Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Deer Creek Reroute Update

(on Smokey's Blue Ridge Trail section of the Sunshine Coast Trail)

Once upon a time before we knew what was what we designed the Sunshine Coast Trail in such a way that it came straight out of the Smith Range down through Suicide Pass and headed southward into the lowlands toward the bottom end of Lois Lake where we had to cross Eagle River. This was and still is some of the best growing land for trees on the coast. Some mossy century-old wood skid roads that had been used to take the first crop out of these foothills were ideal for our purposes because they ran in the direction we needed to go.
They were a trailbuilder's delight because once you had found them, and bucked and cleared out all the tangle of woody debris and dead-fall that obscured them, you had a lovely trail on which you could amble along.

But we caught on eventually, realizing we couldn't keep the whole of the SCT where we had located it initially some 20 years ago...

.... because the licensee had to make a living and liked the look of the stands of timber we were traversing with the trail.

This pressure increased. With much of the accessible old growth at the ends of the distant valleys now logged, the industry's eyes returned to the front country where second growth had aged sufficiently and began to look very attractive.


And so in the last half dozen years, we've had to negotiate reroutes for some sections of the trail. Naturally, it's meant more work, time and expense, but in the process we have gained final resting places for segments of the SCT, gained certainty for this increasingly popular recreation and tourism resource. Some of these reroutes have turned out very nicely indeed. Some sections have been relocated out onto rocky outcroppings that have provided natural vistas, 

and opportunities to try our hand at a variety of ways of making the trail safe and enjoyable, as here at the Stairway to Heaven in cutblock ST-245.

That's not to say we want to rebuild 180 km of the Sunshine Coast Trail. But we can see that sometimes it can be an agreeable resolution. It is work that absorbs significant amounts of time and resources.

Some reroutes, as in the case of the Deer Creek Reroute, a kilometre farther uphill from the Stairway, have benefited from the establishment of stand-level Wildlife Tree Retention Areas (WTRAs), or by being placed in riparian zones, such as the headwaters of this pretty little creek that now protects and enhances the integrity and viability of this part of the Sunshine Coast Trail.

We want certainty, and with that the ability to do long-range planning.
What has enabled PR PAWS to carry on concurrently with its hut-building program plus rebuilding sections of the 180 km-long SCT a second time has been the inspiring support we have received from dozens of generous volunteers in this community. We have been able to draw on the talented pool of hut- and trail-builders who have ensured the continued existence and success of the Sunshine Coast Trail. We are exceedingly thankful for their contributions. We are also thankful for donations from in and out of town.

Not only has this recreation/tourism facility given Powell River's residents and visitors opportunities to reach extraordinarily beautiful places via a world-class hiking trail (like Tin Hat above after a blizzard), but it has also aided the biodiversity and wildlife of this region. Seven huts now grace the length of the trail and a few more will be built this year and next.

The new Deer Creek Reroute (ST-232) winds along through a picturesque ravine, crossing and recrossing the lively stream four times by means of small bridges.  

The creek runs crystal clear.

To welcome hikers we have built a bench from native materials found on site.

Here Lyn is driving in the last spike of the skookum three-seater

that overlooks the falls.

Then he studies the fish-stream above the new bench.

On another trailday outing Jim is pounding spikes into the slabs that ensure we keep honoring one of our early and still quoted mottoes for the Sunshine Coast Trail - "99% Mud Free". It's more like 99.99%, really.

Of course we have also attached markers and signage so that users can feel confident they are on the right trail and are traveling in the right direction.

Here are two slabs ripped from a single downed cedar that had fallen years ago, but did not rot because much of it came to rest in the air. One continuous 18-foot cut provides the stringers for the uppermost bridge of the reroute.

Dipper gives them the stamp of approval.

First, Terry attaches the turfer (a type of come-along) to a tree on one side of the drainage and the stringers on the other. Then, while Ron keeps the cable clear and free, he starts ratcheting home the stringers with Don and Dipper guiding them.

