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Washington State PCT Conditions

>From: "Robert S. Ballou" <>
>To: <>
>Cc: <>
>Subject: Washington State PCT Conditions
>Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 21:17:19 -0700
>X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
>X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V4.72.3110.3
>Dear Mary,
>Nancy Dupont has shared your recent message, apparently sent in
>response to something I sent her, regarding the accident(s) in
>September of 1996.  They were, as I had suspected, old news, not
>recent news, as they appeared to be in the first message I received
>from Nancy.
>As I said in my response to her at the time, "trail maintenance is
>always a concern to us, especially for ourequestrian members and
>trail users, as we don't like the resource damage that ensues from
>going around obstacles, or the injuries or loss of stock that might
>occur from trying to skirt them."
>"I suspect I've heard more than this time about the lost horse in
>Washington state, but upon investigation found that the rider should
>have had the sense to turn around and take a side trail rather than
>try to push on.  Nearly every loss of life, human or equine, is a
>result of poor judgement, nothing else."
>"Trail crews do the best they can, but as you know, they can't come
>running out and clear blowdown every time a tree comes down or a
>bridge washes out.  It often takes a year or two for funds to become
>available to rebuild major structures, and blowdown can occur at
>I told Nanct then and you now, we get these reports without specific
>locations, dates or attribution, and it becomes very hard to verify
>them, or take any appropriate action to remedy the situation.
>I had received a report (I believe it was in early 1997) about an
>equestrian party in 1996 that had pressed on - after encountering
>numerous blowdowns and washouts - and eventually had to destroy one or
>two animals after they fell and were injured.  It seemed to me at the
>time that had the party taken the nearby side trail, or turned back,
>they wouldn't have had to destroy their animal(s).
>As I noted in my comments to Nancy, most mountain accidents, whether
>they are equestrian or pedestrian, are caused by people not dealing
>with reality and/or not using common sense.  That in no way is said to
>dismiss the tragedy or second guess anyone, only to fix the blame.  If
>a trail is reported in good condition, and one finds it otherwise,
>then it seems to me the persons in charge need to use their heads to
>deal with the reality of the moment, and if need be, change their
>plans.  After all, people out in the wilderness need to be able to
>deal with it on its terms.  If they can't do that, they really
>shouldn't be there.
>Case in point - last year my wife and I were exiting the PCT via
>Shepherds Pass near Mt. Whitney.  We had been told by the  packer that
>packed our gear into Kearsarge Lakes that the Shepherds Pass trail was
>blown out for horses, but passable to hikers.  When we got to the top
>of  the pass several days later, we found it covered with icy snow for
>about 100 ft. on a 70 degree slope.  It was 500 ft down to the
>boulders at the bottom.  We stopped and assessed the situation to see
>if we had the necessary equipment to take an alternate route around
>that patch of slippery snow.  We decided that we did and proceeded to
>do so safely, but exhausted about an hour later.  Had we not had the
>necessary equipment, we would have returned the way we came, even
>though it would have been disappoining to do so.  Later we found the
>reported blown out section and safely traversed the slope.  We also
>reported the dangerous icy crossing to the USFS, told the packer about
>the problem (he hadn't gotten up that far to have known about it), and
>posted a note at the traihead parking area, warning anyone coming up
>the trail of the danger at the top.
>If you have found that the PCTA knows nothing of the conditions of the
>PCT in Washington, it is due to the lack of reports from people in
>Washington, not an intentional ommision on our part.  We are
>constantly seeking trail reports and posting them to our web site and
>including them in our recorded toll-free telephone trail conditions
>reports (888) PCTRAIL.  The most accurate reports we get are from
>thru-hikers, and unfortunately, they are not usually into Washington
>until late summer or early fall.  If you or your trail riding friends
>are interested in helping with PCT trail condition reports, we would
>be happy to receive them.  There is a way to input that data to the
>web site <>, leave a message on the answering machine, or call
>us between the hours of 9-12 and 1-5 weekdays at (916) 349-2109.
>For you information, we have several very active equestrians on our
>board, not the least of which is our current President, Hon. David
>Foscue, of Montesano, WA, who this past year finished riding the
>entire PCT over an eight year span.  Kathie Cassiday, a skilled
>equestrian from Snoqualmie who rode the PCT with Dr. Ben York in 1996,
>is also on our board, and is active in working to link up Backcountry
>Horsemen with PCTA members to accomplish trail repair work in
>Washington state.
>Because so much of the PCT is in remote areas, it is very helpful to
>have stock support for our trail crews, and BCHWA folks have been
>extremely helpful over the years.  Again, any help you might offer
>would be great.
>I can't speak for the USFS, or say why your parties  received
>erroneous information about trail conditions, but I do know that with
>the staffing cutbacks the Forests have had in recent years, they
>simply don't have all the backcountry rangers they used to have, and
>condition reports are fewer and farther between.
>If the problem(s) that led to the 1996 accidents have not been
>mitigated, then I would encourage you send the details to us so we can
>follow up with the appropriate USFS Forest and District personnel.  If
>the problem persists, I certainly hope we can count on you and your
>trail riding friends to help us and the USFS fix it.  We have found in
>recent years that offering our help to repair damaged sections of the
>trail has gone a lot farther than complaining about trail conditions
>to an agency that is strapped for funds, and hence for personnel.
>Thanks again for your feedback.
>Robert S. Ballou, Executive Director
>Pacific Crest Trail Association
>5325 Elkhorn Blvd.  #256
>Sacramento, CA 95842
>(916) 349-2109 (office)
>(916) 349-0955 (direct)
>(916) 349-1268 (fax)
Nancy DuPont, Executive Director
Heritage Trails
1350 Castle Rock Road
Walnut Creek, CA 94598

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