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Teaching a Scout Troop Basic Trail Restoration Skills

February 17, 2020

by Glen Hess, Crew Leader, Trailkeepers of Oregon

On an April 2019 weekend, Chris Guntermann and I led a Boy Scouts of America troop on a camping and trail restoration trip in Cottonwood Canyon State Park. Cottonwood Canyon is located in central Oregon along the John Day River with numerous recreational opportunities, including camping, boating, hiking, and biking.

A view looking down on a campground and a river winding through a canyon past treeless grassy slopes.

View of the John Day River from a ridge overlooking Cottonwood Canyon State Park. The Lost Corral Trail parallels the river on the right (east) bank. The Pinnacles Trail parallels the river on the left (west) bank. (Photo by Glen Hess)

On Saturday, I took a group of scouts up the partially built Gooseneck Trail along a ridge where they had a view of the Pinnacles and Lost Corral Trail across the John Day River.

Four boys sitting on a hill overlooking a campground next to a muddy river, with a treeless slope across the river.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 611 on the proposed Gooseneck Trail overlooking the camping area and the John Day River. (Photo by Glen Hess)

After a first day of “fun” activities, the troop always does a service project for state parks on the second day when camping at a park. After talking to the park ranger, the scouts were assigned to clear fallen rock and pick up trash on the Pinnacles Trail. Chris and I had borrowed grubbers and shovels from Trailkeepers of Oregon. On Sunday morning, Chris talked about these trail restoration tools and the safety aspects of using them.

Five young boys stand in a line and listen to a man demonstrate how to use a shovel; another shovel and two hoes lie on the ground.

Caption: Chris Guntermann gives a tool safety talk to BSA Troop 611. (Photo by Glen Hess)

The scouts and adults spread out to clear rocks and other debris using the shovels and grub hoes. We collected litter with reacher grabber tools to put in large plastic trash bags. The troop maintained about 1.5 miles of trail along the John Day River downstream from the campground. A highlight of the day was a sighting of bighorn sheep on the ridge high above the river.

A group of boys and a couple of adult men carrying large plastic bags and trash pickers stand on a trail below a rocky cliff with a river running to the left.

Troop 611 clearing the Pinnacles Trail of debris and picking up trash. (Photo by Glen Hess)

It was windy and a little rainy, but the scouts learned some new skills: the tread of the trail needed to be a certain width (the length of a grub hoe), and drainage off the trail is important. At the end of the day, we all gathered for a group photo with smiles all around.

Several boys and men (three seated on a bench, the others standing) pose for a group photo with a river and a treeless hillside in the background.

Scouts and adults of Troop 611 trail restoration party along the John Day River. (Photo by Glen Hess)

Glen Hess: glen.hess@trailkeepersoforegon.org

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