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Thru Hikers: What can you do on your hike to help the trail?

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Thru Hikers: What can you do on your hike to help the trail?

Postby North 350 Blades » Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:06 pm

So, you're thru hiking this year and won't be able to join a trail crew. No worries - you CAN help the local volunteer crews while hiking.

If you see maintenance issues with the trail, provide a DETAILED report of what you saw to the PCTA or the local trail crew in a TIMELY manner. What the issue was, how much of it there is, where it's at, etc. Pictures are a plus. If you have GPS coordinates of the issue, that's a plus. With smart phones, typing up a 5 minute e-mail when you get to town and hitting the send button is something you can do to help the trail. The crew's can't fix it if they don't know about it.

Put the Postholer trail reports link in your phone. Put the PCTA trail report person in your phone. Post it here in this forum or send it to the PCT-L if you don't know where else to send it - some one will get it to the right person if you get the information out on a well traveled public location.

The keys to a scouting or recon report are detail and timeliness. A month old report, or a report lacking detail isn't nearly as helpful or actionable as one that's only a few days after the issue has observed and is fully detailed.

What details should you provide? Well, we have you covered.

See pages 5-6 on the instructor guide for concrete examples of what to report and how. This is the course material used at Trail Skills Colleges up and down the PCT. ... _v0311.pdf

Saying "there's brush a few miles south of Harts Pass" or "yeah, there were a couple of trees down a bit north of Stevens Pass" isn't enough detail for the crew to take action. We need when you saw the problem, what you saw, how much of the problem is there, exactly where is it, sizes of trees, general types of brush, complicating factors (log jumbles, active earth movement, failed or washed away culverts, broken bridge, steep hillsides, etc), is it a hazard situation, etc

What day did you see the issue? How many miles south of Hart's pass? How far does the brush extend? What type of brush - slide alder / vine maple, huckleberries or small woody brush (thumb size or smaller) or grassy annual type growth (we would bring different tools depending on the brush type)?

How many downed trees exactly? How big and about how many of each size? (20 trees between 10" and 36" is nice to know, but if 19 of them are 10" trees and one is 36",that would be a different animal than if 1 tree was 10" and the other 19 were 36", especially if its Wilderness and we're using cross cut saws) What's the exact location (so we can bring chain saws if outside Wilderness, or cross cut's if inside Wilderness). Are they on a steep hill side? Can stock go around safely? Are there obvious complicating factors?

"On September 4th, I saw 5 trees down, 3 in the 12" to 18" diameter range across the trail, with one 36" in diameter range with one 18" log fallen on top of it, which fell along the trail, estimate tree along trail is 100' long, most of which is on the trail. Blow down extends over a 1 mile section, starting 3 miles north of the Smithbrook trail junction and continuing north from there (approximate trail mile such and such per Postholer Maps, GPS coordinates such and such latitude and longitude). Stock can go around all of these as the ground is only gently sloped in this area." This is an example of a report that will allow the right sized crew to go straight to the problem without additional scouting with the right tools for the job.

If you're providing trail mile reference (as in "the problem is at trail mile 1436.5"), be sure to include WHO's trail miles they are - the databook is different from Postholer, is different from Halfmile, is different from......I'd hate to muster a crew to go take care of a reported problem but end up at the wrong location because of confusion over where the issue is. GPS coordinates (in either lat / long or UTM) are absolutely clear as to the location. Distance and direction from a well known landmark are clear (e.g. The problem is 3 trail miles north of the road at Stampede Pass, Washington, the problem is 1.5 trail miles south of the top of Forrester Pass in the High Sierra, etc.). One way to get an exact location is to drop a marker on a Google Map and then get the coordinates of that marker - if you do this, tell us, so we can recreate it exactly.

Providing as much detail as possible on the issue is also important so the crew can bring the right tools. With the brush example above, if the problem was mostly slide alder or vine maple, we'd make sure everyone had a hand saw in addition to loppers. With huckleberries, the primary tool is loppers or brush saws with a circular saw type blade, while annual / grassy type of over growth needs to be dug out by the roots or weed whacked with line on the power saws or we need brush whips if doing by hand. Lopping ferns is silly and razor saws don't work on huckleberries.

Bottom Line: Thru hikers, you can choose to be a valuable part of maintaining the trail. Your detailed, timely reports of maintenance issues are valuable to the trail crews, IF you choose to make them.

(Edited 2/19/2013 to update link to Brushing and Scouting Trail Skills document)
North 350 Blades
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Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:15 pm

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