Wallowa County chieftain. (Enterprise, Wallowa County, Or.) 1943-current, July 24, 2019, Page A10, Image 10

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Wallowa County Chieftain
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Jan Keil of Imbler works one end of
the crosscut saw and Miles McFall of
Joseph guides the other, while Brent
Lewis of La Grande drives a wedge
into the cut so the saw won’t bind.
Keeping Trails open
Volunteers from
Wallowa and
Union Counties
maintain the trails
on public lands
Ellen Morris Bishop
Wallowa County Chieftain
Sabrina Thompson
The La Grande Observer
The next time you go for
a walk in the woods-specif-
ically on a U.S. Forest Ser-
vice Trail in the Eagle Cap
Wilderness or Hells Can-
yon — you might consider
pausing at one of those big,
fallen trees that used to
block the trail and silently
thank the hard-working vol-
unteers from Wallowa and
Union Counties who keep
the trails open. Without
their efforts, and a support-
ing cast of horses, mules,
volunteer pilots and other
team members, those trails
would likely be cluttered
with prickly brush, big logs
and ankle-rolling rocks. But
thanks to the Wallowa Moun-
tains Hells Canyon Trails
and their partners, your
horseback ride will be haz-
ard-free, and you won’t have
to vault over logs, trip over
displaced stones, or squeeze
thru brambles on your next
iPhone-powered, music-in-
fused trail run.
Wallowa Mountains Hells
Canyon Trails Association’s
members are dedicated to
keeping mountain and can-
yon trails open and historic
sites accessible to hikers and
horsemen. Last year their
73 members cleared a total
of 89 miles of trails, includ-
ing most of the 40-mile long
Minam River Trail, remov-
ing 398 trees and brush to
make the trip—all or part—
easy for people and stock.
They also cleared the historic
blackberry-choked, poison
ivy-infested and shrub-tan-
gled ancient trail from Dug
Bar to the Chinese Massacre
Site on Deep Creek. USFS
Trail 1726 between two of
Wallowa County’s most his-
toric locations had in many
places become impassible. It
took three days for nine vol-
Jim Akenson
201 E. Hwy 82, Enterprise • 541-426-0320
unteers and two Forest Ser-
vice employees to hack their
way about two miles through
what seemed an infi nity of
brambles. But now you can
ride or walk from Dug Bar to
Deep Creek—a journey that
for years has been possible
only via boat.
And as if re-establish-
ing two historic trails was
not enough, WMHCTA also
began projects to renovate
the Lick Creek Guard Sta-
tion and the bridge over BC
Creek on the Chief Joseph
Trail, both of which are slated
for completion in 2019.
This summer, WMHCTA
set its summer priorities on
clearing trails that lead from
the Minam River Trail into
the high Wallowas and also
connect the Minam and Lit-
tle Minam Rivers with the
trails at Moss Springs Trail-
head, east of Cove. With
USFS approval, they are
basing their work out of his-
toric Red’s Horse Ranch
on the Minam, as well as
camps near Splash Dam
Meadow and the confl uence
of the Minam and North
Minam, clearing another 30
miles of trails 1673 (Minam
River Trail), 1675 (North
Minam Trail) and 1901, (Lit-
tle Minam River Trail) and
1928 (Rock Springs Trail).
Why devote all this time
to clearing up trails in the
forest? Russ and Mary West
of Imbler packed into Red’s
Horse Ranch as part of the
multi-county Minam team.
“The main purpose is to try
to get the trails on Minam
safe,” Mary West said. “They
probably needed to be done
10 or 15 years ago. And any-
one who has been up there
would agree.”
Former Union County
planner Hanley Jenkins
has been involved with the
WMHCTA, and like every-
one else on the team worked
hard to clear the trails. “If
you don’t maintain them
(the trails) they get worse
and worse,” he said. “They
become impassable, which
has happened. When it
does, people will go around,
which causes more resource
And as WMHCTA board
member and treasurer Holly
Akenson of Enterprise
pointed out, “Many of those
involved with the associa-
tion are active users of these
trails and saw nothing will
change unless we do some-
thing to change it. We all
agree we want to see it in
usable shape.”
