By Jake Westrich, Team Leader
This hitch, they sent us to the aptly-named Hells Canyon National Recreation Area/Wilderness for more trail clearing. An intense heat dome that affected much of the Pacific Northwest. One day we worked in 105+ degree conditions, and the next day we had to leave because we ran out of water.
We camped one night near Hat Point, four nights near Somers Point, and three nights near Dorrance Cow Camp. We worked on a total of nine trails with names like Hog Creek, Cougar Creek, and Old Somers, approximately 14 total miles. Some were worse off than others, and though we crosscut fewer logs than on the Minam River Trail (see previous post), my team and I feel we worked just as hard, if not harder.
We cut 43 logs. Our largest was three feet in diameter, but our saw was up to the task. In addition to sawing and brushing, we also retreaded a total of about one mile of trail.
We had an amazing view of the Snake River, which carves through Hells Canyon, as well as the mountains in Idaho, which rise over a mile above river. An elevation change of that magnitude makes Hells Canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon, a fact we delighted in knowing as we worked.
The thunderstorm pictured above rolled over us but started a half-acre fire near the town of Wallowa, over 50 miles to our northwest. I kept my radio on that day and could hear all the Forest Service chatter as they observed the fire from the air, dispatched units, and eventually put out the fire. It was almost like listening to a movie. The Forest Service did a quick, eﬃcient, and effective job, and we were relieved to hear there were no more fires for the remainder of hitch.
We saw no major wildlife, save for a herd of elk and swarms of ﬂies at dinner. No accidents were had, and no visitors were encountered. It was very peaceful up where we were. The road was extremely rocky and steep. We wouldn’t have made it without our robust rig, which we christened “Dusty.” He took us plus our stuff out there and back again. Trusty Dusty.