Scratch your fall-hiking itch south of Talent

This summer was a scorcher, but the fall equinox brought perfect hiking weather. So if you're looking for a way to scratch your fall-hiking itch, check out the newly renovated, super kid-friendly Wagner Creek Interpretive Trail.

It's less than a half-mile long and only a few-minutes drive south of Talent.

From Talent Avenue downtown, head southwest on Main Street. After a few blocks, Main bends left and turns into Wagner Creek Road. After about five miles on Wagner Creek Road, you'll see the bridge and trail on the left side. If the road starts climbing from the creek, you've gone too far.

The trail starts out by crossing Wagner Creek to a flat picnic area with a campfire ring. It winds up Wagner Creek for a few walking minutes to a nice wading area along a small sandy beach. The trail then makes a leisurely ascent up the bank of the creek and through a forested area before dropping down a staircase and back to the bridge.

The 21 numbered sign posts you'll see along the way coincide with an educational brochure available at the Bureau of Land Management office in Medford, 3040 Biddle Road.

The free pamphlet includes information on area history, identification and a plant check list. It has 21 ecology lessons that use features along the trail — rotting logs, fire scars, granitic outcrops, woody fish habitat — as real-life demonstrations.

This short, interpretive hike is as much about learning as it is about getting out for an afternoon along the banks of Wagner Creek.

Early this year the trail had grown in and the old signs had rotted away. Trees had fallen over the trail and one had landed on and destroyed the bridge that crossed Wagner Creek. BLM cut the bridge out and put caution tape up.

Then Boy Scout Kyle Eller contacted Nick Schade, recreation specialist for the BLM, about adopting the old trail for his Eagle Scout project.

Eller worked on brushing the trail out and reclaiming the old tread. Schade's staff cut out the fallen logs, installed sign posts and got to work on the brochure, which also had contributions from Eller, and Pam Chappell of the Talent Historical Society.

By mid-September the brochure was complete, the numbered sign posts were in, and the trail was ready for hikers. Then came the bridge.

BLM staff recently craned into place two, 27-foot, steel stringer beams and installed the decking and railing. Workers spent hours in the BLM yard drilling more than 100 holes in the beams.

"Usually we'd use a kit," said Schade about bridge construction. "But we did it in-house."

Now anyone can easily cross Wagner Creek and have an outdoor education adventure along the interpretive trail. Overnight camping is prohibited, but fires are allowed in the fire-ring.

The trail is accessible year round and has different offerings each season. In the fall and winter, you might see a steelhead. Spring brings a wildflower show. When the heat of summer comes back around, visitors can cool off on the shady banks of the creek.

The area has been everything from a transient site to a dump site in the past. But not anymore.

"It's a cool little trail," Schade says.

Freelance writer Gabe Howe is executive director and field coordinator for the Siskiyou Mountain Club. Contact him at howegabe@gmail.com.


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