Starting a Dialogue with the USFS & Clearing Trails!
The day after my recon ride with Steve in the Old Cascade Crest (OCC), I contacted Kevin Rowell of the Willamette Middle Fork ranger district. I asked him how to go about getting permission to work on the OCC trails. Kevin has been a driving force in Oakridge and he knows what it takes to rehabilitate old, primitive trails. Kevin sent a message to Brandon from the Detroit Ranger District.
“Brandon, meet Joe. Joe did some exploratory riding in the Crescent Mtn/Pyramids area and wants to talk about helping to get those trails in shape for biking.”
Brandon immediately replied that would be great and he was excited to hear that mountain bikers were interested in helping maintain trails in the area. Might go down as a record for how fast a decision was made by the FS! Huge thanks to Kevin for his help in this. It was so easy I can’t even claim a victory for advocacy!
I set up a meeting with Brandon and invited the past COTA chairman Woody Starr (who was living in Sisters) and Rob Weston (also from COTA). Woody couldn’t make the meeting, but he said it would be a good idea to connect to with the Salem Area Trail Alliance (SATA). I emailed SATA’s President Jeff, and a meeting took place soon after.
Beth from SATA, Eric Brown (The Dirt Magnet) from Corvallis, and Rob and I from COTA showed up to the meeting with the Brandon in Detroit. Brandon was more than pleased with the idea of getting help on some of his 500+ miles of trail. One thing that was brought up at the meeting was the Dirt Magnet blog (which Kevin had sent to Brandon). In the blog, Eric refers to an old road which allows people to ride the whole Pyramid Epic Loop without entering the Middle Santiam Wilderness. I think this was a great first step in gaining to credibility within the Detroit Ranger District. Brandon didn’t even realize Eric was the author on that blog till half way through the meeting.
Gearing up to Clear Trail
To clear trails with a chainsaw, you have to be certified by the USFS. I’ve cleared trails for years with hand saws in Bend, and have swamped for other sawyers – but a chainsaw is the next step in the process, and I was very eager to get set up. I asked the man of the hour Kevin Rowell if he could certify myself and Rob Weston. He agreed and we were soon cutting logs down on Maiden Peak with the master.
I quickly purchased a Bob trailer, bought a thru-axle from Bend’s Robert Axle Project, and proceeded to set the trailer up for my saw and fuel. I am attaching a photo here as I get asked how this is set up quite often. It’s fairly rough, and the idea was a mixture of trailers I have seen over the years.
First Work Events on the Crescent Mountain and South Pyramid.
At the meeting in Detroit, we scheduled a joint COTA/SATA work event for Oct 23rd.
Before the 23rd, I drove out and explored South Pyramid Creek on bike from the Crescent Mountain North intersection to the Pyramid Horse Camp. The trail was a bit more exciting to ride than upper South Pyramid Creek. There was a nice downhill grade, and the trail crossed the creek at multiple locations with tight switchbacks and steep ups/downs. I counted maybe 25 trees down in this section. Many were just rotten and in need of some muscle to move them. The upper section of the trail had a wide corridor with open and well-maintained sight lines, whereas the trail was choked out by rhodies and salal down low. Following are several photos from that recon.
Once below the 2047 Road, the trail changes character in a spectacular way. Moss, old growth trees, tight turns and more creek crossings. I ended my ride at the Horse Camp which is only a short distance beyond the road. Here are some photos from just a quarter mile or so of trail near the horse camp. Beyond the Horse Camp, it’s even more amazing (Narnia!).
As you can see the trail was in damn good shape. On the 23rd of October, several COTA people showed up for the first work event including Brian, Woody, Bruce, Stacey, Mo, Aaron, Shane, Joseph, and Chris (I might be missing a few). Eric from Corvallis was on hand as well as Beth, Joe, and Cassie from SATA (and possibly more). Brandon arrived and was blown away that how many people were on-hand to work.
