Hiking book author advocates protections

Local resident Luke Ruediger has penned not just a hiking book, but a call for action to support the proposed Siskiyou Crest National Monument.

After eight years of work, Ruediger self-published "The Siskiyou Crest: Hikes, History & Ecology" this year.

He walked all 76 hikes featured in the book — sometimes more than once.

Ruediger, who lives in a remote area above Applegate Lake, is a lifelong Southern Oregon resident and has been hiking the Siskiyou Mountains for two decades.

The 34-year-old is an advocate for the Siskiyou Crest National Monument, which would cover approximately 600,000 square miles of land.

The monument would include the Siskiyou Mountains, which scientists say serves as a high-elevation land bridge of biodiversity between the Coast Range to the west and the volcanic Cascades to the east.

"My book is not just to get people out in the mountains, but to get them to advocate for and act on behalf of the mountains," Ruediger said.

Although President Bill Clinton designated the almost 53,000-acre Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in 2000, Ruediger said that national monument east of Ashland protects only a small portion of land that is under threat.

"I see the Siskiyou Crest National Monument as the unfinished business of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument," he said.

Unlike the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the Siskiyou Crest National Monument has — so far at least — failed to gain much political traction at the national level.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was hotly debated, and the Siskiyou Crest National Monument has also gained staunch supporters and fierce opponents on both sides of the Oregon and California border.

Ruediger argues in his book that the Siskiyou Crest region is threatened by logging, mining, all-terrain vehicle use, grazing, the killing of predators, Rogue River jet-boating, the proposed expansion of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area and other activities.

Among the hikes Ruediger details is an outing into the proposed ski expansion area — a hike he believes would cause people to oppose the expansion.

The owner and operator of Black Oak Forest Restoration LLC, Ruediger has found a way to make a living off the land by doing thinning, prescribed burning and native grass and wildflower re-seeding for private landowners and organizations.

Although Ruediger states from the beginning of his book that he is writing with a strong bias toward wildland protection, there is much to enjoy in the book even for people who don't share his environmental views.

As Ruediger points out, the Siskyou Crest marks a convergence of landscapes that allows hikers to experience everything from dry, sagebrush-covered slopes to deep, dark old growth forest to exposed, craggy ridge lines to hidden alpine lakes.

Whatever a hiker is interested in seeing on an outing, there is a hike to match that desire. Black and white photos scattered throughout the book offer a sneak peek at what could lie ahead on a trip.

Ruediger also has interesting historical notes mixed in, such as information on the historic Harlow mining cabin south of Ruch, the naming of Dutchman's Peak and conflicts between American Indians and early settlers.

Readers can learn about the carnivorous cobra lily, Alaska yellow cedar, ghost-like gray pine and other species in the area.

Ruediger said most hiking books give directions to trailheads and descriptions of what hikers will see on outings.

He said he wanted to offer more so that a person could sit back and enjoy reading and learning about the Siskiyou Crest when not on the trail.

"I want people to have a deeper sense of place so they will have a more intimate relationship with their home," Ruediger said.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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