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Section of the PCT closed because of punji stake traps.

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Section of the PCT closed because of punji stake traps.

Postby gary c. » Sun May 09, 2010 6:04 pm

Copied this from the Rock Creek site.

The United States Forest Service temporarily closed a section of the Pacific Crest Trail after hikers discovered dozens of crude devices bristling with exposed nails on the trail on the south side of the Tehachapi Mountains at Tylerhorse Canyon, Wed., May 5.

The Forest Service, the Kern County Sheriffs Office and the Bureau of Land Management launched a cleanup and investigation, closing the section of trail between Hwy. 138 and Tehachapi Willow Springs Road.

“This closure is in response to the discovery of dangerous objects on the trail,” the Forest Service, lead agency in the investigation, said in a press release May 7. “Although these harmful objects were found along approximately a quarter mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail near Gamble Springs, in Sequoia National Forest, a longer section of trail surrounding it must be closed due to geographic access points.”

The press release said that a Forest Service crew would work over the weekend to remove the trail hazards, and it “will reevaluate the temporary closure on Monday, May 10, 2010.”

A group of 13 hikers --the vanguard of almost 1,000 who are expected to pass along the trail in the next several weeks on their way to Canada -- came across the devices.

In about a 100-yard stretch of the trail, hiker Scott Williams said, someone had strung up barbed wire across the trail and posted numerous signs saying: “Warning: Firing range” and “No trespassing.”

A shooting target was placed in the center of the trail, Williams said, and broken glass littered the ground.

“If a hiker stepped on (one of the devices) with a tennis shoe, it's like a booby trap,” Williams said. “Most were lying in the trail. About five or six were buried. We kicked them up so people can see them.”

He saw “20 to 30 “ of the devices.

“The trail (there) is an absolute danger,” Williams said.

Investigators ultimately found 50 of the devices.

Several investigators compared the devices to punji stake traps that caused so much harm to U.S. troops in Vietnam.

The devices -- nails and all -- were painted brown for camouflage in the dirt and shadows.

Williams brought one of the devices into Tehachapi and gave it to Sgt. Richard Wood of the Kern County Sheriff Tehachapi Substation.

Wood said investigators who went up to the remote site by Jeep to inspect the situation on the afternoon of May 6 found "about 50 similar spiked devices in the vicinity of the trail."

Wood said the 4-and-a-half-inch-high items are made of concrete poured into a cup topped with three small nails that stick out about two inches.

The Pacific Crest Trail in that section rides a ridge at about 6,000 feet in elevation.

The location of the discovery is at approximately mile 548 of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail that runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. Trail locations are measured in miles from Mexico.

Possible motive
While no suspect has been named, the Sheriffs Office suggests a possible motive.

“It appears the devices may have been buried to discourage illegal off-road riding,” said Sgt. Wood in a May 7 media release.

He said investigators “do not believe the devices were planted to cause harm to hikers or horses.”

Residents in the area have been battling the illegal encroachment of off-road vehicles, but they have been scrupulous in adhering to legal means to keep the riders from devastating the landscape and obliterating the trail.

The organization ORV (Off Road Vehicle) Watch Kern County has organized a series of meetings over the past several years with state, county, federal and local agencies to address the situation.

The rmeetings have generated increased enforcement on targeted weekends and some arrests, but the level of frustration is growing.

“It’s like the wild wild west,” area resident Brandi Dunn said.

In Nov. 2009, ORV Watch Kern County told authorities about broken glass, rebar embedded in the ground, spikes and barbed wire traps in the same section, said organization spokesperson Mesonica Piecuch, but this time it’s worse.

“It is booby trapped beyond belief. It’s awful,” said Piecuch, who hiked up Friday for a look.

She said the nails in the cups were “three or four inches long” and the cups were “buried just under the surface.”

The nails could go through a horse’s hoof, she said.

“They were absolutely meant to do someone some harm.”

ORV Watch Kern County “absolutely condemns any actions that would harm people on PCT,” Piecuch said in a press release.

The appearance of new devices on the trail, she said, “is one more indication of how serious and out-of-control the conflict between landowners and illegal riders has become. I wish that the agencies we contacted had acted upon this information sooner.”

A wave of hikers
The Pacific Crest Trail hikers who approach the trail over the weekend will have to contend with the closure.

The largest wave of the season’s hikers is expected to arrive at the Tehachapi segment of the Pacific Crest Trail in the next few weeks, and the city of Tehachapi is a major rest stop.

The hikers -- dry and tired from the long stretch of desert -- usually hitch a ride into Tehachapi from the trail so they can rest in a motel, eat in a restaurant, pick up supplies at the Post Office and enjoy the amenities of Tehachapi before beginning the Sierra Mountains phase of the journey.

The close-knit PCT hiking family alerted others of the potential danger May 5, putting out a notice on the web sites that feature up-to-the-minute information about trail conditions.

The Pacific Crest Trail, Williams said, “is one of the premier trails of the world. People from every country in the world come to hike it…to come upon this is a black eye for an American international trail.”

In spite of the unsettling discovery of the spiked cement cups, Williams, 57, of Martinez, Calif., is enjoying his first PCT attempt.

“It's a beautiful trail,” he said. “I was stunned by the beauty of the desert mountains.”
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
-- Lionel Terray

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gary c.
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