Bootprints on the Primrose Path (Feb. 16, 2020)

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bobcat
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Re: Bootprints on the Primrose Path (Feb. 16, 2020)

Post by bobcat » February 20th, 2020, 8:43 am

I can attest that the Forest Service is notoriously opaque about what they will tackle next (mainly because the situation changes, radically sometimes, with weather events). However, there seems to have been a pattern, induced by state tourist organizations like Travel Oregon - open up the high use trails around the waterfalls, then logically branch out from there. There should be trail openings come this spring: more of the 400 (McCord, etc.), Eagle Creek barring any massive cliff collapses, Franklin Ridge I assume, although it will now need more work after the snow melt.

The lesson was learned after a hurried reopening of Angels Rest on a Thanksgiving weekend after weeks of rain and it quickly became a quagmire. Should have let it settle for a few months. Winter hits the trails hard, and volunteer sawyers are out every week or two clearing out downed trees on both open trails and closed trails being worked on.

What's next? So far I haven't heard that any trail will be permanently abandoned, so trails like Bell Creek, Oneonta, Nesmith. However, there's an entire slope on Horsetail/Oneonta that requires a technical reroute, so that's at least a year away, I think. Wyeth, being a trail that doesn't branch into anything else until you get to trails that are already open, is I assume farther down the docket - but they did put in a new trailhead there. From a trail work perspective, the good thing is that many of the trails left (Franklin Ridge and east) are in wilderness, which means they're a lower trail grade and should not require as much attention to detail. The downside is that they've been left fallow for 2 1/2 years now, so it is difficult to impossible to find the original tread in places, especially in areas of crown fire.

I doubt there's any hope for Primrose. It doesn't have the right grade for any official trail and, quite frankly, I'm happy to see it remain an adventure. TKO once put forward the idea of working on the Foxglove connections between Devils Rest and Angels Rest Trail (before the fire), but in effect, that would require them to be official trails first, which the FS doesn't want to make them (no other reason given). Since TKO had some success (it took 10 years) with the Old Vista Ridge Trail, maybe after ten more years of trail work in the Gorge, the FS will legitimize those too; the trail pixies have already worked on the main route. Anyway, in the Gorge there are too many numbered trails left to reopen and not enough volunteers who come out and work on them before there can be any sane conversation about lobbying for the Foxglove trails.
johnspeth wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 6:08 am
For those in the know: What is the status of lower Foxglove Way (purple) to meet up with the lower elevation Angels Rest trail segment that links Angels Rest and Devils Rest?
The yellow line trails are absolutely fine. The purple line trails get overgrown with young cherries and alders and there are logs down, but people have bushwhacked them through.

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kepPNW
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Re: Bootprints on the Primrose Path (Feb. 16, 2020)

Post by kepPNW » February 20th, 2020, 9:20 am

bobcat wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 8:43 am
There should be trail openings come this spring: ... Franklin Ridge I assume, although it will now need more work after the snow melt.
That one was passable, other than one short devastated section, over a year ago. The entire run was restored, beautifully, though. Then, as has been said, it was left to rot. Trees are falling across it again, and it's becoming over-grown again. Really a shame to have "wasted" volunteer effort without the intent of anyone actually benefiting from it.
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Re: Bootprints on the Primrose Path (Feb. 16, 2020)

Post by bobcat » February 20th, 2020, 9:50 am

kepPNW wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 9:20 am
That one was passable, other than one short devastated section, over a year ago. The entire run was restored, beautifully, though.
TKO and FS crews worked on it in the summer and fall of 2019. We thought they might open it in the fall but their abundance of caution seems to have dictated that spring openings will be the norm. The last part we did was those big thimbleberry thickets. It's more efficient to work there if we can drive down Multnomah Basin Road, whenever that becomes drivable - less of a hike in carrying tools, more time working on the trail.

