|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Five years later, a trail re-emerges

  • A hiking route through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness is open for the first time in a dozen years, thanks to the efforts of volunteers from the Siskiyou Mountain Club who worked for almost five years to clear the Trans-Kalmiopsis Trail.
    • email print
  • A hiking route through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness is open for the first time in a dozen years, thanks to the efforts of volunteers from the Siskiyou Mountain Club who worked for almost five years to clear the Trans-Kalmiopsis Trail.
    Crews last week sliced through the last ceanothus and tan oak to link the 26-mile system of trails for the first time since they were destroyed by 2002's Biscuit fire.
    While passable, the route still needs some brush cutting, removal of "step-over" logs, and trail signs — particularly in areas where it's easy to get lost in the remote, 180,000-acre wilderness area.
    "We're not done," says the SMC's Gabe Howe. "You can hike it without climbing over and under trees, but it's not like hiking a regular trail yet.
    "It's easy to get pumped up, but there's still a lot of work."
    A youth work party spent 18 days in the Kalmiopsis this summer hacking through impassable sections of the route from the Babyfoot Lake trailhead to the Vulcan Lake trailhead in the far upper reaches of the Chetco River watershed, Howe says.
    They hiked out victoriously on the Fourth of July.
    The projects began in the summer of 2010, and it took close to five hiking seasons to finish, largely because of the difficult terrain, the immense amount of brush and logs that had to be removed by hand, and remote settings that required hiking parties to pack in supplies for trail-clearers.
    The work inside a wilderness area means no chainsaws and other mechanized equipment — just handsaws, crosscut saws, axes and machetes.
    Over time, crews cut more than 600 trees that had fallen across the trail, Howe says. In some areas, winter brought storms that dropped new snags on previously cleared parts of the trail, so each year's work was as much about reclaiming previous segments as it was about blazing new sections of trail.
    "We didn't realize these sections would fill in over the winter," Howe says. "We'd cut them out, and they'd fill in again. Every year we'd go in and say, 'I can't believe we have to clean this out again.'
    "But the Kalmiopsis is like that, anyway," he says.
    Another work crew is set to go in over two weekends in August to finish the brush-clearing and the trail signing, Howe says.
    "Now that we have it open, the logistics will be better," he says.
    When the Biscuit fire burned southward in the summer of 2002, Forest Service wildfire teams largely let it burn in the Kalmiopsis.
    But the trail was so choked by post-fire brush regrowth, downed trees and slides that some of the trail was not only inaccessible, but also indistinguishable.
    The fire took away true backwoods access for everyone from grizzled elk hunters to botany geeks who would occasionally cross paths along the Trans-Kalmiopsis Trail.
    So Howe and a small band of fellow trail-lovers began clearing some early stretches, eventually expanding to a point where crews were paid via a series of federal and private grants.
    The route features historic relics from the mining eras, ridge-top panoramas and sneak peaks of the upper Chetco River drainage that sports some of the best steelhead-rearing habitat in the lower 48 states.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.
Reader Reaction

      calendar