Yesterday was almost a bluebird perfect day here in the valley. I know that because I could see blue sky and puffy white clouds from the reclining chair in my dentist’s office, where I was contemplating the subtle pleasures of modern dentistry. My dentist is both deft and painless, but I would be needing a different kind of professional help if I thought dentistry was as much fun as hiking. By the time it was all done, there was more gold in my mouth than in my wallet, and it was a bit late to be starting a hike. Sigh. So the truly bluebird skies that greeted me this morning were seen as a redemptive opportunity. With another active weather pattern predicted to be kicking-in by noon, I needed someplace close but still interesting – like Prescott Park. Back in November we’d tried out the newest trail there, but hadn’t been able to do it as a continuous loop. It can be too muddy to hike in winter, but I figured that with an overnight temperature of 20ºF, the gumbo-like mud would be stiff enough to walk on. Well, almost…
It was the last day of the LovedOne’s quilting class, so I got an early solo start and, after a heroic 5-minute drive from home, pulled into the parking area on the west side of Roxy Ann. The ground was still frozen, so I started crunching-up the first segment of the New Trail,
in full sunshine,
with a great view out over the Rogue River Valley and Medford!
At 1.2 miles from the parking area, this segement of the New Trail ends at the quarry service road. A short walk north on the road brought me to the long established Madrone Trail which climbs up the south and southeast sides of Roxy Ann.
By now the sun had been up long enough to start defrosting stuff and the Madrone Trail on the southeast side of the peak was getting pretty soggy – but not yet sticky muddy! The Madrone Trail crosses a service road and then ends near the true summit of Roxy Ann, where the fridged fallout from the last wave of storms was still offering a winter wonderland option.
I went over and got the big view to the southwest, with Medford below and snow-covered Grayback Mountain on the horizon.
Then, with my frozen trail concept melting before my eyes, I wasted no time in descending the service road to where the segment of the New Trail on the northeast side of Roxy starts down. Along this segment there are some dense stands of tall madrone trees,
and areas where winter is still in effect.
After about a mile of descending, the New Trail crosses the service road that circumnavigates the peak,
gives you a good view of Mount McLoughlin to the east,
and heads due north through mixed stands of oaks, pines, and madrones.
There were several wet stretches along here but still no mud, so it was pretty easy to contour out to the open areas on the ridge north of Roxy, with a view to the north,
and of McLoughlin to the east.
Here the New Trail crosses the ridge and turns south back toward the parking area, through some stands of Ponderosa pine (my favorite pine).
Some more wet patches, but still no mud, as I went south through the oak groves near Point 2262,
climbed a few switchbacks, and continued south and then southeast toward the parking area, across an expanse that was now thoroughly unfrozen. The cars came into view just about the time the mud achieved superb gumbo consistency,
and each step became weightier than the last. Frozen trail – no problem. Wet, boggy, watery trail – no problem. Trail that looked almost dry – muddy problem. Try to scrape it off and it just sticks harder. After a while it seemed to reach an equilibrium of about two pounds per boot, so I just pressed (or squelched) on, in the realization that the extra exercise afforded by these mud ankle weights was GOOD FOR ME! I stopped to scrape and rest, got in one last snapshot of Roxy,
and lumbered into the parking area on 2-inch mud stilts. The whole loop is 8.2 miles (with 1,500 feet of elevation gain) and all but the last 0.2 miles of it was easy, mud-free hiking. If I’d encountered this mud in the first 0.2 miles, the hike would have been over right then. So almost a perfect plan. But, overall, a great loop (if not muddy) for scenery and exercise and a nice addition to our close-in, low-altitude hiking options. I should note that within 30 minutes of my completing this hike, the active weather pattern asserted itself – the clouds had moved back in, the sun was but a memory, and gloom prevailed across the land.