After nearly seven years of collaborating, scouting, organizing,, fundraising and, of course, elbow grease, Peterson Ridge today is a 25-mile trail system with varying terrain and trail features that is both welcoming for beginners and challenging for more experienced knobby-tire enthusiasts. The trail system is expected to be completed by spring for a total of 30 miles.
Rahm moved to Sisters in 1995, and by 2000 he was logging upward of 1,000 miles a year on the 10-mile lollipop loop. The Peterson Ridge trailhead is a mere stone’s throw from his home.
“It used to become completely unridable in July,” recalls Rahm, who is chairman of the Sisters Trails Committee, a subsidiary of the nonprofit Sisters Organization for Activities and Recreation. “It was like riding a bike on the beach.”
Rahm initially adopted the Peterson Ridge Trail, performing regular maintenance with a bike trailer full of tools and even raking the first two miles of overused sandy sections.
“I love that trail; it’s such a beautiful ride,” says Rahm. “But it was pretty smooth … like a muni (municipal) park path. There was a little climbing, but mostly pretty mellow and nothing technical.”
Rahm submitted a proposal to the U.S. Forest Service in late 2001, requesting to build a second leg on the Peterson Ridge Trail, which would allow mountain bikers to ride out and back on different trails. But nothing happened.
He resubmitted his proposal the following year.
“I told a few people about it, but didn’t get much response,” he says.
“John came to the Forest Service … and wanted to expand the Peterson Ridge Trail,” recalls Jeff Sims, a Sisters Ranger District employee who also serves as the Forest Service representative on the Sisters Trails Committee. “At that time, the Forest Service didn’t have the funding to do the environmental analysis and it wasn’t a top priority and it kind of got shelved. But John just kept showing up every year.”
With the backing of the Sisters Trails Committee, which financed the environmental study, Rahm eventually got the go-ahead to begin flagging and GPS work, which took him nearly two years to complete. In addition to the environmental assessment of the land, a public hearing was required before trail expansion could begin. Rahm negotiated with equestrian users, who feared that their trail access might be restricted, and the result was eight miles of new trails for horseback riders in the Peterson Ridge area.
Rahm organized trail work parties, consulted with other local and international trail organizations for design ideas, and eventually raised enough money from local donors to hire a trail conservation crew to construct an additional seven miles this fall.
Today the Peterson Ridge Trail is laid out like a ladder, with 10 “rungs” connecting the two sides. The trail includes beginners routes as well as more technical and challenging terrain, which ultimately leads to a viewpoint of the Three Sisters and other Cascade peaks.
“The old trail was really la-di-da,” Rahm explains. “There was no challenge from a skills point of view. It’s not really hairy (now), but you do have to pay attention, and it makes it a lot more interesting.”
Rahm, who owns a real estate inspection service called AmeriSpec, says the “silver lining” to his business slowing down this past summer has been more time to dote on the Peterson Ridge Trail.
“I spent all my spare time out there last summer,” he says. “My friends think I’m out of mind, but I would just as soon be out there building trails as riding my bike.”
After years of planning and an estimated 800 hours of volunteer work, which included 300 hours of wandering through the forest with pink flagging tape and a GPS, Rahm finally this fall realized his vision for an improved trail system at Peterson Ridge.
“I was so happy I could hardly see straight,” he says.
Sims calls Rahm a one-man crusade.
“It just shows that one person can have an impact when they are really dedicated and enthused about something,” Sims adds. “And that’s what it’s been (with Rahm). He really likes the mountain bike trail, and he’s shared that enthusiasm with a lot of people.”
Still to add next spring are five more miles to the Peterson Ridge Trail, plus official signage and a few “tweaks” here and there, Rahm says. As chairman of the Sisters Trails Committee, Rahm is also hard at work on other projects throughout the city. Down the road, Rahm would like to see singletrack mountain bike trails extend from Sisters to Three Creek Lake, and from Sisters to Bend.
For now, this super volunteer believes reinventing his favorite trail was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“This may sound silly,” Rahm confesses, “but this is my art project.
“A ribbon of dirt through the forest is a beautiful thing.”