Well, maybe we went a little out-of-bounds this time but, having done a lot of hiking in Forest Park recently, we were looking for some new trails to explore. Plus there were some geocaches hidden out in the wilds that seemed like they’d be fun to hunt for. Plus The LovedOne’s knee was still saying “no long hikes or I’ll hurt you..” So when we were offered a bluebird – perfect-for-hiking – sunny day, we were off for yet another hike in (and out of) 1,100-acre Forest Park.
As we’ve noted before, making sense of the 20+ miles of trails in this park is much improved by possession of a trail map (obtainable from a parking area kiosk or the city). The unexplored trails and geocaches of interest were high on the west side of the park, so we started hiking from the P-7 parking area, near the head of Norling Gulch. Parts of Norling Road up to the P-7 are steep and deeply rutted, so it was nice to be driving a high clearance vehicle.
From P-7, we walked a short distance up Norling Road, then took the Atsahu Trail to the Jackson Ridge Trail and descended that to the old road (now a bike trail) along Jackson Creek. Last time we were on the ridge trail, it was covered with several inches of snow!
It was at this point that we started into perhaps forbidden territory by walking up the old road along Jackson Creek and past the park boundary. The road was open – but festooned with motorcycle tracks – until we came to some salvage logging of burned forest that had strewn trees and debris on the road. The motorcycle tracks by-passed this blockage by going in to and directly up the creek bed!
After being forced to climb up the creek bed too, we soon rejoined the road as it turned south above Lennox Gulch.
After a short hike south on this road, we turned southeast on yet another old road – well defined by motorcycle tracks – that climbed directly up the northwest ridge of Point 3455. Here we think we crossed back into the park but, frankly, we haven’t been able to find a recent map that accurately depicts these old roads, the park’s boundaries, private versus public lands, etc.
The old road goes directly over Point 3455 and offers some limited views of the Red Buttes to the south and of Medford and Mount McLoughlin to the east.
We continued south on this road, going up and down, up and down as it stuck to the top of the ridge, all the while trying not to slip into the deep motorcycle ruts.
South of Point 3455 we went outside the park again, crossed upper Norling Road (Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Road 37-3-26.1), passed the head of Norling Gulch, climbed another set of motorcycle ruts,
and reached a junction with yet another old road. As near as we can tell, this was the original Arrowhead Pass Road (there’s a newer one downslope to the south that some maps label as this road).
We followed this old road due east,
which offered up a view as far northeast as Diamond Peak, Mount Bailey, and Mount Thielsen.
At some point, we crossed back into the park and reached an unsigned junction with the southern end of the park’s Arrowhead Pass Trail (another old road). After passing an immense trench in the road (more of a hinderance to hikers than to motorcycles), we followed it back down to P-7, crossing the Atsahu Trail on the way.
The LovedOnes knee held up for most of this short (5.2 miles) but steep (1,400 feet of elevation gain [up and down]) hike, but was complaining by the end. So more rest and more knee exercises. But, all in all, a good hike to unexpected places on a beautiful day. And we found a few geocaches too!