By Joy Rogalla, Siskiyou Upland Trails Association as published in the printed copy of the November 2013 Jacksonville Review
The Sterling Mine Ditch Trail (SMDT) continues to expand and improve with recent construction of new access trails. These trails offer more options for trail users to explore the SMDT and the upland terrain that will be part of the Jack-Ash Trail System between Jacksonville and Ashland. The Siskiyou Upland Trails Association (SUTA) worked with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to select the routes for the new trails and complete the required environmental assessments. Once that process was completed, we were eager to get the new trails constructed.
The new Grub Gulch access trail was just constructed this fall and connects the end of the SMDT to an unimproved BLM road and the new Grub Gulch trailhead on BLM Road 38-2-26. Opening this trail creates endless opportunities for wonderful long-distance loops on the various roads criss-crossing Anderson Butte. We will be posting several hikes and rides on the SUTA website this fall. With the BLM’s arrangement for a crew of hard-working young men from Jackson County’s Criminal Justice Program and SUTA volunteers the trail was completed in record time. The Grub Gulch trail leaves the SMDT near its northern end and crosses a dry slope with oaks, pines, mountain mahogany and other native shrubs, and then enters a lovely mature pine and fir area as it traverses the gulch. The new trail section travels about 1.5 miles long and then connects to an unimproved BLM road that is part of a network of roads around Anderson Butte. The soon-to-be-completed trailhead is on BLM road 38-2-26 right across from the Hidden Creek Trail, so you can continue your exploration of the gulch and Anderson Butte if you’re so inclined. If you turn right after reaching 38-2-26 you can connect up to Armstrong-Deming Road and create a giant loop to take you all the way back to the Deming trailhead.
This summer SUTA hosted a contingent from Oregon Parks and Recreation (OPR), who came to evaluate SUTA’s application to have the SMDT designated as an Oregon Scenic Trail. The group rode the entire trail on mountain bikes on one of the smokiest days we had in August! Despite the smoke and resulting lack of views, OPR notified SUTA that the SMDT was selected to continue in the evaluation and selection process. OPR provided some suggestions for improvements along the trail and requires a long-term management plan, so we have some more work to do to gain this designation.
Other SMDT trail improvements include installing seven kiosks at trailheads and two small bridges, funded by a grant from REI. These will be completed by the end of the year. The kiosks will have maps and interpretive information, as well as other information for trail users. SUTA will also be installing additional directional and mileage signs at trailheads and along the SMDT this fall. We are planning winter maintenance work parties to be the 3rd Saturday of the month in November and January through May, so mark your calendars and come out to meet fellow trail enthusiasts, spend some time on the trail, and help keep it open for everyone. In the last four years we’ve logged over 4,000 volunteer hours on the SMDT – an impressive total, and it shows! Visit www.sutaoregon.org for directions to all the trailheads, and details on the upcoming work parties and other events.