Handcrafted Artisan-made Trail

Readers, remember the log jumble on the Pacific Crest Trail? Here’s the crew walking out on Thursday after we completed log removal and reconstruction. We did the work with gear we carried up on our backs. No trailers, no equipment on tracks. No fussy rigging or cables. Chainsaw, hand tools, a bunch of dirt-grubbing trail hippies, and a secret ingredient. Also time, but this crew restored the trail with amazing enthusiasm.

I recently said to someone that it’s a privilege to work on the PCT. I thought about that statement some more, and it’s true for me. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is world famous. The idea for a trail from Mexico to Canada was conceived in the 1930s, and it took decades to construct. The trail is 2638 miles long, and can claim the most elevation gain of any of the National Scenic Trails. The part of the trail that goes north through this district was built in the early 1970s. It was laid out to maximize scenery, not for long-term maintainability. Keeping the PCT open is a challenge some years, with avalanches, rockslides, and stream crossings, not to mention old-growth trees falling down across it. Last week we worked on the first mile and a half north of Snoqualmie Pass. If we find big piles of logs further into the backcountry, logistics are going to get interesting.

The PCT is open to hikers and equestrians. And that’s how we work on it, on foot or horseback. This part of the Cascades is not prime horse country, so we mostly hike. That’s where the handcrafted business comes in. The PCT was constructed to a higher standard than many trails. It’s a little wider, follows a grade no greater than 10%, and some of the original switchbacks and crib walls are a testament to the trail builder’s art. The PCT deserves the extra effort to maintain standards. No shortcuts. Once the logs were out of the way, we filled in the holes left by toppled rootwads, excavated the backslope, cleared debris. All by hand, using skills that trail crews have been practicing for decades. There was plenty of cooperation, puns, laughter and fun.

Only about 78 miles left for us to maintain!

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2 thoughts on “Handcrafted Artisan-made Trail

  1. I had not, heretofore, realized all the details and complexities of trails… I live by the Appalacian Trail and to walk it (though volunteers maintain it) is to walk a path through the woods… ledges, rocks, stream & river crossings… three folks were air lifted off the trail near here this past summer; one became a fatality. Heart attack.

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