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

This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
User avatar
RobinB
Posts: 771
Joined: September 9th, 2013, 11:29 pm
Location: Portland, OR

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

Post by RobinB » February 19th, 2020, 12:26 pm

Well, after Nat’s well-timed callout seems to have rattled some of us old-timers out of the rafters, I thought I’d return from Trip Report Retirement—I really have missed it here—to talk a bit about a path that itself could use a bit of rattling back into existence.

DevilsRest.JPG
Opening picture: Devil's Rest Trails, with Primrose in red.

I turned 35 the other day, and, like I’ve done since I was in my early-teens, I went for a birthday hike up Angel’s Rest to celebrate, this time with a bit of the Devil thrown in for good measure. I got an exceedingly leisurely start around 2 PM, went up to Angel’s the usual way, took Foxglove up to Devil’s Rest, then came back down for sunset via what’s left of the Primrose Path.

Angel’s Rest to Devil’s Rest

The Angel’s Rest Trail was its usual, muddy, winter self, though there’s clearly been a lot of trail work—particularly lovely rock work in the upper reaches—that has cleaned up a few of the nastier drainage issues. The only new headache is that, for some utterly incomprehensible reason, they’ve built a new bypass trail just west of Coopey Falls. In addition to unnecessarily cutting through some nice forest, the new path also has significant drainage issues: it was one of the muddiest sections of the entire day.

Image
Coopey Falls

Image
The backside of Angel's Rest.

Anyway, I passed several dozen people going up Angel’s, but then Foxglove was essentially deserted. There are a few trees down along Foxglove, but the trail’s generally in quite good condition, and, apart from that last little steep bit before Devil’s Rest, considerably less muddy than the trail to Angel’s.

Image
I love the moss cathedrals along Foxglove.

Image
Devil's Rest

Primrose

At Devil’s Rest, I was surprised to find the beginning of Primrose looking well-tended—far more obvious than it’s been in a while—though, after the initial drop off Devil’s Rest, where it juts east for a little (around 2350’), the trail basically disappeared in brush and blowdown. From there to a few hundred feet below, where it joins the old logging road, the path is basically gone, and it’s just a bushwhack through a somewhat thick section of Devil’s Club. I was very glad for gaiters and gloves, and wouldn’t want to be here in spring or summer.

Image
Pretty sure this is the trail.

Things got more pleasant from the old road to the rocky viewpoints around 1950’. The tread was reasonably well-defined, and there were even a few intact cairns in the rocks. But things degraded again on the ridge descent from the viewpoints to where Primrose joins the Angel’s Rest trail a little above 1650’. The brush in this section seems to have gotten much nastier since the fire.

Image
Near the rocky viewpoints.

A Long Digression on Lost Trails

After I rejoined the Angel’s Rest Trail and began cutting up west to the Rest for sunset, I thought a bit about Primrose and old trails like it in the Gorge. It’s been heartening, since the fire, to see the outpouring of support for trails, and the willingness of so many to volunteer for their maintenance. I occasionally volunteer to do some grunt work for the PCTA in the area, and I’m always absolutely delighted by how many other people are willing to give—often to give considerably more than I am. But I also wonder what’s going to become of the grand old routes like Primrose that receive less love.

Of course, despite appearing in a couple of the old Lowe books, I don’t think Primrose has ever really been official, and I doubt it’s ever received official maintenance even before the fire. But even official trails in areas that have otherwise been reopened—I’m thinking here most obviously of Wyeth, or of Nick Eaton beyond the Deadwood junction—seem to have been largely left out of the area’s reconstruction. Maybe there’s some sense in that. Angel’s Rest probably sees in a single holiday weekend more traffic than Wyeth saw in a year. But there’s also something a little tragic about it.

WTA has a campaign—Lost Trails Found—centered on making old, largely dead trails usable again. And I guess my hope is that, after the Gorge has fully reopened, some organization has the good sense to parlay the community’s initial outpouring of support into a similar effort, not just focused on reinforcing (or building unnecessary cutoffs on) already-popular trails, but on trails that could be popular, if only we made the effort to bring them back from the brink.