One more mighty heave and both slabs are lined up almost side by side.

A little more ratcheting and lifting into place...

 ...and Terry is happier than a hot dog - and more playful than a puppy. Catch me if you can.

Meanwhile, Ron cuts two more sills to keep the wee bridge high and dry while Don steadies it safely.

The little bridge looks good and one last offending obstruction is being pummeled into submission.

 The crossing meets with Double Ron's approval.

On yet another trailday outing Don and Terry seek shelter from the steady rain after having grubbed for a couple of hours. They will enjoy a somewhat dry lunch, before getting back to grubbing the new trail.

It took us 200 man hours during January and February to build the reroute, including the four little bridges, and the bench. A dozen different volunteers were involved in doing the work. We'll likely be back to build a picnic table in the coming weeks, but now we have to focus on the 19th annual Marathon Shuffle, which will take place on Sunday, April 29th. That popular event starts at Km 21 of the SCT at Malaspina Road and ends up at the Shingle Mill at Km 50, and so we have to make sure that this stretch of the Sunshine Coast Trail is spic and span. We are hoping to attract many hikers and runners to join the numerous locals. The Half Shuffle is getting to be quite popular as well and can be completed in a few leisurely hours.

Are you in?
Are you in shape?
It's a good time to start now.

Here three happy hikers approaching the finish line last year. Yeah, they are ready for some refreshments.

To get to the Stairway to Heaven and the Deer Creek reroutes of the Sunshine Coast Trail drive to Lang Bay store south of Powell River on Highway 101, and turn uphill on Dixon Road which is paved for the first mile. Just after the pavement ends near the last house (Last Chance Store) Dixon Road will rise and pass the gravel pits that are on either side. A hundred metres beyond the crest of Dixon Road pull over tight on the right for adequate parking space along the busy road.

A wooden sign indicates SCT North on the upper (left) side of the road, and a couple of red diamond markers indicate where you have to enter the trailhead. About a 20 minute hike will take you through an older reroute (ST-245) to a crossing of another logging road, Goat Main at Mile 4.

From there it's a short climb up to the Stairway to Heaven and on from there another 20 minutes to the start of the reroute. All in all it could take about an hour from Dixon Road to the end of Deer Creek reroute where it emerges onto Old Hastings Road. For now this is your turn around point because logging and road building (ST-235) is still carrying on above here well into April.

Western Forest Products can work out passage with trekkers (long distance through-hikers) as long as they are aware you wish to pass through on a given day. Contact WFP (604-485-3100) to make these safety arrangements.

Otherwise, for daytrips do turn around here at Old Hastings Road and rest a bit at the creek, look around, have a snack, keep hydrated and then head back downhill to the car. We hope you enjoyed your hike.

Terry and Don came back this week and started crafting the boards and sleepers for the new picnic table they are building. Another trailday and we'll be eating smokies by the side of Deer Creek.

Well here's another Trailday outing with Andy and Terry. We've fastened together the logs with iron rebar and ripped the cedar planks. They are making sure the planks sit nice and snug on the sleepers. 

Did somebody say time for lunch?

One sure gets hungry out here.

There were a fair number of danger trees in the vicinity of the picnic table that is obscured here by the split and stacked wood.

Terry and Andy assume a pose that is century-old. Like the woodworkers of old they show their value-added product. Good job, men.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Elk Lake Mar 5 2012.

Elk Lake trail report: Was at Elk lake yesterday. Mix of weather, sometimes sunny and clear, snowing at other times.
About 2' of snow at Granite, 6' at Elk and 10+ on top of the Smith range... I wouldn't recommend taking the outside loop (East); marking is virtually non existant, 10'+ deep cross ditches and alders down everywhere.
Even the inside loop (west) has has alder and cross ditch problems, but not nearly as bad (although it is well marked). Lots of water issues though with big ruts down the middle of most of the quad road.
Overall a very tough go, so make sure you know what you're doing.
Thanks to PRPAWS & the ATV Club for all their hard work.