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Trip Report    

Stewardship - Church Creek–Satsop Lakes

We scouted the east side of the Church Creek Trail for an Olympia Branch National Trails Day stewardship trip on June 1st. We found plenty of work for stewards to do with saws, loppers, grub hoes, shovels and other trail tools.

  • Road recommended for high clearance only
  • Coming from the east, we found FS 23 in good shape from West Skokomish Valley Road, with some new asphalt patches, to a little past the turn for Browns Creek and LeBar Horse Camp.  Starting a bit before the "Elevation 945 ft." sign, the road was very badly potholed, worse than last year.  There is a sink-hole over a culvert which is sometimes marked by a tree limb stuck in it with pink survey tape.   FS 2361 was in pretty good shape, with few potholes.  The Church Creek spur, 2361-600 was not blocked by trees. The waterbars are about the same as last year.  We had no problem with a Chevy Colorado and a Subaru Crosstrek.  Passenger cars without high ground clearance likely would bottom out.  Road condition requires low speed and caution.  At some places on all of these roads, the usable roadway may be reduced by encroaching fallen trees or debris, or by rockfall.   Allow 1h 30m from US 101 to trailhead (25 miles).  Note: The usual road for access to the west trailhead (Satsop Lake) has been cut by a washout.  There are two other forest service roads to it on the map, but their condition is questionable.

    20240511_125934 resized.jpgOn the trail, we had a long stretch of continuous snow above 2,800'.  At about 3,000', on the downhill side of the trail is a tree which last year had an active ground bee or yellow jacket nest at its base.  We marked it, girding the trunk with yellow and black "caution" tape, and putting some orange flagging on the uphill side a few yards before and after it. 

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This was a scouting trip for a Mountaineers stewardship hike planned for June 1st.  Weather was spectacular.  Bugs were buzzing but not biting.  Trillium was in bloom. 

We scouted from east trailhead to about 3,100', a little short of the top of the divide.  The trail has a few new trees down, but they can be stepped or climbed over without difficulty. Some areas are a bit more overgrown and will need brushing. We encountered patchy snow above 2,570', and continuous snow from 2,800', past the rock face and alpine meadow, the junction with the old forest road, until the trail got back into the trees.

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We found several new deadfall trees on the trail, which will require saw work to remove, along with one left over from last year.   One tree has been there for several years now. At about 2,950', is a tree about 32" in diameter lying across the trail.  It has been notched underneath to facilitate crawling under, and has a rhino's horn stub on top which can be an assist for going over.  I found going over easier.  That is the most significant obstacle we found.  We may try to improve the climb-over on our June 1st trip.  Two switchback turns above that tree, on the downhill side of the trail is a tree which last year had an active ground bee or yellow jacket nest at its base.  

Above that, we are considering rebuilding a switchback turn.  This may involve some grunt work such as moving some logs with butts, boots, levers, straps and ropes, and quarrying and carrying fill, such as buckets of soil or rock. There will be plenty of work for as many willing hands as sign up.  The result should be something that those who have done it can think of with pride for years to come.

We did not scout above 3,100' this day. From last year's trips, we are aware of brushing that needs doing on either side of the divide between the Satsop and the Church Creek sides.