Wagner Warriors reach finish line

Wagner Warriors reach finish line

for the Siskiyou Hiker
by Luke Brandy, volunteer

I am so proud of the hardy crew—some of whom are in their late 60s—for hiking 10 miles to clip brush on a 7,000-foot Butte with me. I call them the Wagner Warriors.

19 SEPTEMBER 2018 | SISKIYOU SUMMIT, OR. — The 2018 Wagner Butte workday was a success. I enjoyed the last Saturday of summer by tooling up and embarking on my first ever hike along the Split Rock trail. I was joined by a crew of volunteers, many of whom had participated in the work trip last October to clip brush on the #972 trail on the flank of Wagner Butte. This year the crew came back to clear the #1011 trail from Wagner Glade Gap to the lookout site.

When we started there was a light trace of frost on the ground in places, and while the air had a smudge of wildfire haze early on, the smoke had mostly settled into the valleys by the end of the day, improving the views of the surrounding Siskiyous and beyond.

Volunteer extraordinaire Jeff Thieret of Selma brought along a ferocious looking D-handle pruning saw and sharp lever-action loppers that easily sliced through encroaching brush. He was impressed by the high diversity of shrub species we encountered on the trail. My favorite was the sage, which smelled heavenly where we clipped it out of the tread. I ate a choke cherry for fun and it was even worse than I remembered from the last time I ate one.

The yellow jackets were plentiful and aggressive and some of the volunteers got stung by trail-side swarms, but they toughed it out and didn’t complain. Even our little dog got stung on the ear, but he shook it off and hiked like a champ. We encountered a trail runner early on and a hiker later in the day who was visiting the area from Bend and had decided to hike Wagner. They both thanked us profusely for improving the route they were enjoying.

I was glad to share venison meat sticks and cookies with the crew on the summit of Wagner, a small token of appreciation to them for helping to clear the brush out of the trail on one my favorite close-to-town hikes.

Volunteer Erin Brandy enjoyed the sunlight, which was already starting to take on that warm buttery fall glow, so different from the searing fireball of August. She also found great satisfaction in returning to Wagner to finish the job we started last year and in approaching the Butte from a different direction and getting a new perspective of the ridge.

SMC’s Deputy Director Karly White co-led the trip with me for her first Wagner summit and was able to engage all the different volunteers in discussions about the surrounding peaks, forests, and geology. Her optimism, positive attitude, and keen interest in the natural world was contagious. She also demonstrated how to eat mostly dry instant oatmeal with a rock and shared thrilling stories about secret wilderness spots.

While the Wagner Trail was not in awful shape like most of the wilderness trails we maintain, it felt very gratifying to give the brush a good haircut and allow the tread some breathing room since it is a very popular route during the summer hiking season. As always, there is more work to do: some logs remain to be cut out of the trail and some spots could use a little more lopper work, but overall the trail is in excellent shape after our strenuous efforts, and the hike back to the trailhead past all of our loppered accomplishments was a true joy.

I am so proud of the hardy crew—some of whom are in their late 60s—for hiking 10 miles to clip brush on a 7,000-foot Butte with me. I call them the Wagner Warriors. Working side by side with my Mom, Lynn, was a memorable experience and I was stoked to give her a high five on a job well done. There is nothing I’d rather do on summer’s last Saturday than clear some trail.

Sadly, the Split Rock Trailhead sign on the 20 Rd has been vandalized. Even the sign noting the presence of rare plants has been torn off the post and stolen. We saw evidence of trail poaching by mountain bikes despite the fact that this is a pedestrian-only trail due to botanical and erosion concerns. The Split Rock Trail tread is already blown out in places from the heavy mountain bike tires since it was not designed for their damaging impacts. There was also an unfortunate amount of toilet paper blooms along the trail.

While it was depressing to see so much disrespect for public lands and other hikers, I was inspired to redouble my efforts in educating the public. It is very important to share the principles of Leave No Trace.

I did not let the discovery of trail transgressions diminish my ecstatic vibe as we hiked back to the trailhead. The Wagner Warriors accomplished a ton of necessary work and left the public lands in better shape than when we found them. I was proud of the crew and admired their determination, work ethic, and devotion to the American trail legacy. ###

Luke Brandy is a lifetime volunteer and religion LNT practitioner. When he’s not on the trail, you might find him working on an endless list of home improvement projects in Ashland where he lives