Stopping Erosion on the Pacific Northwest Trail

  • October 10, 2017
  • Posted by Leanna Pohevitz

It’s not about if your shoes are tied; it’s about how well they are tied. It’s not about if you’ve eaten breakfast; it’s about if you’ve eaten enough protein to stay standing until your first break. It’s not about if you slept; it’s about if you’re mentally rested enough to hike straight uphill while it’s still dark out.

Preparing for a day of working on trails takes a physical, mental and emotional toll. It takes a flexibility and patience most of us aren’t used to. It takes an ability to see things through to the end even if you might never summit the mountain.

This fall crew’s most recent hitch involved a 7am hike that gained 1000 feet in two miles. A hike that took about an hour and fifteen minutes down but two forty-five up.
Veterans on the crew were breathing so deeply we feared for their health.

So what were we doing on that three mile stretch of the Pacific Northwest Trail so late in the season? We were adding water bars.

For those of you that don’t know, while water saves lives it also erodes the most beautifully laid trails. Take a steep slope of dirt, run heavy rains down it and suddenly what remains is jagged rocky mess usually pooling at the bottom of the steepness. Sometimes the pool is so deep that a turnpike (a human-made wood structure filled with gravel) is needed to allow people to cross it. As you can imagine, everything I’ve just described is less than ideal for hikers, not to mention stock animals and mountain bikers interested in using the trails.

So we dig up some of that beautiful trail and we put a log under ground at a 45 degree angle pointing off the trail. Then we dig a drain right above that log but at such a low grade that you and your feet are none-the-wiser. Finally we bury that log so you don’t trip and voila…the water runs to our teardrop hole, collects at the bottom and runs right over the side of our log thus protecting the rest of the trail from damage.

I really wanted to hike the PCT before this program. Now I’m certain that the PNT is where it’s at. Fewer hikers, awesome trail crews and I’ve already hiked three hours of it carrying a rock bar (Google it and be awed by my strength) so the rest of it with just my pack should be a piece of cake.

If you aren’t planning on hiking across several states any time soon, I encourage you to just admire how mud/rock/root/erosion free your local National Park trails are. Someone at sometime did you quite a back-breaking service. They probably did it for not a lot of money, with not a lot of sleep. Thank them if you see them.

In the meantime, thank you for supporting our work.


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