Trail Talk – July 2017

In a recent article, the Mail Tribune referred to the Pacific Crest Trail as a “well-kept secret.” A surprising phrase, because for 40 years Oregon’s official highway map has delineated this popular trail with a dotted red line stretching from Donomore Meadows near Dutchman Peak, across the Siskiyou Crest and up the Cascade Range to Cascade Locks on the Columbia River. Apparently, the experiences of the generations of hikers, backpackers, and runners who’d enjoyed this National Scenic Trail didn’t register in our cultural conscience until a best-selling book (and subsequent movie) was produced.

It gets one thinking about what makes a trail popular in the first place. Proximity to population centers must be considered. Portland’s Forest Park trails, though often muddy and with limited panoramic views, are a ‘must-do’ for hikers and runners visiting the Home of the Trailblazers. One would be surprised to head out on a 6 mile jaunt and not meet a few hundred people.

The Table Rocks and some Crater Lake trails are popular as well. Though not located near urban centers, these day-trip hikes have interpretive programs to raise public awareness of the flora and fauna of these special places. It would be an unusual day to not see 20-30 vehicles parked at these trailheads.

So, which trails in Jacksonville’s Woodlands and Forest Park are the best used trails? Proximity to town makes Beekman Woods and Britt Woods trails easily accessible, and any of our recent pleasant days have seen heavy usage. Overall, my experience in these warmer months has been that Sarah Zigler Trail along Jackson Creek is a favorite hike, especially early in the day when the birds and mammals are most active.

Forest Park contains a more extensive trail system, and even when 30-40 cars adorn the parking areas, one can find isolation on many trails, especially in its upper reaches. Folks seem to most enjoy hiking along the many forks of Jackson Creek, where cool shade and trickling water keep the summer’s heat at bay. Cantrall Creek, Canyon Falls, Shade Creek, and Jackson Creek trails sing their seductive siren calls when the valley’s heat becomes oppressive. Their more gentle grades are a favorite with families, and the frequent watering holes keep the family dogs happy.

Many hikers enjoy the Owl Hoot Trail loops from parking areas P2 and P3. Along with the Naversen Family and Grotto Trails, the views are spectacular out across the upper Bear Creek Valley. And though the wet winter’s cascades rushing down the slopes are a distant memory, Siskiyou Trail with its expansive views to the south remains quite popular, but enjoy it early before the sun’s full force blasts its dry, exposed slopes.

Pipsissewa Trail is now open for hikers. Named for a native forest plant used by First Peoples for its medicinal qualities, this evergreen plant (also known as Prince’s Pine) grows along this trail. Stretching from parking area P6 at the top of Cantrall Creek Trail up over the ridge and back down to Halls of Manzanita Trail below Granite Falls, it is a challenging trail, boasting a north slope forest, a ridgeline madrone grove, and a steep granitic canyon.