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Wild Rogue Wilderness trail restored

MARIAL — College students and other volunteers were busy this past summer restoring a nearly impassable 25-mile loop of trail in the Wild Rogue Wilderness.

The Siskiyou Mountain Club spent 20 days on the project, in addition to working in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and the Soda Mountain Wilderness of Southern Oregon.

The Wild Rogue work included the Mule Creek, Panther Ridge and Clay Hill trails, in addition to part of the Rogue River Trail.

The crews had to saw through hundreds of downed logs, clip back thick brush and rebuild more than eight miles of trail bench.

“These trails provide an experience endemic to America,” said Gabriel Howe, executive director of the Ashland-based nonprofit organization, in a news release. “It feels good to bring something special back to life.”

Howe said long sections of the trails were difficult if not impossible to hike, some of them choked with logs from the 2005 Blossom Complex of fires.

The route includes the pristine gorge of Mule Creek, and runs above the Rogue River along Panther Ridge.

Mikaela Lea, 19, a Brookings resident who is a sophomore at Oregon State University, spent 57 days working on trails. She said she enjoyed swimming the most.

“If you just swim down Mule Creek from where the trail crosses, there’s some really cool spots up there,” Lea said.

Kora Mousseaux, a Phoenix High School graduate and Southern Oregon University student, said the heat was the toughest part.

“It hit over 100 (degrees) a few days,” she said.

Mousseaux and her crew worked 10 days at a time, living out of their backpacks.

“I did more than I thought I could,” she said.

Support for the project came from REI Medford and OSU’s recreational trails program.

Siskiyou Mountain club was formed to restore and promote primitive trails in the back country of Southern Oregon.

The club's most ambitious project to date was a six-year effort to clear a 42-mile backpacking route through the rugged Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, which is now hikeable for the first time in 13 years with the 2015 completion of the quest to reclaim the trail.

A crew of seven college interns and two crew leaders from the Ashland-based Siskiyou Mountain Club finished clearing overgrown brush and downed trees on the trail last summer through the 180,000-acre wilderness area straddling the Josephine and Curry county line.

It's the first time the route has been passable since the 2002 Biscuit fire roared through the region.

For more about the club, see www.siskiyoumountainclub.org

Reach reporter Jeff Duewel at 541-474-3720 or jduewel@thedailycourier.com

Aaron Babcock stands atop Hanging Rock in the Wild Rogue Wilderness. Photo courtesy of Gabriel Howe