Big Indian Gorge Trail Work August 2-6
About the place
Steens Mountain lies along the horizon of southeastern Oregon like a sleeping giant among a bed of sagebrush, perennial grasses, and wildflowers. Although often mistaken for a chain of mountains, Steens is actually one contiguous monolith — the largest fault block mountain in North America, stretching some 50 miles and reaching a mile vertically, with summits that overlook the Alvord Desert, wide canyons, and the Donner und Blitzen River. The Big Indian Gorge Trail is eight miles to the headwall of the gorge and passes through meadows as well as cottonwood and aspen groves.
About the stewardship work
ONDA created Oregon Desert Trail (ODT) a few years ago to link existing trails, old two-track roads, and cross country travel as a way to introduce hikers to the stunning landscapes found in Oregon’s high desert. The ODT’s overlap with the Big Indian Trail in the Steens Mountain Wilderness is definitely a highlight along the 750-mile route.
We typically head to the work site at 8 a.m. and stop work by 4 p.m. in order to leave time in the afternoon to clean-up, relax, and cook a well-deserved dinner. The work will involve using a crosscut saw to clear and move downed trees from the trail, and loppers and handsaws to clear brush from the corridor of the trail, as well as a variety of other trail tools to clear and maintain the corridor according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) trail standards. The section of trail we will be working on is along a magnificent glacier-carved gorge over 2,000′ from the summit above. ONDA will provide all instruction and necessary tools to do the job. No previous trail building experience is needed to attend this trip. All that is required is a love of the high desert, a big smile, and a willingness to learn.
- Thursday, August 2, noon.: We will meet at the South Steens Campground, and backpack into our camp (approx 4-5 miles). The BLM will provide a mule-team to pack our tools and some personal gear per person into the campsite. We will set up camp, and volunteers are welcome to hike or explore the area at their own leisure.
- Friday, August 3: After breakfast, we will begin our work removing trees, brushing, and maintaining the trail tread. Volunteers should plan to be out all day and be prepared for a full day of hiking and doing physical work in full sun.
- Saturday, August 4: After breakfast, we will continue our work removing trees, brushing, and maintaining the trail tread. Volunteers should plan to be out all day and be prepared for a full day of hiking and doing physical work in full sun.
- Sunday, August 5: After breakfast we will spend the morning learning about a unique aspect of the high desert environment. (Do you have specialized knowledge of the high desert you would like to share with your fellow volunteers? Our morning session could cover information about the local geology, plant or animal life, cultural history, or even involve a session of creating artwork or a piece of writing. Contact Renee for more information about this new educational opportunity on this volunteer trip). After lunch we will continue our work removing trees, brushing, and maintaining the trail tread.
- Monday, August 6: After breakfast, we will pack up camp, and backpack back to our cars at South Steens Campground. The BLM mule-team will be available to help pack out tools and gear. You’ve earned it!
We will be backpacking to our camp in Big Indian Gorge, approximately 4-5 miles in from the parking lot at South Steens Campground. We will be meeting at noon at the campground before backpacking in together.
Challenges will be backpacking several miles into the work site, physically strenuous work and hiking long distances at elevations between 5,000 – 7,000’, and hot daytime temperatures.
Participants are responsible for their own food, camping gear as well as transportation to and from the trip. In the event of sunny and hot weather, please bring up to four liters of water capacity for the day, and consider an electrolyte replacement drink or mix to help you stay hydrated. We will provide a gravity filter at camp, but please consider bringing a water filter for use during the day and to supplement the group filter. Sturdy off-trail ankle-high boots, long pants, a long sleeve shirt (a lightweight sun shirt is a great option), and eye protection are required for this trip (sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses are suitable eye protection). Participants should be prepared to be away from camp all day and bring a daypack for lunch, snacks, and water.
ONDA and the BLM will provide tools for the work, work gloves, sunscreen, and hardhats. We will provide a gravity filter for water, expert leadership, and we can talk about long distance hiking on Oregon Desert Trail. This is a backpacking-based trip, so volunteers will need to pack their gear (with some assistance from the BLM mule-team), and be prepared for an awesome backcountry camping experience.
An ONDA registration application and medical form are required for this trip.
You only need to fill this form out once per year and can join additional trips this year by emailing the trip leader directly. You will receive a confirmation email within 10 working days of submitting your form. The confirmation email will provide information regarding which trips you are on the “participant list” for, and which trips are full, and therefore you have been placed on the “waitlist.”
Six weeks before the start of the trip, the trip leader will send out an RSVP to make sure everyone is still able to participate. Based on RSVPs, open spaces will be backfilled with people from the waitlist.
Three weeks before the trip start date, registered and confirmed participants will receive driving instructions, maps, carpooling options, and additional information in an email sent by the trip leader
If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact the trip leader.