St Helens: The new Fossil Creek Trail bridge

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Chip Down
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St Helens: The new Fossil Creek Trail bridge

Post by Chip Down » October 28th, 2018, 4:57 pm

On a recent hike, I noticed the barrier on Road 8123 at Blue Lake TH is gone, as is the equipment and lumber staged at Coldspring Creek. I found a USFS webpage stating the Fossil Creek Trail bridge at Coldwater Creek was cancelled, but no, I don't believe it (unless there was a planned bridge on Rd 8123, the old Sheep Canyon road). I decided to do some sleuthing.

I arrived at Blue Lake TH at 1ish, as this was a fill-in after another hike. Interesting mood. Trucks, huge tents, a bonfire, offroad vehicles. It's a totally different crowd than the summer hiking folks. Had a bit of a Mad Max feel to it. Or a Deliverance vibe. Whatever. Not that it was really menacing or anything, just a different tone from August.

I hadn't previously hiked Fossil Creek Trail, but I gathered I needed to park at Blue Lake TH (end of drivable RD 8123) and walk up the abandoned road, turning left at forks. It took forever on this gently graded road, but I was in no hurry. I had a headlamp, and plenty of daylight. I knew rain was coming, but I figured I'd be mostly sheltered from the wind.

As expected, I took a fork left, then another (the straight route at the second fork looked enticing, but not today). Took about a half hour to the first fork (where I left the old Sheep Canyon road) and another 40 minutes to the bridge.

Having seen the piles of lumber (including laminated beams) I knew this would be an impressive structure. They still need to construct an access ramp on one end, but it's essentially complete. There was previously a little ford to get across the creek. I'm sure the horses will appreciate not having to get their hooves wet anymore (this is a popular equestrian route).

I assumed this was the same creek as the one I had crossed on Rd 8123 earlier, just downstream from Blue Lake, so I thought I'd avoid the long road walk back by following the creek back. It immediately forked, and although I guessed this was a little tributary that went nowhere, I knew it was safer to follow it. The worst that could happen is it would take me back to the road more directly, not all the way back to Blue Lake. Not surprisingly, it just marshed out. So back down to the main creek, followed it a ways, same thing, another side channel. Okay, enough of that, I decided to take the road. Good thing; looking at the map now, I realize that plan couldn't have worked out well!

When I got back to the bridge, it started raining. Oh well. I took a shortcut, avoiding the long gentle switchback through pretty easy mostly-open forest. Back on the road, I put up my umbrella. Wasn't pouring down, but it was warm enough that I didn't want to put on a jacket/hat, and the wind was negligible anyway.

By the time I got cleaned up and changed, it was raining pretty hard, and Rd 8123 was getting to be quite a river. I was glad I wasn't down in the Goat Marsh basin trying to figure out how the heck to get back to my car.
Attachments
a.jpg
"before", a bridge of sorts on Rd 8123 at Coldspring Creek
b.jpg
After. For a while, there was nothing. Weird. This is a little better, feels more stable.
c.jpg
Laminated beams and equipment were gone last time I was here. I have fond memories of relaxing here on a hot summer day, with just 1/4 mile left to the car.
d.jpg
"before"
e.jpg
After. First fork in the road, where I left 8123.
f.jpg
Essentially finished, but barricaded and signed. I wonder why.
g.jpg
Oh, okay. Nice of them to leave a ladder.
h.jpg
Bird's eye view.
i.jpg
Returning to the Coldspring/8123 crossing, and inspired by the lovely green moss, I tested my theory that one could splash across here. Yep.

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retired jerry
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Re: St Helens: The new Fossil Creek Trail bridge

Post by retired jerry » October 28th, 2018, 7:55 pm

"Had a bit of a Mad Max feel to it. Or a Deliverance vibe."

Ha, ha, ha,...

Once I was cowboy camping in my black sleeping bag on an abandoned road when about an hour before sunrise a bunch of 4x4 hunters drove up. I was lucky they didn't drive over me. Or think I was a bear. They were friendly enough though when I talked to them.

Did you ignore the barricade and cross anyway?