She noted that easy-to-use
trails are important for emer-
gencies and having access in
case someone is hurt or lost.
Plus trails are a big part of
our tourism. “People assume
the trails are cleared, but
those who are local know
that isn’t true.”
Veteran pilots Bill Ables
and Doug Fremont fl ew in
supplies and some volun-
teers to Red’s. Packer Steve
Morris, of Wallowa Moun-
tain Packers, volunteered his
time and stock to scout the
trail to the North Minam, and
then bring in supplies and
volunteers for this rougher
portion of the project. And
a number of volunteers,
including WMHCTA Board
Chair Jim Akenson of Enter-
prise, Russ and Mary West of
Imbler, and Brent Lewis of
La Grande, hitched up their
own pack strings, saddled
their mules, and rode into
their assigned trail to help.
These trails are all within
the Eagle Cap Wilderness,
where non-motorized equip-
ment is required. “We’re
using all hand tools,” Jim
Akenson said. “Crosscut
saws, hand saws, pulaskis,
axes, shovels, in compliance
with the wilderness policy.”
For many, the chance to use
Now taking
new patients!
Dr. Rachael
Karlin, ND
to Jim
the week honor goes
This week’s athlete of ad coach and trainer of
ent, he
Akenson, board presid Canyon Trails Association.
the Wallowa Moun
CTA on a weekend excu r.
na ve
ils adjacent to the Mi
n trains club
riding mules, Akenso example
Besides packing and
d sets the
members in tool use an by his hard work.
Pro onsore d b y
Photos by Ellen M Bishop
Jim Akenson of Enterprise and Hanley Jenkins of Union pack into Red’s Horse Ranch to start a
few days of work clearing the Minam Trail and Little Minam Trail with other volunteers.
hand tools takes them back
to a more traditional slower
time, when hard work was
the essence of being in the
Access is by foot—two
feet or four feet. Trails must
be cleared to U.S.F.S. stan-
dards: four feet on both sides
of the trail centerline. Over-
hanging branches that might
interfere with a rider must
be removed. Smaller trees
that lean into the trail are
cut. Especially where forest
health problems have cre-
ated many dead trees, meet-
ing this requirement is labor
But the volunteers based
at Red’s and on the North
Fork were up to the task.
On Saturday, they cleared
62 trees from the Minam
River Trail 1673. And for
the remainder of this week,
teams brandishing crosscut
saws, axes, Slick saws, and
pruning tools are working to
clear the trails to specs. “We
expect to have more than 24
volunteers on the projects
this week,” Akenson said.
Support for this effort
comes from a slim U.S.F.S.
cost-share budget that pro-
vides per diem for food and
mileage for the distance
from the nearest Forest Ser-
vice station or offi ce to the
trailhead. Other funds —
the Wallowa County Hotel
Motel tax provides some
equipment, and a Cycle Ore-
gon grant supports volun-
teers’ food and travel. But
those funds don’t stretch
very far. “Our organization
provides the Forest Service
with about four times the
value of the funds they give
us,” said WMHCTA Trea-
surer Holly Akenson. “We
keep track of the time, travel,
materials—of everything we
do.” Akenson estimated that
the total value of services of
volunteers probably exceeds
$100,000 each year.
But for many back-coun-
try hikers, riders, and hunt-
ers, the work done by these
volunteers from Union and
Wallowa Counties is truly
invaluable. “It’s truly a
unique place,” said volunteer
Jan Keil. “Just being here is
inspiring. But keeping these
historic trails open is really
507 S. River Street
Enterprise, OR 97828
Monday - Friday
8:00am to 7:00pm
www.jbbane.com • 541-426-3344