Maybe such an effort still couldn’t touch unofficial trails like the Primrose, but it would be a start. And, in the meantime, there’s something to be said just for boots (or, you know: running shoes) on the ground. I spend a lot of time in the Olympic mountains, and there are a huge number of routes there—some once-official, others that have only-ever been booth-paths—that are kept alive by use: by shoes on the ground, and by the occasional hiker doing a bit of brushing. I know guerilla maintenance can be a touchy issue around here, but… when that’s the only possibility, it’s the only possibility.

Sunset

I arrived back at Angel’s Rest just as golden hour was starting. I was greeted, initially, by some yahoo flying a drone, but he soon left, and I had the whole place to myself for a solid twenty minutes. The place gets mobbed, of course, but it’s still really beautiful, especially at sunset.

Image
That lovely little stream just east of Angel's Rest.

Image
Angel's Rest.

Image

I left as the light was on its way out, and was able to run down a bit past the Coopey Creek crossing before putting on my headlamp.

Image

User avatar
RobinB
Posts: 771
Joined: September 9th, 2013, 11:29 pm
Location: Portland, OR

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

Post by RobinB » February 19th, 2020, 12:28 pm

Oh, and just in case Chip's reading:

Image
I don't think I've ever had a bad beer from Reuben's.

User avatar
retired jerry
Posts: 12974
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

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

Post by retired jerry » February 19th, 2020, 12:38 pm

is that area recovered from the fire? Your pics didn't look too bad.

User avatar
RobinB
Posts: 771
Joined: September 9th, 2013, 11:29 pm
Location: Portland, OR

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

Post by RobinB » February 19th, 2020, 12:51 pm

retired jerry wrote:
February 19th, 2020, 12:38 pm
is that area recovered from the fire? Your pics didn't look too bad.
A lot of this area didn't get hit very hard in the first place (it was sort of at the western edge of the fire), and in any case the area below Angel's Rest was already transformed by fire in 90s, so the whole place feels pretty good. Things are more mixed just east of here, though.

User avatar
retired jerry
Posts: 12974
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

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

Post by retired jerry » February 19th, 2020, 1:20 pm

post fire, the view from the Angel's Rest trail is better

User avatar
Bosterson
Posts: 2064
Joined: May 18th, 2009, 3:17 pm
Location: Portland

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

Post by Bosterson » February 19th, 2020, 1:39 pm

Hey Robin, great to see you post a TR here! I wasn't intending to razz all of you who seemed to have gone to the woodwork, since I assumed you wouldn't be reading, but I'm glad it appears to have worked to bring you back! We need boots on the ground and TRs on the board. :)
RobinB wrote:
February 19th, 2020, 12:26 pm
WTA has a campaign—Lost Trails Found—centered on making old, largely dead trails usable again. And I guess my hope is that, after the Gorge has fully reopened, some organization has the good sense to parlay the community’s initial outpouring of support into a similar effort, not just focused on reinforcing (or building unnecessary cutoffs on) already-popular trails, but on trails that could be popular, if only we made the effort to bring them back from the brink.
This is really the crux - when will that happen? I actually emailed the USFS CGNSA office to ask if they had any kind of update about the plans for future trail reopenings, since the info on the USFS website is back from, like, 2018. For instance, John has suggested Franklin Ridge is ready to be reopened, and sources tell me that trail has been cleared, but yet it is still closed. Meanwhile, they finished the bike path but it's totally unclear whether they are even doing work on Wyeth; they keep having to redo the work they've already done on Eagle Creek because it keeps collapsing (because canyons), yet will Nesmith ever be reopened? And the next project will probably be Oneonta, except see what's currently happening with Eagle Creek; what about Horsetail Creek? And what about Tanner Butte? Naturally the USFS has not responded to my message and are completely opaque about what their plans are.

