The City of Jacksonville, Oregon styles itself The Hiking Capital of Southern Oregon. To bolster this claim, the City maintains the Woodlands Trails, a web of pleasant hiking, biking, and equestrian trails on 320 acres on the west edge of town, southeast of Highway 238. It also maintains an extensive network of more rugged hiking and biking trails in 1,100-acre Forest Park, northwest of town on the west side of Highway 238. Although we have been avid users of the Woodlands Trails since we moved here, the trails in Forest Park had thus far escaped the gentle caress of our boots. Today we addressed this oversight (and the sloth accumulated during our recent week in South Florida) by tromping out a loop hike on trails around Norling Gulch. The few online maps we could find for these trails were often incomplete or inaccurate or both. The most complete and accurate (current) map proved to be the one obtainable at the park’s parking lot kiosks (and, presumably, from the City). Continue reading →
Biscayne National Park, which starts some 10 miles due east of Homestead, Florida, is another one of those national parks in Florida that is mostly offshore and underwater. You can’t see very much of it from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, so we scheduled a paddling/snorking day trip with the Biscayne National Park Institute to get a little closer look at this park. Continue reading →
After visiting Key West, Florida and Dry Tortugas National Park, we motored back up to Homestead, Florida. This put us in position for a brief visit to the east side of Everglades National Park. This 734 square mile park encompasses habitats ranging from subtropical wetlands to coastal and marine ecosystems to pine forests and hardwood hammocks. Everglades is more of a canoeing and kayaking park than a hiking one, but we found a short dirt trail in the pine forests present on the higher ground of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge. This gave us a taste of the dense complexity of these forest habitats. But, because we were visiting in the winter, this brief hike did not acquaint us with the dense complexity of flying and biting insects that await summer visitors. Continue reading →
Dry Tortugas National Park, situated almost 70 miles (113 kilometers) due west of Key West, Florida, encompasses seven small islands and 100-square miles of open water. Fort Jefferson, the nation’s largest 19th all-masonry fort, sits on Garden Key and is the focal point for tourists, such as ourselves, who weren’t bent on visiting the park’s underwater features. Garden Key is accessible only by daily concession ferry, private boats, charter boats, or seaplane; we opted to visit via the ferry (Yankee Freedom III). It’s a four hour round-trip ride to the park but that still left us plenty of time to explore the fort (there’s also time to snorkel in the waters around the fort if you’re so inclined). Continue reading →
Years ago, work took me to Key West, Florida; a type of work that did not allow The LovedOne to join me. So when she expressed an interest in seeing Key West for herself, we planned a mid-winter trip to drive the Overseas Highway (I’d only flown to Key West before), spend a few days in the Keys, and also visit some of the national parks in South Florida. Our thinking was that this would be a nice break from the snowy winter we were expecting, and from all the snowshoeing we’d be doing. Well, we haven’t had much snow or any snowshoeing, but it was a very nice break just the same. We prepared ourselves for our visit by re-reading some of Carl Hiaasen’s nominally fictional novels about life in South Florida. Call them “fiction” but his stories do capture the eccentric and frenetic gestalt of Miami and points south along the Keys. The Conch Republic has its own special take on different, so Hiaasen’s Bad Monkey is essential reading for Key West visitors! Continue reading →
Lost Creek Lake is a very large reservoir situated on the main stem of the Rouge River in a scenic valley approximately half way between Crater Lake National Park and Medford, Oregon. Two trails – the North Shore and the South Shore – circle the lake. Situated at about 2,500 feet elevation, these trails are open year-round, even when snow (ha!) closes those further up in the Cascades. Thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers (the folks who actually operate the dam and this lake), both trails are well-built and well-maintained, and very easy to hike or bike. The LovedOne was still catching-up on her library stuff, so it was up to me to take advantage of today’s outstanding Spring-like weather (the snowshoes are back in storage – sigh) by hiking to the Blue Grotto, where a seasonal stream falls some 40 feet over a greenish rhyolite cliff. The green rock is actually ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama, the volcano that created the caldera now known as Crater Lake. Continue reading →
In March of 2017, our search for a new (to us) low-altitude hike brought us to the Layton Mine Ditch Trail, recently restored through the efforts of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Williams Community Forest Project. At that time we did the 6-mile (roundtrip) hike north from Panther Gap along the remains of the ditch to the Chinese Wall – one of Williams’ most famous architectural structures. Although it is still a work in progress, I recently learned from the project’s Cheryl Bruner that the trail has been largely restored for the 7 miles south from Panther Gap to the ditch’s end at the head of the East Fork of Williams Creek. So, after waiting out some harsh weather and an even harsher bout with the flu, I finally got the chance to explore this part of the ditch trail. The LovedOne, still recovering from her flu experience, and behind on her library volunteerism, decided to take a pass on this one.