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Bridal Veil Plateau is different now

Posted: December 4th, 2018, 1:04 am
by romann
I went over BV Plateau and returned back on Palmer Mill Rd for a loop, and wanted to give a heads up if you're planning to hike in the area.

Palmer Mill Road is open and in good condition, no signs other than "no motorized vehicles" at old concrete barricade. There was a word the road got decommissioned higher up, near junction with Multnomah Basin Rd, but I didn't hike that far. However, road grades /trails on BV Plateau are destroyed, in rather heavy-handed way. Plowed, excavated, and covered with logs
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Bad news or good news? I think it depends. If you're training for Spartan Race, or just want to keep in shape for summer bushwhacking, you can see it as year-round opportunity. If you're looking for quiet stroll in the woods (as I did) - then not so much. One thing is clear - not many hikers will want to go there after the change.

I went on, at a good 1 mph pace (oftentimes, bushwhacking along the track was much easier), to see if they only covered the beginning portion of the path. But except a few small stretches, the 3 trails I hiked all looked like this. Probably took them weeks of work with heavy machinery - most likely last year, as it didn't look very fresh.
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Many logs on trails were probably blowdown dragged there by machinery (i hope), but significant portion were trees cut by chainsaws right there along the trails - that's why you see a tree-less line along the road in the first picture. Hundreds of live trees were cut to block the trails, kind of irony they were spared by the fire (it's all outside burn area) but then USFS came and did all the destruction. And the same FS will be teaching us about "leave no trace" ;)
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They missed with this tree - rolled away from the trail, was probably too large for them to move
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No problem, let's cut a few more
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As it happens, I pre-loaded GPX tracks on my phone, but then forgot it at home - no gps, no paper map, and the trails were all unrecognizable. But the area is not so large & it's hard to get lost, if you know general layout of the plateau and direction you're going. The hike does seem a lot longer than it used to be before.

I think FS was worried illegal motorcycle riders could start a fire (they often rode motorbikes on closed portion of Palmer Mill Rd - just a turn away from these trails). But even then, covering the first 100 yards of the trail would be sufficient. So many mature trees were cut with no purpose, so pointless..
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The woods around were still quite nice and lush, untouched by the fire
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Nearing Palmer Mill Rd, I saw the slope down to BV Creek on the right, and took a shortcut to the road. Much easier than trying to follow trails! Would do it long time ago, if I had GPS with me. Hiked a bit east on the road, to check the trail junction - it was covered with logs pretty well, as expected. Then back down to the car, grateful this road was spared. I try to look at things in life philosophically (it's government land after all, and we are visitors on their terms). I'll find some workaround for close-to-town hike, where I can take my pup to run - either there, or some other place
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Re: Bridal Veil Plateau is different now

Posted: December 4th, 2018, 6:29 am
by Guy
Thanks for this sad update Romann. I've no problem with firebreaks being treated like this after the fire has past but this is just overkill. It seems designed to keep hikers out.

These were not firebreaks, the USFS always talks about the lack of funds and the overuse of forest trails. Less money could have been spent bring the BV trail complex into the mix to give people more options and relieve crowding. Instead they chose to restrict access and force people onto a small number of overused trails :evil:

Re: Bridal Veil Plateau is different now

Posted: December 4th, 2018, 7:30 am
by retired jerry
Yeah, same here, no reason to decommission trails from hikers like that. If there are people hiking on un-named trails it's okay.

There's a mentality in the Forest Service that they want to keep people from using wild areas because they're over-used, rather than figuring out how to manage it.

Animals also use trails so it mitigates a little the fact we keep developing on wild lands.

Another "trail" like that was the old road past Riley Horse Camp. They went to great effort to decommission it. I liked walking on it especially in the winter because it was so wide, good when brush was wet or there was snow on the ground.

Re: Bridal Veil Plateau is different now

Posted: December 4th, 2018, 8:48 am
by Lurch
While I may not like what they did here, I think it's important to have a bit of context. And also clarify that from everything I've seen and heard, there's a 25' limitation to the listed trails for the opening, which would put BV Plateau still in a restricted area IMO.

