Southern Oregon Trail Alliance

About SOTA
Trail Etiquette

Background of SOTA

Our story begins with three guys who like to exercise on trails in the woods, whether it be hiking, biking, or running.  Being in the woods offers a calming, almost spiritual experience.  However these trails often weren't in very good shape.  In order to address this issue, we began moving downed branches off of the trails and now regularly remove downed trees up to 3 feet in diameter. Our goal is to make the trails better and safer for everyone and, as a result of our work, encourage more people to use those trails.  It is our hope that with more people using the trails we will have a healthier and happier community overall.  We are hoping to include more people in our alliance and to create a communication platform for others who share our goal of outdoor fitness and good trails for all.

To that end, we have formed the Southern Oregon Trail Alliance or SOTA. SOTA wishes to enhance the quality of trails in Southern Oregon and, by way of that, encourage more people to enjoy the health and wellness benefits of being on those trails.

Who we are

SOTA was founded by Chad Thorson, Zachary Goodwiler, and Eric Ball.

Chad is a physical therapist with Asante Health System in Grants Pass.  Chad formerly worked at Impact Physical Therapy, where he was named Top Pick for physical therapist in the 2014 Oregon Healthy Living “Readers’ Healthy Picks Issue.” Chad is also an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys tackling outdoor challenges while encouraging others to do the same.  He has encouraged many people to get off the couch and go outside.

Zachary, who goes by Zach, is also a physical therapist with Asante Health Services in Grants Pass.  Zach formerly worked for Riverside Physical Therapy where he brought wellness to the underserved community of Cave Junction.  Zach is a former avid road cyclist and sponsored crit racer who took a long break in order to get his Doctorate of Physical Therapy and board specialty certification in orthopedics. Prior to being a PT, Zach was the Health and Wellness Captain at a Home Depot in Wisconsin.   With the help of Chad and Eric, Zach is rediscovering the outdoors in a whole new way through hiking, running, and mountain biking the beautiful trails that Southern Oregon offers.

Eric used to be an engineer with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and later for the Oregon DEQ.  He is now a part-time “wrench” at Bikekraft in Grants Pass who likes to give trail advice.  Most other days he is enjoying the freedom of being outdoors through trail running, mountain biking, or cutting and clearing downed trees from trails.


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Our Rig

SOTA's current trail-clearing rig uses a Schwinn Mesa GSX mountain bike with a Bontrager Backrack and trunk system to a pull a highly-modified TW-Bents bicycle trailer.  A Husqvarna Model 55 saw has made all of the cuts so far.  The complete rig weighs north of 90 pounds and has no pedal assist

SOTA Trailworks 2014 - present


November 2014 - SOTA volunteers clear 30 downed trees from a 5 mile stretch of the Middle South Fork Rogue River trail near Butte Falls, Oregon

January 2015 - SOTA volunteers clear hundreds of branches and over a dozen downed trees from the lower 6 miles of the Grayback Mountain trail near Williams, Oregon

March 2015 - A SOTA volunteer clears over a dozen downed trees from the lower 15 miles of the North Umpqua trail near Roseburg, Oregon

February 2016 - SOTA volunteers install bridges (which were prefabricated by one of those volunteers) on two of the last three dips of the ‘Bridges’ trail at Cathedral Hills Park

March 2016 - A SOTA volunteer clears nearly a dozen downed trees from the China Creek trail, the Onion Way trail and the Secret Way trail near Grants Pass, Oregon

April 2016 - A SOTA volunteer clears over a dozen downed trees from the entire 8 mile Cook and Green Trail near Applegate, Oregon

May-June 2016 - SOTA volunteers clear nearly 30 downed trees from the entire 8.5 mile Grayback Mountain trail near Williams, Oregon.  Extensive raking is also performed on several sections of the trail

November 2016 - SOTA volunteers clear downed trees and encroaching brush from 7 miles of the Taylor Creek Trail near Grants Pass, Oregon.  Extensive rutting is repaired and drainage issues are addressed on a critical portion of the trail

February - March 2017 - SOTA volunteers clear downed trees and encroaching brush from the entire 11.5 mile Taylor Creek Trail near Grants Pass, Oregon.  Additionally, most of the upper 4.5 miles of the trail is raked.

May 2017 - SOTA volunteers clear downed trees from the Secret Way trail near Grants Pass, Oregon

April 2017 - June 2017 - SOTA volunteers clear nearly 20 downed trees from the Grayback Mountain trail near Williams, Oregon.  Additionally, almost the entire trail is raked and 'buffed out'.  A large root ball which completely blocked the trail is mitigated and turned into a 'trail feature'

October 2017 - A SOTA volunteer clears the downed tree that obstructed one of the Walker Road switchbacks at Cathedral Hills Park.  The blockage had existed for around 6 months

November 2017 - A SOTA volunteer clears three downed trees from the Taylor Creek trail.  These trees had impeded mountain bikers for some time

November 2017 - SOTA volunteers install a bridge (which was prefabricated by one of those volunteers) in the last dip of the ‘Bridges” trail at Cathedral Hills Park

January 2018 - SOTA volunteers clear downed trees from and rake the entire Big Pine Connector trail



Ways to Get involved


Like our Facebook page (search for Southern Oregon Trail Alliance)

Do your part:

When you are out on the trails and see fallen branches blocking trails, take the time to move them.  We started doing this long before ever taking a chainsaw out on the trails.  If everyone does a little bit, the trails will be better for all of us!


Trail Etiquette

Out on the trail, we have the opportunity to encounter and inter act with many different people.  These people can represent many different user groups.  Bicyclists, trail runners, hikers, equestrians and possibly even a unicyclist may encounter one another in a variety of situations.  The first thing one should remember when encountering another person out on the trail is, no matter who that person is or what is happening, DON'T BE A DICK!!

A friendly greeting such as 'Good morning' or 'Hi, how are you doing' or even 'Nice day for a hike' can go a long way toward disarming people and ensuring a positive response.  You are far more likely to get a smile than if you simply say 'On your left'.

Most people who engage in trail sports and activities are just as happy to be out there as you are.  Just by being nice and sharing the experience of the moment, we can all share a positive experience out on the trails.

Ride it, Don't Slide it!  If you are a mountain biker, practice your skills by taking turns and steeps slower and focus on controlling your bike without skidding.  Shredding turns is hella fun, but the skidding severely erodes the trails.  Too much skidding leads to ruts and sketchy corners.  Just remember, the next person who eats it on a rutted corner just may be you!