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Re: Bootprints on the Primrose Path (Feb. 16, 2020)

Post by kepPNW » February 20th, 2020, 10:01 am

bobcat wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 9:50 am
kepPNW wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 9:20 am
That one was passable, other than one short devastated section, over a year ago. The entire run was restored, beautifully, though.
TKO and FS crews worked on it in the summer and fall of 2019. We thought they might open it in the fall but their abundance of caution seems to have dictated that spring openings will be the norm.
Well it was absolutely gorgeous back in December, although the trees were falling across it again at that southern end. Only one deviation from old tread was noted. Hopefully, it'll be a quick brushing job, with just a bit of sawing, come spring. This one needs to be reopened! Absolutely the best route down from Larch, IMO.
kepPNW wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 9:20 am
It's more efficient to work there if we can drive down Multnomah Basin Road, whenever that becomes drivable - less of a hike in carrying tools, more time working on the trail.
Had assumed, due to the flagged trail up from Nesika, that was how it was being approached.
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Re: Bootprints on the Primrose Path (Feb. 16, 2020)

Post by bobcat » February 20th, 2020, 10:15 am

Nesika is Trails Club (private property); we go in from the Larch Mountain Trail. The flagged connector would be under their purview (not an official trail).

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Re: Bootprints on the Primrose Path (Feb. 16, 2020)

Post by RobinB » February 20th, 2020, 11:09 am

kepPNW wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 10:01 am
bobcat wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 9:50 am
kepPNW wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 9:20 am
That one was passable, other than one short devastated section, over a year ago. The entire run was restored, beautifully, though.
TKO and FS crews worked on it in the summer and fall of 2019. We thought they might open it in the fall but their abundance of caution seems to have dictated that spring openings will be the norm.
Well it was absolutely gorgeous back in December, although the trees were falling across it again at that southern end...
I'm definitely sympathetic to changing reconstruction and maintenance schedules and, despite questioning the amount of attention given to some marquee trails while others take a back seat, I realize there may be background considerations there that I just don't understand.

But what I do question is the decision to only open some trails after they've reached a certain (high) standard. To beat a dead trail: Nick Eaton south of Deadwood is just gone, yet the whole area has been reopened - and I'm very happy that it has. It was a great hike before, and in some ways it's an ever better - or at least a more adventurous - hike now. Why not follow this model on other trails? Eagle Creek and Oneonta may be special cases, because the steepness of those canyons may mean that, until the trails are fully reconstructed, passage without quite a bit of gear - like, technical canyoneering equipment - may be impossible. But Franklin Ridge is super mellow. It would be doable as a straight bushwhack.

There's a certain paternalism in the way these discussions proceed, as though the FS, and perhaps others involved in trails maintenance, assume trail users are unable to navigate anything but perfect tread. And, to be sure, blowdowns and bad tread may send some people back. But it's public land. The default assumption should be that, absent strong countervailing considerations - dire objective hazards, environmental harm, etc - the public gets access, and the right to do the safety calculations for themselves.

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Re: Bootprints on the Primrose Path (Feb. 16, 2020)

Post by Bosterson » February 20th, 2020, 11:32 am

RobinB wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 11:09 am
To beat a dead trail: Nick Eaton south of Deadwood is just gone, yet the whole area has been reopened - and I'm very happy that it has.
Robin, what do you mean? You're talking about the Nick Eaton Trail (not Gorton), going up beyond the Deadwood cutoff? There is still a trail all the way to GPM. It gets overgrown beyond the Deadwood cutoff in summer, but right now in winter it has all died back, and there has been some nice trail widening and other work done on the section going up the hill to meet the top of Casey Creek.
The default assumption should be that, absent strong countervailing considerations - dire objective hazards, environmental harm, etc - the public gets access, and the right to do the safety calculations for themselves.
Agreed. It is pretty laughable that "trails" would be closed when off trail is still allowed, or wringing our hands about "dangerous" trail conditions that are par for normal off trail travel in the Gorge, which plenty of us were doing for years before the fire (and are still doing). Then you have trails like Bell Creek or Franklin, which are either minimally damaged or mostly fixed, but are still technically closed... either just because (Franklin), or because they connect to other closed trails (Bell).

