Salvaging the Shorty Noble Trail

Salvaging the Shorty Noble Trail

Volunteers summon the Shorty Noble Way Trail 1185, Kalmiopsis Wilderness, Illinois River

for the Siskiyou Hiker

18 MARCH 2017 | KALMIOPSIS WILDERNESS, ORE. — A crew of six SMC volunteers recently put in some major work on the Shorty Noble Way Trail 1185, Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

Get there
The trail is an approximately one mile spur that connects with the Illinois River National Recreation Trail about four miles west of Briggs Creek on the Wild Rivers Ranger District.

A few weeks ago, Field Coordinator Aaron Babcock predicted it would take four weekends to bring the trail to Forest Service standards.

But the group that worked March 11-12 got more done than Babcock expected. “They crosscut over 100 logs,” he says. “And brushed about 3/4 of a mile that was a tanoak jungle.”

I never realax
It was Bekkah McAlvage’s first trip with the Siskiyou Mountain Club. But before that she’d worked for 10+ years on trails in Idaho, California, and Alaska. “Aaron [Babcock] has high standards, and I appreciate that,” she says.

Now McAlvage is an elementary teacher with twin girls. “I never relax.”

Steve Eddy’s been volunteering with the Club for about a year. He works as a nurse practitioner for the VA in Klamath Falls and says he hopes people use the trail. “It was kind of park like,” Eddy mentions. “Not as steep as the Pine Flat Trail.”

SMC maintains the Illinois River Trail to Pine Flat each year, and has been busy slowly restoring sections of the trail that were improperly maintained by an outside group as recently as 2014.

The mistakes of others
“We’ve been using donor funds to fix the mistakes of others,” says Executive Director Gabriel Howe about the Illinois River Trail. According to him, another group paid by the Forest Service maintained user braids through many trail sections, “instead of restoring the native trail bench. They cut a lot of corners,” says Howe.

Gary W.
Last fall Babcock came across an abandoned campsite at Clear Creek that wasn’t there spring 2016. He found a note there signed by one “Gary W.” “And there was a dead body,” Babcock says. “Of a mouse, in Gary’s tent.”

While Babcock has been keeping up on restoring and maintaining the Illinois River Trail since 2013, the Shorty Noble Way hadn’t been maintained since well before the 2002 Biscuit Fire.

“It’s a good thing you guys decided to open it up,” Eddy says. He’d like to believe the gear was left after a backpacking trip gone wrong. “That’s a nicer story than the one that he died in the creek.”

Legacy of trash
Retired Kalmiopsis Wilderness Ranger Rene Casteran says he never met Shorty, but that he did clean up plenty of trash from around the old site. “The cabin was gone by the time I started patrols in 1986.”

“I don’t think the bridge was designed by Forest Service engineers,” Casteran jokes.

He did not take to strangers much
Bob Maynard says he met Shorty back in the late 70s. “He did not take to strangers much, but for some reason liked me and invited me to camp near his cabin for a week,” says Maynard. “I remember his carrot patch. He attributed eating them to his good health and long life.”

To McAlvage, Wilderness is really important. “Doing something meaningful in the wilderness supersedes my need to kick back,” she says.

“They did an awesome job,” Babcock says.

Babcock and his volunteers packed out the abandoned camp he’d discovered last fall in contractor bags.

Gary’s body
“I don’t know where Gary W.’s body is,” Babcock says in a speculative tone of voice. “But the gear he left to rot next to the trail is now rotting in a landfill.”

He was happy with the group’s progress. “With a team like this, it will take just one more weekend to finish up the trail,” he says. “They were great.”

To hike Shorty Noble, get the Wild Rivers Map (available at our website, delivers within one week). And if you’d like to help on the trail, email

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Your donations go to restore and maintain trails like the one in this story. We are a 501(c)(3) public charity and your charitable gifts are tax-deductible as allowed by IRS tax code. Our tax-id number is 27-3418419.