Quartz Creek trail to get more help

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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The Washington Trails Association plans to continue its effort to rejuvenate Quartz Creek trail No. 5 deep in the heart of Dark Divide roadless area in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

The association has scheduled three four-day work parties in June and July on the trail.

“The Quartz Creek trail is Western Washington’s premier old-growth valley hike, a stroll among the giant Douglas fir and cedar trees is a walk back in time to what the forest looked like for many centuries before the saw and axe,’’ said Ryan Ojerio, WTA’s Southwest Washington coordinator.

Quartz Creek No. 5 climbs relatively gently at first up the Quartz Creek drainage, then has some of the steeper grades in the Pinchot forest before ending at Boundary trail No. 1. The total length is 10.6 miles.

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The trail does not parallel the creek, but weaves in and out of side canyons and up and down small rises and ridges. It seldom actually comes close to Quartz Creek.

Quartz Creek trail passes through some of the most remote terrain in the 1.3-million-acre Pinchot forest outside of wildernesses.

The trail had suffered from lack of maintenance until 2011, when WTA made Quartz Creek one of the 10 “signature trail projects.’’

WTA volunteers since have done tread restoration, brush removal and drainage repairs on the lower end of Quartz Creek trail, accessible from Lewis River road No. 90.

The association uses “Backcountry Response Teams’’ for trails like Quartz Creek.

Groups of four to a dozen volunteers, plus a crew leader, hike in, set up a base camp, then do trail work, Ojerio said.

In mid-June, WTA will work between Snagtooth and Straight creeks from a camp at the base of Quartz Creek Butte.

In late June, the volunteers will log out and clear as much of the trail heading north as they can from the Quartz Creek Butte camp.

In mid-July, the workers will drop in from the French Creek trail on the north and log out as much as possible at the upper end of Quartz Creek trail.

The teams are full all three work parties on Quartz Creek.

WTA plans a late July backcountry effort to reconstruct tread on Loowit trail No. 216 between June Lake and Ptarmigan trail on the south side of Mount St. Helens.

Also scheduled is maintenance in mid-August on Highline trail No. 114 in the Mount Adams Wilderness.

The group will camp at Foggy Flat, then re-define tread, improve creek crossings and install cairns above the tree line to Devil’s Garden.

Openings remain for the Loowit and Highline trail parties.

WTA received a $18,500 grant from the Forest Service in 2012 to help finance projects in Skamania County.