by Loren Payne Opportunities to serve Oregon’s trails with Trailkeepers of Oregon are as diverse as our volunteers’ interests. This year, TKO launched a new Wilderness Ambassador volunteer program in collaboration with the US Forest Service to further…
The Mount Hood National Forest boasts roughly 1,000 miles of trails weaving through popular frontcountry and remote Wilderness, with many areas seeing thousands of visitors in just a few days. To keep these trails well-kept, TKO volunteers dedicated 2,404 hours (over 100 days) to stewardship on Mount Hood – including 3 backcountry service trips!
As TKO has grown, our dreams for bigger and better volunteer experiences have, too. Backcountry service trips (BCSTs) have become a major way for our most adventurous volunteers to experience beautiful Wilderness while giving back to trails! These trips, ranging from 2 to 5 days, are fun and practical, being one of the best ways to complete a significant amount of trail work in remote areas. TKO’s first BCST of 2023 was held on the Vista Ridge Trail, a fan favorite Wilderness trail climbing the north side of Mount Hood. A crew of 12 crosscut sawyers spent 2 nights camped in the Wy’East Basin, removing a total of 211 logs from the Vista Ridge and Eden Park Trails (that’s nearly half of the total logs cleared from Mount Hood trails this year!)
The Vista Ridge BCST crew ended their multi-day stewardship adventure at Owl Point, meeting up with the crew stewarding the Old Vista Ridge Trail in celebration of TKO’s 16th anniversary! TKO returns to this trail every year, the site of our first ever trail party, in celebration of another year of trail stewardship. The group basked in stunning mountain views while enjoying homemade lemonade and cookies courtesy of fellow volunteers. Next time you’re at Owl Point, make sure to check out the log book! Inside you’ll find years of notes from Trailkeepers and trail users alike, and have a chance to leave your mark (without leaving a trace).
Later in the summer, TKO volunteers went even bigger for their second multi-day adventure on Mount Hood. The gung-ho crew of 10 set out for a 5-day crosscut foray on the Elk Meadows Trail, covering critical maintenance gaps while the Hood River USFS crews dialed in on a few structure replacement projects. Over the course of 4 days, the crew cleared 223 logs from the Elk Meadows, Elk Meadows Perimeter, Bluegrass Ridge, and Bluegrass-Elk Meadows Trails – topping the previous record of 211 logs on Vista Ridge!
To cap off a fun, productive summer, TKO volunteers had a last hurrah for multi-day trips in the Roaring River Wilderness. A crew of 7 amazing sawyers managed to clear 76 logs, completing maintenance on the entirety of the trail system from the Shellrock Trailhead, through the Rock Lakes Basin, and out to Serene Lake! Though these backcountry service trips tend to attract TKO’s most intrepid volunteers, everyone is welcome. A free gear library packed with hiking and camping gear is open to all volunteers, and trips range from 1 night of camping to 4. Choose an adventure that suits you and join us!
Clearing all of these logs requires having a group of trained and excited sawyers. TKO, led by Saw Program Manager Vito Perrone, has invested countless hours into growing our Saw Program to build such a cohort. In partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, TKO has utilized the Zigzag Ranger Station North Compound on Mount Hood to host a variety of hands-on trainings including crosscut training, chainsaw training, ax training, rigging training, FA/CPR training, and chainsaw and crosscut maintenance classes. By the end of the year, TKO will have hosted 15 saw training events in the Mount Hood National Forest in 2023! Each of these trainings empowers volunteers and agency staff alike to confidently steward our public lands utilizing crosscut saws and chainsaws. As always, accessibility is front of mind in TKO’s programming, and all of these trainings are available at free and reduced cost to participants for whom participation fees are a barrier. Come join us on the mountain soon and catch the notorious “saw bug” with some of the best saw instructors around!
Like most Oregonians, all of us at TKO love Mount Hood and are committed to its care. In order to continue hosting stewardship and training opportunities, we need your help! This giving season, you can make a difference for Mount Hood trails with a donation to TKO’s Legacy Builders campaign. Thanks to our generous partners at Cnoc, you’ll be entered to win a collapsible water bottle when you donate by the end of the day on December 10th!