Dr. Wendy Warren, a family practice physician at Cascades East in Klamath Falls, had some unexpected free time because a patient was undergoing tests. It was a beautiful morning, not yet too hot, so she grabbed her cellphone and, with her stethoscope still around her neck, headed outside.
A short while later Warren was ambling along the new Geo Trail, a nearly two-mile hillside trail that mostly parallels East College Way, the road near the dorms at Oregon Institute of Technology and within walking distance of Cascades East and Sky Lakes Medical Center.
"If you have a half-hour, you can do it," she said. "There are other things I could be doing, but this is just so beautiful."
"That's exactly what we want is used for," said Katherine Jochim Pope, program director of Sky Lakes Wellness Clinic, after being told about Warren's impromptu outing.
Pope and the late Dr. Stephanie Van Dyke were two of the people responsible for creating the trail through the Wellness Center and Klamath Falls Blue Zones, a community-wide health care initiative. Concerned that walking the roads was unsafe, they recruited others to generate support for a pedestrian-only trail. A primary goal was to provide a place where Sky Lakes and OIT students, faculty and staff could get outside.
That was three years ago.
"The Geo Trail has been a long time coming," Pope said.
The name Geo Trail was chosen because a nearby geothermal plant generates energy used to heat Oregon Tech and Sky Lakes. The trail also offers views of OIT's solar complex.
"What a great place to raise awareness of our geothermal and solar resources," Pope said, noting the trail also offers dramatic views of Upper Klamath Lake, Mount McLoughlin, Mount Shasta and a broad swath of the Cascades.
Pope and Van Dyke collaborated with Justin Rodriquez, who helped design and engineer the trail as a volunteer for the Klamath Trails Alliance. An $83,000 Recreational Trails Program Grant was combined with in-kind donations by Diversified Construction and the Rhine-Cross Group and others. Sky Lakes provided construction management and donated matching funds, while KTA provided volunteers for the trail's construction and maintenance.
The main trailhead, a short way uphill off East College Way, has a small parking lot and a large, detailed map. The level section following East College Way passes a second trailhead and continues a short distance. Rodriquez hopes the trail will eventually extend to the hillside "O."
Near the roadside trailhead, walkers can take a winding route with gentle switchbacks uphill, behind a water tank, and follow a steeper former road to the main trailhead. From the main trailhead, the route also heads west toward Quail Park at Crystal Terrace, a retirement community.
Along with continuing the trail to the "O," Rodriguez and KTA leaders envision working with willing private land owners to extend the trail south from the Quail Park area.
That's in the future. For now, the three groups most responsible for the Geo Trail — the KTA, Sky Lakes and Oregon Tech — are preparing to celebrate the trail's official opening with ribbon-cutting ceremonies set for 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, at the main trailhead.
"It's a great project that's happened because of a lot of dedicated people," Pope said. As Dr. Warren's unplanned outing proves, "It's already being used, and we hope more people enjoy it, too."
— Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at email@example.com or 541-880-4139.