Life on the Antelope/Taylor Lake Trail, cont'd

(field notes from SBTS Crew Leader, Henry O'Donnell)
For the most part it was a pretty normal week on the trail. The job site is 1.5 hours away from our tool shed in Graeagle and nobody is camping because of the cold, so we have been taking turns driving and car-pooling as much as possible. We have been falling trees just as much or more than we have been digging. This entire trail system was burnt several years ago and the dead trees are rotting out and falling on the trail everywhere. There were so many down trees when we first got to this job that the trails were virtually closed.

There is no maintenance plan for this trail system once we leave so we are doing everything we can to make our work last as long as possible. There are so many dead standing trees lining the trail we will never be able to cut all the ones that can reach the trail, but we are trying to get everything that will obviously land in the trail.

For the week of January 9th through the 13th, the SBTS trail crew continued restoration work on the Antelope/ Taylor Lake Trail from the Middle Creek Trail intersection down toward Antelope Lake. Much of this section has been overtaken by thick brush and down trees. We had already brushed the section with a weed-eater and bucked out the down trees, so our focus for the week was to chop out root wads, fall hazard trees and restore the tread where needed.

We started the week in a section of tight switchbacks that had two large pine trees fall on it. When we first approached the spot is was difficult to see where the trail went because there was so much debris from the two trees landing in the same spot. Once we cleared it all out we realized that the switchbacks needed to be rebuilt and two retaining walls would be needed to support the lower side of the trail.

We rebuilt the section and ended up with one wall 36 feet long by 1 foot tall and a second wall 30 feet long by 18 inches tall. We continued down the trail chopping root wads and restoring the tread until we got to a frozen section in the shade about 300 feet long. We worked our way out of the frozen tundra and started digging again; we built three more rock retaining walls; one being 34 feet long and 4 feet tall, and two being 9 feet long and 18 inches tall. We cleared all the brush and debris from the trail, but will not be able to effectively remove root wads in this section until the ground has thawed.
For the weeks total we completely restored 1839 feet of trail and fell a minimum of 200 hazard trees ranging from 6 inches to 4 feet in diameter. Our main focus with the hazard trees is to get rid of the ones most likely to fall on the trail and there are thousands of small white firs that are so rotten they can almost be pushed over by hand. There has also been some large rotten pine and fir trees cut, these trees have branches in them so large that if one were to fall out and hit a person it would probably kill them.

We had a bit of excitement on our way home on Friday when about thirty turkeys were crossing the road. We were ridding in Cosby’s truck down the windy Indian creek road when we came around a corner and saw turkeys everywhere.  At first I thought Coz was going to take out the entire flock because they weren’t moving at all. As we got right up on them they finally started to get out of the way, except for one slow one. It waited until the last minute then tried to fly up out of the road when it met a GMC grill head on, feathers went everywhere. Coz came to a stop and the turkey was out for the count on the side of the road while the grill of his truck was hanging on by a thread.

~Henry O'Donnell

more photos from Antelope/Taylor Lake Trails here