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romann
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Re: St Helens: The new Fossil Creek Trail bridge

Post by romann » October 28th, 2018, 10:19 pm

Phew - I was worried they were going to build a traffic bridge and reopen Rd. 8123 to vehicles, that would take out the loop hike around the ridge, via old Sheep Canyon trailhead. Now that place will stay wild for quite some time!

johnspeth
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Re: St Helens: The new Fossil Creek Trail bridge

Post by johnspeth » October 29th, 2018, 9:38 am

I'm confused about the exact location of this bridge. According to maps accessible via Hillmap, Fossil Creek is a named creek system west of Goat Mtn. Your walking directions maps to the following roads: 8123 then L on 171 and then L of 173, all of which is east of Goat Mtn. There is an unnamed creek near the end of 173 at 46.1742, -122.2949. I think that marks the spot at which you've identified the new bridge. My confusion starts here. Fossil Creek is nowhere near this spot but it looks like the unmapped Fossil Trail passes nearby.

Perhaps I'm confused by your naming methods. Are you using "Fossil Creek Trail" to really describe the Fossil Trail?

A bigger question in my mind is What is motivating the FS to build a very nice bridge on a trail that is no longer mapped nor marked (as far as I know)? What is the grand plan? I would expect such a nice bridge to come with some big plans, and not just a way to spend my forest pass dollars for budget justification.

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Chip Down
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Re: St Helens: The new Fossil Creek Trail bridge

Post by Chip Down » October 29th, 2018, 7:02 pm

Jerry: I like telling about the time I stumbled into a campsite set up right on a trail! I was hiking pre-dawn, and didn't see it until I practically walked into their tent.

Romann: I'm ambivalent. I wish I could still drive to the old Sheep Canyon TH, but I also appreciate a segment of the mountain being more remote.

John: Oops, you're right, it's Fossil Trail, not Fossil Creek Trail. And yes, Fossil Creek is on the other Side of Goat. Anyway, see map below. A is Blue Lake TH, B is where the abandoned Rd 8123 crosses Coldspring Creek below Blue Lake, and the site of parked equipment and staged beams. C is where lumber was staged. D is the road to the abandoned Sheep Canyon TH ("road" continues, not shown on this map). E has to be site of new bridge. I'm pretty confident about that. Everything adds up. [I could have put my "B" a little more to the east, but you get the point]

Regarding the elaborate expensive bridge across a little trickle of a creek, I completely agree it's an outrage. But I know an equestrian group helped out, so that tempers my rage. I think USFS provided materials and equipment, and the equestrian group provided labor. I still think it's absurd, but it's hard to complain when you see users making sacrifices to get the improvements they want.
Attachments
Capture2.JPG

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romann
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Re: St Helens: The new Fossil Creek Trail bridge

Post by romann » October 30th, 2018, 11:11 pm

Chip Down wrote:
October 29th, 2018, 7:02 pm
E has to be site of new bridge. I'm pretty confident about that. Everything adds up.
Ah, okay, was thinking it's at point "B" on your map. I had to look closer at your pictures. Now I think the same thing John said above, who in the world would build such a nice bridge on unmapped trail no one seems to use? :lol: Having the bridge is nice, but so many popular trails really need one (like Muddy Fork or Sandy River on Mt. Hood, or even some gullies on Loowit Trail).

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bobcat
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Re: St Helens: The new Fossil Creek Trail bridge

Post by bobcat » November 1st, 2018, 7:07 am

romann wrote:
October 30th, 2018, 11:11 pm
Having the bridge is nice, but so many popular trails really need one (like Muddy Fork or Sandy River on Mt. Hood, or even some gullies on Loowit Trail).
It does befuddle me a little that equestrians would need a bridge there unless part of the purpose was to keep horse traffic out of the creek itself (Glad we settled it's a tributary of Coldspring Creek and not Fossil Creek). It does, however, finally bring this trail up to A grade standard, put it on the map, and justify all the work horse groups have done over the years there. On the other hand, bridges are expensive pieces of infrastructure, and this one will surely last at least a couple of decades. At those other places you mentioned, a bridge may not last this winter, given the ability of those creeks to become catastrophic spates, and that's money down the drain. Also, USFS is now committed to less infrastructure in wilderness - ostensibly to enhance the true wilderness experience (Yes, you're going to have to get your feet wet sometimes is the message; the Ramona Falls hike is now dubbed a "true wilderness experience") - but also it conveniently saves them money in their dwindling trail budgets. There's been an ongoing campaign to change public expectations on this issue. In other words, I don't think we'll see any new bridges in the Mt. Hood Wilderness any time soon.

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