When did Sarah Palin take charge of the Headwaters Forest Reserve?*

*Alternate Post Titles:  Where did my Headwaters go? and A Good Walk spoiled (all apologies to John Feinstein for the latter)

Updated Abstract 5/5/2013:  A few months after the following blog post was published, I celebrated my birthday on a one day road trip with two friends who I have known for close to 2o years respectively.  Pat took Erick and I to the Bay Area for lunch at a dynamite steakhouse, and a side trip to Hangar One Distillery.  Check out a brief recount of that road trip here.  Anyway, when we arrived at Hangar One it was late afternoon and we were going to do a tasting in their tasting room.  We sampled many of the products they were making for sale at various stores across the region.  There were only two other parties at the distillery that afternoon.  The bar tender serving our samples was able to stay with us the entire time to explain in great detail the origins of each spirit.  There was plenty of small talk as Erick and I went through the 15 or so selections (Pat agreed to be the DD).  It was a nice quiet atmosphere to enjoy a sampling.  We left happy for having had that experience at Hangar One.  We had no idea that it would be the last time we would enjoy such a laid back atmosphere. It was not long after that when the secret of Hangar One was out, and the volume of people visiting the tasting room exponentially increased.  Suddenly there were long waits and our names had to go on a list.  Bar tenders were now pouring for up to five groups at a time.  These groups were consistently of 5 or more.  The quaint atmosphere I experienced during my very first visit to Hangar One has been lost and gone forever.  

I draw a parallel with what happened at Hangar One Distillery to what has happened at the Headwaters Reserve just outside of Eureka.  Now let me be very clear, what has happened at Hangar One is a good thing; for the sheer number of people willing to pay $15 a piece to sample 1/4 shots of spirits has to be a tremendous windfall for a small volume alcohol producer.  As for the stewards of the Headwaters Reserve, their efforts to make the experience in Nature more accessible to more of the public have been met with polarizing views.  Now I will say that nearly three years later, most of what is pictured in the following post has been removed (heavy equipment).  However I still remember the first few times I hiked the reserve after it became a public access site.  I like the rugged terrain, and the trail was far more challenging to traverse.  Today, like three years ago, people hiking the Headwaters site say the changes that the stewards have made allow people, who would otherwise not be able to enjoy the reserve, access.  That is all fine and wonderful, and what about that road to the top of Mt. Whitney, or Everest for that matter?  I realize that in my position I seem like a hypocrite.   However,  I still take issue with removing an old logging road that was a symbol of the destruction of an ecosystem, and replacing it with what is simply another road. 

Sadly, the hike at the Headwaters Reserve will never be the same as it was in its early days.



Today  (7/26/2010) a friend and I took a trip to the Headwaters Forest Reserve.  I was lamenting to my friend abut how nice it is to have a forest reserve so close to home.  I was excited to see just how much nature has recaptured the area.

Wow! A road runs through it…

My surprise when I saw how much nature was being set aside for God only knows what.  In the past:  the first approximate mile of the trail into Headwaters is paved.  It has been that way for years now.  After the paved road ends, then a wide gravel trail would ensue until approximately two miles.  It was at that point the trail got a bit narrow, and shortly after that bicycle riders would no longer be allowed. There the trail recedes to resemble one that is normally found in a forest.  However, all of this previous description is now gone.  There are one or two places in the first three miles where the road/trail was impacted, and you had to be detoured onto a narrow trail  for a brief moment.

Some of the things you see on a nature trail…

I guess we are off to see the Wizard. Maybe he can tell us what the hell is going on…

I was disappointed to see just how zealous the stewards of the Headwaters have become with this project.  The trail looks more and more like a road, and why not?  How else are they going to get the heavy equipment in?  Are they going to be extracting something(s)?   The trail now resembles the Yellow Brick Road from The Wizard of Oz.  I kept my eyes open just in case I saw a Scarecrow, Tin Man, or Cowardly Lion.  How do you rehab an area that was once the center of a logging operation with its own town?  You do it by building a road that resembles a freakin’ logging road!

One road leads to another?

Side road to a future parking lot?

There were also a few roads that split off from the Yellow Brick Road, and went to God knows where.

They did an excellent job of cleaning up the crashed UFO, or was it a plane?

Are they clearing space to build an eatery?

Look mom! Nature…

I came across patches of land where it looked like an aircraft had crashed into the forest.  Right along side the trail the land was tore up.  Are they making room for Café and Lodge?

How do they get this road so compacted and smooth?


Yes, that is a gas can in the background…

Fred Flintstone was here…

Speaking of heavy equipment, the steam roller and tank of what ever chemical they needed were on display.  That gas can in the background has the letter G painted on it.  In what language does the word water begin with a G?  Oh, and the gas container had some in it.  Piles of gravel are also flanking the trails.  The trail now has been compacted to resemble a road.

Placing tree bark on the sides of the new road does not make it more natural looking.

Where is that gas can?

Slash piles were left by the side of the trail.

When we reached the old fence where the bicycle riders once had to stop, the fence was mostly removed.  The road kept going, smooth and wide as ever.

