an elevation of 2875 feet. This magnificent destination can be reached by hiking four miles or driving a 4WD vehicle. As you hike along the lake, you enter the Goat Rocks Wilderness, which is accessible only to those hiking or on horseback. The island in the lake seen here is small and is off limits since someone started a fire there a few years ago. Some of the water from the lake is piped several miles to a power plant which supplies electricity to four local towns. One afternoon we watched as a fire fighting helicopter hovered over the lake several times, refilling its water container, and then flying back to the fire scene.

With only three people, we switched off regularly on the saw. In this photo, Chad and our crew leader, Forest Service Ranger Crystal, use the two man saw to cut this tree which has fallen across the trail. Since our crew was so small, we were limited in what we could accomplish and tree removal was our first responsibility. We removed a number of trees of various diameters as we hiked the trail into the wilderness and actually cleared all the fallen trees assigned to us.

As you saw through a large fallen tree, the top part of the cut tree trunk tends to close and bind the saw preventing it from cutting any more, so a wedge is hammered into the kerf (cut) at the top to keep the channel open, allowing the saw to continue to operate. You can see the saw blade nearing the bottom of the cut, and thanks to the wedge at the top holding the kerf open, the saw is still effectively cutting the remainder of the log. Then after cutting the trunk, we have to roll the sections of the trunk off the trail, and when that is not possible due to weight or length of the pieces, another cut is required.

One day, Rangers Steve (orange hard hat) and Rich (yellow hat) joined us and we worked on installing several retaining walls where the trail was eroding and sloughing off down the embankment. Since equestrians make use of this trail, it is important to keep it wide and safe for all users.

The photo below shows another place where we installed cribbing to widen and stabilize the trail tread.

Visitors are encouraged to sign in when beginning a hike or backpack into the wilderness area, but the sign-in station post had rotted and fallen, so we found another post, debarked it, and attached the signage and drop box to the new post.

Our small but productive trail crew!

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