In late July, Wilderness Volunteers will head into the Deseret Peak Wilderness for a week of trail work. To learn more about the story and need behind this particular project, Matthew Hales (MH) from the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest was kind enough to paint a story about this beautiful and popular Wilderness (it’s an hour plus outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.) It’s not too late to join!
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions to share with the Wilderness Volunteers community. Can you tell us your name, your position, and how long you’ve been working with this USFS district?
MH: My name is Matthew Hales, I am a Forestry Technician at the Salt Lake Ranger District. I have been working at the Salt Lake Ranger District since 2015, mostly on the Trails Crew.
What are some challenges the Stansbury Range faces in terms of trail management, upkeep, usage, and wildfires?
MH: Trails are remote, hard to get to, and hard to take care of. The most popular trail, Deseret Peak, gets hit hard with use, other trails are not used as much but are just as scenic. It is a high desert mountain range so fires are always an issue. Pressure on dispersed recreation in the area has grown a lot over the years, some days every single pull-out across South and North Willow Canyons are stuffed full of trailers. We need more time and money to address this increased use.
Can you share why volunteer groups like Wilderness Volunteers are valuable to a National Forest Uinta-Wasatch-Cache?
MH: What we need to address our massive user population (in this district it’s in the millions), is more time, more money, more people, and more labor. More hands, especially from groups that are able to do tough, remote work like trail maintenance, are a huge help.
Can you tell us more about the planned project this summer?
MH: The Crest trail, in my opinion, is a very pretty trail that is underutilized. Part of the reason it is underutilized is that several sections of it have become overgrown, or outright disappeared. Many people complain they get lost and then go on a cow trail instead. I’d like to reestablish the trail so more people can use it. This might take pressure off of Deseret Peak as well.
Wilderness Volunteers want to know the work their doing is significant and meaningful. Why is this project on your list and how long have the issues been present?
MH: The issues have been present since I started working here. The work is very significant as it would be bringing a neglected trail back to life. Big picture-wise, they cannot stop building houses in Grantsville and Tooele. In 10 years, the Stansbury Mountains will see even more visitation. We should plan ahead and try to give people more options to spread out.
What would you tell someone who is considering joining this project?
MH: The Stansbury area is a unique Basin and Range Mountain range with streams, limestone cliffs, deer, elk, and other wildlife. It’s a small pocket of water and snow in the desert. It can feel lonely at times, but I like that feeling. It’s a great area. Work would be basically making new trail, but the side slope is low angle and there would be very little technical work, so it’s a good place to just put your head down and dig trail. Lots of brushing willows and overgrowing bushes as well.
What are some cool things volunteers on this project can do or check out on their day off?
MH: Hike to the top of Deseret Peak, hike to South Willow Lake, hike to North Willow Lake, and explore the North Willow Drainage. I would imagine the Deseret Peak hike would be the most attractive, as that is the main reason people hike in this range.
To join this meaningful project or learn more information, head to the project page!