This is Trail Maintenance: part 1

Due to the rainy/cold weather this weekend, I decided it was a good time to take care of some things I needed to do back in Spokane. Therefore, I do not have a trip report this week. Instead I’ll begin a series of posts detailing the work that we do as a trail crew.

A trail crew is responsible for maintaining the network of trails within their district. With hundreds of miles of trail in ours, it seems like a never-ending task. However I enjoy it because even though it is very hard work, it’s rewarding to work in such beautiful outdoor environments. As a hiker, it feels good to know the amount of effort that goes in to ensuring I have a pleasant hike. I enjoy the hike because I enjoy being out in nature and ironically nature is the opponent of the trail crew. It is a fight that neither side will ever win, even though nature always has the lead. All we can do is hold steady, never stopping.

The large majority of our work includes brushing and logging out trails. To ensure trails are free of obstructions, brush along both sides is “mowed” with a chainsaw and trees that have fallen over the trail or pose a hazard of falling over the trail are cut out. Sawing is usually done in two-person teams with a sawyer who cuts with the saw and a swamper who is responsible for clearing the cut material so it is out of site of trail users.

Another major component of our job is tread-work. This involves working the actual dirt of the trail to widen, level, and smooth it out so users will have an enjoyable trek. Rocks and roots provide extra obstacles to climb or trip over, water flows down trail causing ruts and erosion, and plants grow in from the sides making tread narrow. We manage all of this with hand tools and hard work.

In preparation for an upcoming project to build wooden walkways along swampy trail, a helicopter delivered materials to our various backcountry work-sites. This can be seen in the video and I look forward to the actual project which will begin at work-camp next week. So enjoy the video, I will have more of these later showing some of the various tasks and places we work.

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