The soil on Hood River County’s southeast forests can get extremely dusty during dry summer months. In the worst areas, powder-like dirt 6 inches thick makes for coated clothing and plenty of grit in the teeth for anyone traveling in a group of more than one.
For good reason, trails through that section of the Mount Hood National Forest are popular for hikers, bikers and equestrians from the time snow melts until fall rains turn the dirt to mud pies.
In a project to armor-coat a stretch of one of the more popular trails in the area, Knebal Springs, a group of young adults from the Northwest Youth Corps teamed up with the Columbia Gorge Back Country Horsemen, three well-mannered mules and a trails coordinator from the the Barlow Ranger District.
The group was busy this week packing and spreading loads of material into a particularly deep-dusted stretch of the trail to help aleviate dust and prevent erosion. The material, refuse from a rock pit, is ideal for trails because it has a high clay content and hardens when compacted.
“We have close to 200 miles of trails on the district,” said Jim Thornton, Barlow Ranger District trails coordinator. The Knebal Springs trail is about 8 miles long. “Projects like this help protect and maintain the captial investment of the infrastructure.”