BCHW Takes Action to Help Repair Trails

BCHW Takes Action to Help Repair Trails

Supplies Packed in for Pacific Crest Trail Association

by Richard Guthrie


January 2018

Todd Churchill and Bill Toth headed out from Suiattle Trailhead. Photo courtesy Richard Guthrie

In the fall of 2003 there was an exceptionally severe rainstorm in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. One of the massively flooding rivers was the Suiattle (pronounced sue at’ el) which originates on the east side of 10,628-foot Glacier Peak, flows north and then west in a narrow canyon. The Suiattle River Road follows the north side of the west flowing portion of the river for 23 miles and is a trailhead access for the Pacific Crest Scenic Trail (PCST) in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

Hikers, climbers, horse riders, and hunters use this access extensively. The storm washed out the road in several places and washed out a major bridge across Downey Creek, a tributary of the Suiattle River. Due to funding problems and lawsuits by a chapter of the Audubon Society, the road and bridge repair was not completed until the fall of 2014. There were 12 years of fallen logs and other trail deteriorations on the Suiattle River Trail and adjoining trails from lack of access for maintenance.

During 2015 and 2016 the Traildusters Chapter of BCHW, with the help of Whatcom County, Skagit County and Pierce County Chapters, supported work done by the Washington Trails Association and the Pacific Crest Trail Association by packing in supplies for projects to open up trails to access the PCT in the Glacier Peak area.

This past summer the PCTA organized three-week long work projects to log out and cut brush on the PCT south from where the Suiattle River Trail joins the PCT near Canyon Creek.

January 2018

Bill Toth, Keith Swain, and Daryn Latham headed up Suiattle River Trail with PCTA tools and supplies. Photo courtesy Richard Guthrie

Back Country Horsemen Daryn Latham and Darryl Weidkamp, members of both Traildusters and Skagit Chapters, and Rich Guthrie of Traildusters, packed in work tools, kitchen supplies, and food for these events. Garbage and supplies were packed in and out as needed.

The first week a round trip of 14 miles with 12 riding and pack stock occurred. The second week involved 6 riding and pack stock on a 26-mile roundtrip. The third week 7 riding and pack stock made a 26-mile roundtrip. And on the final week 9 riding and pack stock went in empty and packed everything out on a 26-mile roundtrip.

To avoid burnout, none of the packers worked every weekend. The typical scenario was for everyone to arrive Friday evening for dinner, get up at 5:00 a.m., eat breakfast, pack stock and be on the trail by 7:00 a.m, returning late Saturday afternoon for another meal and then drive home. Meals were provided by Traildusters Linda Karman, Rich Guthrie, and Louise Guthrie.

In addition to Daryn and Darryl, stock packers working on this project were Todd Churchill, Curtis Isaacson, Keith Swain, and Bill Toth from Traildusters; Fred West from Skagit County Chapter and Rocky Leavitt, Roger Nelson, Rodney Vanderssypen, and Erin Vanderssypen from Whatcom County Chapter. This project involved 126 basic hours of work and 110 skilled hours of work not including travel time.

About ten miles of the PCT were opened up by this project. There are still several miles of trail needing work along the north and west sides of Glacier Peak. This trail work used to be done by the Forest Service, but they are grossly underfunded now.


Originally Published January 2018 Issue

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Back Country Horsemen of Washington

Back Country Horsemen of Washington (BCHW), is a 501 (c) (3) organization with 32 chapters across the state dedicated to: keeping trails open for all users; educating horse users in Leave-No-Trace practices; and providing volunteer service to resource agencies.

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