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Post-blaze trailblazing

While we wait for this year’s wildfires to fade into memory, a hardy band of hiking enthusiasts is working to help the forest trail system recover from previous fires.

The Siskiyou Mountain Club, a 600-member group based in Ashland, is restoring 60 miles of trail damaged in last year’s Chetco Bar fire and an additional 89 miles of trails in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

The work, funded through grants from the Oregon Community Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service, involves cutting thousands of fallen trees with a manual two-person saw, as well as stabilizing soils and creating water bars for drainage to prevent trails from washing out. The OCF grant also pays for aesthetic work such as installing signs and clearing brush to enhance the trail experience.

Crew members note that some of the trails they worked on this year hadn’t been cleared since the Biscuit fire of 2002.

The club operates in part on contributions from its members and fundraising, a continuing process, because the trail work never ends. Each year’s fires leave damage behind, and dead snags will continue to fall across trails years afterward. Executive Director Gabe Howe likened the work to painting the Golden Gate Bridge: when crews reach one end, they start over again at the other end.

Anyone who enjoys hiking the national forests of our region should thank the Siskiyou Mountain Club for its dedication to preserving the trail system, helping the landscape recover from fire and ensuring continued access to our public lands.