Roving Trail Team Pt 5: That’s Why They Call It Paradise

Here’s the very latest from Team Leader Jake Westrich:

After finishing up our work on the Golden Gate Trail, we transitioned to another neat locality called Marmot Hill. One of Rainier’s most popular trails is called the Skyline Trail, also based out of Paradise, and Marmot Hill is just one half-mile section of it. That part of Skyline has seen better days.

In its current state it’s wracked with erosional damage, social trail scars, sharp inclines, and inadequate stone steps. Therefore, the Park Service began work on a reroute during the summer of 2020, which is still ongoing. Despite Rainier’s skilled trails department and stalwart volunteer programs, more work was needed on the Marmot Hill reroute to finish it on schedule, which is where we came in. 

Since we’re to be working on this reroute for the rest of our time here, we only had to hike in our tools once on the first day, since which we’ve been able to cache them on location under a tarp. The trail corridor had been mostly dug out when we arrived, but several structures were still needed.

Over the course of the past two weeks, the team helped install wooden steps, stone retaining walls, and drains alongside the other SCA interns and park service staff/volunteers. The new trail was also widened, lengthened and retreaded in some areas as needed. Through all of this, my guys had ample opportunity to expand and practice their trail work skill sets. 

One of our most notable projects was the finishing of a rock culvert that was started last summer. Rock retaining walls needed to be built up on both sides of the trail tread over a stream, and then filled in with crush and mineral soil. Finding the right rocks to set was aggravating at times, but it all got finished in the end.

We also got a short lesson on rigging one morning from Dan, our park service partner. He taught us how to set up and safely use a one-ton griphoist, which we used to drag a large rock where we needed it on the culvert. 

The team has continued to do well on and off work hours. An average workday for us involves being on Marmot Hill for 10 hours, getting back to camp, taking a load off, showering, eating dinner, and going to the lounge for our wifi fix. On weekends, activities include hiking, going out to eat, spending time with our two SCA intern friends; Mary and Mack, and more lounging around the lounge. Though I was out of town this past weekend visiting my folks, the team even went on a trip to Seattle and the San Juan Islands, and they reported it to be pretty great.

The weather was very hot last week, and we learned that a fire had also broken out just 40 miles to the east of us. On Thursday of last week, the wind blew wildfire haze directly towards us, decreasing visibility and air quality somewhat. Other “ring of fire” volcanoes such as Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens were visible with stunning clarity all week but that Thursday they were shrouded with smoke. We managed to get through it okay. 

We’re beginning to wind down, but spirits are still high and as always, we’re lucky to be working in such a sublime landscape.

Be sure to see the team’s other posts elsewhere on this blog.

Read more about the SCA Roving Trail Team’s adventures at thesca.org/rove.