I agree that if the USFS abdicates its responsibility to maintain forgotten trails, then guerrilla trailwork is called for. (Ironically, that is how TKO began - when they rehab'd Owl Point without official approval.) I am ok with some trails being "forgotten," because finding them (and following "abandoned" trails) is fun. That said, with increasing usership and decreasing funding and trail maintenance by official bodies, reopening closed areas really is important to thin out the crowds. (Otherwise we end up with access restrictions, which lead to fiascos like the CC permits! :roll: )

Anyway, nice TR, and happy birthday! Angel's Rest is quite nice at sunset, you can forget how much of a zoo it is normally. They do need to fix the drainage though, I've been there a few times recently and it is the muddiest thing ever. Agreed that the second you get beyond AR, in the vicinity of Foxglove, suddenly crowds are zero. :D
#pnw #bestlife #bitingflies #favoriteyellowcap #neverdispleased

User avatar
retired jerry
Posts: 12974
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

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

Post by retired jerry » February 19th, 2020, 1:52 pm

yeah, Tanner Ridge would be great to be re-opened. In the worst burned area though.

User avatar
RobinB
Posts: 771
Joined: September 9th, 2013, 11:29 pm
Location: Portland, OR

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

Post by RobinB » February 19th, 2020, 5:47 pm

Bosterson wrote:
February 19th, 2020, 1:39 pm
This is really the crux - when will that happen? I actually emailed the USFS CGNSA office to ask if they had any kind of update about the plans for future trail reopenings, since the info on the USFS website is back from, like, 2018. For instance, John has suggested Franklin Ridge is ready to be reopened, and sources tell me that trail has been cleared, but yet it is still closed. Meanwhile, they finished the bike path but it's totally unclear whether they are even doing work on Wyeth; they keep having to redo the work they've already done on Eagle Creek because it keeps collapsing (because canyons), yet will Nesmith ever be reopened? And the next project will probably be Oneonta, except see what's currently happening with Eagle Creek; what about Horsetail Creek? And what about Tanner Butte? Naturally the USFS has not responded to my message and are completely opaque about what their plans are.
I guess there are two issues here: the first is about reopening, the second about trail reconstruction and maintenance.

On the reopening front, I feel for the FS in a way, at least the local people, but I wish they'd handle the whole thing very differently. As Nick Eaton south of Deadwood attests, it's totally possible to open an essentially obliterated trail. I haven't heard of anyone getting hurt or even lost up there. Of course, relative to Eagle Creek or Oneonta, Nick Eaton up there's clearly pretty easy-going - it's a very different thing to bushwhack on a ridge than in a steep canyon - and perhaps it makes sense to keep the canyon trails closed until they really can be stabilized, but I can't imagine any reason to keep (say) Franklin and Tanner Ridges closed, even if no one's been up there yet.

In the background, I keep thinking of the Entiat, just east of Glacier Peak, which burned pretty badly a few years ago. Some of the trails, particular Snow Brushy Creek, are just obliterated - like, non-existent - but the FS up there essentially just opened up the area, and gave fair warning. "This'll be rough, but if you're up to it, we're not going to stop you." There may be some reason for more paternalism here - more tourists, etc - but I doubt any tourist's ever accidentally ended up on Franklin Ridge, to say nothing of Tanner.

In terms of maintenance, I don't know the background politics that lead to decisions over which trails get maintained - either by the FS or by private volunteer organizations - but, whatever the process, something seems to have gone very wrong when we've had dozens (or more?) work parties at Angel's Rest, and not one on Wyeth. Maybe what's necessary is a WTA- or Mountaineers-like organization willing to throw some weight around, but that's another thread.

User avatar
Chip Down
Posts: 1933
Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

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

Post by Chip Down » February 20th, 2020, 5:40 am

RobinB wrote:
February 19th, 2020, 12:28 pm
Oh, and just in case Chip's reading...
Well done! :D

johnspeth
Posts: 188
Joined: July 30th, 2013, 8:33 am

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

Post by johnspeth » February 20th, 2020, 6:08 am

I was up there on Monday trying to follow the William Sullivan smaller 7 mile loop. It seems to match to parts of your maps' purple lines. Sullivans 7 mile loop text was written before the fire in my 2013 book.

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?

I tried to follow lower Foxglove Way and found the trail and road disappear about a half mile after turning left at the start of the purple line.

Post Reply