Looking Back and Up the Trail: SUTA 2018 Trail News
2018 has been a year of enjoying the almost 40 miles of trails we now have, recovering from the insane pace of trail construction in 2017 and now taking a look at what’s next. We tallied up the hours of volunteer labor on our trails for January-December 2018. Its impressive! Counting only the hours we all put in at SUTA trail work parties, the community of hard working, generous volunteers spent almost 650 hours of lopping, digging, and sawing. For all of us who enjoy these trails – thank you for your efforts to keep our trails open and user friendly.
This year we launched a new Trail Maintenance Committee led by Board Member Anne Carter and our volunteer extraordinaire, – Jim Reiland. This group helps on special trail projects such as installing the trail signs on the Jack-Ash Trail and other tasks like building stone retaining walls and will help lead trail work parties. Bruce Engle, Steve Ives, Ken Caetano, Pete Leonard, John Galego, and Emily Coleman are part of this enthusiastic group of volunteers – some of whom are shown below after installing one of the new signs on the Jack-Ash this past June.
Trail Maintenance Committee with the newly-installed Jack-Ash Trail sign
The Medford BLM has been key to keeping the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail and the Jack-Ash Trails open this year. If you noticed downed trees suddenly cut out of the way, or that all the Sterling Mine Ditch access trails were weed whacked as well as the entire Jack-Ash Trail, – you can thank Jameson Whitehead, Joel Bridges and others at the Medford BLM. We also were able to get two days of a crew from Greyback Forestry to work on clearing buckbrush and poison oak along the center of the ditch trail, thanks to the BLM. Without BLM’s support of our many projects, we wouldn’t be out on these trails.
College Dreams Crew and SUTA volunteer supervisors
Speaking of REI, we are thrilled to be the recipient of another REI grant that will pay for three kiosks on the Jack-Ash and a great mountain ID sign to be installed up on the Jack-Ash Trail near Anderson Butte. SUTA also had the pleasure of hosting a National Trails Day Event with REI to work on the Grub Gulch access trail. When you go into REI, please thank them for their strong support of local trails!
We also had a great contribution from Vohn Fraser, his family and several of his fellow Eagle Scouts. Vohn built a terrific, sturdy bench, lugged it uphill almost a mile in the snow and installed it on Grub Gulch with helpful oversight by his father Monte. Vohn and his fellow Eagle Scouts also helped install some of the Jack-Ash trailhead signs. Thank you Vohn – who is now headed off to the Marines.
Vohn & Monte Fraser, Eagle Scout bench
A crowning event for SUTA this year was the ridiculously fun ‘Pumpkin Chunkin’ event organized by Maggie and Steve Ives to raise funds for our trails. Steve, a member of the Sterling Creek Men’s Literary Society (aka Book Club), drafted his fellow members to build a trebuchet (see below) after reading a book on the topic. Maggie spent weeks organizing, getting business sponsors, and pulling off a wildly successful fundraising event launching pumpkins into the fields at LongSword Vineyards. Adults and kids alike had a blast. These funds will really help SUTA move rapidly when we are ready to begin construction of the next set of trails. Thank you so much for all of your amazing work Maggie and Steve. If you have friends visiting the area – send them to stay with Steve and Maggie at their wonderful Sterling Creek Chalet B&B – right across from the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail!
Looking ahead for 2019 – here is what SUTA is working on.
With help from the unbeatable duo of Duane Mallams, – Stellar Trail Route Planner and Builder, and Annette Parsons, – Queen of Maps, and input from the SUTA board and friends, we have come up with a preliminary plan for our next trail additions. Our idea is continue working on the completion of the Jack-Ash Trail connections to Jacksonville and Ashland. However, we also want to build some other connecting trails to create a variety of shorter trails within the existing giant loop created by the Jack-Ash and the Sterling Mine Ditch Trails. We think these shorter loops will greatly enhance recreation opportunities within this trail network. As soon as we have cleared a preliminary review of possible resource conflicts with BLM, we will post this map of proposed new routes on our website. But to give you a taste: – imagine a possible loop from the Wolf Gap along the ridge to the Jack-Ash Trail near the Anderson Ridge trailhead, or a trail from Wolf Gap down to Tunnel Ridge, or a loop from the top of the Grub Gulch access trail across the slope connecting back to the SMDT near the two puncheon bridges on the Deming North section of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail. These are just a few of the possibilities.
Our hope is to begin the Environmental Assessment process early next year but it will be a while before any grubbers start digging any trails. We will keep you posted as soon as there is an opportunity for public input. And obviously if anyone has a burning idea for a possible trail loop – let us know!
We thank everyone for the help, financial support and enthusiastic use of these trails.
Have a wonderful holiday season and go out and enjoy the trails you help build and maintain.
The SUTA Board