Walker Work Party Oct 2018

Another Work Party at Walker Valley OHV started off on Saturday October 13, 2018 without a hitch!  Sadly, it didn’t quite last that way.

We met in the parking lot at Walker at 9:00 AM, just as planned.  Ryan Ruttinghouse (our new DNR Trail Manager for Walker) headed-up the group of Around the Sound Jeep Club members to do work on the area at the back of the parking lot, where they laid new concrete soil stabilizers and did some other work.  Jim Cahill (our DNR supervisor to whom Ryan reports) headed-up our group of Timber Tamers to do trail maintenance work on the Upper Timber Tamer and the EZ Valley Connector trails.  For this, we not only had more material (broken concrete—basically recycled broken blocks of pavement) and heavy equipment (two large excavators and a track-hauler) already delivered to the trailsites.

We had a good showing of Timber Tamers, including Dave Wilkinson, Joe Regula, Travis Butterfield, Chris Green and Shawn Nelson (with Justin, of course!), and also Candidates Shan McArthur and Steve Sutton.  I guess I should include that I was there, too!  Running the heavy equipment were our own Jeff Stafford, Jeremy Pratt (from Twisted Metal), and Jayson Lautenbach (from the Ranier Ridge Rams).  We all headed up to the trails, and took our places.

As you all may recall, we had a work party at Walker Valley in March where we worked on the top of the Upper Timber Tamer Trail (UTT), and in the process of addressing the erosion issues, we dropped in a lot of medium-sized boulders that not only helped manage the erosion much better, but also made for a nicely challenging uphill rock garden.  Since we did that work in March, many of these rocks have rolled around as they settled in, and the trail has become even more challenging, and even the bypasses have become challenging to get to.  Well, apparently this has been such a challenging rock garden that DNR received a lot of complaints about it for being too challenging!  As such, Jim told us the mission for today’s work was to return the trail to its intended state of being passable for a minimally to moderately stock vehicle—not one that requires a buggy to get through.  (With that, I guess it was fitting that we had broken pavement with which to “pave” our trail…)

Jim asked me to head up communications, so we passed out GMRS radios to those who didn’t have them to coordinate directing traffic around the heavy equipment.  Our materials were on the side of the logging road (WV-22 for those of you looking at a Walker Valley map) at the top of the UTT and the entrance of the EZ Valley Connector.  I stayed at the upper exit of the UTT, Dave went down and around the bend to where the pile of materials was (and where Jeremy had one excavator to load the track-hauler that Jayson was driving), Steve went to the entrance of the EZ Valley Connector, Shan went to the bridge on the EZ Valley Connector, then Shawn and Justin went to the lower entrance of the UTT—perfect spot for Justin with the huge water puddle there!!  Jeff took the other excavator into the rock garden at the top of UTT; Joe and Travis joined him there with shovels and to help guide Jayson down the trail to deliver the materials.

We worked for several hours with this, our traffic control people (Shan, Steve, Dave, Shawn, Justin and me) to block traffic while Jayson had the track-hauler on WV-22, and then letting people through once Jayson got back on the UTT.  Steve and I even rescued a motorcyclist who had a blown and locked-up engine on the motorcycle tracks uphill of us.  We had the tools that he didn’t, so he was able to get the chain pulled off his motorcycle, and I towed him down to Peter Burns Road with my Jeep.  Then it was a little after lunch time that the real problem began.

We noticed that one of the tracks on the track-hauler was getting a bit loose.  A quick squirt with a grease gun initially seemed to tighten-up the track.  However, a short bit later we noticed that one of the wheels inside the track had a failing bearing, and the wheel looked to be wobbling a little on the axle shaft.  Another squirt with the grease gun helped tighten that up, but we could see that our time with the track-hauler was going to be limited.  Jayson nursed the track-hauler enough that he was able to get enough material down on the UTT for Jeff to finish placing the broken concrete, but after talking things over, Jim decided that we would skip carrying the smaller material that would set the broken concrete in place on the UTT, and instead make the last trip with the track-hauler to carry five huge 4’-5- diameter boulders up to the bridge on the EZ Connector where there’s a lot of erosion that also needed to be repaired.  Well, Jayson was able to nurse the track-hauler about 50 yards up the EZ Connector before it became painfully obvious that the track-hauler wasn’t going to make it up the trail.  He backed out of the trail, and dropped the boulders at the bottom of the EZ Connector entrance, and was able to drive the track-hauler back down to the yellow gate at Peter Burns Road.

By that point, Jeremy had already been working to reconstitute the ditch on the uphill side of WV-22 to help manage erosion when rainwater drains down the road.  (This was pretty tough, as the soil there turned out to be very hard and dry clay!)  Jeremy also had already driven his excavator part way up EZ Connector ahead of Jayson, but when the track-hauler failed, Jeremy turned around and came back down to the entrance of EZ Connector.  As Jayson turned around to head to Peter Burns Road, Jeremy grabbed one of the huge boulders with the excavator, drove it up the EZ Connector to the bridge and placed it.  However, he found that the trail was too tough to attempt taking another boulder up that way, as the trail had already loosened a few of the rubber blocks on the excavator tracks.

Jeff finished his work placing the last of the broken concrete on the UTT, and came up to join Jeremy on WV-22.  The two of them worked reconfiguring WV-22 to facilitate better drainage.  It was really a treat to watch these two masters of the excavators do this work!  Jeff grabbed a huge log with the bucket of his excavator and used that as a makeshift blade to grade the road surface so rainwater will drain away from the UTT so it won’t run down the trail and wash away the dirt around the broken concrete he’d just placed.  Once this was done, they drove the excavators back down to Peter Burns Road with Jim.

Of course, being Timber Tamers, now that this work was done, we had to try it out!  I had walked the UTT rock garden with Jim to inspect the work—which looked good.  There was one Land Cruiser SUV with a young couple (who admitted they were inexperienced 4-wheelers) who had just started the bottom of the rock garden—and who was stuck already.  I suggested to him that if he was stuck there, he probably shouldn’t try to go on the rest of the trail, especially since he was alone.  He said he had things OK by himself, and didn’t need help at that point.  As we started down the UTT from the top (going backwards on the trail), we found it to be less challenging than it had been—but at least it was passable.  Then we came upon the poor couple in the Land Cruiser, who were pretty badly stuck.  So, being Timber Tamers, we got him unstuck with a couple of winch pulls.  Turns out, the guy and Shan know each other!!  After introductions all around (his name is Evan), Joe gave them a TT brochure and we invited them to our meetings.  They had to leave, so they couldn’t stick around to finish the trail with the rest of us, but it was a good contact!

We finished the rest of the trail without significant trouble, other than Chris taking a couple of passes to squeak through the bypass around the big rock near the beginning of the UTT.  (And, Travis was able to drive over the big rock—congrats to him for that!!)  The best part was at the entrance of the UTT at the huge water puddle.  Shawn whaled through it with a huge splash for Justin—and told me Justin had been waiting ALL DAY to do that!!  A quick trip down to Peter Burns Road (the gate was still open), then to the parking lot to air up, and we all headed home as the sun was setting.  All in all, a pretty good day!

Thanks to all who were there on Saturday.  Without the volunteer work, we wouldn’t have such a great trail system to enjoy, and it’s great way for us to give-back and maintain our own “playground”!!

John Vandergrift