Boater's Wish List for 2013: The Chetco River

The Chetco River's "magic canyon" below Carter Creek
21 December 2012 | Ashland, OR -- The Chetco River has everything a backcountry boater could want. It's undeveloped and uncontrolled. And it's upper reaches are remote, wild. Pristine.

Boaters on their way up the Babyfoot Lake Rim on the Trans-Kalmiopsis Route
Over the years, many have hit its headwaters in southwest Oregon's 180,000-acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, but mostly quietly. To get to the Chetco's upper reaches, you have to hike -- far -- with a boat and a few days worth of food and supplies, on your back.

In recent years, various groups of boaters have made it into the Chetco and have come
back with stories of a beautiful canyon, quality whitewater, and crystal clear water. The
Chetco remains, however, one of the most difficult trips in Oregon to accomplish. But the
most challenging part of a Chetco trip isn’t the whitewater - it’s getting to the whitewater.

If it wasn’t already a brutal task, the 2002 Biscuit Fire's aftermath of falling trees made
the challenge even tougher. Thousands of fire-killed trees stacked in seasonal layers
have made access from Chetco Pass to Slide Creek via Upper Chetco Trail No 1102
Bailey Mtn Trail No 1109 to Carter Creek confluence

Now the most convenient access is at the Carter Creek confluence via the Trans-Kalmiopsis Route. That's a 9-mile hike from Babyfoot Lake. 
Siskiyou Mountain Club volunteers have been working for the last three years to keep the onslaught of falling trees and new brush at bay, and ambitious boaters unafraid of a long, tough hike have been using it to launch their trips.
Boaters who want to help keep the route open in 2013 should join the Club over the three-day Memorial Day weekend (May 25 – 27, 2013). 

  • Meet and network with other boaters who share an interest in running the Chetco
  • See first-hand what trail conditions are like to get into the Chetco
  • Familiarize yourself with the logistics of running the Chetco
  • Learn backcountry tips from seasoned Kalmiopsis trail crew leaders
Zach Collier runs the crosscut
This is a great introduction to navigating the Kalmiopsis' interior with leading field professionals, as well as a chance to put some sweat equity into the trail.

The Club provides leadership, tools, food and help with transportation. You provide some basic gear. 

Worth the read: 

9 December 2012 Trip Report

by SMC coordinator Gabe Howe
10 December 2012 | Soda Mountain Wilderness Area --

Yesterday morning longtime volunteer Lisa Stutey and I left Ashland at 5am for the Soda Mountain Wilderness. Our goal was to remove the last remaining downed log on the Lone Pilot Trail.
Blanket of fog 
By the time we arrived at the trailhead, it was still dark and frozen. The trail was cold, crunching beneath our tired feet.

But after less than an hour light started to crack, revealing a thick cover of fog on the valley floors to the south toward Mt. Shasta. From Lone Pine Ridge, the views were stunning.

The last log remaining on the Lone Pilot Trail was about 7-miles from the trailhead, and we arrived there by 930am. Lisa got straight to work on the large ponderosa pine.
Lisa runs the crosscut solo

By the time we were done sawing and chopping and rolling, the sun was out and shining very close to us.
After. Our work reduces erosion caused by hikers and stock being forced to circumvent the original tread.
On our sore hike back, we took a few breaks, admiring the winter views in what felt like summer sun. We rearranged layers as we braided through sunny and shady sections of the route.

"This is why I think I will stay in Oregon," Stutey told me as we stared south over the sunny slopes of the Soda Mountain Wilderness.
Mt Shasta from Lone Pilot Trail near Scotch Creek
We were back to the trailhead by 5pm. While 14 miles may seem like a long ways to hike for just one log, the satisfaction is unparalleled. Especially with those winter views.

Kalmiopsis leprechauna

Bailey Mtn | 7 December 2012 --

When you're down there in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, make sure to be aware of the Kalmiopsis leprechauna, a dwarfed hominid species that evolved in the deep nooks and crannies of the Chetco and North Fork Smith watersheds.

They are descendants of lost Irish sailors from before Lewis & Clark’s time and evolved to depend on mostly moonshine and peridotite soil for sustenance. They had their own distillery operations dating into the 1970s, but the USFS quietly shut them down.

Rarely photographed Kalmiopsis leprechauna in captivity
Now the small groups of leprechauna still living in the Kalmiopsis depend on booze stolen from the area's few gold-miners, hikers, fishermen and horsemen. They stalk groups and at night ransack camps quietly for whiskey and gold. 

Anthropologists and linguists studied the leprechauna into the early 20th century, but much research and record was lost. They are a ferrell people that can be tamed, but only with adequate whiskey. It is not uncommon for one leprechauna, who are on average about 3.5' and 70 lbs, to consume a half gallon of Jim Beam (their whiskey of choice) in one day.

Most leprechauna populations are willing to make deals to stop harassing and stealing from groups. When negotiating peace or passage with the leprechauna, make sure to be extremely clear on appropriations of whiskey and to get all agreements in writing. Also, try and make a deal for indefinite travel rights through their territory. Even though this might demand what seem like obscene amounts of booze, it's worth it; the leprechauna, while wild, keep to their word.

First and foremost remember, if you encounter the Kalmiopsis leprechauna, to

  • Stay calm
  • Get appropriated amounts of whiskey and agreed upon access rights in a written contract
  • Take notes and contact the Kalmiopsis leprechauna Research Foundation


The Director's double your money pledge

SMC Founder and Director Gabe Howe, Soda Mtn Wilderness Area
by Gabe Howe

Ashland, OR | 4 December 2012 -- Now is your chance to double the value of your year-end tax deductible gift to the SMC.

I will take up to $500 of my own hard earned money to match internet donations made between Dec 4 and Dec 31.

Your money will help

  • provide unique service experiences for volunteers and students
  • preserve threatened wilderness trails
  • put young people to work in the woods
I have put a lot of hard work and sacrifice into the Club over the last few years. Now I'm opening my wallet. You should, too.  

Gabe Howe

SMC logo demystified

The original SMC logo from the original t-shirt
by Gabe Howe

Ashland, OR | 3 December 2012 -- The Club logo has received quirky feedback over the years. One volunteer on a trip told me it looked cheesy. Others have not been so nice, and a couple people even say they like it.

But most logo criticism I receive is neutral, as is the tone of the logo, and for those that don't know, there's a story behind it.

Original SMC t-shirt
First of all, it was made by no professional of anything. It was made by me arranging a bunch of clip art in's t-shirt design software. It was July 2010, and I didn't necessarily need a logo; I needed a shirt. But as I pieced the "cheesy" art together, I did have a plan.

The lightning-bolt shaped river was to represent wild rivers juxtaposed to a landscape defined by frequent lightning fires, which shaped the bare looking tree. On top it I placed the most jumbled mountain range available in CustomInk's index.

And on top it all, a hiker, a human, having a wilderness experience. But the hiker isn't alone. She has a pulaski, perhaps the most universal trail tool, in her hand, ready to serve, ready to work. She marches onward and upward, ready to tackle the next challenge, knowing well she'll have to tackle it again.

Sometimes the Club logo will appear with our tagline -- Volunteer Explore Enjoy -- wrapped around the bottom or next to the design. Sometimes the website may also be wrapped around the bottom.

Volunteer Matt Cortese has helped with his services in bringing the logo from a cropped t-shirt image to something we can use for letterhead, websites and other communications.

Gabe Howe