Elk Creek Trail - hiking, trail maintenance, and a surprise!

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Crusak
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Elk Creek Trail - hiking, trail maintenance, and a surprise!

Post by Crusak » November 12th, 2012, 6:32 pm

After spending the past three weekends at home doing yard work I was desperate to get out hiking. I've been dealing with some lower back pain (from the yard work) and that's kept me a bit idle as well. Since today was one of my paid holidays, I decided to celebrate with a quick trip up the Elk Creek Trail.

My last trip up the Elk Creek Trail was back in May this year. Since it had been six months I figured it was time to get up there again.

Last year I did some snowshoeing up there, and today I decided that it might be good to get up there and do a bit of light trail maintenance and pruning. In the past the ice and snow has weighed down the small alder saplings along parts of the trail and created a very tangled mess (making it very hard to snowshoe across). My goal was to trim back some of the alders along the worst parts. I also wanted to check out the section of trail at the top, past the "official" end of the Elk Creek Trail, and close to the private property line.

I started out in 44° weather with light rain. My truck was the only one parked outside the gate (campground closes in October) just off Hwy 6. It's been fun to hike the same trail every few months and see the changes that take place. There are numerous landslides creeping down the hillsides along the trail that threaten to obliterate it someday. I saw some new ones.

I'd forgotten that this isn't necessarily an 'easy' trail, and after having three weeks off I was huffing and puffing. I stopped every now and then to take a photo. This is one of several small streams that intersect the trail:
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One of my objectives today (besides just getting out on the trail!) was to trim back some of those pesky alder saplings and remove any small downed trees that I came across. Fortunately there weren't any trees down on the trail, but I found a lot of overgrown alders and other messy trees/bushes along the way. My new pruners came in handy!
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Note the gloves I'm wearing - bought them at Costco and they're very good for hiking in wet weather. My hands stayed warm and dry all day (even though it was raining and I was handling lots of wet branches).

For some reason today I noticed a whole bunch of things along this trail that I haven't ever noticed before. I saw about six game trails that looked interesting to explore, and a few places above, below and beside the trail where it looked like logging roads used to be. I also heard some very loud water off-trail at about the 2600' elevation mark, at a bend in the trail. I went off-trail briefly and discovered a nice campsite, and this waterfall/stream that eventually meets up with the west fork of Elk Creek. My camera lens is smudged & wet... sorry. It was that kind of day. :)
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I made it to the junction at the 4 mile mark (that connects with the old road that goes over to the three-way junction on the back of Elk Mtn & Kings Mtn). This spot has changed quite a bit in the past couple of years. It used to be fairly open, and now there is a small alder forest growing that nearly obscures the this trail junction sign.
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I was already feeling tired. Taking weeks off from hiking can do that to a person. :) But I wanted to head further up the trail, in this direction:
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Here I spotted my first surprise - the biggest (and freshest?) cougar scat I've ever seen.
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Actually I'd seen some cougar scat lower down on the trail, and lots of coyote scat too.

This abandoned section of road/trail is slowly being reclaimed by the forest. These brave little trees are giving it their best shot:
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Headed up to the top I got my second surprise! The logging on the private property at the real "end" of this trail is in full swing, and the cool rest spot I'd taken a break at last time (next to whatever scientific equipment is up there) is totally destroyed. Yup, they're logging.
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On the way back down I got a brief almost sunny moment. This is one of the spots that I did a bit of pruning, to open up things a bit.
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I paused by this nice little waterfall to take a picture:
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Overall it was a good day. I made it back down in one piece, my truck was still in one piece (parked beside Hwy 6) and I drove home safely. Oh, and I finally went hiking!

Overall stats for the day: 10 miles and 2600' elevation gain.
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hike4fun
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Re: Elk Creek Trail - hiking, trail maintenance, and a surpr

Post by hike4fun » November 12th, 2012, 8:57 pm

Awesome! And thanks for your work! That is some nice scat. :)
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Sean Thomas
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Re: Elk Creek Trail - hiking, trail maintenance, and a surpr

Post by Sean Thomas » November 12th, 2012, 9:31 pm

Thanks for your work Crus. The alders are getting pretty out of control up there and your efforts are much appreciated :)

Jojo and I hiked up to Russell Point on august 31st, which is reached by taking the same road you did to the logged out area/viewpoint. It was a friday but it looked like the loggers had taken the day off getting an early start to labor day. Their equipment was still everywhere but had been abandoned for the holiday weekend giving an eerie feel to an area we had visited just weeks before, with tall doug firs dominating the lower slopes below the road.


Here is Russell Point from the spot you were standing at, the area above the road(left of the saddle/logging equipment in this pic) was logged a few years back:


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zoom on the logging equipment below the point:


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I wonder what will happen to the logs pictured in your 8th photo, they were there on the 31st as well:


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I dont know much about sustainable logging but it looks the log trucks I see nowadays are hauling out tons of tiny trees to make profits now instead of letting them grow old/large enough?


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Russell Point is a well worth a visit on a clear day. The best views are just below the summit and are easy to get too, we should setup an elk/kings russell point excursion soon :)

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Re: Elk Creek Trail - hiking, trail maintenance, and a surpr

Post by kepPNW » November 12th, 2012, 9:52 pm

That's a happy dude, by that waterfall! :D

Bet it felt great to get back out again! And working the brush, too... Wow, way to go!

