Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mount Saint Helens - Coldwater Trail work party

Trail open to bikes. Let's do trailwork here, and hope that trails around MSH stay open!On Saturday (July 12), my sister Sandi and I joined 26 other volunteers for a trail work party at Mount Saint Helens (MSH). The plan was to work entirely on the Boundary Trail starting from Johnston Ridge Observatory (JRO), which is a hiker only trail. I was motivated to do trail work here in part because it was near the Coldwater Trail, which leads up to Mount Margaret. This trail was opened up to mountain bikers in 2004 on an experimental basis - on the condition that mountain bikers maintain the trail. The word from JRO was that Coldwater Trail was in serious disrepair, a situation I wish to be part of correcting, in partnership with Mount Saint Helens Institute or other organizations working on behalf of trails at MSH.

Once we finished morning registration / check-in at the JRO parking lot, we were lucky enough that so many people had registered for the work party that we needed to split the party in two, in part to be more manageable, so we were given the option to work on the Coldwater Trail or the Boundary Trail. Sandi and I jumped at the chance to work on Coldwater because we knew we would be hiking Boundary Trail the next day. Hailey and August led the work party at Boundary Trail for half the group, Bob and Adam led the work party for the other half at Coldwater.

In all, around 28 volunteers plus MSHI staff were working on the trails. It seemed a lot of people were from Portland, but quite a few people had travelled from the Seattle area as well. I thought Sandi would get the award for most effort to get there, as she is from Eugene, however one of the rangers, Hazel, had come from Southern England to get a tourist visa so she could volunteer for three months at MSHI. Also impressive, a family living in Portland borrowed a car so they could make the trip to the work party, and a couple moved from Florida just 6 weeks prior chose to donate their time.

At Coldwater, the first mile and a half were in great shape due to a recent work party whereby MSHI partnered with WTA. After hiking in, our group cleared a couple miles further from overgrowth. This is in preparation for the next MSHI work party at Coldwater Trail on August 2 and 3, which will work on the tread surface primarily. Most people operated loppers to clip brush up to an inch thick. I started with a bow saw for bigger stuff, later traded tools to use a pulaski. Due to the nature of the growth being fairly new (guess why?), the most efficient tool for overgrowth was loppers. For people intending to bike this trail, I suggest you bring a small handheld set of clippers for the trail past where we finished. A little bit of effort would really go a long way to influence continued access to this trail for mountain bikers.

At the Boundary Trail, they split the group, which was OK because they had two leaders. One group filled an eroded part of the trail that was reported to be extremely hazardous scramble. The rest worked on the trail tread.

At the end of the day, we had a barbeque pot luck at the camp site. This camp site was special because it was near Coldwater, which gave us a great view of the volcano. Nothing beats waking up having slept in a field overlooking Mount Saint Helens!
Ranger headquarters overlooking Mt St Helens
The next day, Pat Pringle gave us a guided hike at the Boundary Trail to a point overlooking Spirit Lake, Windy Ridge, Mt Adams, and of course Mt St Helens. Pat is a professor of geology, and an author of the geology at Mt St Helens. Pat had a great sense of humor and knowledge of the area, which made for a unique and fun experience.

Hiking Boundary Trail from JRO to Spirit Lake

While having lunch overlooking Mt Adams, a forest fire broke out. Fortunately it was far away.


Special thanks to all the staff at MSHI.

Thank You MSHI!


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