Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Giving Back - Working with a trail crew

Moon over Lake Chelan from our campsite

I think about my hike on the Pacific Crest Trail every day. I often long to be back on the trail. 
I loved the bright stars in the night sky, and the sounds of birds singing at first-light in the morning.

A few months ago, I discovered the Washington Trails Association. They work to be a voice for hikers, a resource for those looking to get outside, and they provide volunteer opportunities to make a difference to the trail system in Washington State.

One of their volunteer opportunities is called a "volunteer vacation". They schedule week-long work parties to improve trails. This was exactly what I wanted to do, so I joined one! You have to pay to join the work party, because they provide all of the food and cooking equipment during the week on the trail. I think it is well worth the cost, especially since the food was amazing!

The location for my work party was along Lake Chelan. The goal was to work on improving the Lake Shore trail, and do other work on other trails in the area.

The following is my daily journal of what we did:\

Sat 4/22 - Day 1

Our group left Fields Point on Lake Chelan at 10:56, riding the ferry, the Lady of the Lake.
Lady of the Lake picking us up at Fields Point
The surprise was when the boat dropped us off at the Lucerne landing. The last time I was headed to Prince Creek, the boat dropped us off right at Prince Creek by using a portable landing ramp. This boat did not have one.

Waiting for us at the Lucerne landing was a forest service boat that would shuttle us to Prince Creek.

A forest service boat picked us up at Lucerne and took us to Prince Creek

The forest service boat could only take half of the group, so it took two trips. I went on the first trip and helped carry the camp gear, food and tools from the dock to the campsite.

The dock at Prince Creek - we had to carry all of our supplies up to the campground

The more experienced members of the group set up a large tent where the cooking will be done. 

Setting up the camp kitchen tent at the group campground

We had to carry water from the lake to be filtered for drinking. I carried six of the metal boxes with the camp supplies up from the dock to the campsite. It was hot and heavy work.

When the boat arrived with the balance of the party, we all hunted for our own camping spots. I finally found one on a hill above the camp, but it was a long walk from my campsite to the group cook tent. 
My campsite on a hill above the group campsite

At dinner time, everyone pitched in to make dinner. We also learned the correct way to wash dishes. The correct way involves four washing containers. The first is a wash tub with soap. The second is a first rinse tub. The third is a second rinse tub. The last is a bleach tub. By washing this way it insures that the dishes are really clean. Everything is put into a mesh bag that is hung to dry in the cook tent. That keeps the dishes away from any critters that might be exploring at night.

Jim shows us the correct way to wash dishes

I finally headed to bed at 8. We start bright and early tomorrow morning at 6!

Sun 4/23 - Day 2
The wind blew for half the night, so I didn't sleep well. A friendly deer munched grass just outside my tent until early morning. We had light rain which stopped just in time to get up and have breakfast. 

We had wonderful breakfast of French toast and bacon. Afterwards, Claire, our team leader, gave everyone a tool safety review, including how to carry the tools and how to hand them to someone else. 

I then got my own hard hat with the name "Bobaroo"! 

Everyone carried two tools. I choose "loppers" and a "McLeod". I used the loppers to trim brush away from the trail. Several of us had the same tool, so we would "leap frog" each other as we walked up the trail. Others repaired the trail tread and a couple others used a two-person cross-cut saw to remove trees that had fallen across the trail. 

We stopped for lunch at noon. Around 2 PM I came upon the others who were cutting through a 33-inch tree that was blocking the trail. I took several turns sawing, which is harder that it looks. 
Clearing a large log from the Lake Chelan Lakeshore Trail

They "butt-pushed" the cut section off the trail by sitting on the ground and pushing with their feet. 

We headed back to camp, having cleared about two miles of the trail. 

Dinner was couscous with a chicken breast strips, garlic, onions and peppers. It was delicious! 

I helped wash dishes and everyone retired early. I can tell my arm muscles are going to be tired tomorrow!

Mon 4/24 - Day 3
The wind blew again all night. However, the sky was clear so no rain. 

It was cooler in the morning. We had breakfast sandwiches with sausage and then headed out early at 7:30. I did brushing all day, and I think I am getting better at it. The problem today was that we were working on the Lakeshore Trail again, so there was a two mile hike before we could start work. We managed to clear the trail for another two miles, all the way to Rex creek. 

I got to help saw another log, which was a good change of pace.
Removing a fallen log from the trail

 It took me 1 1/2 hours to walk back, a little over four miles. My shirt was really sweaty, so I washed it in a gallon zip lock. I also took a sponge bath. 

I helped our team leader, Clair, to clean up the site fire pit. There was lots of broken glass and aluminum. 

Dinner was yummy with baked beans, pulled pork and raw vegetables. I helped again with cleaning dishes. 

Everyone was tired tonight and I was in my tent by 8. 

I am really enjoying this group and it's so fun to be on the trail making a difference. 

Tue 4/25 - Day 4
I had weird dreams last night and woke several times in a panic. Perhaps it was the beans we had for dinner?  

It was clear and beautiful this morning. We had breakfast burritos before heading out on a new project. 

