We took another slog up Glacier View Mountain via Trail 266 on Saturday, March 26. Besides encountering a couple more blow-downs in need of removal, we saw recent wolf tracks and scat. heaven knows why that wolf was coming down off Glacier View, but at least the trail was clear.
No, really. We actually did a small trail project in February, not to mention a nice little ski trip.
On February 23, a couple of us — myself (Bill Walker) and Greg Evans — headed up Trail 266 towards Glacier View Peak from the trailhead near the Camas Road. We removed 22 blow-downs from the first mile of trail and had lunch with a view.
A few days later, a group of us had a pleasant ski up Road 909 from the Hay creek Road. Everyone had a good time. Upholding NFTA tradition, we cut out a couple of blow-downs on the way back.
It was a nice start to what should be a good trails season.
Even with a very early start to the 2015 fire season, the North Fork Trails Association was active from mid-May right through the end of October. The tinder dry forest prevented us from using any tools that might strike a spark, but we found plenty to accomplish with the one-person saws that are becoming part of our standard kit and we did quite a bit of scouting throughout the North Fork.
Here, then, are a few highlights from the 2015 trails season…
We didn’t get much snow this year so, we were able to get boots on the trail by late May. The first expedition of any size was up Trail 4 on May 26. We were up and down this trail several times throughout the year.
Another trail that got a lot of attention was the eastern section of the Pacific Northwest Trail where it passes through the North Fork — Trail 3 and a segment of Trail 26.
It was a very early fire season. Just as we hit our stride, the region began to get smoky. This view west along the Hay Creek drainage, was taken July 9. It got a lot worse later.
The old Cleft Rock Trail, Trail 13, got a number of visits early in the season, as we checked out several ways of accessing it. (The eastern end currently stops at private land.) There will be a lot more activity on this project in 2016.
Before things got too smoky, we spent a fair amount of time in early July ensuring that Trail 2 was fixed up and ready for a “Wilderness Walks” hike scheduled for mid-July. Read about the hike here and the trail cleanup efforts here and here.
We’ll “draw the curtain of charity” over late summer, which was heavily shrouded in smoke from regional fires and dangerously dry. Besides, yours truly forgot to bring his camera.
We squeezed in several late season activities, including a couple of hikes up Lake Mountain on Trail 375. The first day we went up there, the air was so clear we could see smoke rising from a wildfire near the Idaho border, almost 70 miles to the west.
In early October we visited the Review Mountain Loop (Trails 113 and 23) a couple of times. The first trip was for our own purposes (setting additional cairns and some blow-down removal), the second was a very pleasant and productive meeting with Sean Cranmer of the U.S. Forest Service. Sean was handling trails issues this year. He took the time to drop by once the fires settled down and the smoke cleared.
But wait, there’s more…
October 27 was the final trip to Hornet Lookout.
The season-ender was October 28, a last trip up Trail 239, the back door to Coal Ridge. Three of us cut out some blow-downs, excepting one that was a little big for the equipment we had on-hand, and signed the log at the Coal Ridge patrol cabin.
What about 2016? We’re already rolling. Watch this weblog for further developments.
A few of us took ‘Silky’ saws up Trail 4 last Saturday to test them against this past winter’s collection of blow-downs. They’re not as fast as a freshly sharpened chain saw, but they are surprisingly effective — more than good enough for routine trail maintenance. The biggest ‘Silky’ folding saw (pictured below) weighs in at just over 2.5 pounds (1.2 kg), roughly one-tenth the load-out for our smallest chain saw, with accessories and fuel. We also carried a smaller, lighter ‘Silky’ (less than a pound, 0.45 kg) that worked just fine for most obstructions.
Unless you’re facing a substantial clearing job, a high-end, light-weight folding saw is a perfectly good alternative to a much heavier and more costly chain saw. In fact, these folding saws are so handy that a number of us are starting to include them in our standard backpack inventory.
We did it. After a lot of effort spanning two full hiking seasons, Trail 4 has been located and walked from end to end. In the process, we learned a little history. Those of you who have been involved in this chronic project at one time or another will realize just how significant this is.
Here’s how it happened: A few days ago, we put together a very short notice hike in the Moran Basin area with the vague notion of maybe exploring some long-neglected tread. There were three of us (myself — Bill Walker, Debo Powers and Greg Evans). Since the other two had never been on Trail 2, we chose to go in on that route. See the Moran Basin Trails article for the layout.
After having lunch and enjoying the views from the remains of the old Coal Ridge lookout, we decided to keep pushing southest along Coal Ridge to see if we could locate the junction with Trail 4.
This is where things got interesting. We found the Trail 4 turnoff… and something else, as well. Right at the point where Trail 4 dropped down off the ridge, was the remains of another old lookout, predating the more familiar ruins further west. [Update: I am informed that this was more of an observation platform than a lookout. Still, it was a pretty neat find.]
