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Ashland Woodland Trails Association volunteers create new link on Bandersnatch Trail

Using all-volunteer help, the Ashland Woodland Trails Association has extended the popular Bandersnatch Trail from the Alice in Wonderland Trail down to Ashland Loop Road in the hills above Ashland, increasing hiker-only pathways and allowing immediate access from cars to the city’s network of hiking trails. 

The new bike-free trail, which has views of the city and mountains to the north and east, was constructed in one day in February, says AWTA President Rob Cain. It is four-tenths of a mile long, with 15 switchbacks and is entirely inside city watershed land. 

“It provides a nice circuit for people looking for a closed-in loop,” he notes, “and it takes foot traffic off the lower part of Alice-in-Wonderland trail that’s used by bicycles.” 

The new northern section of Bandersnatch connects with the south-facing, 1.8-mile part of Bandersnatch, which was built three years ago. They offer a healthy workout that’s not overly strenuous, lessens hiker-biker conflict and increases safety, Cain said. It helps meet the goal of separation of users, he adds.

Cain and 55 volunteers used McLeod tools to carve out the trail on a 10- to 12-degree angle. The route didn’t have much blown-down timber from the recent big storm, but was rife with poison oak, which several volunteers contracted, he said. The grade reversals were calculated with an inclinometer to keep water off the trail, without using erosive water bars.

“It’s awesome. I love this new trail,” said hiker Janice Lineberger, who has been trekking them for two decades. “It’s not as steep as Bandersnatch on the other side of the mountain.”

Her hiking companion Heidi Jensen notes her love of hiking through the colorful madrone forest on the trail, welcoming the “deep calming” of it. It’s become a more pleasurable and scenic retreat since the thinning of the forests in the trail system, Jensen adds. 

“Bandersnatch and this whole trail system are wonderful places to hike with friends and share stories, deepening friendships,” says Lineberger. 

The trail project was done with the help of Jeff McFarland of the city Parks & Recreation Department. Chris Chambers of Ashland Fire & Rescue and a member of the Ashland Forest Lands Commission carried the project to approval with that commission.

Being entirely within Ashland, the trail was not part of the ongoing collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service to build trails on federal land or joint city-federal land, that are ecologically sound and allow for safe use, separating hikers and bikers where possible. 

The next project for AWTA, says Cain, is re-routing of a lower one-third mile section of the bike trail called BTI, which will require several days. It needs approval by the Forest Service, expected in the next two months. 

The Bandersnatch Trail name is taken from a creature in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 fantasy novel, “Alice in Wonderland.” It’s in keeping with that theme for the trail system, with other trails called White Rabbit, Caterpillar, Lookingglass and Queen of Hearts.

The trail head is on Ashland Loop Road, which can be reached Morton or Terrace streets.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.