We headed up Prince creek. The trail switchbacks up the mountain. The creek is far below roaring down the canyon. We got instructions from Jim about all of the considerations for safely cutting a tree that has fallen over the trail. I got to saw one end. The rest of the day was consumed by removing brush that had overgrown the trail. 
Taking a lunch break by a waterfall on the Prince Creek trail

As we got higher and higher, the views of the lake and mountains got better and better. 
Clearing brush from the Prince Creek trail high above Lake Chelan

We headed back to camp around 1:30, having done several miles of trail. I rewashed my shirt and cleaned up a bit. 

For dinner we had salmon, broccoli and pasta with basil sauce. After dinner I helped with dishes and sat around a campfire enjoying the amazing views.

Wed 4/26 - Day 5
Today was our day off. I decided to hike back up the Prince creek trail. 

I ate granola, hot chocolate and coffee for breakfast and packed a sandwich, chips and a candy bar for lunch. I was told that a little over four miles up the trail was a washed out bridge over Prince creek. That was my goal. I left at 7. It was overcast all morning and the hike was pleasant. I had to scramble over a small rock slide and half a dozen fallen trees and arrived at the washed out bridge at 9. There was a log downstream over the creek, but it was too dangerous to cross.
The washed-out bridge over Prince Creek about 4 miles from Lake Chelan

I ate my lunch and had a great walk back. 

I decided to wash my shirt again and then rest in my tent. An hour nap did wonders!  

I spent the afternoon walking along the lake shore. For a while, I used a stick like a bat and hit small rocks out into the lake. I used to do that when I was a kid living in Bellevue. 

For dinner we had steaks, mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus. It was delicious. Afterwards, I helped clean dishes. The deer roam about freely each evening. I think we are the guests in their space!

Thursday 4/27 - Day 6
I had a good nights sleep. 

Don had a fire going this morning, which was welcome in the morning air. We had egg sandwiches with salmon. 

The Forest Service picked us up at the dock and took us to Refrigerator Harbor on the other side of Lake Chelan. We worked on the trail to Domke Lake. The area is closed to the public since it was burned by the fire last year. 
Taking a break on the trail to Domke Lake

Our group is the first one to work on the trail. We had to clear the trail of fallen branches, fix the tread of the trail, and build up parts of the trail that were washed out or destroyed by fire. We built several retaining walls using rocks and then back filled them with dirt. We also had to be cautious due to the possibility of burnt trees falling without warning. 

We got within a half mile of the lake before quitting. On the way down the trail we found several dozen morel mushrooms. 

It was a beautiful ride back in the boat with rainbows in the spray from the boat. 
View up Lake Chelan from the forest service boat

I took another sit bath and washed my shirt again. 

For dinner we had chicken burritos with all the fixings. I helped wash dishes and we then listened as Bob played the guitar and sang. This is a really great group of people!

Fri 4/28 - Day 7
I was awake at 5:15. The sky was clear as the moon was setting. 

We had blueberry pancakes and sausage links for breakfast. The Forest Service boat picked us up at 8 and dropped us off at Cascade creek, which was up the lake from Prince creek. 

The group split into three teams. One group brushed and cleared the trail going north. Another group headed south. I was with the group that stayed at Cascade creek and put in a new pit toilet. It is a wooden toilet with a lid that sits over a pit. We built a trail up to the site and then hauled the toilet and frame. 

The hardest part was digging a five foot deep pit. We were fortunate to have selected a site without huge buried rocks. It took about five hours to dig. It felt great to finish a job like this that will make life easier for those camping here.
We finished installing the pit toilet at Cascade creek

The Forest Service boat picked everyone up and returned us to camp. 

I took another sit bath and washed my shirt. I also took a short nap before dinner. 

We had quesadillas for dinner with a yummy soup with broccoli. The wind has picked up again, so it is likely to be a noisy night.

Sat 4/29 - Day 8

Today was a day to pack up and go home. I was awake at 5 and started packing by 5:15. It is sad to leave, but I feel good about what we accomplished this week. 

I realized I had brought too many extra clothes, most of which I never even taken out of my clothes bag. My pack was stuffed as if I was headed out on a 7-day trek on the PCT. Then I remembered that I still needed to pack my extra food which I had stored in the bear box near the cook tent. Yikes, my pack was really full now!

I helped wash the dishes after breakfast, which involved washing everything twice. We even dried everything off before they were packed into their carrying containers.

Everyone was done packing by 9. We had to wait another two hours until the forest service boat arrived around 11. 
The forest service boat which took us back to Lucerne

We all were dropped off at the Lucerne landing and had an early lunch. 

Someone suggested that we buy a ticket and visit Stehekin, which sounded good when they mentioned that we would have enough time there for a burger and a beer. The ticket cost $12.75.

We arrived in Stehekin just after noon, and all bought food at the restaurant. 
Arriving at Stehekin and heading to the restaurant for burgers and a beer

The weather was pleasant as we sat outside and enjoyed the scenery. 

The boat left shortly after one, and we enjoyed our trip up the lake. Everyone helped unload the camp equipment, supplies and tools.

It was a wonderful experience and a great way to give back to the hiking community.

An amazing day at our Lake Chelan campsite

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