Hiking groups do more than just hike

When people think of hiking clubs, they probably envision groups that lead hikes in the forests and mountains — and they’d be right.

But Southern Oregon is home to a number of organizations that do a lot more than hike — they actually get their hands dirty keeping trails open, and in some cases they are building new thoroughfares in the backcountry.

Gabe Howe, director of the Siskiyou Mountain Club, knows trails don’t just happen on their own. Trail markers don’t jump onto tree trunks by themselves, and vandalized trail signs aren’t self-cleaning. Storm damage isn’t cleared by magic elves, and fallen trees from raging wildfires don’t move themselves.

So it’s a good thing Howe knows how to organize people interested in seeing that work gets done.

“We have more interest from the community than we can coordinate,” he says. “And it is something anybody can do.”

Hiking, like most outdoor activities, has its seasons, but the work to maintain trails goes on year-round. Siskiyou Mountain Club had volunteers out restoring trails throughout the winter. This year, a major focus of that work is cleaning up damage from last years’ wildfires.

Howe and several of his friends created the SMC in response to damage across the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, much of it from the 2002 Biscuit fire.

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