Last week we did our first hike in Jacksonville, Oregon’s 1,100-acre Forest Park, northwest of town on the west side of Highway 238. We liked that hike so much we planned another, longer loop hike around the park’s perimeter. Before we could act on this plan, a series of long-awaited winter storms rolled through Southern Oregon, bringing snow as low as the valley floor. Mount Ashland re-opened! And the park got its share of that snow – not enough to justify snowshoes – but enough to make our second walk in the park a completely different experience. The fact that it was a clear, sunny, full bluebird day only enhanced the experience!
Doing this loop requires following several different trails. We had the very helpful map we’d gotten from the parking area kiosk last week, and the trail signage is very good, so we were not confused most of the time. The bluebird day translated to a very cold (25ºF) start from the P-1 parking area, so cold that The LovedOne’s lips were too stiff to form the usual brave smile.
But we pressed on anyway, starting out on the Rail Trail (alignment of the old Bullis logging railroad),
and then taking the Ponderosa Snag Trail up to the Siskiyou Trail and a welcome burst of sunshine.
The Siskiyou Trail took us deep into Cantrall Gulch, with an ocassional view of the snow-dappled hills across the canyon.
The trail would be only lightly covered with snow when it was exposed to the southwest, but well covered in 6-8 inches of fresh powder when it ducked into a gully.
From the Siskiyou Trail, we did a brief stint on the Halls of Manzanita Trail and then got on the Pipsissewa Trail, for a climb up past now frozen Granite Falls,
to a snowy plateau around 3,100 feet,
and then on down to this trail’s end at parking area P-6. The interplay, along the Pipsissewa, of the light and snow with the bright green leaves and rusty red trunks of the madrones was magnificent. We could devote a whole hike to just appreciating and photographing madrones.
From P-6, we got back on the Halls of Manzanita Trail,
followed it around to its junction with the Grotto Trail, where we got one of the few big views of the day.
We followed the Grotto Trail,
and tried to hike up to The Grotto, without any clear idea of what is was or where it was. But the snow, which made for some tricky walking on this trailless route, eventually forced us to abandon the effort (for now).
We followed the Grotto Trail, and a tiny piece of the Canyon Vista Trail, down to the Jackson Creek Bike Trail. We had originally planned to ascend the Jackson Creek Nature Trail but that was down in a dark, cold canyon and the sunny bike trail looked much more inviting – so we ascended that instead.
Where the nature and bike trails meet, we left the bike trail, crossed Jackson Creek,
and climbed up the Jackson Ridge Trail,
to its junction with the Atsahu Trail near the park’s high point (Point 3455), then descended the Atsahu,
to upper Norling Road,
which we then followed down,
to parking area P-7, where we got on the Shade Creek Trail (which was, in the early 1900s, the wagon road to the Norling Mine),
followed it down to the Twin Peaks Trail, then followed that a short ways to the Owl Hoot Trail (an old mine ditch), then took the Owl out and around Twin Peaks,
with a view of incoming weather,
past the Mountain Mahogany Meadow Viewpoint (for a brief glimpse of now very snowy Mount McLoughlin), on down to the Boulder Trail,
to the Ol’ Miners Trail (we were getting to be Ol’ Hikers by this point) and past another old mine (not as neat a one as the Norling Mine),
and along an icy old road back to P-1.
What a great (10.5 miles; 2,900 feet of elevation gain) hike! Sunshine, bluebird skies and weather, and fresh snow! Higher up, we were the first to track the wonderfully powdery snow. And how the snow and sun and trees worked together to create images was amazing! We have more hikes to do in Forest Park but today’s convergence of sun and snow will be hard to replicate.