First look at Pacific Crest Trail after Columbia Gorge fire

Branches flew. Trail tools smoothed the earth. Stones tumbled downhill, crackling like Rice Krispies as gravity took hold. The trail workers are back.

Hardhat-clad crew leaders began work last month on a section of Pacific Crest Trail that’s been closed near the Columbia River Gorge tourist town of Cascade Locks since a wildfire ripped through the region last summer. The Eagle Creek fire covered nearly 49,000 acres and left the West’s most famous footpath marred by downed trees and rockslides, among other dangers.

But crews have begun to spruce up a few miles of the treasured trail by filling in stump holes, clearing brush and making other improvements.

A nearly six-mile hike is required to get to the PCT, which includes time on the Herman Bridge and Herman Creek trails. There is hearty evidence of the historic blaze: scorched rocks sit exposed, their mossy covering burned away, and downed trees look like they weathered a massive bonfire. Wide swaths of greenery have been singed.

It’s difficult to understate how drastically the scenery has changed. Before-and-after photos reveal scenes that sharply contrast one another. But those expecting a bleak moonscape, barren and lifeless, won’t find it here.

Moss and other vegetation line parts of the trail. The canopy remains green. And the PCT offers many of the same redeeming qualities it did before the blaze.

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