Dust off your hiking shoes and get to Badger Mountain. There's a new trail to be conquered.
Those who have hiked the existing trails know going up can be a challenge. The new route offers hikers some new scenery to help make it worth the effort.
Not that it wasn't already rewarding enough. There is no better way to take in the vista of the Tri-Cities and get a good workout at the same time than to travel the Badger Mountain network of groomed paths.
The new Sagebrush Trail branches off the popular Canyon Trail, which begins at Trailhead Park, near the West Cliff housing development. It leads to the ridge road, allowing hikers to make a 3.2-mile loop, rather than taking the same route up and down the mountain on the Canyon Trail.
The new hike is definitely a labor of love by trail users and enthusiasts. The Friends of Badger Mountain claim that 59,000 people used the trail from May 2008 to May 2009. Of course, those numbers don't distinguish unique visitors, and we know some diehard trail users who frequent Badger several times a week.
Work on the new multi-use Sagebrush Trail began with a work party of 89 volunteers on March 8. An exceptionally nice March day helped workers get the trail started. In 51/2 weeks, about 200 people gave 1,700 hours of time to the trail project. Hikers helped by hauling buckets of gravel up the mountain.
In all, volunteers hauled 55 tons of gravel and three tons of rock to create the trail. The gravel not only defines the path but also helps prevent erosion and dust. Many groups pitched in for the effort, including The Backcountry Horsemen, who paid for most of the gravel with a grant from REI. That group also came in handy on the final day of work, moving gravel with their horses and mules and saving the backs of many volunteers.
The Washington Trail Association also helped out, as did many others.
There were some hiccups along the way. Sagebrush Trail was closed at the water tanks after the Friends of Badger discovered that the road up to the tanks traversed private property.
That means no access to the new trail from Queesngate for the time being, but discussions with the landowner are under way.
Additional trailways are scheduled to be built in the fall, when there's more moisture in the ground. About 600 more hours of volunteer labor will be needed. We have no doubt the volunteers will show up and the new trails will be well used.
The success of the Sagebrush Trail project this spring reflects the community's interest in creating additional opportunities for outdoor recreation. The popularity of the existing trail proves the demand is there.
Friends of Badger Mountain say the new trail was necessary to relieve the burden on the Canyon Trial, and those of us who use it know it can be busy on a sunny day. We look forward to the additional routes up -- and down -- the mountain.