Trip/Trail Work Report: Downey Creek and Suiattle River

This morning I woke up ridiculously early and headed out for a day along the Suiattle River Rd. I had signed up for a WTA work party that started at 8:30 am, and I also wanted to get in ~6 miles of trail running beforehand. Factor in the 2.5 hr drive to the Suiattle River, and I found myself waking up before 4 am. Ouch.

I decided to do my morning run along the Downey Creek trail because it sounded nice, but not quite nice enough to warrant its very own trip to the Suiattle River Rd. I figured it would be the perfect trail to do in combination with the WTA work party.

I was right about Downey Creek. It’s nice, but not stunning. I don’t recommend driving all the way from Seattle just for Downey Creek, unless you’re using the trail to start or end bigger adventures (some day…).

That said, Downey Creek is in great shape right now. WTA recently logged it out to the 3-mile mark, leaving only one giant blowdown that is easily climbed over. The trail starts with a moderate 1/4 mile climb and then rolls along above Downey Creek through the Glacier Peak Wilderness. It was a great start to the day.

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Downey Creek trail

After Downey Creek I drove 5 minutes down the road to the Suiattle River trailhead for the WTA work party. There were over 15 of us including the WTA and Forest Service employees, yet there was only one other woman in the group. I felt a bit out of place, but it turns out I had nothing to worry about. As we started hiking I got to chatting with some of the guys about various trails in the area, and realized I had more in common with them than I might’ve thought. One of the other volunteers told a story about climbing Glacier Peak in 1985. Whenever I think I’m starting to know these mountains, I remember that I am still a relative newcomer compared to some of the people who have been hiking and climbing here for many decades.

One of the coolest things about this work party was that our crew leader, Rick, was very eager to share his knowledge. He spent a lot of time talking about how to properly use a saw, and describing the different sawyer certification levels, and discussing the finer points of log bucking. Bucking logs is a skill, and sawyers take real pride in their work.

Rick then informed me that the best sawyer in the entire nation worked right here in the Darrington Ranger District. Her name was Bridgette, he said, and she knew everything. His voice lowered. She was even qualified to use dynamite.

An hour later, a petite woman with a long grey braid and well-worn Carhartts came charging up the trail.  “It’s Bridgette!” someone yelled. I felt like I was meeting a celebrity. I totally turned into a fan-girl and took her picture. Can you blame me?

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Bridgette (in the bright blue shirt) talking shop.

Along with learning about log bucking and meeting the best sawyer in the nation, I also did some actual trail work. It was a fun day, and I highly recommend joining a WTA work party when you’re able!

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Learning to buck logs. My form needs work. I bet my back hurts tomorrow!
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Fellow volunteer Brian standing in front of the log we cleared. We sawed it off and pushed it out of the way. Satisfying work!

Last but not least: the Suiattle River trail is already clear of blowdowns to just past mile 2.5, and with WTA work parties scheduled there over the next several weeks, conditions will only continue to improve.

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