State of Jefferson Trade Route
● By Gary VanDeWalker
Inhabit TrailOctober 2014
By Gary Vandewalker
Photos: Taryn Burkleo
Between the pacific ocean and the town of Yreka, the mountains roll away from the sea in waves of redwoods and breakers made of pine. The wilderness is crisscrossed with the deer trails and the abandoned roads of adventuresome loggers and miners. Small towns appear, witnesses to the passing history. The wind blows through the stands of timber, awaiting new explorers. Over this sea of trees are cast the future hopes of the State of Jefferson Trade Route.
The route came to life through the momentary ponderings of Yreka Police Chief Brian Bowles, as he wished there was a road stretching from Yreka to the ocean where he could drive to the coast. “We heard his thoughts and jumped in with both feet,” says Jeff Strutz, vice president of the Siskiyou County Off-Road Riders. “Ever since, we have had so much support. We have been amazed.”
Siskiyou County Off-Road Riders are visionaries, as they promote the safety and enjoyment of off-highway vehicles. This past winter, member Darrel Collins presented to the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors a bold venture to connect existing roads and trails while creating easements over three highway crossings. With the cooperation of Yreka, the county, state and federal agencies, the Off- Road Riders look to pioneer a new pathway to the ocean for off-highway vehicle enthusiasts. A recent meeting with the California Off-Road Highway Commission brought more enthusiasm and possible funding for the project.
The proposed route moves through 250 miles of forest, passing through Yreka, Seiad Valley and Happy Camp. The journey culminates in the views of the Northern California coastline with its sandy beaches and rocky vistas. Beginning in Yreka, the rider passes streets once filled with hopeful miners. The trail moves through the small town of Seiad Valley, past the General Store and Cafe where the morning smell of bacon and hotcakes lures travelers who are greeted by
hikers from the nearby Pacific Crest Trail. Entering Happy Camp, the vehicles maneuver through the heart of the Klamath River area, perhaps under the gaze of the elusive Bigfoot said to roam these hills. “This is such an opportunity to open up the North State to people, bringing new people to the area while giving the thrilling experience of moving from the high desert to the coast,” Strutz says.
The State of Jefferson Trade Route would provide another door to the camping, fishing and magnificent scenery of Northern California. Existing campgrounds and the small cities along the route provide an infrastructure for a three-day journey to the coast. To the north, Oregon enjoys an annual revenue of $250 million from off-highway vehicle recreationists. By directing the route through the present forest roads and the communities along the way, the benefits of another layer of recreation enhance and highlight the natural resources already present. “All the path is already open to highway legal vehicles; however, it’s not signed or altogether ready for an off-highway experience,” Strutz says. “Our longrange goal is to develop a place for off-highway vehicles that is safe, not damaging to the environment and where the controlled experience highlights the beauty of the sport and nature.”
In a place where people traversed a continent to explore and touch another sea, the same pioneer spirit is captured with The State of Jefferson Trade Route. As Strutz reflects, “What better thrill can there be than to ride here in the North State with the goal of discovering the ocean?”