Out Our Back Door By Tom Baake
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Trails and Estuary in Focus This Saturday
By Tom Baake
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A veritable flotilla of stand-up paddlers closes in on the docks at the Coos Bay Boardwalk during last year’s Stand Up! For the Bay. This year’s event is Saturday.

The last Saturday in September has taken on special significance in recent years as a date to celebrate our array of outdoor opportunities, for not only is it National Estuaries Day, but also National Public Lands Day.

On the local scene, activities will range from the annual Stand Up! For the Bay paddling event in the Coos Bay estuary, to a restoration project on the Bureau of Land Management’s Blue Ridge trail system east of Coos Bay.

Participants in the paddling event can choose between joining other kayakers, canoeists, and stand-up paddle boarders in a leisurely “community paddle,” or take part in a shoreline clean-up.

Registration for the paddle starts at 9 a.m. this Saturday and the event kicks off at 10 a.m. from the Coos Bay Boardwalk in downtown Coos Bay. Event sponsors say the route is “designed for ease of travel, with consideration of tide and wind direction. The route will be moderate in length and will take 1-2 hours. A boat and two lifeguards will be on watch for safety purposes. Lifejackets are required. Non-paddlers can walk along the Boardwalk in either direction collecting shoreline garbage. Gloves, buckets, and bags will be provided.”

Participants will congregate again on the Boardwalk at 11 a.m. after the paddle and clean-up (or in the Broadway Theater, depending on weather), for a luau, live music by Che's Lounge, and educational activities by South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and Coos Watershed.

A highlight at 12 noon will be the popular “paddle jousting” event in which opponents on stand-up boards try to spill each other into the bay.

Registration is free and includes the community paddle and entry into the paddle joust. Meal and beer tickets will be sold separately for $10 (as will t-shirts), with proceeds benefitting the Blue Water Task Force, a monthly water-quality testing program by the Coos Bay chapter of Surfriders International.

The latter group’s Facebook page has more details.

Meantime, up in the mountains . . .

Much of the BLM’s Blue Ridge area east of the Bay Area     has been technically closed to public access for quite a few years for selective logging and what a BLM informational sign called “research on density management.”

There weren’t actual iron gates barring entry, just lots of signs, road-building and logging. The area at Blue Ridge’s highest point – one-time fire lookout site – was also cleared to accommodate another communications tower joining several already there.

Also heavily impacted was the 12-mile Blue Ridge trail system popular with dirt bikers, OHVers, hikers, mountain bicyclists and equestrians. Parts of some trails were in areas logged or bulldozed for logging spurs or otherwise rendered impassable. Other areas remained unaffected.

With logging concluded, the BLM wants to restore the trail system, and that’s where this Saturday’s work session comes in.

According to a BLM press release, participants will “help cut back overgrown vegetation, put in water bars, mark trails with signs or markers, remove debris, cut trees off the trails, as well as litter pick-up.” There’s a limited supply of shovels, loppers and rakes, so bring your own if you want.

Volunteers will receive a t-shirt and a certificate for a “fee-free” day at any BLM, National Park, U.S. Forest Service, or Army Corps of Engineer site, as well as refreshments.

Even if you can’t make it to the trail work party, you can enjoy Blue Ridge on your own at any time, now that it’s officially re-opened for public access.

There are several ways to get to Blue Ridge; for example from the Coos Bay Wagon Road (called Coos-Sumner Ln. in this section) or via Catching and Stock sloughs. The “Wagon Road” route includes a brief but rough stretch of gravel road with tight turns. Blue Ridge Road itself is paved, although the roads to the trail system are gravel.

Here are directions for the “Wagon Road” route. From the south end of Coos Bay, head 4 miles south on US 101 and turn left on Coos-Sumner Ln. Once in Sumner the road name changes to Sumner-Fairview Ln. Continue east, taking on the aforementioned rough stretch, and at 7.6 miles from US 101, turn left (N) onto Blue Ridge Rd. (BLM 26-12-4.2). Continue 2.4 miles and turn right on BLM 26-12-35.0. Go 0.1 miles and turn right on BLM 26-12-35.1. Go 0.9 miles and turn left on BLM 26-12-35.4.  Continue 0.3 miles to the parking area.

Read more information, get directions from other locales, and see maps at www.neefusa.org/site-event/coos-bay-blue-ridge-trails.

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of “Oregon South Coast Bicycle Ride Guide” and other guidebooks.)
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