There are obviously a lot of city goobers who go out in the Gorge, so I get some of the FS's worry about liability (or, more charitably, genuine concern for public safety), or whatever. History, of course, shows that even before the fire people found plenty of ways to be stupid and put themselves in danger. The real issue is that the default assumption should be that the woods are inherently dangerous rather than inherently safe (in the sense of being curated and guaranteed by human managers). Constant vigilance, caveat emptor. One would think this would be what epitomizes actual "wilderness."
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Re: Bootprints on the Primrose Path (Feb. 16, 2020)

Post by kepPNW » February 20th, 2020, 11:43 am

bobcat wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 10:15 am
Nesika is Trails Club (private property); we go in from the Larch Mountain Trail. The flagged connector would be under their purview (not an official trail).
Leased, not owned, right? Anyway... Dunno who constructed the connector, but it's been partly rebuilt. Figured when you said driving in would be more efficient, that parking at the end of the road (rather than at LMT crossing) would be the point? Misunderstood...
Bosterson wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 11:32 am
Then you have trails like Bell Creek or Franklin, which are either minimally damaged or mostly fixed, but are still technically closed... either just because (Franklin), or because they connect to other closed trails (Bell).
That's the only rationale I've been able to imagine, as well. That they're very afraid of folks wandering down Oneonta, which has all the appearances of being entirely undamaged at the junction.

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Re: Bootprints on the Primrose Path (Feb. 16, 2020)

Post by RobinB » February 20th, 2020, 12:17 pm

Bosterson wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 11:32 am
RobinB wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 11:09 am
To beat a dead trail: Nick Eaton south of Deadwood is just gone, yet the whole area has been reopened - and I'm very happy that it has.
Robin, what do you mean? You're talking about the Nick Eaton Trail (not Gorton), going up beyond the Deadwood cutoff? There is still a trail all the way to GPM. It gets overgrown beyond the Deadwood cutoff in summer, but right now in winter it has all died back, and there has been some nice trail widening and other work done on the section going up the hill to meet the top of Casey Creek.
Oh interesting, thanks for the correction! Last time I hiked it - which was, admittedly, a year and a half ago - Nick Eaton #447 basically stopped at the Deadwood junction, then it was an intermittent bushwhack south on the ridge from there to at least the Gorton Creek #408 junction, and actually pretty bad all the way to the Plateau Cutoff #412 just north of Greenpoint. I'm somewhat sure that it was that bad when they opened it, as I was on the last PCTA crew up there before the opening, and we couldn't even really find the original #447 tread south of Deadwood.

I'm glad to hear that things have improved since then, though. The point I was trying to make - that the FS has opened unfinished trails - I think can still stand, though I guess with the happy caveat that unfinished doesn't mean unfinished forever.

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Re: Bootprints on the Primrose Path (Feb. 16, 2020)

Post by bobcat » February 20th, 2020, 2:33 pm

My own take on Franklin Ridge is that the FS's own literature mischaracterized the trail from the start (by someone who obviously never went there), and that has clouded judgement.

"Franklin Ridge Trail #427: Closed indefinitely due to severe damage and unstable slopes. (CRGNSA)"

Brushy, yes, not "severe" damage; no unstable slopes!
kepPNW wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 11:43 am
That they're very afraid of folks wandering down Oneonta, which has all the appearances of being entirely undamaged at the junction.
By all accounts of those who have begun scouting it, Oneonta just disappears under rocks, debris, and shrubbery once you get down into the canyon below the junction with Franklin Ridge. Don't underestimate the effects of the fire on those slope trails. Oneonta is in its third winter since the fire. Basically about 30 or more years of damage happened in the fall/winter of 2017. The McCord switchbacks and CCC walls have been worked on for two years. Sections were totally buried and literally tons of rock had to be removed and gabions installed in places. Similarly, the 400 switchbacking down to Elowah Falls disappeared under dangerous slides. You would absolutely not be able to imagine any of that looking at those trails now, since they are primed and ready for opening (again, barring late winter catastrophes).
RobinB wrote:
February 20th, 2020, 12:17 pm
The point I was trying to make - that the FS has opened unfinished trails
Yes, and the Gorton Creek/Nick Eaton example is a good one. I'm fairly certain that once the "normal" day hike trails like Nesmith and Oneonta are open, people will be left to their own devices on upper Horsetail and Moffett Creek, for example.

Gorton Creek/Nick Eaton: always good to carry a pruning saw on these. Even 20 minutes of work, as a break in your hike, helps.

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