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Bend woman blazing trail to preserve High Desert

By Joe Burns
Published On: Jun 05 2013 07:40:34 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 05 2013 08:11:39 PM CDT

A Bend woman is blazing a trail east but it's not just a walk through the desert for Sage Clegg. She's on a fact-finding mission hoping to find all the attractions along the way that would lure more hikers to the area.

BEND, Ore. -

A Bend woman is blazing a trail east. She's on a mission to open some eyes to an often-overlooked part of the American West - one right outside our door.

NewsChannel 21 was there Wednesday for the first part of her adventure.

Wildlife biologist Sage Clegg, 33, knows her trails. She's hiked what is considered the "triple crown" of hiking: completing the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail, all in less than 18 months.

Her latest trek is just as arduous: the Oregon Desert Trail.

"I'm really excited to help create this route and making sure it gets out there to other people, and that it can be a through hike-able thing," Clegg said. "A repeatable experience, and not just for me."

The Oregon Natural Desert Association or ONDA, a Bend non-profit helping to preserve Oregon's High Desert, created the route to showcase places that deserve protection.

And until Wednesday, nobody had set out to hike the whole thing on foot.

"I hope that she has an amazing experience, getting to see a lot of the areas that really are iconic landscapes around Oregon's High Desert," said Brent Fenty, ONDA executive director.

The trail goes through 12 towns and cities, two wilderness areas and quite a few scenic landscapes, ending at the Idaho border.

It's a trail estimated about 750 miles, but could be as long as 850.

Along the trek, Clegg will collect information for ONDA about the trail conditions, wildlife and qualities that would make people want to hike the area.

Clegg has only lived in Bend for a year, and says the hike also will help get to know her home.

"I don't know much about Eastern Oregon that much," Clegg said. "And so, for me, one of the best ways to learn about something is to go walk through it and experience it, and just get my feet on the ground and start having a relationship with my home."

"For some reason, I just work really well as a solo hiker, and it works for me," Clegg said. "I think more people should try it. It might sound horrifying, being alone by yourself for that long, but it winds up being fun, its fine "

If you would like to follow Clegg on her journey she will be blogging on the ONDA website at www.onda.org/deserttrail

Clegg's journey on Wednesday actually started at her home in Bend, where she hopped on her bike and pedaled the 20 miles to the trailhead.

She's hiked about 9,500 miles, and by the time she finishes this adventure around July 20th, she will have surpassed the 10,000-mile mark.

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