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Rebooting Washington's Trails on National Trails Day

Posted by Anna Roth at Jun 05, 2019 05:24 PM |

WTA's delivering on our goal to support Washington's trails at every turn.

With more and more people hitting Washington's trails, it's important to invest in supporting currently existing trails, and to improve and expand the trail system overall. To this end, WTA recently launched Trails Rebooted, a campaign to find solutions to support Washington's popular recreation areas by improving existing trails, championing the construction of new ones and helping hikers see the role they play in the future of trails. 

With sustainability and growing demand in mind, we're working hard to guarantee great experiences on trail for generations to come. And on National Trails Day 2019, at nine different work parties across the state, 150 trail maintenance volunteers showed up to help make that goal a reality. 

Creating a Sustainable Trail System

One of Trails Rebooted's focus areas is the Teanaway, a popular location just east of Snoqualmie Pass where hikers can find dry trails (usually) as well as gorgeous, expansive views, a good workout and wildflowers galore in the springtime. Hikers usually have to wait until snows melt out to get into this high country, so nearby Manastash Ridge is a popular early season alternate. The trails on Manastash are good training hikes, since many of them are quite steep. Unfortunately, that also means they're prone to erosion. 

Volunteers making the new Westberg reroute a reality on National Trails Day 2019. Photos by Anna Roth (l) and Beth Macinko (r).

Field Programs Manager Alan Carter Mortimer scouted a reroute of the popular Westberg Trail, to allow it to retain it's hikeability without damaging the landscape. Over the weekend of National Trails Day, volunteers completed building it. 

It's still a steep climb, but because this section traverses across the hillside rather than straight, it makes for a longer workout. Plus the new route offers stellar views of the Stuart Range and expansive fields of wildflowers. 

Views like this await hikers on the soon-to-be opened section of the Westberg Trail. Photo by Anna Roth. 

On the Olympic Peninsula, a crew replaced and built a rock wall on the Dry Creek Trail. The original wall was in danger of failing, and thanks to the efforts of nearly 20 volunteers, hikers will now enjoy a sturdier structure that will stand the test of time. Closer to the city, a youth ambassador work party improved trails in Schmitz Preserve Park on Sunday, moving gravel and improving a muddy section of trail by building it up out of the muck. This sort of structure is called a turnpike, and in just one day the crew built one that was 40 feet long!

Part of the youth ambassador work party, who worked at Schmitz Preserve Park. Photo courtesy Britt Lê

And in Mount Rainier National Park, crews installed 10 wood check-steps on the Eagle Peak trail, a hidden gem near Longmire. This sweet little trail doesn't see as much traffic as the nearby Wonderland, but the very beginning of it was still in serious need of erosion control. Like our projects in other parts of the state, the check steps installed by this crew will make the route sustainable for future hikers. 

Crews installed ten check steps at Eagle Peak trail over National Trails Day. Photo by Jay Tarife. 

New Trails, Who's This? 

Taking a trail from concept to actual path takes a long time, so it's a big deal when we finally get to break ground on a new route. This year, WTA is lucky to have several projects around the state where we're making new trail, and on National Trails Day, we worked at two of those sites.

More than eight years in the making, the trail at Frog Mountain will be the first trail added to the Wild Sky Wilderness under the Forest Service's trails plan for this wilderness area. Slated to be about four miles from trailhead to summit, it's a chunky project with lots of structures to be built and plenty of tread to carve out. 

The site of the Frog Mountain log crib at the beginning of Saturday (l), and at the end of the day Sunday (r). Photos by Nate Schmidt and Anna Roth

Over the weekend, two energetic crews got a big start on a rock wall and log crib, structures that will help keep the trail from slumping as years of hikers utilize it to reach the top. Structures like these can take a long time to build. The log crib pictured above is unfinished, but the crews made a remarkable amount of progress in just two days. 

Crew leader Arlen Bogaards and volunteers work to rough in the new tread at Lake Whatcom. Photo by Richard Pedersen.

WTA also broke ground in an extension of the Chanterelle Trail. For the third year running, WTA joined many of our partners in continuing work on a 90+ mile trail network at Lake Whatcom for hikers, bikers and equestrians. The project was made possible by several years of work by a community committee of land managers, trail organizations and local recreationists. 

Preventative Maintenance

One of the best ways to care for a trail is by doing annual maintenance. It's the most cost-effective way to ensure a trail stays up to snuff for future visitors. Whether you're clearing drains, brushing out the trail corridor, or improving a narrow section of tread, joining an annual maintenance work party is always appreciated. 

Four of our National Trails Day work parties tackled this important task. A youth and family crew at Puget Park brushed a quarter mile of trail, widened more than 30 feet of the tread to improve the trail's sustainability, and kept some native plant species safe by transplanting them along the new trail corridor. 

Volunteers at Puget Park working on improving the tread. Photos by Kaci Darsow.

In Spokane, volunteers completed annual maintenance on the popular Iller Creek trail. In nearly 1.5 miles, they cleared 45 drain dips and built three new ones. This will allow water to run off trail and prevent future erosion. They also cleaned out 300 feet of ditches and did some brushing along the trail corridor.

Similarly, at Mount St. Helens, crews worked on the Hummocks trail to address some overdue annual maintenance, and at Horseshoe Bend, the crew fixed a really rutted (and hole-y) trail, making this gorgeous, year-round trail safer and more sustainable for all comers. 

A happy National Trails Day crew finished with a hard day of work at Horseshoe Bend. Photo courtesy JT Hart.