Perhaps a bit more tree bark might cover up that useless bike rack.

Now that is a trail!

Thank goodness that the Yellow Brick Road ended at the second bridge at the three mile mark.  Passed the second bridge the trail finally resembled a hiking trail.  At least that still remains.

I realize there is an argument for accessibility.  However, where does nature preservation end and Theme Park planning begin?  I could not enjoy the trees or the quaint sight of Elk River because the new road stood out so much.  It was no longer a hike for me.

The only saving grace is that the three mile bridge still separates the Disneyland crowd from the real hikers.  Once you cross that bridge, and start the climb to the Old Growth Forest you had better have brought your lunch pail.  So, I guess I can plug my nose and get through the first three miles and that ROAD they decided to build in order to get the real starting point of my hike.  Hell, maybe soon I can drive my car to the second bridge.

Yeah!  Let the professionals fuck it up for you!

What an excellent question…


9 thoughts on “When did Sarah Palin take charge of the Headwaters Forest Reserve?*

  1. I was wondering if anybody else had an issue with what the BLM has been doing to the Elk River Trail. It looks like they punched a tank road through to the bridge, like they were expecting to move an army or something.

    I too lament the loss of some single-track trail after the first paved mile. Wild flowers and grasses grew waist high; it had a backcountry feel. But the BLM cut back all the vegetation, widened the trail, rocked it, then wood-chipped the shoulders. (They also built at least one bridge over a portion that was often flooded, which I don’t object to.)

    They have shut down all or portions of the trail for the past several summers to do this work. But they haven’t fixed the one portion of the trail that is in most need of repair. Several years ago during heavy rains about 1-1/2 miles in the trail slid into the river. There is a detour around the slide, but they’ve never fixed it.

    They also paved the parking lot, which I also lament. Like you say, it feels more like a city park experience than a hike through the back country.

    I want to give the BLM the benefit of the doubt as to why this work was necessary. Maybe this is their way of stabilizing the trail. I guess the best thing to do is just call the BLM and ask their reasons.

  2. What you may be seeing is a trail improvement; but one that has been reviewed and manipulated to account for handicape accessibility laws. Many public trail and nature viewing improvements need to take into consideration ADA laws and guidelines. The most stringent of these is wheelchair accessibility guidelines. If this is a BLM project, I suspect that is what is going on.

    Just a wild guess.

  3. Hippies don’t care about people in wheelchairs, it’s ALL about them (hippies that is)….. what a dumb#$%

  4. I think Hippies would have left the trail as is…

    As for the wheelchair issue, that trail they have “improved” looks like it is going to support four lanes of traffic.

  5. Before jumping to conclusions maybe one should see what had happened 1 year later after BLM has changed the trail. I go to Headwaters once a week to walk my dogs. At first last year when I saw what they had been doing to the trail I too was wondering how this would be better. After just one rainy season, the part of the trail where last years work was completed already is regaining its natural appearance. If there was no signage one would not know that they trail had been worked on and a possible land slide occur. They crews left the debris in a way that promote the growth of native plants. Also I have notice a huge increase in the number of visitors just this year. More families with strollers and wagons for picnics along the trail. Just last year on a weekend the parking lot was full just a handful of times. This year every weekend the parking lot is full and even during the week there is a high number of people and almost half seem to be with young children. The trail may look unnatural now but give it a few years and it will be beautiful. Obviously they author didn’t see the 1000s of young alder that now line the first mile of the trail just feet from the pavement. Give the trail a few years and it will be back and will be accessible to everyone. If you want a backcountry trail, go to the Alps or Marbled Mountains, the Headwaters trail is a neighborhood trail for families to enjoys.

  6. By one year the vandals will have taken advantage of the ease of access, and The Headwaters will look like any other county park. Graffiti, booze bottles, trash, and unauthorized off road vehicles.

    I look forward to that.

  7. I understand your frustration very well. I used to go hiking at a nature preserve in my area that was only open to the public during certain months of the year. The rest of the time the crew there worked very hard to keep the place pristine and protect the native species….it was simply incredible. Since I was friends with the director, I had special access to go outside of the tours…and being able to spend a day hiking in such a beautiful location was amazing beyond words. I rarely encountered anyone else except some of the people who worked there…and had the place been open to the general public it would have lost all of its special charm quickly.

    If I wanted to be around a lot of people outdoors, then I would go to a public park…but places where you can take the path less traveled and enjoy some solitude are few and far between. I feel the same way about the beaches where I live in Sonoma County…as much as I love the ocean, I cannot stand the crowds and throngs of people who are always there. But the beaches where I grew up…places where you have to walk almost a mile over sand dunes to just see the water…I can spend hours there and not see a soul…that’s where I’d rather spend my time. There is a peace and tranquility there that you just can’t find anywhere else…and when you have to do a lot of walking to get there…it makes all the more worthwhile. 😉

  8. I’m sorry, but ruining a place to allow wheelchair access is just not right. It is carrying the ADA way to far.

    What next, a tram?

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