Sunday, July 17, 2011

Surprise Creek Trail Work Party with WTA

For whatever reason, I had a tough week of recovery from Knee Knackering. Very tight achilles, still tender ankle. Looking at the calendar, I realized I needed to get my trail work* done for Cascade Crest 100 in late August, and this Saturday was the best window. 

In case you're reading this and don't know, many 100 milers require a day of trail work as prerequisite for starting. It's a good thing. I've been putting in a day of trail work every year for the last few years, and it's ALWAYS rewarding.

The Washington Trail Association (WTA), one of my favorite charities, had a work party scheduled at Surprise Creek. I try to do my trail work with them, because they are just so cool. I was excited to check out Surprise Creek, as I hiked this trail over 20 years ago--a couple times--and I thought it would be fun to go back and see what was familiar. Back in the '80s, I used to hike Highway 2 and I-90 quite a bit. As it turned out, I did not remember much, in terms of landmarks. I do recall I liked the hike more than most on Highway 2, that there was a lake and a pass, and there were bugs up high. Also, a day trip to the pass was reasonably tough.

The drive up was terrific. I've been sitting on Bruce Springsteen's The Promise for some time now, and this was the drive to finally check it out. The album is an unreleased album from the '70s, with rave reviews. I was soaking it up on the drive to the trailhead, listening to Bruce and the E Street Band, just like the old days when I did this hike before. I used to listen to the Boss a lot on my way to all sorts of places--Yellowstone and the Tetons come to mind. On cassettes, held in wood racks. Clarence Clemons recently passed away--another reason for the renewed listen. Rest in peace, Big Man.

The trailhead for Surprise Creek is about 8 miles east of Skykomish, near Stevens Pass, at a bit of an odd turnoff.  We had a small but able crew of Forrest, our WTA trail crew expert, along with Nathan, Craig, Lauren and myself.  We hiked in about a mile on a really pleasant trail, with many boardwalks, to our worksite, which was just across Surprise Creek. I carried a culvert all the way in--awkward though light.

We spent the whole day working on a fallen Silver Fir. Most of the morning was spent just trying to cut one section of log and move it about 100 yards. Since we were in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, all our tools were old school--an eight foot crosscut saw, the helpful PV, the pulaskis, loppers, grubhoe, et al.  We managed to drop this 750 lb. log in a hole, and then figured out how to skid it out of it. Towards the end of the day, we made real progress with the rest of the tree, cutting it up, skinning it, and moving the logs.

We saw a few hikers go by during the day. They all came back, turned around by the snow. I don't think any of them made it to Surprise Lake, the first of two lakes. There's just a whole lot of snow still up there. I suspect this might impact White River and even Cascade. It's not like it's sunny this weekend.

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