Trail Talk – August 2016

It’s summer…a great time to sneak out in the coolness of dawn and dusk for a walk in the woods. Be assured that you’ll find many other forest critters doing the same. So where in Forest Park are you least likely to run into other hikers or bikers? Certainly, as you proceed farther up into the park, use becomes lighter. Mountain bikers tend to enjoy the wide open trails paralleling Reservoir Road, such as Granite, Halls of Manzanita, Naversen Family, Ridgeview and Canyon Vista.

As a hiker looking for a more solitary experience, you are wise to head into the western reaches of the park, centering your excursion around Jackson Ridge. By parking at P3, P5, or pushing on up rugged Norling Road (not recommended for low-clearance vehicles) to P7, you’ll find a network of trails with a greater opportunity of solitude. Jackson Ridge Trail, along the gentle climb from P5, has some of the more spectacular viewpoint benches in the park.

Watching morning awaken from these heights is memorable. Enjoy your early morning hot tea or coffee from a thermos as bird songs welcome the day, or an iced beverage in the trail canteen as the day’s heat fades in the cooling canyon breezes of late afternoon. Up here, one can contemplate all that is good and right. A waxing moon rising above the flanks of Mount McLoughlin as Ol’ Sol sets behind you will not soon be forgotten, either.

Other trails on Jackson Ridge can be a bit more challenging, and by the same token, more rewarding. Claimjumper and soon-to-be-finished Sofie’s Trail traverse the ridge at about 3000 ft. elevation. The eastern half of Sofie’s Trail is currently labeled Legburner, until construction on the western half is complete. Legburner Trail climbs and crosses the ridge, making a great loop hike opportunity. Running along both sides of the ridge, these trails provide a great opportunity to contrast the diverse habitats of sun-burnt southerly exposure to the cool northerly slopes. This fairly-level route begins in the fern-filled Norling Gulch environs of Shade Creek Trail on the south end and will soon terminate at another ferny canyon on Jackson Creek Nature Trail, where bikers can use the parallel Jackson Creek Bike Trail.

For folks wanting even “higher” adventure, Arrowhead Pass, Atsahu, and the upper end of Jackson Ridge Trail provide further “uplifting” hiking, approaching 3455’ at the top of the ridge, near the west boundary of the park. Here, one can gaze south and west into the headwaters of Forest Creek and the Applegate Valley, watched over by the fir-clad bulk of Timber Mountain, at least the part that isn’t been clear-cut. Along Atsahu Trail, near the top end of Shade Creek, you find the adit of the historic Norling Mine. On a hot summer day, you can stand at this rock entrance and feel the cool air come tumbling forth from the deep mine ahead of you.

We invite you to enjoy these trails. And consider, as you swelter in the seasonal weather, that 6 months ago, many of them were covered by a foot of snow!