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Thread: USFS Big Bags along the Gulfisde

  1. #1
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    USFS Big Bags along the Gulfisde

    I got my yearly dose of Sulfur Dioxide yesterday by hiking up the Jewell trail in the AM when the Cog is firing up the morning steam train for the rail buffs. Later on as I was heading up slope above treeline I noticed two large white objects in a rock field below the Gulfside. I thought it might be a couple of white quartz boulders that appear along the ridge. As I approached Gulfside and got closer they were too regular in form and the color was off for a boulder. They appeared full and as I got closer I could see loops on the corners of the bags. The bags were below the Gulfside about 100 yards. As I got closer It was obvious they were Big Bag bulk material containers. Big Bags are 4'x4'x4' white polypropylene bags with reinforced seams and integral lifting loops. They are frequently used for moving bulk materials. They can carry a lot of weight and are usually moved with a forklift on a pallet or a crane or on occasion helicopter. When I hiked in NZ on the Milford Track and the Routeburn Track (both similar terrain to the Gulfside or Crawford path)I saw them deposited in spots on occasion along the Tracks that were used to fill in muddy spotsand level out the trailbed. (NZ spends a lot of money on maintaining their Tracks in terrain similar to the whites to a much higher standard). These bags of crushed rock were flown in with helicopters as both Tracks are quite remote. On occasion there would be powered wheelbarrows stashed in the brush for moving the rock.

    As I approached Gulfside the bags dropped out of sight obscured by local terrain. I was thinking of rock hopping down to check them out but when I got to the intersection of Jewell and Gulfside there was a crew of four folks one with USFS hat hiking towards me carrying lots of empty big bags. One of the crew had a USFS hat but none had uniforms or standard clothing that I normally would associate with a USFS crew. I asked them if they were with the White Mountain Trail Collective and one of them rather unfriendly said no they were USFS trail crew, I asked about all the empty big bags they were carrying and got another curt answer that they were collecting rocks. It was obviously they were not very sociable. This was atypical for USFS crews I have run into in the past who usually are friendly and educate the public. On the other hand if they were actually filling big bags full of rocks it would be backbreaking work and might have gotten very old at that point.

    Given that I had seen the two full bags down slope and this is an area where there is no need for rocks, the question comes up what is the USFS up to? Given the location of the full bags they are too far away from the trail to be moved except with a helicopter or broken down and carried by hand. The rock field they were in were the typical rock pile rocks. The bags they were carrying looked to be unused which implies they were heading out to distribute them. They could be "mining" rocks for trail work elsewhere but the spot where the full bags were, was not particular helicopter friendly, being on side slope with nearby terrain features
    Last edited by peakbagger; 07-23-2021 at 06:07 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member maineguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I got my yearly dose of Sulfur Dioxide yesterday by hiking up the Jewell trail in the AM when the Cog is firing up the morning steam train for the rail buffs. Later on as I was heading up slope above treeline I noticed two large white objects in a rock field below the Gulfside. I thought it might be a couple of white quartz boulders that appear along the ridge. As I approached Gulfside and got closer they were too regular in form and the color was off for a boulder. They appeared full and as I got closer I could see loops on the corners of the bags. The bags were below the Gulfside about 100 yards. As I got closer It was obvious they were Big Bag bulk material containers. Big Bags are 4'x4'x4' white polypropylene bags with reinforced seams and integral lifting loops. They are frequently used for moving bulk materials. They can carry a lot of weight and are usually moved with a forklift on a pallet or a crane or on occasion helicopter. When I hiked in NZ on the Milford Track and the Routeburn Track (both similar terrain to the Gulfside or Crawford path)I saw them deposited in spots on occasion along the Tracks that were used to fill in muddy spotsand level out the trailbed. (NZ spends a lot of money on maintaining their Tracks in terrain similar to the whites to a much higher standard). These bags of crushed rock were flown in with helicopters as both Tracks are quite remote. On occasion there would be powered wheelbarrows stashed in the brush for moving the rock.

    As I approached Gulfside the bags dropped out of sight obscured by local terrain. I was thinking of rock hopping down to check them out but when I got to the intersection of Jewell and Gulfside there was a crew of four folks one with USFS hat hiking towards me carrying lots of empty big bags. One of the crew had a USFS hat but none had uniforms or standard clothing that I normally would associate with a USFS crew. I asked them if they were with the White Mountain Trail Collective and one of them rather unfriendly said no they were USFS trail crew, I asked about all the empty big bags they were carrying and got another curt answer that they were collecting rocks. It was obviously they were not very sociable. This was atypical for USFS crews I have run into in the past who usually are friendly and educate the public. On the other hand if they were actually filling big bags full of rocks it would be backbreaking work and might have gotten very old at that point.

    Given that I had seen the two full bags down slope and this is an area where there is no need for rocks, the question comes up what is the USFS up to? Given the location of the full bags they are too far away from the trail to be moved except with a helicopter or broken down and carried by hand. The rock field they were in were the typical rock pile rocks. The bags they were carrying looked to be unused which implies they were heading out to distribute them. They could be "mining" rocks for trail work elsewhere but the spot where the full bags were, was not particular helicopter friendly, being on side slope with nearby terrain features

    Like this? Seen on Mt Franklin 2019:

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  3. #3
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    Very similar.

  4. #4
    Senior Member miehoff's Avatar
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    Rocks for making cairns? So they don’t have to disturb the local area?
    Miehoff

    Proud board member of the Cohos Trail Association

    https://www.cohostrail.org/

  5. #5
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    Easy. Aliens collecting rock samples. What makes you think they aren’t just as interested in us as we are in them?

  6. #6
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    Helicopters to lift these bags of rocks to trails so as to use local rocks in trail fixtures seems to be more common in treeless hills elsewhere than it is here. For one thing, the northeast USA is mostly trees, alpine zones are rare. In Scotland, by contrast, "treeline" is sea level, and there are 277 Munros (hills over 3000') and 221 Corbetts(hills over 2500'). Thus there are many eroded paths, and no trees to hide that in the woods.
    They spend their limited money for path repair on loading these rock bags from the bottoms of rockfalls below crags, then flying them up to the path to be rebuilt. This is actually far less disturbance to the area near the path since crews need not harvest rocks from nearby terrain. It is also less wages per rock installed because far less time goes to moving rock over tundra. Yes, choppers are expensive, but so are Griphoists and highlines, and the latter have a far shorter range.
    I have seen this at work on the tourist path up Ben Nevis in 1994, also on the path to Loch Sween beyond the waterfall Grey Mare's Tail in Dumfriesshire 1997.
    The bag at trailside on Mt Franklin was rocks for more fixtures on the trail, probably cairns and scree walls.

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