Idaho Trails Association: Bernard Creek project

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A successful Idaho Trails Association project.

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The following is a pictorial tour of the Bernard Creek trail that shows the work done by the Idaho Trails Association project of April, 2021. Most of the photos include their approximate elevation for cross-referencing on a map.

For a more general story of the week with more photos, visit the hiking trip report.

On the initial reconnaissance, the start of the trail was vague. The map showed it starting on the downstream (Snake River downstream) side of Bernard Creek.

After wandering around in the brush, a better trail was found to start nearer the McGaffee cabin. That entrance is now cairned and a clear "hallway" through the dense brush leads down a short hill to the first creek crossing. Note the stepping stones placed to cross the creek.

1300'

Trailhead

After a steep 15' climb out the other side of the creek, the trail follows a pleasant grassy hillside with cairns to guide you through to the second creek crossing. Here the trail does a short jog upstream to a narrower crossing with new stepping stones, then out to the other side.

Trailhead

After the second crossing, the trail climbs more steeply, in and out of brush patches that present as hallways or alleyways. There are occasional old water-bars, and mostly grassy tread.

Trailhead

The third creek crossing was heavily overgrown, but is now open with good stepping stones.

1610'

Trailhead

Just above the third creek crossing, several small side streams were crossing and flooding the trail. They are now channeled to only cross the trail for a single step across.

1640'

Trailhead

After some thick brush on the uphill side of the third creek crossing, the trail climbs into an open hillside traverse (although the traverse is a steep uphill).

1750'

Trailhead

Looking back downhill on the same grade as the previous photo.

1860'

Trailhead

As you approach the old pack bumper rock, the trail crosses several rock-slide areas.

Trailhead
The big rock here was a 'pack bumper', meaning a loaded horse couldn't get around it without bumping their packs. That was immediately followed by several large boulders laying in the tread. Trailhead
We removed one of those boulders, then used the other as foundation for building a go-round for the pack bumper. Trailhead

The trail leading into and out of this section required extensive rock work. This is looking back at the completed work

2000'

Trailhead
Jay demonstrates that the new tread provides adequate clearance around the rock. Trailhead

Above the rock, the canyon narrows and the sidewalls get steeper. This steepness enhances the downward trend of all the 'soil' (which is really a thin layer of dirt over rocks of various sizes). We did extensive tread work most of the way up the canyon to provide level footing. Level as in your ankles won't roll; not level in terms of climbing up the canyon.

Trailhead

There are several more rock slides.

2050'

Trailhead

Starting to get steeper.

2140'

Trailhead

At 2570', there are two switchbacks that are quite close together.

Trailhead

Above the switchbacks the trail is very steep. It is a little slippery on descent, causing several members to fall. This area could really use a reroute with switchbacks.

Just above here is what we referred to as the "lower meadow", which was actually just a slightly more grassy hillside at a slightly lower angle.

2750'

Trailhead

When the trail hit the grassy hillside, the tread became very hard to see. After some debate, we cleared an ascending traverse with a switchback.

3030'

Trailhead
After the switchback, obvious tread led through a narrow corridor through a sumac patch, which we cut out. That's the sumac patch ahead here. Trailhead

Above the sumac patch, the hillside gets less steep again. Because it's easy walking here, and we knew the grass would quickly grow back over any tread we dug, we left the grass alone and simply placed cairns.

Sharp eyes will notice some switchbacks to the right of the drainage that then cut left between the sumac patches.

3710'

Trailhead
Where we had obvious tread, and especially when traversing hillsides, we continued to cut tread for a wider and flatter trail. Note the upper and lower sumac patches, with the trail in between them. Trailhead
Zoom of previous photo. Trailhead
We eventually ran out of time to cut more trail, topping out at approximately 4300'. Trailhead
Above that, the trail continues across the steep, grassy hillside to gain the ridge top at about 4460' This is looking down from that point. Trailhead
The trail gets a little vague on the ridge top. We placed cairns to guide the hiker through. Then you get this view back into the creek. Trail eyes will follow the tread all the way back into the trees here. Trailhead
This is looking back down that section on a different, less sunny day. Trailhead

The trail wanders across a couple hillsides through some light brush, which we cut out. Then it hits the creek and deteriorates quickly, especially as it enters an old burn. But if you look closely here, there is still tread.

4570'

Trailhead
Still another 'bench' (despite the photo, this is NOT flat). Now with willows and dead fall. The trail disappears, but the one shown on the gps seems plausible. Cutting the willows and dead fall out should not create any major problems. Trailhead
The trail on the gps indicates the tread is on the north side of the creek. And we did find traces of a trail up here. But then we looked across the creek and saw an obvious trail on the other (south) side near the bottom of the slope. Note the line of snow. Trailhead
More of that snowy trail. Trailhead
Eventually the trail does cross the creek to the north side. Trailhead
A short distance later the trail enters the trees. In the snow, no tread was visible but the pathway through the trees (and Mel's previous knowledge gained last Fall) made it easy to get to the cow camp at about 5700'. Trailhead
Map Trailhead

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