It's been discussed now for a couple of years, but the USFS has finally settled on their preferred alternative and is soliciting public comment. There's no better use of our COVID time... if we can't hike the trails, we might as well save them via public comment!
Quick background: The USFS is proposing to build an access road to access drilling plots and a barge dock within the Pumice Plain, following the Truman Trail for 3 miles. There was an access road along this route shortly after the eruption, but nearly 40 years of plant growth and up to 75 research plots will be directly affected by the project. During the multiple summers of construction (up to 5 years) the Truman Trail will be closed to public access, removing the only trail connection between the north (Mt. Margaret / Johnston Ridge) and the south (Loowit). Hikes between regions, or just between the mountain and Johnston Ridge, would be impossible. Following the project, the road will (allegedly) be restored to native grade and will be replanted (whatever that means in such a sensitive environment), but it will take at least 10 years for the restored trail to not look like a construction site. And that's all if you trust them to actually remove the road at the end of the project.
Now's your chance to make your voice heard regarding the Truman Trail. The USFS is accepting online public comment until 5/22/2020 at the following link:
Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of faith in the public comment process and I'm pretty convinced that the Truman Trail will soon be history. So I have been brainstorming alternatives to years of closed trails and a road hike in perpetuity. I think a reroute of the Truman Trail, maybe 1/2 mile west of the existing trail across the Pumice Plain, would allow access to continue both during and after construction, affect a minimal number of research plots, as well as keep the user experience as good as it can be.
Any other thoughts of how to best preserve access and user experience once the Truman Trail becomes a gravel road?
General discussions on hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest
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Yikes, the word "drilling" freaked me out at first. But I guess it's because they need to make sure Spirit Lake (which is essentially man-made at this point due to the outflow tunnel) is behaving.
The drilling is essentially to do some geotechnical investigation... to determine the risk of the mudflow 'dam' failing in the Cascadia earthquake and flooding the Toutle and Cowlitz valleys, or if the outlet tunnel fails, the risks from Spirit Lake overtopping the Pumice Plain. They just aren't too sure how stable the whole area is, and they need to investigate it.