These were definitely fire lines. Or more accurately, a combination of dozer lines (XX), roads (R), and handlines (H).
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People seem to be forgetting the fire, remember it ran at nearly a mile an hour down the gorge for the better part of a day, and *only* slowed because we had the good fortune for the winds to change. BV had old, document, existing (overgrown) road beds and previous fire lines, it needed to be cut, and they pulled off miracles to make that happen.

It's SOP to decommission lines that are cut, to aid in regrowth and restoration, to help with erosion (cutting a line down to mineral soil can be cause a big impact), and to stop people from turning those temporary emergency lines into permanent roads and routes. Of course they're going to cut a road on top of an old road, it's easier, less impactful, and is simply logical. Are they going to leave that in a driveable state after the fire? Of course not, especially with how difficult it's been getting people to respect the existing closures.

<soapbox> I'm honestly a bit confused though.. Are people upset that trees were cut down in an effort to stop a forest fire, or that the fire didn't reach that far so they feel it was unnecessary? This was the #1 fire in the country while it was burning, it had closed interstate traffic, threatening the water supply for nearly a million people, and if it had gotten past BV there's not a whole lot stopping it from thousands of homes, Latourell, and eventually Corbett, and Troutdale etc.. Or are people upset that they used old decommissioned roadbeds that had been systematically cleared out despite the seemingly clear intent from the FS to let things regrow? </soapbox>

Re: Bridal Veil Plateau is different now

Posted: December 4th, 2018, 9:19 am
by Guy
Hi Jake, I'll just share my thoughts here. I support the USFS preemptively turning these old roads into fire breaks. I'm also very happy that the wind changed and the fire stopped advancing. I live half a mile (as the crow flies) outside what was level 2 evacuation on the other side of the Sandy river.

What I question is the need to so utterly decommission them after the fire, especially parts of the old Palmer Mill rd. Mainly because it was an area that at very little cost (probably less that this decommissioning project) The trails could have been adopted into the Gorge hiking network.

Re: Bridal Veil Plateau is different now

Posted: December 4th, 2018, 10:13 am
by retired jerry
I don't know about this case.

I just object to decommissioning unoffical "trails" to keep hikers from using

I can see taking actions to prevent motorcycles or off road vehicles

If they made a firebreak for this fire, maybe they should just leave it in place and let hikers use it. It'll be useful the next time there's a fire.

Re: Bridal Veil Plateau is different now

Posted: December 4th, 2018, 10:17 am
by Bosterson
Lurch wrote:
December 4th, 2018, 8:48 am
And also clarify that from everything I've seen and heard, there's a 25' limitation to the listed trails for the opening, which would put BV Plateau still in a restricted area IMO.
I don't think this is correct. Per the new closure order effective 11/23/18, the "25 ft" rule only seems to apply to the trails that border the west edge of the closure boundary - ie, the Larch Mtn, Multnomah Spur, Oneonta, and Horsetail trails:
Closure Area Description:

All National Forest System (NFS) lands and NFS trails administered by the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area within Multnomah and Hood River Counties, State of Oregon within the following area:

Lands south of l-84, and north of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area boundary; bounded on the west by the Larch Mountain Trail #441, Multnomah Spur Trail #446 and the Oneonta Trail #424; and bounded on the east by the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) #2000.

and

Lands within 0.25 miles of the Wyeth Trail #411, from its junction with the Gorge 400 Trail to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Boundary.

EXCEPT:
• Eagle Creek Recreation Area: Day use parking, picnic area, and picnic shelter are open [See map on Exhibit D].
• The following trailheads are open:
o Horsetail Falls Trailhead
• The following trails and the area 25 feet to either side of trail center line are open:
o Larch Mountain Trail #441
o Multnomah Spur Trail #446
o Oneonta Trail #424, from the Larch Mountain Road to the intersection of the Multnomah Spur Trail #446.
o Horsetail Falls & Trail (#438), from the Horsetail Falls Trailhead to Ponytail Falls.
Accompanying maps have a red hash over closed areas, even if the trails themselves are open - for instance, see the trails across the top of the Benson vs the actual terrain on the Benson itself. This is how they administered the Starvation and Herman areas when their trails were first opened but the "area" around them was not. (The most recent closure map no longer shows the red hashes over those areas.) One can thus conclude that everything west of Larch Mountain's trails and east of the PCT (with the exception of Wyeth) is effectively open again without restriction.

