With 2022 nearly over, we have some updates to share about the Jack-Ash and Sterling Mine Ditch Trails. First of all, both trails are in great condition, thanks to lots of work by volunteers and our BLM partners. It’s great to see so many hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians on the trails! With winter setting in, the trails’ location in the Applegate Valley is an advantage since it’s often sunny when other areas are experiencing fog; the SMDT is accessible nearly year-round, so we invite you to come enjoy a winter walk, run, or ride. We do ask that equestrians and mountain bikers wait to use the trails for a few days after rain/snow since the tread can be wet and slippery in places and riding in those conditions can damage the tread, not to mention be a safety concern.
The first bit of news to share is that we are preparing to install kiosks and improve the parking areas at the Anderson Ridge, Greenstone, and Griffin Gap Trailheads on the Jack-Ash Trail. This will be done using funds from our Title II grant for trail maintenance and improvements. Some of the work may be delayed due to weather conditions, but the work certainly will be completed in the spring if not sooner.
As reported earlier, we have completed the first mile of the approved Jack-Ash Phase II trail segments. This new trail currently ends at a spectacular overlook with 360° views to the Siskiyou Crest, Red Buttes, Applegate and Little Applegate Valleys, Wagner Butte, and Anderson Ridge. This new trail has proven to be very popular and we’ve had very positive feedback from users. Because part of the trail is on a very steep slope, it is only open to foot traffic for safety reasons. If you need directions to the Wolf Gap trailhead, driving directions are available on our website (www.sutaoregon.org).
We are applying for grants to fund additional trail construction and are hopeful that we’ll be successful and be able to get a crew out on the ground in spring or before. It may take another 2 years to complete building the remaining 10 miles of new trails that were approved, depending on when we can raise the funds required. Construction costs for each mile of trail range from $15,000-$17,000, so we have a big task ahead of us to raise all the funds needed to complete this project.
We’ve begun holding monthly work parties that will continue through April – the first was held in November and we worked on the bypass trail about 2 miles from the Little Applegate Trailhead. There was a downpour over the summer that caused some serious erosion on the trail and a flash flood that nearly destroyed one of the puncheon bridges. The work party volunteers repaired some damaged tread and created a minor bypass around the eroded area, and we’re coordinating with the SOU Outdoor Adventure Leadership program to see if one or more of the students in the program would like to take on the project to repair or replace the puncheon. The trail is passable at the puncheon but repairs are needed. We’re still waiting for final approval to reopen a part of the ditch between Bear Gulch and Wolf Gulch. The property owners have generously granted an easement and once this section of trail is reopened, it will create a couple of 5-mile loop options from Wolf Gap and Bear Gulch. Watch for an announcement when this trail section will be open.
In addition to work parties, we have volunteers who are constantly trying to keep the trail clear when trees come down. It helps us to know about these, so please report any trees you observe that are down along the trail and we’ll work on getting them cleared. Unfortunately, there are some areas where there are many standing dead trees, so it’s unavoidable to have them come down across the trail after stormy and windy days. Report downed trees by emailing us at email@example.com. Visitors to the Armstrong Gulch and Deming Gulch sections of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail will also see that there has been some salvage logging near the trails and along the roads. Dead and dying trees have been removed, and some of the logged areas now look quite different. There is more information about this activity posted on our website.
We will continue string-trimming all of the single-track trails next spring. We plan to have a crew complete this in late May-early June 2023. This will be the fourth year we’ve been able to do this level of maintenance, and it really helps keep the encroaching vegetation pushed back from the trail. We have funding secured for string trimming and more significant clearing by sawyer crews through 2024. No doubt we’ll be applying for future grants to continue this as an annual effort.
Enjoy the trails and we hope to see many of you out there soon!