Early steps are taken to create Jacksonville-Grants Pass trail

A former Medford firefighter wants to create a mountain hiking trail linking Jacksonville with Grants Pass.

Applegate Valley resident Dave Calahan, who retired from the Medford Fire Department, envisions a roughly 20-mile-long trail along the ridge of the mountains between the Applegate and Rogue River valleys.

"This is still a work in progress, but it would definitely include some really beautiful stretches up on top," said Calahan, an avid hiker. "It would be an upland trail with a lot of elevation changes.

"The main trail is primarily on a ridge, so the views of places we can readily identify are fantastic and frequent," he said.

"The close-up perspective of familiar places in the Applegate Valley or along the Rogue River will be new, outstanding and enlightening."

Most of the land along the proposed trail route is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management or by timber companies, he said, adding that all lands crossed by the trail would need the approval of the land owners or managers.

The trail group behind the effort is the Applegate Trails Association. Calahan is the head of the three-member board heading the association, but he hopes to have at least seven board members. Calahan is approaching the project democratically. He held an online vote earlier this month with trail supporters, who elected to call it the "Applegate Ridge Trail."

On its east end, the new trail would link up to the proposed Jack-Ash Trail between Jacksonville and Ashland, he said, referring to a trail project being led by the Siskiyou Upland Trails Association.

"We don't know yet exactly how the connections will all work but there is a lot of enthusiasm for the (Applegate Ridge) trail," he said, adding he got the idea for the new trail from the Jack-Ash project.

Calahan has discussed the proposal with BLM officials.

"This is still at the very early stages — there is no funding for it right now," cautioned Howard Hunter, acting Ashland Resource Area manager for the BLM's Medford District.

The trail would also cross through an off-highway vehicle recreation area on Timber Mountain in the Medford District, he said.

"There are some potential conflicts that would have to be resolved," Hunter said.

Steve Croucher, president of the Motorcycle Riders Association, which has a roughly 500-acre parcel in the hills west of Jacksonville, indicated his organization would have no objections to the trail.

"The area we utilize is open to all activities," he said. "A hiking trail wouldn't conflict with other activities."

Croucher said he had been contacted by Calahan and plans to meet with him to go over the proposal.

"We are real pro-access with all user groups," Croucher said. "We want to be accommodating."

"We are focusing on a 'no motorcycle' trail, but part of it may be shared by users," Calahan said, adding that hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding would be the main uses.

In addition to having access at each end, the trail would be accessible from Slagle Creek, Humbug Creek and China Gulch on the Applegate side and Foots Creek and Birdseye Creek on the Rogue River side, he said.

The highest point in the mountain chain between the two valleys is Mount Isabelle, rising to 4,494 feet above sea level a few miles west of Jacksonville.

However, the highest point the trail would reach would be about 4,000 feet above sea level, he estimated.

"It's pleasant to be involved in a project that isn't 'anti' — a lot of people are very enthusiastic about this trail," Calahan said.

For more information on the proposal, contact Calahan at 541-899-1226 or dpcalahan@live.com.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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