I don’t usually get excited about brush removal. But on this particular day, the brush removal would coincide with a a journey down a good portion of the Great Shasta Rail Trail, from Pilgrim Creek Road to Clark Creek Rd near Lake Britton, and a jaunt up the Hambone Spur. It would also include a homemade gourmet breakfast from April Gray, President of McCloud Local First Network, and a key contributor to the rail trail project.
A group of engineers will be doing an assessment of the trail in the next couple of weeks, inspecting culverts and bridges, and need it to be navigable. Dana, April’s husband and enthusiastic Rail Trail volunteer, asked if I would help clear the trail for vehicular travel. I immediately said yes, anxious to explore the length of the trail for the first time.
April is a gourmet cook and sent us off right with a breakfast fit for a couple of lumberjacks: Coffee, eggs, homemade biscuits, and sausage. We ate our hearty meal and headed out like a couple characters from a Paul Bunyon story. In this tale, I will play Paul since I was the only one that actually used an ax. Dana will play the part of Paul’s trusty sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox. In reality, I should play the Ox, but I’m writing this, so I get to be Paul.
We piled random tools into the back of my beater Jeep. A couple of un-sharpened chainsaws, an ax, a shovel, a pair of skidding tongs, and a leaky gas can. The leaky gas can quickly imparted the odor of an old McCloud garage to my already greasy Jeep, further increasing its beater status. Dana compared it to an old pair of jeans. I think he meant this as a compliment.
Most of the significant brush clearing occurred on the Hambone Spur, an offshoot of the main rail line that heads up toward Harris Spring. This is a beautiful section with blooming Dogwoods and great views of Mt Shasta. Four trees had fallen along this section requiring us actually to get out the Jeep and do some work. It turned out that the chainsaw that our friend Jerry had loaned us was about as sharp as a butter knife. Thank goodness Dana a brought his equally dull chainsaw that was rumored not to start. Despite the inadequacy of the chainsaws, Dana got the job done with a little hard work and patience.
Soon it was lunch time and since we were close to Bartle, we stopped in at the Bartle Lodge to have a hot sandwich and cold beer, served up by a friendly couple. The bar was well stocked, big, and clean, but rustic and rough enough around the edges to satisfy a connoisseur of road side dives. There must have been some epic brawls here in its day. But we were not feeling ornery enough today for brawl’n and continued on our way.
We spent the rest of the day cleaning up minor obstructions on the trail. But mostly we just enjoyed it. There were many sweet spots along the way that one might want to stop at and linger including several creek crossings. The Algoma Campground, a quarter mile from the trail, was a surprising gem, offering a great place to camp along the McCloud River. The McCloud River Trail starts here as well.
What is most surprising about Great Shasta Rail Trail is how usable it is in its current state. A mountain bike would have no problem traversing the length of the trail as is.
We look forward to the official purchase of the trail and hope to plan an opening ride shortly thereafter. If you are interested in such a ride, please email the Great Shasta Rail Trail and let them know of your interest.
Now its time for the Rail Trail Lumberjacks to go to bed. Babe and Paul signing off.