From there, knowing we were only about 1.25 miles (2 km) from known territory, we decided to try hiking out on Trail 4.
As we hoped, the tread was still visible. Other than a few blow-downs, we had little trouble following the old trail.
The final highlight of the day was reaching the furthest limit of the previously explored section of Trail 4. As you can see, everyone was quite pleased with themselves.
We wrapped up the expedition without incident, walking out to where John Frederick was waiting to provide shuttle service (we radioed ahead once we made the Trail 4 decision).
A good day.
Over at the Mago Guide site, Patti Hart has posted a very nice, very detailed guide to the Mount Nasukoin hike (Trail 375) . . .
The hike to Nasukoin is without a doubt one of our favorites in the Whitefish Range of the Flathead National Forest. It is in fact not one but three hikes where the first stop is Link Lake, next on up to Lake Mountain, and finally all the way up to the top of Nasukoin, the highest point in the Glacier View Ranger district.
On September 25, Rich Clark rode up Antley Creek Trail (Trial 106) and cleaned up the trashed out section near the top. John Frederick and I trudged along in his wake, performing lighter weight clean-up in the lower sections. Bottom line: The trail is open, although it is going to need some more brushing out next year.
The Antley Creek Trail (yellow highlighting) is a handy connector between Trail Creek Road and the Cleft Rock Trail (Trail 13).
The upper end of the trail passes through heavy timber.
The lower (north end) 4.3 miles of Antley Creek Trail is abandoned roadbed, becoming overgrown in places. It is still passable, but we will likely end up working on it next year.
Debo Powers’ article covers our recent activity in the west end of the Hay Creek drainage, but I thought it useful to include some additional material here.
Here’s a map of the two expeditions Debo mentions. The red track is the Trail 3-Trail 26 survey conducted on September 13. In yellow is the route of the successful September 18 search for the Trail 26-Trail 14 junction.
Randy and I added about a mile to our part of the Trail 3 hike by spending some time investigating Hay Lake.
Here’s Randy at the Trail 3-Trail 26 junction.
And here’s a photo of the Hay Creek drainage from the west end that I took on an earlier expedition up Trail 26.
August saw a lot of activity on the trails surrounding the Moran Creek Basin. See below for the GPS tracks. (The Trail 4 trace is roughly .25 miles short because I didn’t start recording immediately on the return trip.)
On August 11, we (Bill Walker, Jerry Costello and Bob Nelson) worked through the last of the downed wood and underbrush on Trail 4, encountering almost unrestricted ridge-top travel for the next half-mile or so. At that point — about 1.25 miles from the Trail 14 junction — we decided to carry our equipment out rather than continue.
We found a nice view of Cyclone Peak and Lake on the way back . . .
A couple of weeks later, Jerry and I went round the north and west sides of the basin on trails 2 and 14. The tread started to fade a little ways past the old Coal Ridge lookout tower. We took a photo at our turnaround point and called it a day . . .
The next step is to walk and identify those last little bits of trails 4 and 14, possibly with two groups, one going in from each end.
Debo Powers wrote the following general circulation article about some of our September activities. As you’ll see, the “Three Amigas” (Debo, Margaret Heaphy and Betsy Holycross) have donated a lot of time to the NFTA this month! . . .
The newly formed North Fork Trails Association (NFTA) under the leadership of Bill Walker has been very busy this summer exploring, compiling information and planning for future improvement of North Fork trails.
Bill made a presentation before the RAC committee on September 16 to ask for funding for trail maintenance for the stretch of trail between the Whitefish Divide Trail and the end of Hay Creek Road. In preparation for his presentation before the RAC committee, Bill organized a group Saturday, September 13, to hike this section from two different directions. Bill and Randy Kenyon hiked from Hay Creek Road while Margaret Heaphy, Betsy Holycross, and Debo Powers hiked from Red Meadow Road on the Whitefish Divide. When the two groups met, they exchanged car keys thus avoiding the need for a shuttle.
On Thursday, September 18, Bill transported NFTA scouts (Margaret, Betsy and Debo) to the Whitefish Divide trailhead on Red Meadow Road. Their mission was twofold: (1) hike along the Whitefish Divide Trail and find the junction with the Coal Ridge Trail and (2) reconnoiter the upper portion of the Coal Ridge Trail to find out if the trail was discernible. If the trail was passable and there was enough time for the long trek, the scouts would continue along Coal Ridge to the old lookout and patrol cabin and hike down to Hay Creek Road where Bill would pick them up. Although both parts of the mission were accomplished, the Coal Ridge Trail was so difficult to follow that the scouts returned the way they had come.
If you would like to donate money, time, or resources to help improve the hiking trails in the North Fork, please contact Bill through the NFTA “Contact” page.