A little cloud cover and a lot of coffee was enough to get about a dozen mountain bikers to put in some trail time in the Willamette National Forest in early June.
“Some of these folks were actually at last weekend's event, some volunteers come out quite a few weekends in a row,” said Gabriel Tiller. “I think we're going have about 15 total today and tomorrow.”
Tiller is the executive director of the Oregon Timber Trail Alliance. The Oregon Timber Trail (OTT) stretches north to south across the state—from the California border to the Columbia River Gorge. Almost 700 miles of trail in all, split into four tiers.
“I think it's a testament to just how many amazing public lands we have here in Oregon,” Tiller said. “I really just love the exploration component of it. I think that's what really drew me to something like the Timber Trail...it's not just fitness or it's not just exploration, or it's not just like the thrill the fun of it, it's sort of a combination of all those.”
The group gathered at Tule Lake for a multi-day camping and stewardship event. The morning kicked off with safety talk led by Gabriel, then the group took off for the trail, with bikes in tow-- but this wasn’t a riding event.
“The trail user that does the most damage to the any trail is usually water,” said Tiller.
Volunteers split into two groups, one improved drainage and repaired erosion off the North Pyramid Trail, the other cleared overgrowth at Daly Lake. Winter can take a toll on these recreation areas, so the OTT Alliance uses stewardship events like this one to get it into summer shape.
“I had guiltily not really done much trail maintenance until the Timber Trail started and we heard from the national forests. They're like, ‘well if you're going to do this trail across the whole state, you need to help out with trail maintenance.’ So we're like, ‘okay, let's figure out how to do that,’” Tiller said.
The OTT submerges you in the outdoors, but a big goal is to support the rural communities is cuts through. This work was done near Idanha, not far from Detroit, where wildfire devastation is obvious. “The trails that the Timber Trail follows through these forests were largely undamaged. But obviously, unfortunately, the fires spread through a lot of communities and destroyed a lot of homes, and a lot of businesses.”
Tiller hopes riders will stop in these places, spending a few bucks at a local bar or restaurant, dropping some money in the local economy as they rebuild.
Connor Reilly knocked down a lot of the overgrowth at Daly Lake, he sounds like everyone else on the volunteer crew. “I’ve been doing events (with the OTT Alliance) for a few years, and they take me to places in Oregon that I wouldn’t otherwise go. I like riding my bike in remote areas and so I should give back as well,” he said.
Making it better for the next hiker, trail runner, or bike. After a section is repaired, that’s when the bikes come out for a test run.
“You have that ownership over the trail now too...Every time you drive past or come out here again you're going to be like, ‘oh I remember when I cut that log, or dug that drain, or did that work there,’” Tiller said. “And you're just going to really appreciate that feeling that much more.”
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