Trail Talk – December 2016/January 2017

A recent October day, rainy and blustery like so many other October days this year, found me traveling along Cook and Green Trail, a Forest Service Trail that abuts the Red Buttes Wilderness just over the California border above Applegate Lake. Unlike many trails in other areas, Cook and Green is well maintained. Much of its maintenance has been undertaken by our local mountain bike community, and as a runner, I am thankful to have such a beautiful trail to enjoy.

Starting along the Applegate River, the trail climbs lazy switchbacks until it runs parallel to, but high above, boisterous Cook and Green Creek in the steep-walled canyon below. The trail levels and for about 3 miles travels through staggeringly-large specimens of old growth sugar pine, Douglas fir, incense cedar, and chinquapin, in and out of gullies bedecked in temperate rain forest finery, until arriving at a creek crossing and camping area. This was my turn-around point on this wet afternoon, but many trips have taken me on up the trail to the intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail and a road crossing of the Elliot Cr/Seiad Valley Road in Cook and Green Pass.

This wet, wonderful day in the woods was my creme-y filling in an oreo cookie of outings. The previous day, I had run along the Britt Woods trails, enjoying the spacious feel of the oak savanna above Jacksonville. Acorn woodpeckers hunted their namesake food while avoiding a red-tailed hawk looking for its own dinner. A light breeze pushed back the morning fog, providing a stunning panorama of Jacksonville’s fall palette of colored deciduous trees. The damp trails provided sure footing after a summer of dusty tread. One has to run, child-like and easy, when fall’s air is so fresh and clean-scrubbed.

The third day was an outing in Forest Park, trotting along a long loop from the lower parking area (P1). The beautifully-rebuilt information kiosk gave another group of hikers shelter from a passing squall as they planned their outing. We started out on Rail Trail, running past the re-designed reservoir spillway, up and across The Narrows Bridge and onto Norling Trail, where a carpet of bright maple leaves covered the trail. Crossing Norling Road onto Ridgeview Trail, we continued up to the Naversen Family Trail.

Here, we turned right and ran up through the Halls of Manzanita to the Grotto Trail. This trail joins an old motorcycle track along the northern boundary of Forest Park to an old BLM logging road above Canyon Vista Trail. Mid-way, the trail traverses narrow gorges where prospectors scratched down into the bedrock in search of gold. This mining created a narrow defile, hence a “Grotto.” The trail in this area is narrow and steep, living up to its “difficult” rating. A fast descent through a series of tight “S” turns led us onto Jackson Creek, Canyon Falls, and Ol’ Miners’ Trails and returned us to our start.

Rainy weather? After 3 months of hot, dry days, we’re loving it.