Talk on Oregon Desert Trail on Wednesday

Adventure-seekers have a new choice thanks to the Oregon Desert Trail, a largely unmarked route that’s affectionately being called “the trail that’s not a trail,” the Oregon Natural Desert Association wants you to know.

But with 750 miles to choose from, how and where does one start? Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator Renee Patrick will present “Adventures on the Oregon Desert Trail” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, in the Gresham Room at the Ashland Branch Library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.

Patrick will share some helpful tips for maximizing the miles and enjoyment on desert hikes, and will introduce the 750-mile desert route which offers a deeply immersive experience, traversing stunning high desert terrain including the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Steens Mountain and the Owyhee Canyonlands.

Ashland-based long-distance hiker Mary Kwart will also share some stories from her 2016 section hike of the route, and the women will answer questions about water, navigation, camping, animals, desert driving and more.

To craft this 750-mile route on public land and public rights-of-way, founding organization Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) stitched existing trails, old Jeep tracks, and historical wagon roads, together with stretches of cross-country travel with the goal of improving access to the wonders of the desert and inspiring explorers to join ONDA in their conservation work in these landscapes.

Sections of the trail can be explored on foot, horseback, or by boat, bike and even skis in the winter. Some sections offer easy walks along well-marked paths. Other areas require GPS skills, significant outdoor experience, and serious preparation, particularly for water sources.

“To me, it’s a through-hike in an isolated place that promotes a conversation on land management, ethics and usage,” said Ryan Sylva, a hiker from Colorado who completed the trail in 2017, adding, “Hiking across a vast and remote landscape and having random and chance encounters with cowboys and hunters to discuss how ‘all of us’ should treat the land, how we all have a responsibility, no matter our political leanings, really showed me the pulse of the people in rural areas, especially here out west.”

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