Trails and Tarmac is a relatively new company in the grand scheme of things. We are small, but we had been talking this year about how we might start to give back and make a difference outside of our coaching programs as a small company. After a long search through different organizations we settled on a group called the Siskiyou Mountain Club. Our monetary contribution would barely crack four figures, which would not go far in large organizations, but with a small grass roots non profit like SMC we can make a real difference. This article talks about why we chose to give to SMC, what they do here in Southern Oregon and Northern California, and how their model for trail restoration may be extremely important beyond our region.

The lifeblood of trail runners the world around, more than VO2 max or lactate threshold are trails. Without trails there would be no place for the trail runner to express what it is that they hold dear. Of course there are thousands of miles of trails around the world, BUT there is a growing problem in many of the large wilderness areas of the American West. There are thousands of miles of trails on the maps which in reality have been lost to deferred maintenance, fire, and budgetary problems. Of course I could write about whose fault all of this is and how “someone” should do something about it, but that is hardly productive. And it turns out someone already was.

In steps the Siskiyou Mountain Club. This group was founded by a guy named Gabe Howe and his wife Jill. In 2006 they came to Southern Oregon to hike in the Kalmiopsis wilderness, a range of rugged coastal mountains between Grants Pass and the Pacific Ocean. This landscape had been ravaged by fire and its trails had been left for dead. Gabe and Jill came back from their first trip with deep fondness for this unique 180,000 acre tract of wild land, but they were upset by the impossibility of reaching across its width due to the trails being generally impassible with 1000+ trees down over the trail in a single mile at times. Soon Gabe and Jill started calling around to local environmental groups, to the forest service who administered the area, asking about what was being done to fix these trails. The short answer was not much.

SMCs newest hire Deputy Director Karly White, crosscut saw in hand

So instead of complaining about how “someone” should do something they did, gathering people together to forge ahead without the government or other environmental groups. They took it upon themselves to begin cutting out 1,000s of trees by hand with cross cut saws, thinning miles of brush and grading badly sloped tread. It was a trial by fire. Gabe and Jill had no experience in this kind of work, and they had not created a non profit before. They  were in their mid 20s in 2008 when they began what would become the Siskiyou Mountain Club.

Middle Fork of the Rogue along the recently restored Rogue Wolf Loop in the Sky Lakes Wilderness

Today, the Siskiyou Mountain Club is a burgeoning non profit committed to the mission of restoring, maintaining, and promoting the backcountry trails of Southern Oregon and far Northern California. They have adopted nearly 300 miles of trail in seven different wilderness areas (Kalmiopsis, Red Buttes, Siskiyou, Wild Rogue, Sky Lakes, and Soda Mountain, Marble Mountains). The trails they have taken on were often lost to human use, and could have been forever if it were not for the work of SMC, its staff, and volunteers who stepped up and took on what seemed to be an insurmountable challenge.

These vast landscapes can easily be lost to humans in any real sense. Without a trail the land becomes so harsh, so difficult to travel through that few could ever find the time or the energy to reach into these mountain ranges. So it is with great enthusiasm that Trails land Tarmac has become a business supporter of Siskiyou Mountain Club. In addition to our monetary contributions we are excited about other skills and work we can bring to the table to help support and grow the mission of restoring, maintaining, and promoting backcountry trails here at home and farther afield. Below you can find a link to check out what SMC is up to as well as  a map of the trails SMC has adopted so far. We are stoked for what’s in store in 2019 and beyond!

CalTopo Map of the Siskiyou Mountain Club Trails