On September 17, 9am, take an exploratory hike to find the Jack-Ash route from Wagner Gap to Point Mountain. Fabulous views and cooler than anywhere in the valley! Bring water, snacks or a lunch. Details at www.SUTAOregon.org.
Not all who wander are lost – that’s the mantra for the group of volunteers from the Siskiyou Upland Trails Association (SUTA) who are scouting trail routes to fine-tune the proposed Jack-Ash Trail between Jacksonville and Ashland. Summer is a great time to be up along the ridges above the Rogue Valley, and we’ve made progress exploring the route along some existing trails and roads, route-finding for new trail sections, and doing research about the historical foot trail that used to connect the former fire lookouts on Wagner and Anderson Buttes. Coming up this fall is exploring connection options to the Pacific Crest Trail and to the Little Applegate end of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail (SMDT).
The hikes have brought us to places not typically visited, including some deeply forested areas with magnificent old trees, meadows filled with wildflowers, and amazing views stretching in all directions to the Red Buttes Wilderness, the Siskiyou Crest, Mt. McLoughlin and the Crater Lake Rim. We hope to finish narrowing down the proposed route in the next several months, and are coordinating with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to work out the details and ensure that the trail avoids any sensitive areas. Although the Jack-Ash Trail has a ways to go before it becomes an officially approved trail, because our route takes advantage of pre-existing trails and dirt roads, there are miles of trail to visit while we work on the longer term details.
Hikers on the Trail
The SMDT will be connected to the Jack-Ash Trail, and 18 miles of that trail was officially reopened on June 4th as part of National Trails Day. More than 150 people attended the opening ceremony and associated festivities, and more hikers, runners, equestrians, and mountain bikers are using the trail than ever before.
All of the trailhead parking areas have been improved using Title II funds that SUTA was awarded. BLM, using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus) funds, has provided hours of their staff time to make greatly appreciated trail improvements, remove fallen trees, provide new trail signs which SUTA volunteers installed, and employed the Youth Council this summer to work on the tread in key sections of the trail. There are many more trail repairs and maintenance efforts in the planning stages.
In late June, a local Eagle Scout installed benches along the Tunnel Ridge to Bear Gulch section of the trail. SUTA hosted a full moon hike along the trail in August, and a hike to some of the meadows near Point and Bald Mountains is planned for the fall to introduce the public to a possible trail section of the Jack-Ash Trail.
There are more scouting hikes planned for the late summer and fall, and we’re beginning plans for the fall and winter trail maintenance work parties. Our work parties are a great way to get out and hike the SMDT and help keep this recreational resource open, and a terrific way to meet a fun and growing community of people involved in making a difference in our community. Anyone interested in participating in any of these activities can visit our website for details. There are also maps and directions to all of the SMDT trailheads available at the SUTA website – www.SUTAOregon.org.