Wednesday, May 27, 2015

American Hiking Society and Wilderness Volunteers Visit the King Range

From May 4th-8th six individuals with the American Hiking Society, a national organization that organizes and coordinates volunteer vacations on public lands, joined me on the Lost Coast Trail to perform campsite and trail maintenance, and to restore wilderness character.

 30 campfire rings maintained (cleaned of all ash and trash, and made smaller)
 35 campfire rings destroyed (removed fire ring and rehabilitated impacts)
 4 driftwood shelters destroyed
 153 pounds of marine garbage removed
 10 pounds of visitor garbage removed
 300 feet of trail rerouted away from steep cliffs (~ 1 mile north of Big Flat Creek)
 4 piles of toilet paper buried
 1 exposed human waste buried

a) Campfire ring before
a) Campfire ring after 
b) campfire ring before 
b) campfire ring during maintenance 
b) campfire ring after maintenance 

Please, whenever possible, use existing fire rings. We ask that you use existing fire rings and keep the fire small by using only small pieces of wood that you can break by hand. This helps contain the fire in the ring and also helps to keep the campsites clean for other visitors. Larger pieces of wood tend to spread ash outside of the ring and breaks down its perimeter. In turn, this leads to an eye sore for other visitors and encourages them to build another fire ring - multiplying the impacts. 

PLEASE help your friendly ranger by keeping your campfires small (if it's not warm enough just get closer!!) and contained withing the ring. Also, this will keep the area looking natural and undamaged for other visitors. 

what used to be the monstrosity in the above photo...

Now looks like this! 

This is the most undeveloped and natural I have ever seen this site. A huge success for restoration of wilderness character. The entire section of the Lost Coast Trail that the BLM manages is within designated wilderness. Wilderness areas have very specific mandates that must be managed for: untrammeled, natural, undeveloped, and solitude or primitive and unconfined recreation, in addition they may have unique supplemental or other features. 

I admit, when I first hiked the Lost Coast Trail I thought these structures were fascinating. But, the more I learned about wilderness and Leave No Trace the more I understood that these structures are really not that great and actually a nuisance. Let me explain: 

  • Driftwood structures don’t fit with wilderness characteristics that we manage for. Section 2(c) of the 1964 Wilderness Act states that:                                                             
" A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which
(1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint
of man's work substantially unnoticeable…”

  • Leave No Trace teaches:
Leave What You Find
  1. Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  2. Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
  3. Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  4. Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.


  • Wood structures are great habitat for small rodents, especially structures that bring in a new supply of food every night. The one time I stayed in an established structure I had rodents scurrying all over my gear and sometimes me! Also, keep in mind that rodents attract snakes.
  • Large structures made out of dry wood are a fire hazard. We have had numerous incidents of driftwood structures catching on fire. This poses a threat to the forest, adjacent land owners, other visitors and YOU. Heavy winds, dry and densely packed fuels and fire are a recipe for disaster. It’s pretty easy for an ember to blow into the cracks of one of a driftwood structure and turn the whole thing into a ball of flames within minutes.

Below is a picture of a driftwood structure that caught fire. A father and his son were staying in it on a windy night, a tiny ember flew off of their fire and into the cracks of the driftwood. According to them, the entire structure was engulfed with flames in only a few moments. 

It just so happened that I was camped nearby with a Leave No Trace class; One of our classmates saw the flames as he went out to the beach to brush his teeth. We spent the next 3 hours throwing bear canisters full of water onto the flames to keep it from lighting up the nearby grasses and driftwood. 

I understand that it can get very windy out on the Lost Coast..if you make a wind break I ask you to please keep it small, don’t build onto existing structures, and PLEASE restore the site to its original condition by taking the drift wood back to where you found it. It is very easy for a small wind break to turn into a scene from Gilligan’s Island or Lord of the Flies as each visitor that camps at it builds a little more in an attempt to make some kind of “improvement.” Better yet, find a way to deal with the wind without manipulating the site and degrading the wilderness. 

Now, where was I...
Hauling nearly 100 pounds of marine garbage 

The site of a development, before we restored it to a more natural condition

The site after restoration 

From April 19-25, seven individuals with Wilderness Volunteers, a non-profit organization created to organize and promote volunteer service to America's wild lands, joined me in the King Range to perform trail maintenance on Horse Mountain Creek Trail and undertake projects to restore wilderness character.

 4.2 miles of trail brushed (cut back of encroaching vegetation) 
 4.2 miles of trail logged-out (trees and branches across the trail have been removed)
 25' of galvanized metal culvert pipe removed and carried out for discard.
 2 stream crossing improvements
 726 feet of trail tread repair
 390 feet of wire fence removed; 16 t-posts and 5 wooden posts
 30 pounds of marine garbage removed from the beach
 15 pounds of abandoned property removed
 3 water bars installed




and more brushing! What a great crew to work with with positive attitudes the whole time!


Removing the old culvert

.. and hauling it piece by piece 2 miles out to the trailhead

Just a small sample of the work that was accomplished by these amazing volunteers with AHS and WV for you and our public lands. 

Your Wilderness Ranger
Paul Sever

1 comment:

  1. Great write-up Paul.

    The trail crew that was working down at bear harbor left one of their tools (for clearing undergrowth) on the ground and it had already started to get overgrown. I just barely saw it. I picked it up on my way out and gave it to the nice older couple doing volunteer ranger'ing at NRVC.

    Had to have been a tough call on the driftwood buildings. They have sort of become an iconic part of the Northern LCT as anything else has. Last time I was in one it had gotten huge - think it was the same one in your photos.

    Oh, also, one my way back North to NRVS I spent the night at Railroad Camp. That site is seriously overrun with rodents. The owl that is living there is obviously not able to keep up with the rodent population.