Looking to extend my dayhike mileage, I went to the closest long trail and hiked a total of 17 miles, according to my GPS (and FS signs agreed.) Unfortunately, there had been a lot of ATV damage since I had last hiked it less than a month ago. There was more vandalism of signs, etc. I called the Forest Service when I got home, but it was late on Friday, so I didn't get to talk to the person I wanted to talk to. I will call again, hope to talk to the DR and the recreation person.
Apparently the Forest Rally yahoos think they are "taking back their forest" when, in fact, only a small part of this trail was ever actually a road that got closed. When the trail was built about 8 or 9 years ago, simultaneously the FS was building the Saffell Canyon OHV trail on the other side of Water Canyon Road. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to build long trails from Eagar to the high country, one for ATVers, and one for non-motorized uses. But the ATVers have long been bootlegging the Overland Trail. The FS has done very little maintenance--there is deadfall along there from 2 years ago.
Last time I noticed the ATV tracks, I talked to the FS, and they did put up a new sign at the place where the ATVs got in, which I identified and reported. So they DO LISTEN IF YOU COMPLAIN. Although this is the longest trail in the Springerville District, and they spent $500,000 to build it with grant money, they do not take care of it. It was built with an excavator, but needs to be maintained with hand crews, to maintain what little single-track there is along its length.
Today I am going to call not only the FS but also the leader of the local ATV club. He has said his group would help protect the Overland Trail, but I have seen no evidence of that happening.
Most local people do not know the trail exists. For one thing, each of its trailheads has a different name. There is the Water Canyon Trailhead, the Apache Vista Trailhead, etc. So they are not aware of the actual name of the trail. I am constantly trying to explain to people where it is, although it starts at a big parking lot and picnic area in Water Canyon. Even local hikers seem confused about it. I have hiked and mountain biked the entire 20+ miles of it more than once. But I am probably one of 4 or 5 people who have done so.
The trail is TOO WIDE and needs a professional crew to narrow it down, and also lots of boulders and more signs to try to keep ATVers out of the area. Please call the Springerville Ranger District at 928-333-6200 to protest their lack of attention to this trail, and to urge them to protect the non-motorized trails in this district. Thank you.