The LovedOne was determined to finish the gardening that had been cut short by this weekend’s storm. So I looked around for a nearby hike that I hadn’t done before. Tablerocktrekker had alerted me to a new piece of trail – the Lower Wonder – near Ashland and also to the Ashland Woodland & Trails Association’s trail search feature. After consulting that oracle, I decided to do an out-and-back hike on the new Lower Wonder and the old Upper Wonder to Lunch Rocks, starting from the Fairy Ponds Trailhead. I was a little concerned that these quasi-urban trails – they start right at Ashland’s city limits – might be a little crowded but they weren’t. I saw two hikers at a distance and socially distanced from eight more, so no issues with crowding this day. Except, of course, for the bear.

On the Lower Wonder
Woolly Mullen
Nice day for a hike
Grizzly Peak from the Lower Wonder
A fern glen along the Lower Wonder
Ashland and course correction contrail from the Lower Wonder
Just around this corner…

I had climbed the switchbacks up from the trailhead and started south on the part of the Lower Wonder that contours up the canyon. There are some tight corners in this stretch, with limited sight lines. Plus I was kind of zoning-out on this pleasant walk through the forest. So I come around one of these corners, look up, and see a large brown shag rug in the middle of the trail maybe 20-30 feet ahead. One with two beady eyes. And cute, round, furry ears. Moving. Moving toward me. Not a rug! Not a rug! My legs had already taken me back around the corner before my anti-bear defenses kicked-in. Hey, bear! Hey, bear! Then I heard footsteps on the ridge above me and sensed (or hoped) that the bear had left the trail. So I eased around the corner just in time to see bear butt waddling into the brush up the ridge. Whew! We had six bear sightings (one with cubs) while hiking last year but this was the first for this year and the closest one in a long time. I had a mild case of ursine paranoia for the rest of the hike.

This was not a small bear 🐻

I continued on up to where the Wonder Trail junctions with the Fell On Knee Trail at Lunch Rocks, had a snack, and headed back.

Mount Ashland (with a little snow left) from the trail
Almost to Lunch Rocks
Mount Ashland from Lunch Rocks

The original plan had been an out-and-back on the Wonder but I found that it is designated as one-way uphill at the moment. Plus the bear needed his or her space – lots of it. So I made my return on Forest Road 2060 (which is closed to motorized vehicles).

Returning on Forest Road 2060 – to ensure maximum social distancing from the bear

In all, an unexpectedly exciting 7.3 mile loop (with 1,300 feet of gain) on well-done trails that are graded for mountain bikes and hence make for easier hiking. The new Lower Wonder is a worthy addition to the Ashland trail system! 🙂

My Wonder Trail – Forest Road 2060 Loop: (B) Bear encounter, (L) Lunch Rocks