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Signature Projects: Colonel Bob Trail

WTA volunteers take the "hike from hell" and make it an enjoyable walk again as the Colonel Bob Trail in the Olympics gets some serious sawing out of the way.

Colonel Bob lost trail
One example - among many - of the blowdowns along the Colonel Bob trail. Photo by Megan McKenzie.
Since a huge windstorm in 2007, the Colonel Bob Trail has been what one Trip Reporter has called "a hike from hell." Imagine the wet side of the Olympics, towering hemlocks and firs, a very steep trail and more than 30 blowdowns to maneuver around. Needless to say, this trail has gotten very little traffic in the past five years.

Fortunately for hikers, there is an alternative way to summit Colonel Bob Peak. The Petes Creek Trail has served as the primary route up the mountain, delivering the views with far less trouble for hikers. Still, the Olympic National Forest has few miles of trails in the Pacific Ranger District and the loss of this one - which is accessed from the popular west side of Lake Quinault - has hurt. That is why when the Olympic National Forest asked WTA to help fix the blowdown mess our volunteers on the Peninsula eagerly signed on.

WTA Tackles the Trees

Colonel Bob sawing
Volunteers clearing the Colonel Bob trail did a LOT of sawing. Photo by Megan McKenzie.
In June, an intrepid crew of ten saw-happy volunteers and one crew leader tromped up the Colonel Bob trail. At 1.7 miles, they were halted by the first of a mile and a half of enormous trees. These are trees where you have to get down on your hands and knees to crawl under them. It's a jumble that completely obscures the trail in many places.
Colonel Bob progress
Look at the progress that these two volunteers have made - and what they still have yet to tackle. Photo by Megan McKenzie.

In five days, the crew sawed out the trees that they could over a 0.6 mile stretch (they were so busy they forgot to count) and left notches in other trees to make it easier to crawl over. You can see both the challenge and the progress they made in these photos.

On July 20, another Backcountry Response Team headed in from the Pete's Creek trail, where they cleared a couple of blowdowns before they tackled Colonel Bob from the uphill side. They discovered that the damage to the trail was extensive, and it will only be after Olympic National Forest personnel clear several dozen huge trees in late summer that an assessment can be done to determine how much work remains.

It's a huge task, but we do have a good start. If all goes well, perhaps by by next summer, hikers will have again have the Colonel Bob Trail to hike - to witness the marvelous old growth stands, to seek solitude, to spend a night under the forest canopy and to climb to the summit of Colonel Bob Peak.