Trail Talk – June 2017

It’s time to reflect on our local trails as we head into our summer months. As residents of the Rogue Valley, we can pretty much head any direction, and in less time than it takes to shop for groceries, we find our feet pointed ahead on a path meandering over hill and dale through our publicly owned wild places. Starting in Ashland, and moving in a counter-clockwise manner, like so many distance runners competing in a track meet, let’s visit some of our local destinations.

The Ashland Watershed, a prominent geologic feature on the north slopes of Mt. Ashland, runs down into Lithia Park. Many trailheads start in and around Lithia Park, and lead hikers (and bikers) uphill through the granitic soils onto ridges boasting open timber and expansive views to the north. Farther afield, one encounters the Pacific Crest Trail and its satellite trails as it winds from Mexico to Canada. Because it leads from the Siskiyou Mountains into the Cascade Range, it boasts a wide diversity of plant and animal life.

To the north and closer to the valley floor, we encounter the year-round trails of Roxy Ann Peak in Prescott Park. Named for a pioneer farming woman who arrived just after the hungry times of the gold rush days, this prominent butte graces Medford’s eastern skyline. The city park trails are generally open even in the coldest winter months, but because of the black sticky soils, most cold season hikers stick to the well-maintained loop road. Summer finds many mountain bikers on the single tracks, enjoying a trail system designed for their sport. Views from the peak’s top are spectacular, and a good geography lesson in the layout of our Cascade-Siskiyou Province.

Our valley’s unique geologic twins, the Table Rocks, see visitors in all months as well. The BLM maintains good trails to the top of these lava flow ‘mesas’ and particularly in the spring, one finds many botanic and biologic wonders endemic to this ecosystem. I strongly urge folks to attend one of the popular guided hikes here; the experience is one for a lifetime of story-telling. Again, the views from the top are stunning, and a welcome perspective on the valley we call home.

This brings us to the trail systems of Jacksonville, where much ink has been spilled by our boastful correspondent. What’s not to like? Even from downtown, a short stroll quickly brings one up through the Beekman or Britt Woods for a grand time in Nature. The oak savannas and madrone forests green-up in spring and wildflowers abound, As summer’s heat brings on the lazy drone of cicadas, the madrones shed their second year leaves and outer bark, a wildly disconcerting phenomenon to the unsuspecting tourist.

And up the Jackson Creek Watershed, we find Forest Park and many more miles of trail. As May’s dogwoods fade, the Washington lilies rise up along Cantrall Creek to shock the bejeezus out of folks attuned to the gentle fritallarias of springtime, whose bloom here lasts from March to May. That we should be so blessed. Pen down, my writing done, I’m going out, out, to where the wild things are.