After some formal dialogue, we split into 3 groups and each group was given an FS radio for communication. The first crew went up North Crescent for clearing, brushing and drainage work, a second crew drove to the 2047 road crossing several miles down the trail to work upstream (brushing), and a third crew went down S Pyramid from the Crescent intersection. I had the easy job of clearing with the chainsaw (on bike) down S Pyramid and Mo acted as my swamper. Because the upper trail was in such good shape everybody passed me and I didn’t see them again until hours later. Funny enough I had mistakenly placed my chain on backward (chainsaw newbie and all). The first log I tried to cut didn’t go too well and we got a good laugh out of my stupidity. :)
The work went really well. The Crescent crew got maybe a quarter up the mountain before encountering a large tree that was a little too much for Woody’s saw. They did a lot of brushwork and some minor drainage. Brandon led the crew from the 2047 road and they were super aggressive in brushing the foliage way, way back. Things grow so fast in this environment, it’s best to cut it back 6 feet or more.
Brandon and Joe from SATA.
After clearing S Pyramid down to the road crossing I was lucky enough to place my trailer and chainsaw into Brandon’s truck so I could ride freely back up the trail. Chris wasn’t as fortunate as he got stuck hacking away at salal and rhodies with Aaron and never made it to the road. They had chosen to use rogue hoes to take the brush out by the roots, which was hard work but more productive than clipping with loppers. I rode back up following Chris, providing support for his trailer as needed. Bruce broke out some cold home-brew after the work was over. Around this time COTA and SATA both signed volunteer agreements for working in this area.
Clearing North Crescent
Soon after this first event Rob and I cleared North Crescent. This was an all-day affair in heavy rain. Rob has a lot of past experience on a chainsaw, and he helped me a lot during the day as we only had one saw. Photo’s below from that day. I would say we cleared around 30 trees. That’s not that many really. It was the rain and climbing 2500 feet that made it challenging. Great feeling to get to the top though!
I got an email soon after this work was done from Eric (The Dirt Magnet). He had ventured out to ride N Crescent and S Pyramid with some friends, including his photographer/bike Industry friend Patrick Means. I still have yet to meet Patrick, but he created a great Photo Essay with amazing photos of his ride in the area. Definitely, give that a read! Eric was stoked at the experience of riding these trails after this initial work was done.
Rock Stream Crossings
We also scheduled a work event in which COTA+SATA worked with Brandon and installed 2 rock-armored stream crossings which replaced rotted out bridges on Crescent Mountain South. These rock fords were called Newbury Riffles and we were led by Brandon who used a Canycom to deliver rock to the site. During the process, we took turns swinging a heavy Sledge and crushing the rocks into smaller chunks which we used to pack around the larger boulders for the crossing.
The day was terribly rainy, and the act of digging in a creek to bury giant rocks you can imagine to be wet, wet business! Rob and Brian worked on some nice drainage during this event. I did a little clearing up S Crescent, but I left my swamper behind (he was on foot) and ended up having to turn around. Brandon started a fire at the end and people hung out for a while in the middle of the forest and chatted. I loved how the rock creek crossings turned out. They should last forever. I added a couple sketches from Brandon above. Each of the main boulders was hand-picked and brought to the work site.
Soon after this, the snow was flying, the trails were put on hold, and I was excited for Spring to arrive.
Enter Trans-Cascadia and Oregon Timber trail Association.
Trans-Cascadia was happening right around this time in Oregon, and I was tentatively on the list as a sweep for the race. I ended up not being able to make it, but I was able to email Nick Gibson from Trans-Cascadia about the OCC. I think he already had the area on his radar and we were soon chatting on the phone about the potential.
Around that same time, there was a bike summit put on by Travel Oregon in Bend which I attended. Gabriel Amadeus from the Oregon Timber Trail presented about bike packing and the general route through the heart of Oregon. I was pretty excited to hear of this Oregon Timber Trail and I chatted with Gabe after his presentation. I asked him if he had considered running the trail over Crescent Mountain in the OCC area. Gabe likes to geek out on maps, so I am sure he was aware of this trail, but he had not experienced it as of yet. Soon after, Gabe informed me that Crescent Mountain would be included in the OTT – which was great! Honestly, the Pyramid Epic Loop is a perfect place for bike-packing. It’s more distance and suffering than most people can take in a single day, and there are multiple places to camp and collect water.
Trans-Cascadia and the Oregon Timber Trail Alliance both took an immediate liking to the OCC, and in my next post, I will go through how much work was done in 2017 getting these trails into shape. I’d say 2000 hours or more were invested in the area just over the summer.
This article was contributed by Joe Myers. Joe has been publishing trail reports, photos and maintaining trails in Central Oregon (and beyond) since starting BendTrails in 2012. When off the bike he works as a 3d designer/animator at Sketchbook, Inc.