SHIFT Work Party Provides Huge Boost

Written by Jim LeMonds

Every hiker and mountain biker who utilizes trails on the south, east, and west sides of Mount St. Helens will benefit from a remarkable effort by Northwest Trail Alliance volunteer trail crews on August 20. 

In partnership with the US Forest Service – Gifford Pinchot NWTA hosted a weekend campout at the Marble Mountain sno-park as a base camp. We hosted group rides on Friday and Sunday, with the work party – which included 65 volunteers – occupying Saturday. With a 2-year hiatus due to COVID-19, sign-ups for the event were light compared to years past, but enthusiasm and production were not. Crews left early to attack grow-out on the Ape Canyon and Toutle Trails. In total, volunteers cleaned just over 10.5 miles of single-track.

The plan for Ape Canyon included three components: (1) a small crew with a machine hit the area from the north end of the Plains of Abraham to the Lunch Log; (2) two crews covered the first two miles up from the trailhead, using handsaws to cut back overhang; and (3) four crews using eight weedeaters focused on heavy grow out from the 2.0-mile mark to the top. 

Even though we didn’t have a lot of people, we were extremely efficient. Those three spots where the trail breaks out on the east side were completely overgrown with salmonberry. Getting those areas cut back was a major accomplishment.

Sheep Canyon Update – Written by Nathan Frechen. Photos by Tony Daversa and Ben Milstein.

On the Toutle trail side of the mountain, 21 hardy mountain bikers met at the Blue Lake trailhead at 8 am to do some much-needed pruning and tread work on the Toutle Trail between Blue Lake and the intersection with the Loowit. Facing a 1 pm shutdown for the power tools, the five crews were adequately prepared with a multitude of hedge trimmers, loppers, handsaws, and hoes. It was a 1-hr ride to the work zone, going up and over the 800′ climb that takes you to Huckleberry Saddle. Due to the lingering snow this year, the namesake edible treats were sparse (check back in September!). 

Over the next four hours, everyone focused on opening up the trail corridor and fixing tread issues over a 5 mile stretch of trail. While the Toutle Trail retains the rugged, backcountry feel that users have come to love about it, it is much easier to see where your front wheel is going, and a very narrow tread has been widened where necessary. We were treated to a cool, foggy morning, making for very pleasant working conditions. The skies cleared up around 1 pm, and we were treated to a great view of Loowit while enjoying cold beverages stored in a stream earlier in the day. After packing all of our tools, we went back up the short climb and enjoyed the fun descent back to the cars. As someone who initially rode this trail several years ago, it has been incredible to see the improvement in this challenging 12-mile ride. 

We would like to thank all of the volunteers who helped put this weekend together. Especially to Jim LeMonds, Nathan Frechen, Bob Horness, Andy Crump, Scooter Sutterer, Nancy Stone & to Paul Hobson who transported 15 cases of delicious beer from our generous sponsor, Hopworks. 

A BIG thank you to Daybreak Racing  & Alpine Running for the tool/equipment loan and to

Blackstone Stichworks & Bike Envy for their donations to the raffle. 
Want to know more about our work at the Mt. St. Helens Monument? Email [email protected].org for more information. We look forward to seeing you at SHIFT 2023!