The current working version of the BMT route. Map from GHCC
Listen to my interview about the Blue Mountain Trails with The Trail Show here.
- Week 1 – Wallowa Lake to Buckhorn Campground (125 miles)
- Week 2 – Buckhorn Campground to Tollgate (145 miles)
- Week 3ish – Tollgate to La Grande (42 miles )
- Week 4 – La Grande to Austin Junction (158 miles)
- Week 5 – Austin Junction to John Day (110 miles – my August hike)
BMT stands for Blue Mountains Trail (a working title)
The Greater Hells Canyon Council has had the idea for a long-distance heritage hiking trail for years. Far longer than the Oregon Desert Trail has been around. I believe some work had been done before and there were some possible alignments on the ground, but the idea remained an idea for the most part.
A few years ago I was in La Grande to give a presentation about the ODT when Brian Kelly from the GHCC invited me for a chat. The organization wanted to make their trail happen, and wanted to pick my brain since the ODT went from 0 to fairly well established in such a short amount of time (trails can be decades-or-longer objectives for organizations)…and the model of a conservation organization creating a backpacking experience to immerse people in the landscapes they were actively trying to advocate for and protect was a common denominator.
I looked at some maps with Brian and immediately got excited about their vision. There were so many trails already on the ground in NE Oregon! The Wallowas, Hells Canyon, the Elkhorns, and more.
I suggested they think more about a route than a continuous trail, especially since there was so much trail around them already.
Routes link trails with roads and off-trail travel to meet their objective, in this case traversing the Blue Mountains. Roads are viable paths for walking and connecting to other trails. When you have a trail or a route that goes right through town, it’s a win-win for all. It makes hiker resupply and feasting opportunities infinitely easier (not to mention showers, laundry, sleeping in beds), you don’t have to spend hours trying to hitchhike to town and back, and you often meet people who like hiker stories so much that they become trail angels in these communities.
I didn’t hear much more about the trail/route idea for a while…at least a year later I met Marina Richie, a GHCC board member, who was serving with me on an Oregon state outdoor coalition. In fact, on the same coalition was Jared Kennedy, an entrepreneur who helped start the Outdoor Project website. Jared and I had already crossed paths a few years earlier through the Oregon Desert Trail.
Stay with me here…Jared’s dad is also a Greater Hells Canyon Council board member…and Jared and his dad decided to have a go at making the trail a reality. I had a series of phone calls and emails over the last six months where we talked about some good next steps. I was/am so grateful to participate in helping a new long-distance hiking opportunity launch.
So this summer Jared had a line on the map, and the plan was to see if it worked….and it did! I completed the whole route, along with thru-hiking friends Whitney “Allgood” La Ruffa, Naomi “The Punisher” Hudetz, and Mike “Iron Mike” Unger.
All and all though, it’s a grand adventure! So very exciting 😀 then I’ll have to connect it into the Oregon Desert Trail, naturally.