Trail Talk – February 2016

Winter finds Forest Park subdued and enticing. The crackling crunch of summer’s madrone leaves, followed by the deep rustle of ankle-deep big-leaf maple and oak leaves is a distant echo. Blooms of the forgotten spring sleep under a carpet of forest litter and snow, yet swelling buds, catkins, and brave shoots begin their emergence. A quiet time for introspection as one moves warily from creek canyon to ridgeline, senses attuned for the flit of bird, the scurry of a squirrel, and the quick hop of the cottontail.

“Which trail today?” one asks. After the long, dry summer and fall, any hike along the streams promises waterfalls and the rush of water over bedrock granite and through denuded red-twig dogwood and eternally verdant ferns. Two new short spurs to waterfalls on Cantrall Canyon Trail provide easy access to rushing water, where remembrance of the recent dry times slips away. A hike up Canyon Falls Trail brings more water sounds, cascading from pool-to-pool as it flows toward town. Continuing on up either Shade Creek Trail or Jackson Creek Nature Trail, the park visitor leaves the boisterous sounds of a boulder-filled canyon, and enters the realm of green ferns and quiet waters. A trailside bench under a spreading yew tree provides a splendid opportunity to witness a Pacific wren about its business. These trails are closed to bikes because of the easily-damaged trail bed and frequent steps.

Leaving the water-soaked canyons, one has multiple choices of trails to climb to the ridges of the park. On foggy days in the valley, the ridge lines are the place to be. Often 10 to 15 degrees warmer than the valley floor with ample viewpoints, the higher trails in the park become a delightful destination to shake winter blahs. Ridgeview, Naversen Family, Halls of Manzanita, and Canyon Vista Trails are all constructed in granite soils and don’t tend to become as muddy as trails in the other areas of the park. With access to viewpoints on ridges, these trails can be a bit more strenuous than others. But cold gray days in town certainly provide incentive to get up and enjoy the view shed that is the pride of Forest Park. Other trail loops provide access to Jackson Ridge, again with some spectacular viewpoints, as well as the popular Twin Peaks Trail. It’s here, on Upper Twin Peaks Trail, that one finds the ‘Overlook of Overlooks’. On a clear day, one can see from the dome of Wagner Butte in the southeast all along the Cascade Crest to the far distant snows of South Sister in the far north. Bring binoculars! Yes, you can probably see your house from here!