Tag Archives: Trail 4

2015 in review

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.

150526 - Trail 4 Hikers

Trail 4 Hikers

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.

151011 - Trail 3 Trailhead

Trail 3 Trailhead

150609 - T26 at T3 Intersection - Sign Detail

T26 at T3 Intersection – Sign Detail

150609 - T26 at T3 Intersection

T26 at T3 Intersection

150709 - Trail 3 - Butterfly

Trail 3 – Butterfly

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.

150709 - Trail 3 - Smoke

Trail 3 – Smoke

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.

150629 - Randy on Cleft Rock Trail

Randy on Cleft Rock Trail in old Wedge Canyon Fire burn area

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.

150928 - Trail 375 - Stony Basin Lake

Trail 375 – Stony Basin Lake

150930 - Trail 375 - Overlooking Chain Lakes

Trail 375 – Overlooking Chain Lakes

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.

51004 - Review Mountain Loop - Fall Foliage

Review Mountain Loop – Fall Foliage

151007 - Review Basin Overlook Hike - People

Review Basin Overlook Hike – People

151007 - Review Basin Overlook Hike - Basin View

Review Basin Overlook Hike – Basin View

But wait, there’s more…

October 27 was the final trip to Hornet Lookout.

151027 - Hornet Lookout

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.

151028 - Trail 239 - Blow-down Removal

Trail 239 – Blow-down Removal

151028 - Trail 239 - Need a Bigger Saw

Trail 239 – Need a Bigger Saw

151028 - Coal Ridge Patrol Cabin

Coal Ridge Patrol Cabin

What about 2016? We’re already rolling. Watch this weblog for further developments.

We don’t need no stinking chain saws

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.

Trail Clearing with a 'Silky' Saw

Trail Clearing with a ‘Silky’ Saw

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.

Trail Clearing with a 'Silky' Saw

Trail Clearing with a ‘Silky’ Saw

Trail 4 complete

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.

View East from Coal Ridge

View Northeast from Coal Ridge

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.]

Lookout Remains at T4 Junction

Lookout Remains at T4 Junction

Old Ladder at Lookout Remains at T4 Junction

Old Ladder at Lookout Remains at T4 Junction

From there, knowing we were only about 1.25 miles (2 km) from known territory, we decided to try hiking out on Trail 4.

Ready to Go Northeast on Trail 4

Ready to Go Northeast 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.

Back in Known Territory - 01

Back in Known Territory – 01

Back in Known Territory - 02

Back in Known Territory – 02

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.

Moran Basin trails wrap-up: Trails 2, 4 and 14

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.)

Moran Basin Trails

Moran Basin Trails

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 . . .

Cyclone Peak and Lake

Cyclone Peak and Lake

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 . . .

Trail 14 Limit of Travel

Trail 14 Limit of Travel

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.

Trail 4 hazard reduction

On July 25, several folks showed up to perform hazard reduction along the ridge top section of Trail 4. A few perilous spots on the upper switchbacks were fixed up and considerable blow-downs removed.

There were five of us in this little party…

Trail 4 Crew, July 25, 2014

Trail 4 Crew, July 25, 2014

From left to right: Randy Kenyon, Jerry Costello and Jan Caldwell. Not shown: Bill Walker (behind the camera) and Greg Evans.

Coal Ridge — Hay Creek tour

July 3, John Frederick and I took advantage of a nice day and open Forest Service gates to do the tour of the Coal Ridge — Hay Creek drainage area. We went perhaps a quarter-mile up Trail 4 with the big chain saw, did a little clean up and  then drove to the Trail 3 trailhead at the west end of Hay Creek Road.

Trail 3, most of which is old roadbed, is in excellent shape for the first mile (and likely for at least another three after that). It offers a broad vista of the west end of the Hay Creek watershed, including the Whitefish Divide.

Trail 3 - looking west

Trail 3 – looking west towards Whitefish Divide

Moran Basin Road (Road 5241), the last stop on our tour, has problems. We encountered a bad slide about two miles in where a collection of trees had slid down the bank, roots and all, spilling across the road. I cut out the first pile, but we encountered two more about a quarter-mile farther up the road. Until the Forest Service cleans this up, Moran Basin Road is navigable only by ATVs and bikes. Update: By July 8, the road was open. Someone (not the Forest Service) had removed enough debris to allow passage by regular vehicles.

Slides on Moran Basin Road - July 3, 2014

Slides on Moran Basin Road – July 3, 2014

Trail 4: Track log from ridge top to trailhead

A bunch of determined individuals (myself, John Frederick, Amy Robinson, Dave Hadden and Debo Powers) hiked up Trail 4 in the rain June 26. We cached some equipment and showed a couple of folks who hadn’t seen it the final segment up to the top of the ridge.

On the way back down, I managed to get a reasonably smooth GPS track from the ridge top to the trailhead at Road 909. This completes the most essential part of the survey, since the remainder of the trail just follows the ridge until it intersects Trail 14.

See below for the Trail 4 track in context of the major nearby land features.

Trail 4 track from 909 to ridge top, in context

Trail 4 Track from 909 to Ridge Top, in Context

Trail 4: Waypoints complete to ridge top

John Frederick and I took a run up Trail 4 yesterday, June 24, with the objective of acquiring a good set of waypoints for the final segment climbing up to the ridge top. See below for the result.

Barring the usual handful of outliers, we now have an accurate set of coordinates running from Road 909 to the top of the ridge. This completes the important stuff. The remainder of the trail just stays on top of the ridge — no mystery there.

The red dots are data acquired in September of last year. The blue ones represent yesterday’s effort.

Trail 4 Waypoints from Road 909 to Ridge Top

Trail 4 Waypoints from Road 909 to Ridge Top

Trail 4: The missing link

We finally found the piece of Trail 4 that provides access to the ridge top.

Last Thursday, June 19, Dave Hadden, John Frederick and I headed back up with the objective of tracing the section along the ridge top back down to where it connected with the previously scouted part of the trail that ascends from its eastern terminus at Road 909.

Kudos go to Dave Hadden on this one. He arrived early, located the trail corridor Will Hammerquist stumbled across a couple of weeks ago, and traced the route all the way to the top of the ridge. He then did the route a second time for my benefit when I got there.

You can see the trace (black line) based on my camera’s GPS log below. It’s jittery, but the basic routing is clear: The trail segment climbs up a minor draw, makes an abrupt turn to the west and switchbacks up the end of the ridge until it reaches the top.

Trail 4 - June 19 Track

Trail 4 – June 19 Track

Bonus: I finally got a half-decent photo of the Calypso Orchids near the trail-head before they disappeared.

Calypso Orchids

Calypso Orchids