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Hiking group gives back to the trails

CHERRY CREEK TRAIL — Members of a hiking group that regularly uses regional trails did some pay back last weekend.

A dozen members of the Klamath Basin Outdoor Group spent Saturday working under the direction of Anthony Benedetti, who oversees the maintenance of wilderness trails for the Fremont-Winema National Forest, and crew member Victor Castaneda.

Benedetti said the volunteer effort was especially appreciated because work on the 100 miles of Fremont-Winema wilderness trails by his three-person seasonal crew was delayed nearly two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had a late start because of the pandemic, but I think we’ve caught up,” Benedetti said. “I have to credit it mainly to the crew I’m working. These three guys are real animals who aren’t afraid to work hard.”

Castaneda, one of that trio, joined Benedetti on what is normally a day off for both to help direct volunteers. BOG members broke into two teams to do touch-up work on the Cherry Creek Trail, one of the most popular access routes into the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area. The trail goes into the Seven Lakes Basin, traveling past Trappers Lake and the very popular Margurette Lake.

“Because we use the trails, we should help them out,” said Bill Van Moorhem, the long-time leader of the BOG group. Two years ago, Van Moorhem led a two-night trip based out of Margurette that included hikes to Heavenly Twin Lakes, a section of the Pacific Crest Trail and Snow Lakes.

“It’s fun, different,” Van Moorhem said of hours spent with clippers, small hand saws, loopers and other tools, noting the group has held volunteer trail maintenance work days the past four years. “People seem to like the idea, like to help.”

Echoing Van Moorhem were some of the volunteers.

“Why help?” said Chris Netueer. “Because I like to use the trails, and if I use them I like to help, and think I should help.”

“Somebody has to give back if they can,” agreed Mike Book, who was accompanied by his frisky dog, Chase.

“I enjoy using the trails, and I felt it was my duty to give back and participate,” said Vallie Ann Bennett.

“I use the trails so I want to take of them,” echoed Diane Miller. “And it’s good healthy exercise. And it’s great being outside.”

Benedetti said other groups have also helped with trail maintenance in recent years, including the High Desert Trail Riders, an equestrian group that has packed in tools, food and other equipment for multi-night trail work projects by Forest Service and volunteer crews.

In recent years, members of the Klamath Trails Alliance have been overseeing the Brown Mountain and High Lakes trails. Likewise, volunteers such as Michael Schaaf and Jerry Inman have been key individuals on several projects, while John and Karen Poole have overseen trail work on the High Lakes Trail between Lake of the Woods and Fish Lake for more than 15 years.

“Of course, you get the labor and physical on-the-ground benefit,” Benedetti said of the value of various volunteers. “But it’s more of an importance of community involvement. It’s the community. To me it makes me feel like I’m part of the community. This is what community involvement is.”

Benedetti, a Fremont-Winema employee, oversees trails in the Sky Lakes, Mountain Lakes and Gearhart Mountain wildernesses and a portion of the Thielsen Wilderness that includes Miller Lake and a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Casteneda, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is in his first season with the Forest Service “Recking Crew,” said he’s been surprised and impressed by the volunteer contributions, and believes it reflects community values. “The people I’ve met are all very friendly,” he said, noting trail users that day included distance runners, day hikers and a couple toting their 8-month-old baby. “The community is recreation-oriented. Having all these trails and having people getting out so easily has created a healthy culture.”

For those interested in hiking the Cherry Creek Trail, it can be accessed by turning north onto the Westside Road (County Road 531) from Highway 140 at the Rocky Point junction. After about 10 miles watch for a Cherry Creek Trailhead sign and turn left onto Forest Road 3450. The trailhead is at the end of the road, about 1.6 miles, with a large parking area. Use caution driving to the trailhead, especially on a curve near the parking area. Mosquitoes are common this time of year so go prepared. Swarms of hornets have also been reported, so use caution near nests, especially if hiking with dogs.

Individuals or groups willing to assist with trail projects can contact Benedetti at anthony.benedetti@usda.gov or 541-885-3440. For information on the Klamath Basin Outdoor Group, visit their Facebook page.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

Basin Outdoor Club volunteers work with Victor Castaneda to clear trail in the Sky Lakes Wilderness Area. Photo by Lee Juillerat