Greater Hells Canyon Council (GHCC) has announced they are prioritizing the development of the Blue Mountains Trail in northeast Oregon in order to change how the recreation infrastructure of the region is maintained, engage more people to utilize and appreciate the beauty of these landscapes and get more people involved in its conservation efforts.
Also referred to as the Greater Hells Canyon Region, the Blue Mountains are a unique region composed of multiple eco-regions. The mountains and valleys of the Blues connect the Rockies, Cascades and Great Basin, and with a small human population density, they serve as a critical wildlife corridor. This poorly understood corner of Oregon has pockets of overwhelmed recreation destinations, while many true wilderness trails are now neglected.
Last October, volunteer hikers Whitney “Allgood” La Ruffa from Portland-based Six Moon Designs, Naomi “The Punisher” Hudetz from Treeline Review and Mike “Iron Mike” Unger, were the first thru hikers to successfully complete a 588-mile version of the new trail and provide valuable feedback to GHCC. Learn more about their journey and findings here: https://youtu.be/WTXYm-zKywk
Six Moon Designs has a vested interest in the revitalization of the Blue Mountains Trail. The company’s headquarters are based in Oregon and Founder Ron Moak has expressed a desire to focus on emerging trails and spread out utilization of resources for outdoor recreation. In January 2021 Six Moon Designs solidified its commitment to the effort by becoming the first business sponsor for the Trail.
“As one of the first thru hikers of the new Blue Mountains Trail, I am thrilled that Six Moon Designs is the first business partner with GHCC to move things forward for future hikers on this amazing trail, said Whitney La Ruffa, Six Moon Designs VP of Marketing and Sales. “Our love of exploring wild places and our company’s deep ties to Oregon make this the perfect project for us to support, and we’re looking forward to doing more trail work with GHCC this summer.”
GHCC is picking back up where the Blue Mountains Heritage Trail left off, a monumental lift by longtime conservationist and Hells Canyon Preservation Council (GHCC’s former name) board member Loren Hughes who began working on the idea in the late 1970s.
“We are thrilled with the progress and momentum on the Blue Mountains Trail,” said Jared Kennedy, GHCC’s Development Director who is also leading up the trail effort. “Whitney, Mike, and Naomi’s hike, along with the logistical support provided by Ron and Six Moon Designs’ business sponsorship, have been instrumental in taking a concept with lines on the map to a visitor-ready long-distance trail.”
The Blue Mountains Trail is now a 566 mile point-to-point, with a spiral shape connecting its termini at Wallowa Lake State Park near Joseph and John Day. The rerouting allowed GHCC to accomplish a number of goals for the trail. All seven wilderness areas of northeast Oregon are on the route, including the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the Elkhorn Crest section of the North Fork John Day Wilderness, and the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. It crosses the summit ridges of the subranges composing the Blues: the Wallowas, Elkhorns, Greenhorns and Strawberries. It descends to the Snake River in the heart of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. It requires no new trails to be built and limits both road walks and bushwhacks. And it connects hikers to some of northeast Oregon’s most inviting and recreation minded communities.
And like most thru hikes, this one is still a work in progress. The trail traverses some challenging terrain, including canyons choked with debris following recent burns, unmaintained trails overgrown with salmonberry, Ceanothus, blackberry, and poison ivy, and a section that was flooded out in early 2020. It may take years to solve these challenges, so alternate routes provide safe walking passage for hikers wishing to avoid these pitfalls.
For more information and to sign up for trail news and updates, visit https://www.hellscanyon.org/blue-mountains-trail. More resources, including maps and trail guides, will be published to the website in the coming months.
Greater Hells Canyon Council (GHCC) is a rural-based conservation organization headquartered in La Grande, Oregon. It was founded in 1967 as Hells Canyon Preservation Council to achieve the “impossible,” stopping the construction of two dams on the Snake River in Hells Canyon and leading the effort that resulted in the formation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Today, GHCC works to keep wild places wild, restore essential ecological processes and habitats, and create a more connected landscape across the Greater Hells Canyon Region and much of Northeast Oregon. You can learn more about our work, including the Blue Mountains Trail, online at www.hellscanyon.org.
About Six Moon Designs
Six Moon Designs was born on the Pacific Crest Trail by Ron Moak, an avid thru-hiker who sought out much lighter weight gear than what was available at the time. In 2002, Moak introduced his first product the Europa Tent, a 33oz. single wall sil-nylon shelter, and the backpacking community quickly embraced the ultralight backpacking ethic. Soon, other innovative Six Moon Designs products followed including the Gatewood Cape, a combination poncho/shelter system and the Starlite Pack, a pioneering frameless pack with a large carrying capacity, all setting the bar for affordable, durable and lightweight backpacking gear. Today, Six Moon Designs continues to be on the cutting edge of ultralight innovation and strives to make quality ultralight tents, shelters, backpacks and other accessories designed to get more people outdoors. www.sixmoondesigns.com.