~These trails are closed, the PCTA is working under the invitation of the Forest Service.
There are stiff fines (and plenty of hazards) for ignoring these closures!~
I’ve been working in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Burn a lot these last few months. I am a volunteer Trail Crew Leader In-training, with the Pacific Crest Trail Association.
We’re filling holes left by root burns, removing burn debris, clearing landslides, logging out the burned, down trees off the trail (we don’t fell trees as a rule). In some of the severely burned areas, the trail disappears and we have to re-establish the tread. Everywhere, there are rocks. Landslides of rocks, rocks on the trail, rocks upslope waiting to fall on you. Fire-tempered boulders often split and leave sharp edges.
So what is a typical day like? Our work days run 8AM-5:30PM. You have to be committed to being on-time, working all day (if anyone leaves, all of us have to, because they take one Crew Leader away and we need two for burn area work). We lay out our tools and each pick up a load, grab your hard hat, and head up the Herman Creek Trail as a group. Last logout I carried an axe, a hand saw, cross-cut long saw, and the handles for it. Plus 3 litres of water, lunch, spare clothes, and my ten essentials.
First time through an area I know so well was a shock. The green gone from the forest floor, trees burned and down, it literally made me cry to see it. Subsequent trips, it just now looks like a forest healing from a fire. There are new views, places you didn’t even know where there with all the thick undergrowth and moss everywhere. The Gorge is a giant rock pile, now really obvious even in the forest.
A Logout Party means our primary targets for the day are the downed logs. We carry more saws than trail tools, fewer hoes and such. It also means we are working over longer sections, taking out logs crews working on the tread and clearing could not remove. It’s far more hazardous, and the PCTA offers three levels of certification for Sawyers – A, B, and C. Swampers work to prep the logs and cut, clean up before and after, under the supervision of a Certified Sawyer.
(to be continued)