Soda Mtn Wilderness 2013

View of  a cloudy Mt Shasta from Lone Pilot Trail 
30 January 2013 | Ashland, OR -- The SMC released its first trip date in the Soda Mountain Wilderness for 2013. 

The trip starts on Saturday, June 28 at an unofficial trailhead twenty-miles from Ashland. Hike along the Siskiyou Crest and into the Soda Mountain Wilderness Area, and spend a few days mostly brushing and installing primitive signage on the 11.9-mile Lone Pilot Trail.

Return to the trailhead by 5pm on July 1. The trip is open to anyone.

Enjoy constant and outstanding views of Mt. Shasta, Pilot Rock, and the wilderness' remote recess. Get to know the quiet of Ashland's closest designated wilderness.

Pilot Rock from Lone Pine Ridge
SMC provides tools, leadership, food, and tents if needed. Participants must have basic camping gear (backpack, sleeping bag), sturdy lace-up hiking shoes, and durable apparel (long-sleeved shirt, long pants, layers).

To sign-up, fill out the easy online application and we'll contact you shortly.

You can learn more about the Soda Mountain Wilderness here.

Inquiries? Email our Field Coordinator, Gabe Howe.

Last days to double your money

28 January 2013 | Ashland, OR -- Now through Thursday at midnight is your last chance to double your donation to the Siskiyou Mountain Club's 2013 scholarship fund.

The fund will be used to provide $1500 scholarships for graduating high school seniors from Jackson and Josephine Counties who participate in a 15-day trail project in southwest Oregon's Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area this July.

Recruiting is already underway at local high schools. 

The SMC Director's Society started the fund in November with up to a $3000 match for donations made until January 31. So far, the Club has received $2200.

Right now there is $4400 total in the fund. That's enough to provide three scholarships. Our goal is to provide at least five. 

Don't miss this opportunity to double your money and have a direct, positive impact on the lives of youth from southwestern Oregon. 

Give straight to the scholarship through our secure online checkout.

Checks may be sent to

340 A Street Ste 112
Ashland, OR 97520 

Reaching out

Rob Ginsbach and Jackie Kramer reach out
24 January 2013 | Cave Junction, OR -- The SMC has launched a new scholarship program for 2013. $1500 academic awards will be given to high school seniors from Jackson and Josephine Counties who participate in a 15-day trail project in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness July 2 - 16. Participants will also be required to participate in an orientation June 1 - 2.

The first round of recruiting was underway today at Illinois Valley High School in Cave Junction. SMC field coordinator Gabe Howe and crew leader Austin Kasner presented to a class of high school seniors.

"They were into it," says Kasner.

Kasner tells the audience his own inspiring story from his experience in 2012. The first day into his 8-day trip, blisters had already developed on his ankles.

"On the way out, I looked down, and they had callused over," Kasner says. "I'd hardened. I left a lot tougher, and a lot more confident."

"This is a unique opportunity," Howe tells the class of about 25, "because there are no terms other than service."

The award can be used toward any Oregon accredited college. Part time and non-traditional students are encouraged to apply. The monies will be distributed through the given college's financial aid department.

"We don't care about your GPA or extra curricular activities," says Howe, "all you have to do is participate."

To learn more and apply for the scholarship, click here. 

The Club currently has enough in the fund for almost three $1500 scholarships. Our goal is to raise enough money to provide five students with this amazing opportunity.

Inquiries can be made to SMC Field Coordinator Gabe Howe, howegabe(a), 541-708-2056

SMC kicks off new year with good news

Volunteers at the rim of Babyfoot Lake. September 2012. 
17 January 2013 | Ashland, OR -- The SMC kicked off the year right, with news we received a grant from the Carpenter Foundation. SMC director Gabe Howe submitted a grant proposal to them in November 2012.

Earlier this week we received a letter stating terms of the grant, and accepted the $3000 award to be used toward putting youth from Josephine and Jackson counties to work on the Trans-Kalmiopsis Route project. The funds will be used to offset the cost of food, transportation, and paying trained crew leaders.

They will be leading a 17-day crew represented by graduating seniors from Jackson and Josephine County high schools. Successful participants will receive a $1500 scholarship award to be used toward the Oregon accredited, non-profit college of their choice. Monies will be distributed through the given college's financial aid department.

Recruiting is already underway at area high schools, and the application is available here. The scholarship fund is currently at about $4200. That's almost enough for three crew members. We need at least five.

