I started this piece in June and it was set to publish for July 2. But Mother Nature had other plans and the Sleepy Hollow Fire hit Wenatchee hard instead.
So with that in mind, I have been working with the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust to get the word out on the condition of the Wenatchee Foothills trails now that they are barren and exposed.
Founded in 1985, the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust is a local, non-profit organization that focuses on conserving “our land, our water, and our way of life through voluntary land agreements, education, partnerships, stewardship, and well planned growth.”
Working hard to make sure that the trails stay in tip-top shape are Hanne Beener, the Trails and Stewardship coordinator; Rebecca Frank, stewardship assistant; and co-workers, volunteers and partnerships. “Our goal is to protect land for public benefit,” says Beener. “That can be anything from recreation access to protecting wildlife.”
With daily hot temperatures and the threat of thunderstorms rolling in from every direction, it is important that we pay attention to weather conditions and trail quality. Please make sure to follow existing rules as well as the rules that apply to post-fire areas.
1. Hikers yield to horses; bikers yield to hikers and horses
When yielding to a horse, make sure that the horse knows you are a human. “If you don’t make noise and try to be unobtrusive, the horse might think you are predator and get nervous,”says Beener. Step down and off the trail if you do approach a horse, so they can pass. Also, bikers need to yield to everyone.
2. Stay on the trails
Although this rule is an absolute given, it is extremely important that you follow this rule in areas that are post-fire. “Though cross-country travel may look easy and harmless now, the landscape is fragile just after a fire. Please don’t cut switchbacks or hike or ride off-trail,” Beener says.
3. If you pack it in, pack it out!
Keeping garbage picked up is crucial in sustaining good conditions for the trails. “Every year has been getting better,” Frank says. If you see some garbage on the trail, make sure to grab it. “If you are going to hike, use a reusable water bottle,” says Beener. Bringing along reusable water bottles lessens the possibility of trash being left behind.
4. Be aware of designated parking
All trailheads have areas for designated parking, so be thoughtful of that when you are near neighborhoods. “Remember that people live there, and that trail etiquette starts in the parking lot,” says Beener. Don’t be loud and don’t park in front of someone’s driveway.
5. Dogs and responsibilities
It is very important that trail users clean up after their dog when they take them hiking. If you forget to bring a plastic bag, don’t fret! The Land Trust has made an effort to provide bags for dog owners Also, make sure your dog is either on leash or under control when you are exploring. “It is important when you are interacting with other dogs and especially horses,” Beener says.
6. Keep your eye on the weather
Rain or shine, be conscious of what is happening on the trails. If it is hot, keep your dogs off the trail as well as yourself. The heat can hurt the pads of dogs' feet and the heat can be dangerous to you, too. If it is muddy out, also stay off the trail. “If you are leaving foot prints that you can see," Beener says, "don’t go on the trail. It creates more damage.”
7. Trails are very susceptible to erosion
Due to the lack of vegetation, areas that are post-fire are very susceptible to erosion, Beener says. During heavy rainfall, do not use the trails. “There is no guarantee the trails will be safe from travel due to potential erosion issues.” Extensive trail damage is hard to fix, so please do not use the trails when the conditions are poor.
The Chelan-Douglas Land Trust will continue to work hard to maintain trail conditions. If you see anything that is hazardous to the trail or users of the trail, do not hesitate to contact the Land Trust or other land managers in the Foothills. If you have other questions, please head to their website.