Dave Willis continues to try to win support for the year-old expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, one pair of hiking boots at a time.
Willis and his Soda Mountain Wilderness Council have crafted this year’s version of their annual free public hike series to highlight some of the hidden attributes of the 113,008-acre monument’s newest additions, some of which are targets for removal from monument designation by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
“We want to help the public see what the expanded monument is on the ground, not just in the headlines, not just in print,” Willis says.
“We want people to have a relationship with it by being there,” he says.
The 10-hike series started last weekend with forays into the Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Area in the monument’s new lands in California on Saturday and a cross-county hike Sunday in the Sampson Creek Preserve.
Sunday’s hike and one planned on Memorial Day in the Grizzly Peak Preserve are “shuttle hikes” in which participants are driven to the apex elevation of the hike and work their way downhill in a one-way trek that is very difficult for people to replicate, Willis says.
“We’re giving people some experiences they can’t normally get on their own,” Willis says.
As always, the hikes are free and space is limited, so hikers must preregister for all but the June 9 hike by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Start times and meeting locations will be given to those who register.
The hike series runs from easy hikes to very difficult ones like a June 9 scramble down the Jenny Creek Canyon to Jenny Creek Falls and back.
Each hike has at least one experienced and professional naturalist to highlight the ecological wonder and biological crossroads lauded in President Barack Obama’s proclamation in expanding the monument just before leaving office in January 2017.
The monument is one of 21 eyed by the Trump administration for possible reduction in a still-unreleased report from Zinke.
The expansion also is the target of three federal lawsuits that challenge the legality of the expansion.
Arguments include challenging whether the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was improperly expanded into O&C Act lands, based on a 1940 internal Interior Department review that concluded O&C Act lands cannot be rolled into monument status, though that review has not been fully challenged in court.
The council has filed to argue in federal court on behalf of the government’s defense of that status.
Soda Mountain Wilderness Council hikes
Monday, May 28: Botanist John Villella will lead this shuttled trip. The group will hike the Grizzly Peak loop trail (elevation 5,922 feet) to its far west end, and then head cross-country and down through the Grizzly Peak Preserve to Pompadour Drive (elevation 2,200 feet). About 7 miles, long and difficult. Sign up at email@example.com to get more information and learn the 8 a.m. meeting point in Ashland.
Saturday, June 2: Ecologist Jay Lininger will lead a ramble around Canyon Ridge (elevation 4,400 feet). Impressive views west across the Bear Creek Valley and east to Table Mountain from this botanically interesting, obscure and very nice mixed-conifer and oak-savannah area. Moderate to difficult, 3 or 4 miles of mostly off-trail hiking, some steep. Sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information and learn the 9 a.m. meeting point in Ashland.
Saturday, June 9: SOU aquatic biologist Michael Parker will lead a tough, 4-mile round-trip hike along the Jenny Creek Canyon rim in Oregon (elevation 3,300 feet) and then very steeply down to the impressive, but little-known Jenny Creek Falls (elevation 2,700 feet) in California. The hike down to the falls and back is more like a mountain climb scramble. Quite difficult. Sign up with Michael Parker at email@example.com to get more information and learn the 8:30 a.m. meeting point in Ashland.
Sunday, June 17: Ramble along the top of Surveyor Mountain Ridge (elevation 6,500 feet) with National Park Service research ecologist and SMWC board member Dennis Odion in the Monument’s northeast corner. About two cross-country miles with relatively little elevation change. Easy. Sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information and learn the 9 a.m. meeting point in Ashland.
Saturday, June 23: National Park Service research botanist Dominic DiPaolo will explore the classic remnant forest of the Little Hyatt Old-Growth Groves (elevation 4,800 feet). Nice view across the upper Bear Creek Valley from the rim above Sampson Creek. Three-plus miles of off-trail hiking. Moderate or easy (route is adjustable). Sign up at email@example.com to get more information and learn the 9 a.m. meeting point in Ashland.
Thursday, June 28: Botanist Kristi Merganthaler and terrestrial ecologist Evan Frost will lead an early evening hike through beautiful older forests and flower-filled meadows to a viewpoint (elevation 5,850 feet) on Grizzly Peak overlooking the Bear Creek Valley. About three miles round-trip. Easy/moderate. Sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information and learn the 4 p.m. meeting point in Ashland.
Sunday, July 1: Ecologist Jay Lininger will lead a scramble up Vulture Rock (elevation 6,054 feet) above the Pacific Crest Trail near Griffin Pass for big views of Johnson Prairie, Surveyor Mountain, the upper Jenny Creek watershed, Mount McLoughlin and Mount Shasta. About three miles round-trip with some off-trail hiking, rock/talus hopping, and a few hands-and-feet climbing moves at the top. Easy-to-moderate hiking with a nontechnical climb to a summit that acrophobes may find very difficult. Sign up at email@example.com to get more information and learn the 8:30 a.m. meeting point in Ashland.
— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.