Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Adams Gulch to See Improved Parking, Adaptive Access and More
Pat Dougherty turns his handcycle down a bank as he prepares to cross a dry creek bed.
Saturday, June 26, 2021


Pat Dougherty’s grin kicked into high gear as he pushed the hand pedals on his handcycle, stopping at the edge of a bank overlooking a creek bed in Adams Gulch.

Normally, the creek bed would’ve been full of water, posing a challenge to himself and his cycling companion Jet Turner. Both have been swept away trying to cross the creek in Adams Gulch. But with the creek bed dry, they were able to choose which rocks to bounce over as they pedaled down and then up the other side of the bank.

“Sometimes we can’t get across the creek at all. So, we’re really looking forward to the new bridges,” said Dougherty.

Jet Turner has biked trails from Galena to McCall but loves the proximity of Adams Gulch to home.

Indeed, Adams Gulch is on the cusp of a project that will make the popular hiking and mountain biking area at Ketchum’s northern end more accessible to adaptive sports users, while improving conditions for all users.

Higher Ground, the National Forest Foundation, Ketchum District Forest Service and Wood River Trail Coalition are partnering on a two-year, half-million project that will improve parking at the trailhead, install a two-stall restroom and replace foot-wide bridges with bridges that can be used by those on handcycles. The Forbidden Fruit flow trail will also be doubled in length to better accommodate adaptive cyclists.

“Right now, if we take out veterans and others on handcycles, our volunteers have to lift them across the creek. And that’s not providing them the independence they seek,” said Kate Dobbie, executive director of Higher Ground.

  • The Adams Gulch Adaptive Sports Trail Enhancement Project will begin in August or September of this year with the expansion of Forbidden fruit.

    This shows the reconfiguration of the trailhead parking.

    The project is designed to provide more opportunities for adaptive cyclists while minimizing user conflict and improving trail safety.

    The mile-long extension will parallel the existing Forbidden Fruit trail but will have a definite stopping place at the bottom. Right now, cyclists tend to scream onto the multipurpose hiking/biking trail at the bottom. There’ll be some minor changes to make the trail more adaptable

  • Improvements to trailhead parking will be made next year in 2022, said Justin Blackstead, trail crew supervisor for the Ketchum Ranger District.

    The green trail shows the extension to Forbidden Fruit.

    The trailhead originally had room for 10 cars, then people began extending parking out further as use grew. The trailhead will be reconfigured to provide 15 more parking spaces.

    And there will be designated trailer parking for groups like Higher Ground, which brings a trailer full of bikes for clients. Some trailers have been parking along the road, which is not acceptable because it runs through private property, Blackstead said.

  • The current restroom will be upgraded to a two-stall restroom, which will be better able to accommodate the use the restroom gets.

    Pat Dougherty, who divides his time between Elkhorn and Boise, loves pedaling around Adams Gulch.

    “Eventually we would like to build a picnic shelter similar to that at Greenhorn Gulch,” Blackstead added. “Right now, the picnic tables are in the riparian area. When we had the big snows a few years ago, they moved downstream during the flooding.”

  • Six bridges crossing Adams Creek will be replanked or rebuilt to make them usable by handcycles.

The bill for the project is being supported through a combination of federal and non-federal funds. A national funding agreement with the Forest Service to improve priority National Forest System trails across the country enables the groups responsible for the Adams Gulch project to offer a dollar-for-dollar match for the first $50,000 raised for the project.

Dobbie said the groups are getting close to their fundraising goal with help of grants from such groups as Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation and the Albertsons Family Foundation.

While hundreds of miles of trails can be accessed from the Wood River Valley, very few trails are designed to accommodate adaptive sports users. That group is growing with local riders and riders from Boise. This coming week Higher Ground will introduce handcycling to members of an Adaptive Training Center in Dallas.

Being able to cycle at places like Adams Gulch is a boon for those who use handcycles, said Dougherty, who became a quadriplegic 18 years ago in an accident.

“It’s the concept of getting out in the woods again,” said Dougherty, who pioneered a small third wheel for sports chairs that helps them access gravel and other rugged conditions outdoors.

“It really makes me forget I have a disability, and you can’t get enough of that,” he said. “So many quadriplegics in country just sit inside all day. My wife will tell you if I’m in the woods, I’m smiling. If I’m on my bike I’m smiling.”

Turner, who became a quadriplegic in a motorcycle accident at age 16, is a longtime employee of Power Engineers.

“A lot of this is mental—it’s exciting, an adrenalin rush,” he said. “These new improvements are going to be a good addition for everyone. We’ll have a little more room for parking, easier bridges to cross… I’m  looking forward to it.”

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