Published March 01, 2008
The Olympian

Devotees Spruce Up Capitol Forest Trails

More than 100 volunteers spend day spreading gravel and moving debris

by Rolf Boone

Nearly 120 volunteers, some modern-day cowgirls and mountain bikers, pitched in Saturday to help repair weather-damaged trails at Capitol State Forest.

The gravel pack-in, now in its third year, is organized by the state Department of Natural Resources and other volunteers to help prepare the trails by April 1, when the forest will be open for both motorized and non-motorized use.

Capitol State Forest, encompassing sections of Thurston and Grays Harbor counties, is home to about 87 miles of trails for off-road vehicles and 80 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horses, said state DNR volunteer program coordinator Christine Redmond.

Saturday's volunteer work focused on a section for non-motorized use near the Mima Falls trailhead campground in south Thurston County, close to Littlerock.

The volunteers and about 30 horses and mules started at 9 a.m. and were expected to finish by 5 p.m., Redmond said.

During the day, the animals carried rock and gravel to trail destinations, where it was dumped and spread out by the volunteers.

Using volunteers in DNR functions has become critical because of limited state funds, Redmond said.

DNR's recreation trails and facilities in southwest Washington operate on an annual budget of $354,0000, and Saturday's volunteer work was partially funded by a $90,000 grant, she said.

Last year, about 30 volunteers participated in the pack-in, but 118 had signed up by Saturday afternoon. Among them were five chapters of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington and Oregon, as well as Friends of Capitol Forest, a mountain-biking club.

Friends of Capitol Forest member Michael Chun of Olympia said he helped drain water from the trails, while other group members cleared trees that had been knocked down by the December storms.

Sondra Johnston, 68, of Roy brought shears to prune back trees from the trail.

Johnston, who estimates that she rode 2,100 miles of trails last year on her horse, visits Capitol State Forest about six times a year. Johnston praised the trails as wide and well-maintained.

"It's a great place to be in the summer," she said.

Besides the annual gravel pack-in, Friends of Capitol Forest members volunteer to repair trails at 9 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month at Sherman Valley and Waddell Creek roads. For more information, send e-mail to or go to

Rolf Boone is a reporter for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5403 or


Jim Murphy of the Olympic chapter of Backcountry Horsemen of Washington leads horses and pack stock during trail-restoration work in Capitol State Forest. Saturday’s work focused on a section of trail for non-motorized use near the Mima Falls trailhead campground in south Thurston County. (Toni L. Bailey/The Olympian)

Larry Davis of the Lewis County chapter of Backcountry Horsemen of Washington smooths out gravel and rocks during trail-restoration work in Capitol State Forest. Nearly 120 volunteers took part in Saturday’s third annual gravel pack-in. (Toni L. Bailey/The Olympian)