The City of Jacksonville, Oregon styles itself The Hiking Capital of Southern Oregon. To bolster this claim, the City maintains the Woodlands Trails, a web of pleasant hiking, biking, and equestrian trails on 320 acres on the west edge of town, southeast of Highway 238. It also maintains an extensive network of more rugged hiking and biking trails in 1,100-acre Forest Park, northwest of town on the west side of Highway 238. Although we have been avid users of the Woodlands Trails since we moved here, the trails in Forest Park had thus far escaped the gentle caress of our boots. Today we addressed this oversight (and the sloth accumulated during our recent week in South Florida) by tromping out a loop hike on trails around Norling Gulch. The few online maps we could find for these trails were often incomplete or inaccurate or both. The most complete and accurate (current) map proved to be the one obtainable at the park’s parking lot kiosks (and, presumably, from the City).
We had managed to find enough online mappage to get us to parking lot P-5 and the start of the Twin Peaks Trail. It was 29ºF when we got out of the truck, so yet another brave smile was needed before we started up the trail.
Trails in Southern Oregon often combine (to save on trail-building costs) re-purposed old logging or mining roads linked with newly constructed trails – think the Lone Pilot Trail in the Soda Mountains Wilderness – and Forest Park is no exception. Thus the Twin Peaks Trail is an old road,
that took us up,
to the Cascade Crest Shelter,
where we could look out over the Upper Bear Creek Valley. The day started out cold but clear and sunny and we hoped that sunshine would stick with us all day (it did, but a milky overcast was moving in as we finished the loop).
We continued on the Twin Peaks Trail to Twin Peaks Saddle,
checked out Lower Twin Peak (Point 2939), then, having missed the unsigned start of the much easier bike trail, climbed an insanely steep old skid road,
to the Twin Peaks Overlook, for a bigger view out over the Upper Bear Creek Valley.
From Upper Twin, we took the switched-back bike trail down to the saddle and contoured west on the Atsahu Trail, a very pleasant combination of old road and new trail that works its way along the south side of Norling Gulch.
Just before the junction of the Atsahu and Shade Creek Trails, we passed the gated closure of the Norling Mine’s adit (this mine also featured an open (now gated) vertical shaft – technically a surface-breach stope or “glory hole” – that is at least 100 feet deep). This mine seems to have been most active between 1905 and about 1920; development of the mine in 1905-07 is reported to have produced 120 tons of ore worth $6,400 (big money back in the day). Alas, it didn’t last. But the “good wagon road” built in the early 1900s to service the mine did last to morph into today’s Shade Creek Trail.
We continued on the Atsahu Trail up past Point 3455,
to its junction with the Jackson Ridge Trail. Signage along these trails is pretty good (excellent compared to many National Forest trails) but the map brochure we got at the parking lot kiosk helped take a lot of the guesswork out of our loop hike.
We turned here and headed east on the Jackson Ridge Trail,
then took the trail option that leads to the Jackson Ridge Shelter, for a view west toward Baldy and Timber Mountains and salvage logging of a burn on the slopes of Timber.
We then continued on down the Jackson Ridge Trail, through galleries of spindly madrones,
past a view of Lower and Upper Twin Peaks,
to our truck at lot P-5. A really great introduction (5.9 mile loop; 1,600 feet of elevation gain) to Forest Park’s trails! Judging from the map brochure, there are lots more loop hike opportunities in the park, along with more viewpoints and features (like waterfalls and a grotto) to see. We’ll be back…