Those interested in participating should contact SMC director Gabe Howe, or head straight to our support page to contribute now. There you can ensure your money will go straight toward scholarships for youth who participate in our one of a kind program proven to enrich lives, develop applicable skills, and boost employment.

This was the first foundation grant the Club had applied for to be used in 2013. We aggregate funds from diverse sources to operate our programs.

The Club is proud to be joining a the Carpenter Foundation's list of  grantees, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the Ashland Independent Film project.

Continued: Boot diaries, daydreams, and nightmares

12 December 2013 | Ashland, OR -- Last spring, Keen Footwear offered SMC volunteers a  50% discount on boots to be used in the field on trail maintenance projects. I got my hands on a pair of 6-inch Portland PRs in July.
Logging out pine from the Lone Pilot Trail, Soda Mtn Wilderness
They took no time to break in as I hiked a crew into southwest Oregon's Soda Mtn Wilderness Area for a heavy maintenance project on the 12-mile Lone Pilot Trail. They held up to 8 days in the Soda Mtn Wilderness, and were comfortable right away.

But the real test came in August, when I took my Portland PRs for a trial in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, known for its rocky, rugged and steep terrain, many stream crossings, hot weather, and sheer abuse on hikers, volunteers, and the shoes they choose to wear.

I spent eighteen days down there with two crews. The first trial came when fording the Chetco River, with a heavy pack on my back and awkwardly balanced tools in my hand.

On my first crossing I stepped on a wobbly rock, forcing me to dip my boot into about 4" of rushing water to maintain stability. Upon inspection, my foot was dry. After fording the Chetco 9 more times, I became more and more comfortable with stepping on submerged rocks for balance, and letting the Chetco's water run freely over my foot.

Each time the Portland PR held up, keeping my feet dry and friction and blister free. I wasn't shy with the boots, and eagerly employed the steel toe for kicking rocks off the trail. I aggressively dug my heels and toes into rocky slopes for stability while working.

Other than some tearing to the sole, the Keen Portland PRs held up over about 30 days working in the field. Their claim to being waterproof is true, even after months of use. And they're tough, just what a Siskiyou Hiker needs.

Find more pictures of volunteers wearing Keen boots by clicking here.

Gabe Howe, SMC Field Coordinator

Preliminary decision issued on Chetco outfitting permit

Boater enjoying the Chetco River, photo courtesy Northwest Rafting Co. 
7 January 2013 | Ashland, OR -- In 2002 Allen Wilson’s outfitting business on the Chetco went up in smoke with the Biscuit Fire. His trail route into the Chetco through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness filled in with fire killed trees – thousands of them, leaving a crucial 3.5-mile section of trail, already on rugged terrain, impassable for a human, nonetheless a pack-string loaded to the brim with boats and gear.

But in recent years, perhaps in part to Oregon Field Guide’s expose on Wilson’s outfitting business, the Chetco started getting some attention from boaters, especially Zach Collier, owner-operator of Northwest Rafting Company, based in Hood River, OR.

“I had paddled the North Fork Smith,” Collier says, “And the Illinois, too. I wanted to know what was in between.”

Collier’s wonder-lust brought him to the Chetco’s headwaters first in 2011, when his party got lost but ended up at the Chetco via an off-trail adventure down the Slide Creek drainage. Collier was inspired by the Chetco and the remote mountain scape it took him through.

“I wanted to show it to others,” he says. So he applied for a commercial permit with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. And he waited.

Then last week, retiring Gold Beach District Ranger Alan Vandiver submitted a decision memo giving Collier the green light to operate for one year. In the memo, Vandiver describes the decision as “one of the most important of my career.”

The memo also gives the outfitter strict mandates to preserve the area’s pristine wilderness character.  Northwest Rafting Company will pack out all human waste and ashes from campfires, maintain the trail within established clearing limits, and keep group sizes to a maximum of 12, according to the memo.

Volunteer Sarah Shmigelsky scales up one of the lighter sections of the route
Collier plans on running a trip this June with two clients and four guides, but he’ll have to wait for a 30 day comment period after the news hits local papers. Then he’ll have to get to the Chetco, on a trail with thousands of logs on it, arranged some places in continuous stacks higher than six feet called “jackstraw.”

“Access is the big hurdle,” explains Collier. “Well go in a few days and do trail clearing first,” he says. Concurrently his crew will be running supplies, including boats, toward their launch site on the river. “Then guests will just have to navigate the trail with a small pack.”

