In July of this year, thanks to the efforts of the Siskiyou Upland Trails Association (SUTA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Phase 1 of the Jack-Ash (Jacksonville – Ashland) Trail was completed from Griffin Lane to Anderson Butte Road, about ten miles west of Ashland, Oregon. This new (yeah!) trail connects with the well known Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, a trail which, since 2013, we have been able to hike all parts of, including the segment between the Deming Gulch and Grub Gulch Trailheads. In addition, I used sections of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail to craft a loop over Anderson Butte to and from the Wolf Gap Trailhead. Based on these previous wanderings, and with the Jack-Ash now available, further map-gazing suggested a loop involving it, Anderson Butte, and the mine ditch trail. And so, on a Fall day with near perfect weather for hiking, we set out to explore this loop (and the new trail).
We did this loop in the “easy” counter-clockwise direction. We left a car lower down at the Deming Gulch Trailhead and then drove up the Deming-Armstrong Road [Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Road 39-2-8] to park a second car where a now decommissioned road connects with BLM 39-2-8 at the head of Deming Gulch.
Motorcyclists have worn a single-track use trail in the old road prisim, making for easy hiking up through Fall colors.
We’d be less conflicted about this route if this old road had gone all the way up to the now decommissioned Anderson Butte Lookout Road (BLM Road 39-2-12.2) but it doesn’t. It stops just below the ridge lower down and from there motorcyclists have carved a track straight up the ridge crest to the old lookout road. Not good, not good at all. The rogue motorcycle track cuts across the Jack-Ash Trail just short of the lookout road.
We continued up past the Jack-Ash to the old road running out to the now long gone (it was removed in 1965) Anderson Butte Lookout. This road has been freshly and aggressively bermed – this being more of an impediment for hikers than for renegade motorcycles or ATVs.
All that remains of the lookout are its foundation piers,
and the view.
We located the geocache (GC11WRE) near the top and left two rare VanMarmot hiking cards – but passed on taking our photo with the camera in the cache. We then went a short ways back down the lookout road to where we could see another motorcycle track heading north down the ridge.
We followed this track down across another old road and then a bit further down to where a short cross-country descent took us to the Jack-Ash Trail running below the ridge. We followed the J-A as it descended through a thinned forest around the head of Grub Gulch,
then descended through Fall colors,
across open meadows and fire-thinned forest,
for views that got better and better as the morning’s cloud cover dissipated.
After about two miles, the J-A became an old road,
and soon we were at the Greenstone Trailhead – which is, at present, marked by a large dirt pile apparently much frequented by target shooters (Doesn’t anyone police their brass anymore?) on BLM Road 39-2-8 (the Deming-Armstrong Road). There’s no big trailhead sign here yet.
From here the J-A follows the Deming-Armstrong Road north for about a mile, going past a large quarry,
and open vistas,
to Griffin Gap, where the J-A resumes as a trail downhill to the left (west).
From here, a descending traverse through forest and across open meadows,
and into madrones,
brought us to the Jack-Ash’s junction with BLM Road 38-2-6,
which we followed southeast to the Grub Gulch Trailhead.
After passing the green gate and the trailhead kiosk, we continued down the J-A (now as BLM Road 39-2-3.1) under Fall colors,
to a road junction. Going left here would put us on the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail heading back to the Deming Gulch Trailhead. Going right would have kept us on the J-A to its new trailhead on Griffin Lane. We went left to complete our planned loop.
After a while, the 39-2-3.1 ends and a trail starts, one that took us down numerous switchbacks across open terrain (and through lots of deer),
to a meeting with the ditch itself on the edge of private property.
From there it was three miles of level walking along the ditch,
through more Fall colors,
to the Deming Gulch Trailhead. After a dusty car shuttle, we were done with our loop! The J-A is a wonderful trail, well executed through varied terrain and with big views when needed! Anderson Butte, a geocache, and a tiny bit of cross-country were sprinkles on the hiking donut glazed by the J-A. Done as a counter-clockwise – the “easy” way – loop, we logged 13.2 miles with 1,200 feet of elevation gain (going from Griffin Lane to the Anderson Butte Trailhead (and visiting Anderson Butte), you’d do about 8.5 miles with 2,500 feet of gain). We can visualize other loop possibilities here but those we’ll hold in reserve for when winter closes the High Cascades.