Taking Steps to Repair a Popular Peninsula Trail
After a volunteer work party on the Lena Lake Trail, it became apparent that popular trails need some extra maintenance help. Whether you're hiking or volunteering, here's what you can do to keep these trails in great shape.
High school senior Waverley Woodley has spent several weeks of her final semester interning with WTA, both in the Seattle office, at our gear library and on trail. She wrote this piece for us about her second volunteer work party experience and how hikers can help with trail maintenance by lifting no more than their boots.
I recently attended a volunteer trail work party at Lena Lake on the Olympic Peninsula, one of the most frequently hiked trails in the area. Our crew of 17 worked on a variety of maintenance projects, including water drainage systems and log removal.
During our mile-long hike to the worksite, we passed a number of small issues that also required attention. Although the trail was rather quiet on a mid-week day with a weather forecast for rain and scattered thunderstorms (sunshine was a pleasant surprise), the area sees a lot of hiker traffic on weekends and clear days.
Popular trails need extra love!
The trail up to the lake includes user-friendly, gentle switchbacks and our crew noticed a lot of instances of switchback cutting—shortcut pathways hikers have created between switchbacks. We also saw areas where "trail creep" was occurring.
The frequent rain that makes the Olympic Peninsula so lush and green also erodes soil on the trail, exposing the rock underneath and creating uneven terrain. Hikers circumnavigate these rocky sections, pushing the trail downhill and widening it, causing it to "creep" downhill. This makes the ground on the downhill side unstable and more susceptible to ecological damage.
You'll see the trail differently after volunteering
You'll see the trail in a different way after volunteering. Once you’ve experienced the work firsthand, you'll have a new appreciation for all of the bridges, steps, and reinforcements you notice while hiking.
Where hiking is concerned, Leave No Trace practice states: "travel and camp on durable surfaces." Staying on trail while hiking is important. By staying on the trail, you'll help protect the surrounding natural environment and minimize the amount of maintenance the trail requires.
You can help out these popular trails by volunteering at work party or practicing sustainable hiking.
Trails last longer when you hike sustainably
Though temptation may be strong to cut switchbacks, staying on trail actually helps sustain it. Here's why:
- Prevent erosion: Hiking straight up or down a steep hill pushes soil downslope, and the trail becomes prone to slides and damage.
- Get a workout: A switchbacked trail can still be steep, giving you a great workout. Your quads and calves will thank you.
- Enjoy the view: There can be great views from switchback landings—and they make good places for rest stops and hydration breaks.