Collier says his plan has been met with largely because of his company’s stringent leave no trace practices.

“We think Northwest Rafting Company has proven to have wilderness ethic,” says Joseph Vaile of Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. He says KSWild’s biggest concern is spread of the Port OrfordCedar disease, which travels on the wheel wells and tires of muddy cars.

Collier plans on driving his guests up a steep, sometimes muddy road to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness boundary.

“Using that road in wet conditions is about the worst thing you can do to spread the disease,” says Vaile. “We want to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Among the conditions set withVandiver’s decision, Northwest Rafting Company crews must wash all their equipment before even entering the forest. Collier won’t enjoy any privileged access to the road, so his company will have to wait until the gate opens just like anyone else.
J.R. Weir of Northwest Rafting Co on the "emerald green waters of the Chetco." 
Given all the restrictions and logistics, it could be hard for Collier to make the trips pencil out. He says it’s not about the money.

“I love seeing new places,” he says. “I like pushing the boundaries and getting to new places. That’s what this is about.”

Vaile says he’s optimistic about the proposal. “The more people that know a place, the more people appreciate it,” he says. “Once you see the emerald green waters of the Chetco—well. It’s just a very special place.”

The trips will last five days, says Collier. The float will be 18-24 miles, depending on flows. 

SMC gets office space

6 January 2012 | Ashland, OR -- The Siskiyou Mtn Club is now operating out of an office in Ashland's Hardwired Building, donated by generous funder John Fields, owner-operator of Golden-Fields Construction.
Suite 112
As its programs grew, the Club had identified the need for a space to work from, have meetings at, and conduct business officially.

The office is located at 340 A Street, Ste #112. The Club can also hold board meetings in Hardwired's shared conference room, which is equipped with lightning fast internet and a large monitor.

Golden-Fields has been operating for over 30 years in Ashland now, focusing on land use planning, architectural design, and construction techniques that promote environmental sustainability.

The 11,000 square foot Hardwired Building boasts great natural light, a natural and open wood-beam ceiling, great views, and proximity to the amenities of Ashland's railroad district and downtown area.

"Its natural, open feel is a good fit for the Club," says Howe. "It could be a the place for our volunteer appreciation night in May."

Golden-Fields' portfolio includes projects all around town, including a remodel of the Ashland Food Cooperative, the Jasmine Building downtown, and Barclay Square on Ashland Street.

2013 project dates released

1 January 2013 | Ashland, OR -- The Club has released its 2013 project dates, available at

In the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, early season crews will focus on recovering anterior sections of the Trans-Kalmiopsis Route that fill in every year with windfallen trees killed by the 2002 Biscuit Fire.

Trans-Kalmiopsis Project Map
Later crews will recover the last remaining 1.5-mile section of Upper Chetco Trail No 1102 between Taggart's Bar, where crews ended work in 2012, to Box Canyon, where crews ended in 2011. 

The Club is putting to work outgoing high school seniors from Josephine and Jackson Counties for a 17-day trip in the Kalmiopsis in July. Crew members will be rewarded a $1,500 academic scholarship. They'll be led by paid crew leaders recruited from Southern Oregon University.

"I'm excited to be passing on the torch to new crew leaders," says Howe, the Club's field coordinator. Two crew leaders will be trained in the spring at the High Cascade Volunteer's annual training in Westfir, Oregon.

Volunteers are also slated to work more in the Soda Mountain and Red Buttes Wilderness Areas. Those dates have not been set, but will likely fall in August.

Crew sizes will be determined by funding. "The more scholarships we can provide, the more youth we can put to work recovering legacy trail resources," Howe says.

Learn more how you can help at the Club's website. There supporters can give to the scholarship fund to ensure their money goes directly to providing academic opportunities for volunteers who serve.

"I can't wait to get out there, see the damage from this winter." says Howe. "It's already been windy and wet."

Trail sections like this need heavy annual maintenance because they are adjacent stands of timber killed by the 2002 Biscuit Fire 
Sign-ups and more trip details will be available shortly. Volunteers can sign up for the Memorial Day crew at this time.

The Club's long-term strategy is to identify sustainable trail connections in the Siskiyou backcountry that provide the best opportunities for solitude and a primitive, unconfined type of recreation, according to Howe. "Those are the trails we'll build the capacity to save."