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Pioneer Cabin, Deer Creek Areas in Forest Service’s Spotlight This Summer
Saturday, June 9, 2018


Pioneer Cabin will get a facelift.

And a new road in the Deer Creek area built above a wetlands area will be extended as the Ketchum Ranger District finishes up work in the popular recreation area that was just opened to the public.

The 81-year-old Pioneer Cabin was built by Sun Valley Company as a mountain hostel in 1937 for those who preferred alpine touring to lift-assisted skiing. It is a popular destination for hikers willing to ascend 2,400 feet elevation to its 9,440-foot perch in a partial cirque of jagged mountain peaks.

Today its roof is undulating. Its original windows cracked and broke several years ago, allowing snow in on occasion. And mites have made the place less than hospitable for those who might want to spend the night.

The 5B Restoration Fund and National Forest Foundation, which joined hands to restore and maintain local recreation sites following the 2013 Beaver Creek Fire, has allocated $10,000 to the Ketchum Ranger District to purchase supplies to renovate the cabin.

District Ranger Kurt Nelson said a volunteer crew will replace windows with a thermopane windows designed to maintain the historic look of the cabin. They will put in a new wood stove with a double or triple firewall.

And they will clean up the inside to make it more amenable to people, rather than mites.

“It’ll be a community effort with oversight by the Forest Service,” said Nelson. “We want to retain its historic flavor while making sure it will survive into the future.”

Nelson and his district recreation programs manager Zach Poff opened the gate allowing motor vehicle access into the Deer Creek recreation area north of Hailey this week.

The Wolftone, Kimsey and Howard trails in the area underwent a major overhaul during the past couple of years following severe wildfire damage. The Forest Service also built a new road on a hillside to replace the original road, which thread its way through wetlands and was obliterated by flooding twice following the fire.

Currently, the creek crossing at the intersection of the Deer Creek Trail and Curran Trail has washed out and the creek is running high, said Chris Leman, the Blaine County Recreation District’s Wood River Valley Trail Coordinator.

The Forest Service planted 10,000 native shrubs seedlings and it created new dispersed campgrounds. It  erected signs at trailheads this week. It installed vault toilets, and it’s installing 10 fire rings, funded by the National Forest Foundation.

“It was a big deal—three years of work with partnering with the Blaine County Land and Water Conservation Fund, the National Forest Foundation and others,” said Nelson.

While the area is now open to the public, the work is still not done.

The Forest Service plans to plant another 10,000 willows and native shrubs and do additional riparian restoration this summer. It will plant white bark pine seedlings in upland areas in fall.

White pine trees in the area are not endangered but are in decline, Nelson said.

In addition, the Forest Service has received additional money from the Federal Highway Administration that will allow it to extend the road another 1,100 to 1,200 feet and replace a problematic bridge. Poff is also examining possibilities for more dispersed camping.

The Ketchum Ranger District has put in test plots to look at the impact of herbicides on cheatgrass. Among the solutions: A new virus designed to help control cheatgrass called the “black fingers of death.”

The Ketchum Ranger District, 5B Restoration Coalition and National Forest Foundation hope to throw a party celebrating the work that’s been done in Deer Creek in late September or early October.

Other work on tap for this summer:

  • The Ketchum Ranger District will rebuild the Alden Trail, replacing the old sketchy one that was obliterated by the Beaver Creek Fire. The trail, which starts near Baker Creek Road and accesses the Osberg Trail, should be finished next summer.
  • Crews hope to replace a bridge on the Hyndman Creek Trail where it has eroded. And they’d like to be able to restore Warm Springs’ Placer/Castle Creek trails, which were damaged by wildfire.
  • The Ketchum Ranger District Trail Crew has cut out and maintained Curly’s/Easley Hot Springs Trail.
  • The Forest Service is implementing two years of treatments to help control invasive weed species along 50 miles of heavily used trails in Oregon Gulch and Adams Gulch.It involves reseeding native grasses and other on-the-ground treatments.
  • Blaine County has secured a three-year grant to do fuel reduction in the Heatherlands and Starweather areas north of Hailey, said Commissioner Angenie McCleary. They will also educate homeowners about firewise landscaping and techniques.
  • A demonstration involving electric mountain bikes at Croy on Saturday attracted 20 participants, resulting in productive conversations about the use of e-bikes on trails, said Chris Leman.
  • The BLM hopes to schedule a public meeting in mid-September regarding its long awaited travel plan involving new bicycle and other trails in the Wood River Valley. The final decision will be made in January. The September draft will detail proposed actions, rather than options, as were offered before.
  • The Sawtooth National Forest has released its Big Wood Travel Management Plan Environmental Assessment. One of the biggest changes involves moving the Prairie Creek Trailhead from its place next to the Harriman Trail. The project will be subject to a 45-day objection filing period. Documents are available on the Sawtooth National Forest project webpage at  Paper copies will be provided upon request via telephone at 208-727-5000.

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