One of the problems with spring hiking in our area is when does the snow melt? Generally it’s on the southern exposures first, so we pick trails that are south facing and tend to be below the snow line.
One thing I forget each year is that just because it’s on the south side and below the snow line, it doesn’t mean that it’s smooth hiking.
Winter conditions have persisted in Durango and Colorado in general above 10,000 feet so we’re limited mostly to out and back trails. We hiked, however, on Monday, a loop trail leading up to Missionary Ridge and three miles across, to come down another trail back to the car.
In 11.3 miles we photographed (documented for a trail crew with waypoints on GaiaGPS) 61 trees blocking the trail. Hikers never have a problem with downed trees, but the US Forest Service likes to keep these trails open for horseback riders.
In the five years I’ve been a WIS volunteer, we’ve never seen so many downed trees. It’s primarily a factor of the 2001 forest fire which killed most of the trees in several sections of the trail, but the new growth is now coming up splendidly, as you can see in the background. We also do a little erosion control, but without an ultralight shovel we can’t do much.
My favorite photo of the day was finding the trail marker for the return trip laying on it’s side at the top of the ridge.
In trying to figure which trails are open already this year, we find that we are recording trail conditions rather than giving advice on the Wilderness.
And for Public Lands Day I volunteered on the Sky Steps Project placing 500+ steps from City of Durango to Fort Lewis College, a 250-foot rise from the valley floor to the college rim. It’s a Trails 2000 project that will take several months to complete.
There has been a hillside trail for almost 25 years in this area, but this is the first time someone has endeavored to put in a bona fide stairway. It goes fairly slowly as they are using 6×6″ rough cut beams for the construction, with rebar anchors and 12″ screws between the timbers. Volunteers are doing all the work, which amounts to surveying the route, clearing the trail, cutting the steps, filling the voids with rocks before adding road-base filler, and then grooming the edges. Our efforts were able to fill in about 60′ of rocks and road-base, plus add 3 small sections of stairway totaling about 30′. Believe it or not, this took almost 30 people, carrying timbers to the site, foraging for stone filler, “fire lining” buckets of gravel to fill the stairs, and grooming the hillside. They have still another 200′ of stairway to build and all the filler to make it usable. (Photos courtesy of Trails 2000 – I forgot my phone)