Those gloves look good, too. I just bought something similar at Big 5, but haven't had a chance to really see how they'll do (other than walking the dog around the neighborhood). Between those, the socks GH mentioned (I got some of those last year), and a few other things, I'm kinda wishin' we hadn't let our Costco membership slide...
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Re: Elk Creek Trail - hiking, trail maintenance, and a surpr

Post by Splintercat » November 12th, 2012, 9:52 pm

Sean, for what it's worth, clearcuts on steep mountainsides are never sustainable, and have been discredited as such. But they're cheap and fast, so private timber holdings are still logged this way. If the downstream impacts on water quality and salmon habitat could be monetized and billed back to the timber companies, you wouldn't see cleacuts anymore. The profits come from externalizing the impacts.

As far as the small caliper, there's good chance these trees will be turned into cardboard boxes -- for example, Longview Fibre, which is currently clearcutting most of the West Fork Hood River, turns the trees they cut into cardboard, not lumber. IMO, that sort of adds insult to injury, since there are much less impactful ways to produce wood pulp.

Okay, getting off my soapbox... ;)

Thanks for the trail tending, Crusak!

Tom :)

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Re: Elk Creek Trail - hiking, trail maintenance, and a surpr

Post by potato » November 12th, 2012, 10:04 pm

:( :( I swear they're just leaving 50' of forest on either side of the major highways so that tourists will think the Coast Range is forested...
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Sean Thomas
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Re: Elk Creek Trail - hiking, trail maintenance, and a surpr

Post by Sean Thomas » November 12th, 2012, 10:07 pm

I appreciate the soap box, Splinter. Potato is right, take a look at saddle mountain road the next time your on top of saddle on a clear day.

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Crusak
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Re: Elk Creek Trail - hiking, trail maintenance, and a surpr

Post by Crusak » November 13th, 2012, 12:15 pm

Sean Thomas wrote:Thanks for your work Crus. The alders are getting pretty out of control up there and your efforts are much appreciated :)

Jojo and I hiked up to Russell Point on august 31st, which is reached by taking the same road you did to the logged out area/viewpoint.

Russell Point is a well worth a visit on a clear day. The best views are just below the summit and are easy to get too, we should setup an elk/kings russell point excursion soon :)
I could have spent a lot more time up there working on trimming back the alders than I did. :) Russell Point sounds interesting! We should do that sometime.
kepPNW wrote:That's a happy dude, by that waterfall! :D

Bet it felt great to get back out again! And working the brush, too... Wow, way to go!

Those gloves look good, too. I just bought something similar at Big 5, but haven't had a chance to really see how they'll do (other than walking the dog around the neighborhood). Between those, the socks GH mentioned (I got some of those last year), and a few other things, I'm kinda wishin' we hadn't let our Costco membership slide...
It did feel good to get out again. Crazy how just taking a few weekend off can cause such withdrawal symptoms. :) I'd like to get up Elk Creek again, this time with pruners and a saw, and finish the job. Before it snows.

I think I've seen those same Manzella gloves before. They do look similar.
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Re: Elk Creek Trail - hiking, trail maintenance, and a surpr

Post by mileagemike25000 » November 13th, 2012, 6:57 pm

Jim - Great TR and pictures! We love the Elk Creek area and find it to be a great winter hike. My wife and I carry a pair of ratcheting pruners that make it easier to cut thicker branches. We also use a self-retracting tether, made by Gear Keeper, that keeps the pruners close at hand instead of in a pocket or case. I just thought I'd bring up another option you may want to consider, or already have? :?

That clearcut is quite disturbing and depressing. I've seen a bit of it from Hwy 6 and am quite repulsed by it! :x

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Re: Elk Creek Trail - hiking, trail maintenance, and a surpr

Post by Crusak » November 13th, 2012, 7:57 pm

mileagemike25000 wrote:Jim - Great TR and pictures! We love the Elk Creek area and find it to be a great winter hike. My wife and I carry a pair of ratcheting pruners that make it easier to cut thicker branches. We also use a self-retracting tether, made by Gear Keeper, that keeps the pruners close at hand instead of in a pocket or case. I just thought I'd bring up another option you may want to consider, or already have? :?

That clearcut is quite disturbing and depressing. I've seen a bit of it from Hwy 6 and am quite repulsed by it! :x
I have a holster thing that I used to keep the pruners on my belt. I had quite a load of equipment yesterday, inside my pack and on my belt - even more than usual. When I get out by myself I take more stuff.

The retracting tether sounds like a great idea! I can picture it now: GPS, camera, "catchall" water bottle holder (that holds everything but water), drinking tube, lanyard with light, knife, whistle, and now pruning shears, all attached to my pack straps in front and within easy reach! And I'm totally serious about that. :) Look for it in future Crusak TRs.

It was sad to see the clearcut area. I wonder sometimes about Potato's suggestion about the 50' swath of trees along the highway... definitely some truth to that.

There's still some pruning to do up along Elk Creek. I alternated between long pauses to clear out the more irritating areas and hurrying along to make up some time (told my wife I'd be gone 5 hours... overall my day was a lot longer than that. :shock: )

Speaking of trimming those trees - I wasn't sure what method would be best to help prevent the trees from bowing down and blocking the trail when they're all loaded down with ice and snow. I trimmed the branches on the trail side back, hoping that when ice and snow builds up on the trees they'll naturally bend away from the trail (since the weight of the ice/snow on the outside branches will bend them that direction). They're all very small trees, growing right on the trail in many places, as any of you would have seen for yourself when you've hiked on that trail. Next trip I might end up removing some of the saplings entirely because they're right in the path... packing the bow saw next time.
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