Reports from the Trail

Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie Trail

Drove over to North Bend with Randomly Generated reader and BBTC "webchump" Maarten on Friday afternoon to inspect the damage to the trail from last week's flooding. The road suffered a lot of scouring and was extremely potholed -- far moreso than normal -- and judging by the damage to the road and abuse my Element's suspension was taking, we knew the trail couldn't be in good shape.

We hiked in from the main trailhead near the bridge and hiked a total of 3.7 miles upstream before turning back. The early couple of miles of trail weren't in terribly bad shape. A few blowdowns and some soft spots and sediment-choked drains and culverts, but in general the trail was in good shape. This all changed where the trail bends closer to the banks of the river. The river flooded the southern bank, thus depositing tons of debris, fallen trees, and sediment on the trail. The powerful current also toppled several large trees, yanking their entire root ball into the river and thus leaving gigantic craters in the trail. It seemed to both of us that the trail will likely need to be permanently re-routed further away from the banks of the river and at a higher elevation to prevent having to address this problem again in the future. Perhaps. Then again, these were record floods so perhaps the trail could follow the new bank and not need to be significantly relocated.

Maarten near one of the larger craters left behind from a tree being toppled. Where'd the trail go?

Another blowdown and root-ball gone missing. The trail used to run between the hillside and the toppled tree.

Further upstream, the river completely overran the banks and flooded the trail with mass quantities of forest debris.

Tolt-MacDonald Park Trail System

Was out the door by 6:40 this morning to meet Erik, Ken, and several others in Carnation to position some newly-built bridges out on the trail (what, were you expecting me to be in line for a Wii?). I have to say that as a stay-at-home worker with a penchant for sleeping in, I had no idea it would still be dark at 7am. I didn't bring my light system, but fortunately we stood around and talked for long enough that daylight started to pierce the canopy of the forest by the time we started the climb up the perfectly-named "It's a Bitch" trail. Proving true to its name, I broke my chain immediately after clearing the always-troublesome sandy S-curve near the tree stump.

While Ken and Eddie and I pedaled up the trail, the others drove around the backside of the forest to drop the bridges off with a truck. I didn't quite understand why we had to be out so early in the morning, but I soon found out. The road to the gate at the back of the forest is private property and it was learned that the homeowner attends early mass on Sunday mornings. Nothing like a group of 30-and-40-somethings sneaking around people's property like a bunch of school kids.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Come see Ken piloting his mighty Ellsworth as he pulls 70 pound bridges through the muck!

With the bridges unloaded and the bikes gathered up, it was just a matter of dragging them down the main gravel access road to the trails where they were needed. There were six bridges in total and five of us playing tractor. Surprisingly, the bridges weren't too difficult to drag. It wasn't easy -- especially since I hadn't had any coffee yet -- but they slid relatively well over the wet leaves and gravel for the mile or so we dragged them. Once at the appropriate trailhead, Erik and I carried two bridges in while Ken, Eddie, and Mike continued on with the others. The warm air we felt in the parking lot was soon replaced by a cold breeze and, eventually, a driving rain. With the weather deteriorating by the moment and the need for additional bridges, supports, and hardware exceedingly obvious, we decided to hide the bridges amongst the ferns and call it a day.

Now that I've seen one particular stretch of trail that needs seemingly 60 or more feet of bridge, I can't wait to go to the lumber store and start building my own to contribute to the cause. The Tolt trail system is one of my favorites; I can't let all these other guys pay for all the bridges up there. I've actually begun drawing up some plans for a banked corner bridge. Now that would be sweet!

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