Sunshine on the Ditch (Oregon) 17-Mar-2019

We’re enjoying a (likely temporary) spate of near perfect hiking weather: sunshine 😎 , blue skies, cool breezes, and still dormant ticks. This being Oregon in the Spring, such perfection won’t last long (the ticks, however, will likely go on forever). I was keen to use this interlude of hiking nirvana to continue working the kinks out of my back, while fooling with the straps on my new daypack. I needed a 10-mile or less hike with some gain and no snow. Thus the year-round, low-altitude, south-facing (mostly), and nearby Sterling Mine Ditch Trail came to mind. The trail doesn’t form a natural loop but I could make one using my mountain bike (thank you REI dividend 🙂 ). It hadn’t gotten out of the garage at all this winter, was feeling a little deflated (at least its tires were), and needed to get back on the road. The LovedOne opted out of this adventure, electing to stay inside o_O and work on a fabric project of some complexity.

So, going it alone, 😥 I drove up the Deming-Armstrong Road, hid the bike at the Wolf Gap Trailhead, then drove back down and parked at the Deming Gulch Trailhead. One of these days I’m going to ride this trail (it’s an easy and popular mountain biking route) but today I was focused on walking it. I ambled along the 8.3 miles between Deming Gulch and the junction with the Wolf Gap Trail (closed to bikes), enjoying the sun, the ditch, and the occasional views. Climbing back up to Wolf Gap added 1.5 miles and 950 feet of gain to the hike but also opened up some bigger views. After retrieving the bike, I coasted back down to where I’d parked. The last time we did this hike was four years ago, so this return was wonderful, my back held off complaining until the very end, and no ticks were sighted or squished (yet). In another month there will be wildflowers along this trail. 😀

Near Deming Gulch, a fallen tree blocks the trail and spans the ditch
Morning along the ditch
A corridor of ferns thanks to this year’s many rains
A charred madrone
A canopy to leafless trees
From the viewpoint: (1) Grayback Mountain, (2) Big Sugarloaf Peak, (3) Burton Butte, (4) Mount Baldy, (5) Negro Ben Mountain
Along the ditch
The trail leaves the forest and crosses sunny slopes bearing oaks and madrones
View from the trail: (1) Burton Butte, (2) Tallowbox Mountain, (3) Mount Baldy, (4) Negro Ben Mountain. The arrow points to the ditch trail.
Madrones along the trail
Sunshine! 😎
Madrones line the ditch
Lightly charred Ponderosa bark
Near the Wolf Gap junction, the trail enters a forest of madrones and Ponderosa pines
Climbing the Wolf Gap Trail through still dormant meadows
Oaks along the Wolf Gap Trail
The hike (solid red line) and the bike (dotted black line)
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7 comments

  1. Just another quick note….we went to Cathedal HIlls Park today and the Indian Warrior flowers are just beginning to show color. A few Buttercups, Oaks Toothwort, Shooting Stars and lots of Grass Widows. If you are thinking of seeing the bloom, give it another 1-2 weeks – should be beautiful. If green of the plants is an indication of the bloom, Shooting Stars will be everywhere!

  2. Well there are ticks up on Roxy Ann as we hiked at Prescott Park on Saturday and I (Glenn) attracted a few ticks which we quickly flicked away……..they are coming! We will see how they are at Applegate Lake next weekend.

  3. Gorgeous hike! Ticks are the absolute worst, we had a lot in WI as well but luckily I haven’t seen too many in CO! Also, Negro Ben Mountain? Who thought that was a good idea? Jeez 😛

    1. Thanks! Our ticks are numerous but not too aggressive, so if you pay attention you can scrape them off before they “bond” with you. As for that mountain’s name. 😕 It was named in 1869 by the then locals for Ben Johnson, a well-regraded blacksmith who lived and worked in the Applegate Valley. It used to be named with (by today’s standards) a much worse “N” but the U.S. Board on Geographic Names removed that searingly racist term from the federal lexicon in the 1960s. Sometimes, particularly here in the West, geography is a sharp reminder of where we came from and how far we have yet to go.

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