Serial work days improve the Big Eddy/Pillick Ridge connection

Posted on Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 by »

Over the course of three days in July, two of the trails leading to Star Peak overlooking Bull River, the Clark Fork valley and Lake Pend Oreille got a makeover, applied by Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness volunteers and the Forest Service. But, the first day was separated from the other two by two weeks.

Joel Sather of the FS leads the way up Trail #998 as FSPW volunteer Jake Ostman removes a chunk of blowdown from the trail. (Photo courtesy Jacob Styer)

Joel Sather of the FS leads the way up Trail #998 as FSPW volunteer Jake Ostman removes a chunk of blowdown from the trail. (Photo courtesy Jacob Styer)

“It was a serial trail project,” said FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton, “Two different groups took on two connected trails on two different weekends. The common point is the lookout at Star Peak. We got a lot done.”

On July 10, FSPW volunteers Jacob Styer, Jake Ostman, Jim Doudna, Lindsey Larson and Kim Givler followed Cabinet Ranger District Recreation Technician Joel Sather and his chainsaw up Big Eddy Trail #998, building water bars, rebuilding tread and removing brush and blowdowns, cleaning up the 4.5 mile trail clear to the lookout.

FSPW volunteer Jane Hoover exercises a pulaski on Pillick Ridge Trail #1036.

FSPW volunteer Jane Hoover exercises a pulaski on Pillick Ridge Trail #1036. (Sandii Mellen photo)

Two weeks later, Jim and Sandii Mellen, Jane Hoover and Compton picked up the pulaskis Styer, Sather and their crew left behind at the lookout and began working on Pillick Ridge Trail #1036, which runs 11 miles eastward from Star Peak to the Pillick Ridge trail head just off of Montana Highway 56.

“We didn’t get the whole 11 miles knocked out, I can tell you that,” confessed Compton, “but we made respectable progress.”

Over the 24th and 25th, the Mellens, Hoover and Compton “refreshed” the trail from Star Peak over a distance of about 3.5 miles to Napoleon Gulch, removing rocks, cutting blowdowns out with pulaskis and building waterbars. From there to the end of the trail (“a long blinkin’ walk on a smokin’ hot day,” Compton characterized it), they removed the blowdowns they could and “kicked rocks.”

Jim Mellen (right) and Sandy Compton remove a blowdown from Trail #1036 the old-fashioned way.

Jim Mellen (right) and Sandy Compton remove a blowdown from Trail #1036 the old-fashioned way. (Sandii Mellen photo)

Sather was very happy with the efforts of the FSPW volunteers. “You guys were awesome,” he said. The combined labor of the FSPW volunteers stretched his trails budget by over $1400, which is approximately  what he would have had to pay for non-volunteer labor.

Star Peak is the site of the only still-intact lookout building in the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. Vandalized last year, it is in need of cleanup and repair.  It is the hope of Sather and Compton that the lookout will benefit from another cooperative workday between the Forest Service and FSPW in late summer or early fall.

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