Packwood people are trail people. They’re trail passionate. You’ll often find them stretching their limbs toward Old Snowy, Tatoosh, Packwood Lake, or Snowgrass Flats. Many people come to Packwood for the sole reason to use the trails.
Packwood’s trails justly deserve fame. Hidden behind the ridges and lost in the clouds while driving the White Pass Scenic Byway are many magical places. Trails start mostly right at the Cowlitz River Valley Bottom and climb relentlessly to those destinations.
Some of Packwood’s most passionate trail people thought about that. They concluded Packwood needs trail diversity. Many of Packwood’s trails are too steep, too hard to access on questionable Forest Service Roads and too restricted to the summer season. There is a need for more and different trails. Trail diversity means more people finding magic at the end of a Packwood path. So, they formed the Packwood Trail Project to make that happen. They developed four worthwhile trail goals: make trails easy to walk or ride, provide below the winter snowline use, bring trailheads near existing paved roads and encourage muscle-powered users.
Tim Lofgren, a Packwood Trail Project Director shared information about the project’s recent activities. He’s on the Nordic Center staff at White Pass and joined Packwood Trail Project at the outset. An avid mountain biker, he’d like to see new trails for many users. Although, he admitted he’d like to see better and legal mountain bike trails.
Tim once worked for a famous bike company, but he departed that job for a better dream in Packwood. “I was in my late twenties and going through a career change,” he says. The bike company, though a great employer, forced him to reach a personal decision. “This wasn’t what I planned my life to be, working in an office,” he recollects.
Tim and a high school friend rode their bikes across the country and came through Packwood. Some college friends who lived in town weren’t there at the time, but he left a note on their door. “Quit your old job and come out west. We’re still skiing,” they responded. “I’ll be right out,” said Tim. He fell in love with skiing White Pass. He got silviculture and stream survey jobs with the Forest Service. That was 31 years ago, and he’s never looked back.
“Overwhelmingly people support trail use,” Tim says. Yet some residents voiced concern about new trailheads increasing traffic and threatening privacy. Packwood Trail Project went back to their maps and became inspired. Why not a trail entirely on public land? So, they figured out eight miles of new trail from La Wis Wis to Packwood.
A route all on public land raises some big hurdles. The Forest Service requires trails to comply with standards. Trailheads at intermediate points allow access for most users and give workers the necessary means to maintain and patrol the trail. Cole Creek, Lake Creek and perhaps Purcell Creek all need bridge crossings, and bridges cost money. Trail contractors work for $25,000 per trail mile. Paved parking areas with toilets and facilities might cost $150,000. Bridges cost around $2000 per linear meter.
Rather than relying exclusively on volunteers, Packwood Trail Project intends much of the trail will be built by contractors to ensure it meets standards. They’re seeking donations for that work. Packwood Trail Project is incorporated in the State of Washington and is a registered 501c3 organization. They’re also furiously writing grants. Raising seed money demonstrates to the Forest Service that Packwood Trail Project is a reliable community partner.
The Forest Service encouraged Packwood Trail Project to gather support from other user groups. Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Pinchot Partners, Backcountry Horsemen and Lewis County Trails are some of those partners.
They’ve also found landowners willing to help. Energy Northwest operates the Packwood Lake Hydroelectric Project. “One of our trail sections starts right across from the Packwood Community Center where Energy Northwest owns the access,” says Tim.
With a vision of a system of trails providing a well-delineated place for residents and visitors to recreate, connection to existing U.S. Forest Service trails, loop hike opportunities, event and race opportunities coupled with stewardship of the local forest, Packwood Trail Project is the dream of visionaries. With four new board members this year, they’re growing and adding the like-minded. Consider donating by PayPal on the website or Facebook page. You don’t have to join the board, just join the dream for increased outdoor access for all.