by Katie Wolpert
Trail work can be a hard sell and offer only elusive rewards. It takes hard manual labor to improve drainage, clear corridor, and fix switchbacks. It is easy to imagine the next rainstorm washing all your hard work away in one rush of water.
This year’s Rivers and Rocks campers however, got a double dose of satisfaction.
Their assigned project was to close down cut-off paths along the heavily used Seneca Rocks Overlook trail. This trail draws visitors from throughout the state and region. It is a steep jaunt that feels longer than its 1.5 miles up to a platform that overlooks the stunning North Fork Valley of Pendleton and Grant counties. It receives a steady stream of hikers, many of whom try to shorten the hike further by making destructive shortcut trails to avoid the switchbacks.
Our groups gathered logs, rocks, and brush and re-naturalized these cut-off trails so that they disappeared back into the understory. This work will help the trail drain water as it is supposed to, preserve the understory ecosystem, and minimize human impact in this high-traffic area. Completing this project offered a secret satisfaction because the next hikers on the trail wouldn’t have any idea that anything had been done and that was the point exactly. The group hiked down with big smiles as they noticed how well their work blended in.
At the bottom, Brooke Andrews, our US Forest Service advisor was excited to take the group on the Trout Trail that six of the group members had helped build two years ago (photo below). The trail has withstood flooding and is now equipped with interpretive signage and offers an accessible tour of this iconic spot for visitors who are unable to take the journey to the lookout. Andrews emphasized to the campers that volunteer work and ongoing partnerships make projects like this possible.
Your sweaty hours hacking roots, clearing corridor, and trucking gravel a quarter mile down the trail add up to improved access to wild places for people of all ability levels. Thank you to our Rivers and Rocks, Leadership Campers, and Edmund Burke School for making this world a better place to live!