Hiding in the Forest (Southwest Oregon) 08-Dec-2020

Not Jacksonville Forest Park, again?ย  Donโ€™t you ever go anywhere else? Well, yes, we have and we do and we will.ย  But right now doesnโ€™t seem quite like the time to be wandering the countryside breathing the virus-laden air of freedom. So, while the park is a popular destination, it’s pretty easy to find solitude on the 40-miles (64 km) of trails that weave across its 1,080 acres (437 ha). Today’s journey involved established trails, exploring a piece of old road that I’ve been curious about for awhile, and some dirt roads favored by dirt bike riders. The LovedOne sat this one out in favor of at-home yoga. ๐Ÿ™„

Home was blanketed in a thick fog. But that only went as far as Jacksonville’s outskirts, so the park was bathed in brilliant sunlight. ๐Ÿ˜Ž I drove up to Parking Area 5 (past a full Parking Area 3), then hiked up the Shade Creek Trail (which actually follows Norling Creek) to its junction with the Atsahu Trail. All of the leaves have fallen and begun decomposing. Even the mushrooms have given it up until next year. Any vibrant colors are gone. Now the forest is about visual texture and pleasantly earthy smells.

Stairs on the Shade Creek Trail
Not ready to decompose yet
Ferns are good on texture, but weak on color
Leaf fallen on fern

At the Shade Creek / Atsahu Trail junction, there’s a sharp bend in the road (which is what the Atsahu Trail is here) and a faded track heads south from there up the canyon. It leaves the park on to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and looks like it’s used not too often by dirt bikers. Today was my day to see where it went. It starts out somewhat eroded, then fades into a single-track along the old road prism. It took me quickly to the dirt road that runs along the crest of the ridge.

The old road with a dirt bike gouge
The dirt road along the ridge is popular with dirt bikers

In under a mile, the dirt road on the ridge crosses into Forest Park but the local Motorcycle Riders Association (MRA) has an easement to use it. We’ve hiked on this road a few times and never encountered any bikers. But you can hear them coming and easily step aside to let them pass. But on a weekday I didn’t expect to encounter any and I didn’t. The best part of walking this road are the views it gives of Mount McLoughlin to the east. On a clear day like today, these were spectacular! ๐Ÿ™‚

A snowy Mount McLoughlin with the inversion fog still covering Medford

Not far back inside the Park, the dirt road splits to go around both sides of Point 3455, the park’s high point. Another old road – now forcefully decommissioned – starts from the center of this split, runs up the ridge, and right over the high point. I followed this one.

On the old road over the high point
Dropped leaf

I stayed with the old road as it crossed the high point and followed it eastward down Jackson Ridge. It took me to the junction of the Jackson Ridge and Atsahu Trails. The last few feet of the old road are obscured by a wood pile, making it largely invisible from the Atsahu Trail. From this junction, I followed the Jackson Ridge Trail – part old road, part single-track – back to the parking area.

Under the madrones on the Jackson Ridge Trail
Madrone abstract
Mount McLoughlin and the snowy rim of Crater Lake (L) from one of the Jackson Ridge Viewpoints
Sunlight among the madrones
Sunny leaf
An oak clings to its fading Fall color

A short hike (4 mile (6.4 km) loop, with 1,000 feet (305 m) of gain but worth it for the exercise, sunshine, and views of Mount McLoughlin. Plus I now know where that old road goes. Despite the cars at the trailhead, I was passed by only one runner and two hikers, so no issues with physical distancing today. You can relax now – this will be our last Forest Park post for 2020! ๐Ÿ™‚

Today’s short loop: red line on established trails, purple dots on old and current dirt roads; “V” in one of the viewpoints on the Jackson Ridge Trail
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