Dear Fellow “Trail-ites”

It seemed time for a STATE OF THE SUTA TRAILS report.  So in no particular order here is what is happening with your SUTA trail system.

Triliium - April 28, 2012 SMDT

Triliium -Photo by Hope

Go for a Hike – the wildflowers are out in abundance!:  Last weekend SUTA hosted a wildflower hike from the Little Applegate trailhead to the Tunnel Ridge trailhead.  An enthusiastic group of us gawked at wildflowers, had a picnic and when needed, used loppers to do a little trimming.  Some of the photos I attempted to take of the spectacular flowers will be posted on our website.  Marion Hadden, who should be dubbed the Sterling Mine Ditch Docent  – provided a great tour of both the flowers and the birds.  So if you have time for a gorgeous hike, this is a wonderful time to enjoy the Sterling Mine Ditch and enjoy the tremendous diversity of wildflowers.  Among many gorgeous flowers, we saw three species of Fritallaria on our walk so if you go soon you could catch them too – they are pretty amazing.

RUN THE DITCH 5-MILER and Nature Hike:  On May 26th (Saturday) there will be the first Run the Ditch 5 Miler hosted by the Southern Oregon Runners, SUTA and BLM.  The race will be from the Tunnel Ridge trailhead along Little Applegate Road to the Bear Gulch Trailhead, up to the Sterling Mine Ditch and back to Tunnel Ridge.  There will also be a free nature hike lead by a BLM botanist.  If you are interested, in registering for the run, go to for the registration form.  Packet pick-up and sign-up are from 7:30-8:30, the race begins at 9 AM sharp, with the nature hike starting 10 minutes later.

2012 Trail Work Parties Complete Thanks to the hard work of over 30 volunteers during this season’s work parties – lead by the ever-enthusiastic Jim Reiland, the Sterling Mine Ditch trail is in great shape for your hiking, horseback riding, bicycling or running pleasure for the season.  For those of you that were able to come participate in our always scenic, fun and definitely rewarding work parties, we all extend a huge thank you – especially to Jim Reiland!  Without everyone’s help this trail system would not be growing and improving. So we hope to see even more of you on our trail work parties next year.

Sterling Mine Ditch Trail Continues to Expand: We have made great strides in improving two sections of the SMDT so that you can hike further and have news on two future trail sections!  As you may have read on our website or in the May issue of the Jacksonville Review – you can now hike on the Wolf Gap access trail to reach the Sterling Mine Ditch trail. Although it is still a work in progress, this access trail is stellar. It creates a wonderful long loop for those of you interested in hiking or running a good chunk of the trail or a lovely out and back hike.  While we do not have an official trail sign at Wolf Gap yet, it will be coming soon.  Also please note that the Wolf Gap trail will only be open to hikers and eventually equestrians – NO BICYCLES.  This trail cuts through steep terrain that would be too dangerous to mix bicycles with either horses or hikers.  Owing to years of neglect, this trail needed a great deal of tread work.  A huge amount of great tread work was done by Black Oak Forestry and SUTA volunteers have been out working away to.  There’s more to come.  We would like for the tread to set up and become really solid before horses use it.  It is an absolutely stunning hike for those of you who have not been on this trail.  It is 1.5 miles down to the SMDT, has a wonderful easy grade and passes through lots of diverse ecosystems – with terrific views.  While certainly not finished to normal SUTA standards…. It is more than passable for anyone wanting a hike.  The other portion of the SMD trail we have been working on is north from the Deming trailhead.   You can hike about 3 miles headed north towards Griffin Lane on the Sterling Mine Ditch trail.  The ditch is interrupted for a short distance by a dead-end BLM road but if you walk down the road, cross the Deming Creek, you will see it continue on your left.  The ditch continues for several more miles before dead-ending on private land.  For those of you interested in going on this section, please be respectful of the private property at the end of the ditch and do not trespass.  If you see a house and pond you have gone too far, please turn around!

 Looking into the future and pending funding, we hope to open up a new section of the Sterling Mine Ditch trail.  A private land owner has graciously allowed us to open a roughly one-mile section of the Sterling Mine Ditch trail from where it currently stops at the top of the Little Applegate Access trail out to Rush Creek Road.  We are very excited about gaining a new access point (especially one you will not have to hike up or down to).  However, we will not open this section unless we have the funding to construct a solid barrier to prevent any motorized vehicles from accessing the ditch over this private land. We’ve applied for a grant from Oregon Parks and Recreation and are keeping our fingers crossed – we will know soon.

Last but certainly not least on SMDT news, we will be working on the environmental assessment for a one-mile connector link at the north end of the SMDT to connect the ditch up with the future Jack-Ash trail.  If this process goes well, we may be able to begin construction of this new trail later this year.  This connecting link would allow all of us to access a whole network of BLM roads for long-distance loops going in many directions.  We will be posting a revised map of the Sterling Mine Ditch trail on our website in the near future which will show these potential new trail sections.

The Jack-Ash Trail Marches on towards Jacksonville:  We continue to work on the details of our Jack-Ash trail route since we need to get permission from private land owners to reach Jacksonville.  Two landowners near Griffin Lane have generously allowed us to run the trail through their land so we are now heading into the home stretch to Jacksonville.  Stay tuned.  Meanwhile, we will need to push forward on getting funding for the environmental assessment of the trail route.  We’re in this for the long-haul but we are getting there.

SUTA Will be Promoting our Trails At Buncom Days and Applegate Valley Days: We will be sharing a booth with the Applegate Trails Association at both Buncom Day on May 26th and Applegate Valley Days June 23rd and 24th.  If you would like a chance to hang out and talk about trails, come help man the booth or at least visit!  Love to see all of you at these events.

That’s the SUTA State of the Trails report.

I hope you all have a chance to go out and enjoy the trails now that spring is here. Thanks for all of your interest and enthusiasm!

Hope Robertson


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