The Jacksonville Woodlands Trails are 18 miles of connecting interpretive and recreational trails surrounding 70% of the historic district of Jacksonville, Oregon. They are popular – when not too muddy – in the winter when snow closes the trails in the high country and wildly popular during the Spring wildflower extravaganza. By summer, however, the flowers (and mud) are gone, the poison oak is out in its full toxic glory, and mid-day temperatures aren’t necessarily hiker-friendly. But with an early start, a summer hike in the Woodlands offers up some interesting sights without becoming a remake of Beau Geste.
By fueling our ambition with the miracle of caffeine, we were able to depart the trailhead off Highway 238 at an unnaturally early, but cool (thermally that is), hour of the morning. We crossed the still running South Fork of Jacksonville Creek,
noted the abundance of poison oak yearning, yearning for someone (or their dog) to wander off the trail,
went on up the Jackson Forks Trail,
past some of the last remnants of the Spring floral display,
and then linked the Britt Ridge, Britt Canyon, Rich Gulch, and Panorama Point Trails,
to arrive at Panorama Point, where we could make out just a few familiar landmarks through the heat haze and valley particulates.
From Panorama Point, we dropped down through Rich Gulch, then took the Petard Ditch Trail south to Liz’s Trail. The Petard Ditch was dug in 1860 to bring water to the hydraulic mines in Rich Gulch – the scars from such mining are still clearly visible 157 years later.
The Petard Ditch Trail took us to where we could veer off on to Liz’s Trail, a loolipop loop over another high point,
and past one of the biggest meadows in this trail system.
After rejoining the Petard Ditch Trail, we followed it up the ridge and over and down into Rich Gulch, and then took the Jane Naversen Trail to the Jackson Forks Trail and that back to the trailhead – 5.5 miles with 1,100 feet of elevation gain, all before things got too hot. Nice!
As there were no wildflowers to distract us on this hike, we succumbed to appreciating the infinite variety of abstract shapes offered up by the madrones. Art matters, we’re just not very good at it…
And with that, it was back to our home planet.