Trail Report: A busy summer on Scotchman Peaks trails

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The FSPW Allstars pause for a moment while hiking out after a busy day repairing tread on Star Peak Trail No. 999. (Courtesy Photo)

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness trail crew — the FSPW All Stars — are about halfway through the 2017 trail stewardship season. This year’s schedule includes 14 days of trail work and trails and tools training, a step up from last year’s 10-day season.

“Trail work is an important part of what the Friends do,” said FSPW executive director Phil Hough. “It’s very satisfying work, engaging some of our most dedicated volunteers. I can also say that the All Stars can be very proud of the work they accomplish in service to the hiking public and our partners in the Forest Service.”

The FSPW trail season began early this year with an Earth Day tune up on Star Peak Trail #999 on the Cabinet Ranger District in Montana. On April 22, FSPW’s All Star Trail Crew took the crosscuts for a walk and cleared some big blowdown on lower parts of the trail. It was a good chance to polish up job hazard analysis skills, for several of the logs were both big and lodged in precarious positions. With some cautious assessment and diligent sawyer work, they were taken off the trail safely, while educating the saw crew about what can go right if they take their time and look situations over closely.

On May 22, FSPW program coordinator and trail crew leader Sandy Compton assisted as an instructor at a crosscut training class on the St. Paul Lake trail with USFS personnel from the Cabinet, Three Rivers and Libby Districts of the Kootenai National Forest. This class was also attended by FSPW back country/outreach coordinator Sam Olson.

Next stop of the season was a joint crew leader college weekend June 2-4 with FSPW and Idaho Trails Association led by ITA executive director Jeff Halligan with assistance from ITA president Tom Dabrowski and Compton. The crew spent a day on Trout Peak Trail in the West Cabinets, clearing many blowdowns with crosscuts and doing some serious stream rerouting to get the flow off the trail. Several FSPW volunteers were certified by Halligan for A or B bucker cross-cut status as well.

Since that first weekend in June, the All Stars worked on improving tread on Star Peak Trail #999 on June 23 (for which the next group of hikers thanked them profusely) and basic maintenance on Scotchman Peak Trail #65 on July 7. In addition, FSPW back country/outreach intern Sam Olson has done two solo patrols on Star Peak #999, one on Little Spar Trail #143, and volunteer assisted patrols on Trails #65 and #999, all of which involved clearing brush and blowdowns, improving tread and cleaning waterbars.

The All Stars will be working on Three Rivers District July 21-23, helping USFS and Montana Conservation Corps crews reclaim an old trail that runs along the proposal boundary on the south side of Spar Lake, beginning near where Forest Road 308 tops the moraine that forms Big Spar and following about 3.25 miles around the lake to the Trail #143 trailhead.

“This is a really exciting project,” Compton said. “The new tread will provide the second half of a moderate — and beautiful — loop around the lake that can begin at the trailhead on the moraine or the Spar Lake Campground. Anybody who is fairly fit with a modicum of endurance will be able to use this trail, which makes it somewhat of a rarity in the Scotchmans.”

Coming up after the three-day weekend is an August 4 work day on Trail #65, an August 25 work day on Napoleon Gulch Trail #1035, a September 8 work day on Hamilton Gulch Trail #1019 (both in the Pilik Ridge Complex in Montana), and a final trail day on National Public Lands Day on Morris Creek Trail #132 and Regal Creek Trail #556 on the Sandpoint District in the Lightning Creek drainage.

To learn more or to sign up for to work as part of the FSPW All Stars, go to www.scotchmanpeaks.org/stewardship/events-schedule/.

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