As of today, and despite a snow dump earlier and a few passing storms more recently, our water year precipitation is still 26% below normal (a term I now use with caution). We’d need almost 10 inches (254 mm) of rain by April 1st to make up the difference and end the drought. Even The LovedOne – a classic glass half full optimist – is becoming reconciled to that (short of an extremely wayward hurricane) not happening. After all, you need something to fill that glass with. We’re bracing for a long, hot, dry summer… 😰
So, with The LovedOne busy at the library, I headed to the Park to hike its three named drainages – Norling, Cantrall, and Jackson – while they still conveyed a glimmer of flowing water. Amazingly, what rain and snow we have gotten has been enough to keep their creeks trickling even in the grips of our punishing drought. They will, of course, eventually dry up, so I went out to seize the moment of the flow.
Although it was sunny up on Mount Ashland, the Bear Creek Valley was filled with damp, low-hanging clouds in the morning. This made for a cold and gloomy start as I left Parking Area 7 (P7) and headed down the Shade Creek and Canyon Falls Trails along Norling Creek to its confluence with Jackson Creek. As this is the absolute slack time in the forest – no wildflowers, no mushrooms, no leaves (yet) – its key features are moss, last year’s leaves, and a subtle structural complexity. It’s the time to enjoy the forest for itself, without the garish blandishments of wildflowers. 🙄
At the confluence, I followed the Ridgeview Trail into the Cantrall Creek drainage and went up that to near Parking Area 6. Then it was the Steep Canyon Rangers, Naversen Family, and Canyon Vista Trails over to the old road above Jackson Creek.
I went up the old road (now the Jackson Creek Bike Trail) and then returned along Jackson Creek on the Jackson Creek Nature Trail back to the Canyon Vista Trail.
I followed the Canyon Vista Trail to the Jackson Ridge Trail and then up to the viewpoint on Jackson Ridge. Sunshine had been fitful up to this point. But now the higher clouds really began to burn off and I got a wonderful view of a snow-capped Mount McLoughlin rising above the sea of clouds still filling most of the Bear Creek Valley. After this literal and metaphorical high point, it was down the Claimjumper Trail to P7.
Although there were cars at all the trailheads (except for P7) and I heard voices in the distance, I didn’t actually see anyone – hiking or biking – during this 6.9 mile (11 km) / 1,200 foot (366 m) of elevation gain loop. It was another good walk in the forest – as they have all been 😁 – during its quietest season. Another great memory of the Forest to keep and to cherish.
“No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.”
Within a month – and despite the drought – the forest will start to flourish again, nurtured by what little moisture came its way this winter and eons of coping with fluctuations in the climate. Whether it’s greatest climate challenge lies ahead, remains to be seen…