WMHCTA Middle Minam River Trail 2019 Trip Report
Project Location: Minam River Trail #1673 from North Minam to above Last Chance Creek (6 miles) and Bowman Trail #1651 (0.5 miles).
Dates: July 21-24, 2019
Project Leader: Holly Akenson
Report submitted by: Holly Akenson
Safety Officer: Holly Akenson Safety Briefing By: Holly Akenson and all
PRESENT: 7 Volunteers: Russ Westlake, Randi Jandt, Jon Larson, Max Linn, Russ West, Mary West, Holly Akenson. Volunteer packers Steve Morris and Cary Johnson from Wallowa Mountain Outfitters.
PREP: Tools were organized and selected by Randi and Jon. Menu, groceries, and group camp gear were assembled by Holly. Gear and stock drove to trailhead by Russ Westlake. Mule loads were packed at the trailhead by Steve and Kerry. Tools, food, and gear organized and returned to tools trailer after the trip by Holly.
Steve Morris did annual trail clearing from Bowman Trailhead to North Minam Meadows prior to the trip to improve trail access to the Minam Trail and our base camp at the mouth of North Minam. Holly flew with Bill Ables to check snow conditions over Wilson Pass (no snow) two days before the trip.
WEATHER: Warm and sunny; no rain. Trail shaded in most areas. Some horseflies and mosquitoes.
WHAT HAPPENED: Max, Jon, and Randi flew from Enterprise to Red’s Horse Ranch with volunteer pilots Bill Ables and Doug Ferguson from the local backcountry pilots association. Then they hike up the Minam River Trail 8.5 miles to our basecamp at the confluence of North Minam. They started work on the Minam trail in the afternoon. Russ and Holly rode a horse and mule 14 miles from the Bowman Trailhead to the North Minam camp. Steve and Cary made up pack loads of our gear and packed 7 mules to camp. Russ and Mary West arrived the second day, after working on the Little Minam Project in previous days. We assembled camp and took turns with camp cooking and cleanup jobs.
We cleared 6 miles of the middle section of the Minam River Trail. We prioritized cutting out logs across the trail, especially larger logs and clusters of logs that had been across the trail many years where users had created “go-around” trails. This trail section had not had major maintenance for around 10 years. We worked 2 crews – one group cut out the trail from camp working upstream, the second group rode upstream to the far end of the trail section and worked back toward camp. Late on the second day the two crews met in the middle to complete the trail clearing. We sawed out or removed 195 trees from the trail. We restored the width of the trail in some areas by removing 81 seedling/saplings and brushing out stream crossings; we pruned out overhanging branches while riding the trail.
At the same time, in coordination with WMHCTA, 11 members of Backcountry Horsemen of Oregon cleared an 8.5-mile section of Minam River Trail (Red’s Horse Ranch to North Minam) immediately downstream of our section. Six miles of that trail section was deferred maintenance and 2.5 miles was annual maintenance. BCHO cut out 118 logs, eliminating all “go-arounds” in that section of trail.
TOOLS & SAFETY: Morning safety meetings were conducted with input from each volunteer. We primarily used crosscuts and large folding Silky saws to open the trail. Good sharp saws!
A lesson learned from this trip was that crosscut saw handles need to be removed or secured prior to packing saws on stock. We used personal and WMHCTA InReach devices to text between our teams, with the Little Minam Project, and to check in with Rick Bombaci in town. The InReaches worked well for communication and our members gained experience using them.
LEFT TO DO: This section of the Minam River Trail should be a pleasure to use, with most logs sawed or removed from the trail. Several “go-around” trails were improved and left in place where restoration of the original trail would be very time consuming or not improve current passage. We did not have time to complete brushing of this section of trail. The primary trail work left to do is a replacement of the bridge across North Minam, which is sagging on one side due to rotted supports. Access to this trail section is excellent since the upper and lower sections of the Minam Trail have been cleared this year or last year. The only access trail left that needs work is the 4 miles of North Minam Trail that has many large trees down with multiple convoluted and brushy go-arounds.
OTHER: This Minam Trail Project and the BCHO Minam Project completes the long-term maintenance clearing of the entire 42-mile Minam River Trail from Minam Lake to Mead Flat that we did over the last 2 years. This is a significant accomplishment for WMHCTA and all Eagle Cap Wilderness users.
We had a great group of trail volunteers with solid backcountry and trail maintenance skills. They had plenty of enthusiasm despite long days working on the trail. Although getting to our section of trail to start work was a long distance and logistically difficult, we enjoyed either a long day riding our own animals to camp or getting a scenic flight to Red’s to start the hike to camp. We appreciate the packing support of Steve and Cary from Wallowa Mountains Outfitters and the flying support of Bill and Doug. Some of us regret we didn’t take more time for huckleberry picking, but several pickers shared their harvest for tasty huckleberry pancakes.
# miles of trail cleared: 6.5 miles
# logs removed: 195 logs
# structures built: 0
Brush removed: 81 conifer seedlings, shrubs at stream crossings, overhanging
branches, and intermittent shrub removal as time allowed
# stock animal use days: 20 animal-days plus 28 animal-days for outfitter pack stock
# vehicles: 2 vehicles (Randi and Russ Westlake; Wests not reported here)
# round trip vehicle miles: 100 miles total (50 miles per vehicle from USFS Enterprise)
Volunteer driving/flying time: 14 person-hours, plus 5 hours pilot flying time
Volunteer project preparation time: 24 person-hours (gear, shop, InReach setup, report, coordinate)
Volunteer trail work hours (excluding drive & prep time, #people x #hours): 237 person-hours