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On the right path

A hardy bunch of hiking enthusiasts is taking the long view of a planned trail system that one day could link Jacksonville with Ashland. The Jack-Ash trail is still a far-off vision, but it got just bit closer last year when the Siskiyou Upland Trail Association finished the first 15 miles of trail. Now, the focus is on plotting the next segment.

All this takes time — a lot of time — and money, at $10,000 a mile. It will likely be years before the Jack-Ash trail is complete, connecting the Jacksonville Woodlands trail system with Wagner Gap and existing trails in the Ashland Watershed, so hikers can trek 50 miles from one town to the other while drinking in spectacular views of Woodrat Mountain, Dutchman Peak and the Red Buttes Wilderness.

The next phase of Jack-Ash will eventually connect with the East Applegate Ridge Trail, known as East-ART, completed last year by the Applegate Trails Association. That group envisions the Applegate Ridge Trail stretching all the way to Grants Pass, linking up with the Cathedral Hills trail system.

The result of completing both projects would be an 80-mile trail making it possible to hike from downtown Ashland to Grants Pass, something like a mini-Pacific Crest Trail traversing Southern Oregon. The system would have multiple access points, so day-hikers could enjoy individual parts of the system and more ambitious trekkers could complete the entire route.

This journey will take time and a great deal of fundraising. But the first steps have been taken.