Jacksonville Forest Park stands out in a hiking world that struggles to maintain existing trails much less build new ones. The park has added several new trails in just the short time we’ve been avidly hiking there. The Steep Canyon Rangers Trail and Grotto Trail extension opened in the last few months and the new Knobcone Pine Trail opened just a few weeks ago. We also found that the Arrowhead Pass Trail, which we’d first hiked last year, got enhanced with the addition of a loop called the China Ditch.
When our vague plan to go snowshoeing succumbed (as did our circadian rhythms) to the should-be-consigned-to-the-scrapheap-of-history stumble forward to daylight savings time, we opted instead for a short hike to see the China Ditch.
We started at Parking Area 5, ascended the still quite snowy Shade Creek Trail to near Parking Area 7 at the bottom of the Arrowhead Pass Trail (a re-purposed old logging road), then followed that up to the ridge top. The old road that is the Pass Trail was also still pretty snowy, with some slight post-holing in a few places.
The China Ditch Loop, being south-facing, was completely snow-free. This trail is part trail, part old road, and part what looks like a filled-in mining ditch. But it was not at all clear to us where water to feed a ditch would come from here high on the side of a ridge. The first topographic map for this area (published in 1908) shows several structures and a trail here, so possibly what looks like a ditch is actually an old pack trail?
After circling China Ditch, we descended the Arrowhead Pass Trail to the Atsahu Trail and used that to get back to P-5, thus ending a short (4 mile) but interesting hike. Glenn & Carol (Tablerocktrekker) had let us know that the new China Ditch Extension was open and that they hoped to hike it soon themselves. So it was only a partial surprise to meet them coming up the Arrowhead Pass Trail as we were heading back! 🙂 Katie is a true trail dog in that if the humans spend more than five minutes talking but not hiking, she starts bouncing around agitating to get back on the trail! 🙂