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Field Program

[Image Description: Two MCC members taking a brief break; one is sitting on a rock, the other is standing nearby. They are both in their uniforms, looking out at the expansive, mountain view surrounding them.]

How to Clear a Trail After a Fire

A view down a recently cleared trail, with a creek in the distance.

The Fishhawk Creek drainage, halfway between Yellowstone National Park and Cody, WY, burned in 2019 and has been closed to all trail users (except a small population of hardy Boy Scouts) since May 2020. During that time, bushes have grown over the trail, weather events and fire-loosened soil have caused mudslides completely obliterating the trail, and fire-hardened logs have fallen blocking the path. For a trail primarily used by stock trains (horses and mules) this poses a particular problem as horses are significantly less capable of scrambling around trees than the Boy Scouts who also frequent the trail in the summers.

So how does one go about re-opening a trail like this one? Well, first you have to learn to love (or at least tolerate) being constantly covered in sooty dirt. Then, armed with a crosscut saw and a small army of handsaws you get to work. Over 8 days our crew cut or moved off the trail close to 300 trees! We also removed any rocks bigger than a fist (a tripping hazard for horses) and bushes growing across the trail. Multiple creek crossings on this trail did little towards keeping the crew clean, but they did provide opportunities for fishing and cooling off as after work activities.

All-in-all the trip was an adventure. From being constantly sooty, to waking up at the bottom of your tent every morning after rolling downhill in your sleep, to learning not to care if your dinner was as sooty as your hands, the trip was eventful and the views were amazing. Plus, crosscutting is super fun. Great success!