Re: Bridal Veil Plateau is different now

Posted: December 4th, 2018, 11:34 am
by Lurch
retired jerry wrote:
December 4th, 2018, 10:13 am
I don't know about this case.

I just object to decommissioning unoffical "trails" to keep hikers from using

I can see taking actions to prevent motorcycles or off road vehicles

If they made a firebreak for this fire, maybe they should just leave it in place and let hikers use it. It'll be useful the next time there's a fire.
There's a number of unofficial trails that didn't receive this treatment, because they weren't converted into firelines or had their infrastructure improved to make them driveable during the incident, they were essentially untouched. I don't think it's in their SOP's to leave the option for *not* decommissioning lines that were cut after the fire. I don't know what the specific rehabilitation plan for this area of the forest was/is, but there undoubtedly is one, and most likely requires these types of activities for catlines, since most require seeding the soil, and redistributing logs across the line. Granted they're typically supposed to be "natural" looking.. I don't believe they fell trees specifically for this decom, more likely they were dropped and stacked on the 'green' side when the line was cut, and redistributed afterwards
Bosterson wrote:
December 4th, 2018, 10:17 am
I don't think this is correct. Per the new closure order effective 11/23/18, the "25 ft" rule only seems to apply to the trails that border the west edge of the closure boundary - ie, the Larch Mtn, Multnomah Spur, Oneonta, and Horsetail trails:
Hrmm, that may be correct? Weird that it says 'on either side' of the trail though if that were the case.

Re: Bridal Veil Plateau is different now

Posted: December 4th, 2018, 12:41 pm
by aircooled
Lurch wrote:
December 4th, 2018, 8:48 am
It's SOP to decommission lines that are cut, to aid in regrowth and restoration, to help with erosion (cutting a line down to mineral soil can be cause a big impact), and to stop people from turning those temporary emergency lines into permanent roads and routes.
I've had a look at this first hand. There are some areas where it appears SOP erosion control was put into place. Trees have been laid down diagonally like this at reasonable intervals: / \ / \ / \. I'm not sure how necessary that is since the roads have no grade or very little grade, and given our lush climate are already ankle deep in grass and vines. If a line was cut down to mineral soil, you would never know it one year later. Interestingly, very little erosion control was done on the steeper grade from the beginning of Smith Road where it comes up from Palmer Mill.

It appears the heaviest damage -- excessive damage -- was done at entrance points to the Plateau in a deliberate effort to keep people out.

While this may have ruined a perfectly good set of roads for trail runners and dog walkers, it won't stop anyone who is comfortable with off trail hiking, and judging from a long series of ribbons which we discovered (and followed of course!) people are already doing just that.

I fully support cutting fire breaks wherever necessary. These fire breaks were not wide enough to stop a crown fire the likes of which we had after Labor Day 2017, but would have provided mitigation for a slower moving fire on the forest floor.

What troubles me is the loss of public access to public lands that were not being abused. I've found tons of trash on Horsetail/Angel's Rest/Wahkeena, but the only trash on the BV Plateau is a smattering of junk from decades ago before the gates went up. All this was done hastily with NO opportunity for public comment and, it would appear, any environmental review. Excavators mucked around in the creeks and streams and thousands of mature trees were killed, not for the purpose of reducing fire danger or erosion control, but simply to keep people out.

Re: Bridal Veil Plateau is different now

Posted: December 4th, 2018, 4:00 pm
by romann
Lurch wrote:
December 4th, 2018, 8:48 am
These were definitely fire lines. Or more accurately, a combination of dozer lines (XX), roads (R), and handlines (H)
Thanks for clarifying this - I do feel a little better now, knowing that trees were cut in order to make fire lines, and not just to block the trails. I've thought about that while hiking but almost ruled it out. Could've been better if they removed the logs when they got more time, instead of clearcutting areas next door. Instead, FS made it almost impossible to reopen & use these lines in the future, if we get another fire.

Still don't agree with approach of blocking and destroying them for hikers. It could have been added to trails system, like others said - all was needed is trail signs and updated maps. The trails were used by wildlife more than people (especially getting around blackberry thickets) so it wasn't all needed to protect the wilderness - maybe just the opposite.