Hiker conquers long-distance feat on foot

Bend woman travels length of 'Oregon Desert Trail'

Blazing an 800-mile trail in E. Oregon

BEND, Ore. - Putting one foot in front of the other, Bend resident Sage Clegg watched more than 600 miles pass beneath her, plus 200 more miles on bike.

"You look out east and it looks dry and boring," Clegg said Wednesday. "But it's not -- there are so many hidden gems in our own backyard."

Clegg set out 41 days ago to take on the Oregon Desert Trail, averaging about a marathon distance each day-- hiking and biking more than 800 miles in 37 days, from the Oregon Badlands Wilderness Area east of Bend to Lake Owyhee State Park, near the Idaho border.  

It's a route with no true trail -- at least, not yet.

"Looking and checking the map every five minutes, checking the GPS and making sure you're in the right spot, and that's part of the beauty of it," Clegg said.

Clegg blazed a path to help the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association learn more about the routes, landscapes and water sources.

"(Clegg's helping us see) what tweaks we need to make to the trail before we provide information to the public," said ONDA Communications Coordinator Heidi Hagemeier.

Clegg is a veteran hiker who has conquered what's known as the "triple crown" of hiking: completing the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail, so she knew the harsh conditions of the Oregon Desert Trail would be a challenge.

"I had to juggle my water capacity, the temperature and the distance between water," Clegg said.

The goal is to make the rural area more accessible for recreation, for long-distance hikers and those seeking shorter adventures.

"Being there in the canyon, or on the rim looking down 2,000 feet -- you can't prepare yourself for that kind of beauty," she said.

On one of her worst days, Clegg was greeted nine times by the rattle of rattlesnakes. On one of her best days, she discovered ancient Native American hunting blinds.

"While I'm, like, hustling to get to the next town to go to the grocery store and have an ice cream, I'm walking through a prehistoric grocery store," Clegg said.

She hopes her adventure off the beaten path will eventually lead to a well-worn trail.

"It's a great way to introduce people to weekend recreation opportunities," Clegg said. "You can go out and go some place you normally wouldn't ever go."

They are places sometimes you can only get to by foot.

"I'm able to foster that curiosity when I'm out in the wilderness, and that's what keeps me going," she said. "I just want to know what's around the next corner."

The Oregon Natural Desert Association has been researching and compiling data on the route for the last three years.

Hagemeier said the organization will compile a report with Clegg's new information and send it to land management agencies to make them aware of the trail.

ONDA also is working on new maps and guide material that will be available to the public.

Hagemeier said she hopes the Oregon Desert Trail will someday become a well-known and well-marked trail.

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