Tunnel Ridge Loop (Southwest Oregon) 15-Apr-2022

Well, last week gave us some of the weather we’d liked to have gotten spread out across January, February, and March – rain, snow, hail, sleet, high winds, etc. But, no, the skies waited and then slammed us with this stuff all at once. Recently brown hills are now green lower down and white higher up. The wildflowers are confused. But magic sky water is most welcome here however and whenever it arrives. More of this celestial moistness is expected in this evening and may then continue for another week. ๐Ÿ˜

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Deming~Wolf Gap Loop (Southwest Oregon) 17-Dec-2021

The full conditions we “enjoyed” recently on Roxy Ann brought enough snow – at least to the high country above 6,000 feet (1,829 m) – for our local ski area to open tomorrow. ๐Ÿ˜Š More storms are expected next week, hopefully bringing more rain ๐Ÿ™‚ and more snow ๐Ÿ˜ to our still parched region. So we wanted to do a longer hike before being confined to quarters by these oncoming Winter storms. Something long but not too hard, with little or no snow, no cross-country, and no anxiety (Lord knows there’s enough of that going around these days) about route finding. The nearby Sterling Mine Ditch Trail came immediately to mind. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

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Grub Gulch Loop (Southern Oregon) 09-Nov-2020

The Sterling Mine Ditch Trail is one of the premier hikes in Southwestern Oregon. The trail follows the alignment of a ditch dug by hand in 1877 to divert water from the upper reaches of the Little Applegate River to the Sterling Creek Mine. As built, and allowing for its ins-and-outs through canyons, it’s pretty linear from the Little Applegate Trail on one end to the Grub Gulch Trailhead on the other. This makes forming loops a bit of a challenge. There are short ones at its east end between the Little Applegate, Tunnel Ridge, and Bear Gulch Trailheads. And we’ve done one from the Deming Gulch Trailhead by adding a road walk up to the Wolf Gap Trailhead. And I did one to Grub Gulch from Deming Gulch with a return on the Jackash Trail, Sterling Creek Road, and the dirt road to the trailhead. But was there a way to do a loop from Deming to Grub without much road walking?

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Circling the Ditch (Southwestern Oregon) 29-May-2020

The Sterling Mine Ditch Trail is undoubtedly one of the best known trails in Southwestern Oregon. For some 21 miles, it follows the route of an old ditch dug (in the 1870s) to supply water from the Little Applegate River to a hydraulic mine in Sterling Gulch. Because of its linearity, doing a loop hike involving a long stretch of it requires some improvisation. So back in 2015, we figured how to do such a loop from the Deming Trailhead by combining a little road walking with the then newly opened connector trail from Wolf Gap. Although today was forecast as a hot one (some 20ยฐF (12ยฐC) above whatever passes for normal these days), the weather in the days ahead was forecast to involve exciting bursts of water and electricity, so we ventured forth today to repeat this loop.

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Sterling Mine Ditch (Oregon) 26-Mar-2020

Our governor’s shelter-in-place order went into effect on Monday, with the now all too familiar (and painful) public closures, stay-at-home injunctions, and self-isolation directives. But, hiking, running, and biking are still encouraged PROVIDED you maintain a 6-foot (2 m) “alone cone” around yourself. Basically, just stay away from other people. And we’ve been good about that, as neither of us wants to give the Big V a shot at our decrepit immune systems. So, except for brief forays out for groceries, liquor, prescription refills, and the occasional take-out, we do not leave the house. Hiking is the one big exception. When doing so, we now have to think carefully about when and where to go – and be willing to abandon or revise a planned hike if trying to do it would compromise social distancing.

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Hiking Southern Oregon: 25 Hikes (February 2020)

To celebrate our 600th post on WordPress, we’re highlighting a select few of the many hikes we’ve enjoyed here in Southwest Oregon.

As we’ve perused lists of Oregon’s greatest hikes, we’ve come to notice that these lists are heavily skewed, with a few exceptions, toward hikes near Portland.ย  That metro areaโ€™s greater population helps if a list is based on some kind of vote.ย  And proximity to its major airport helps get votes from those who drop in for a brief Western adventure.ย  Even some of the classics, like the Wallowas in Eastern Oregon or the Three Sisters in Central Oregon, often donโ€™t make these lists because they are too far away.ย  So a lot of “great” hikes get done near Portland – the state’s most populated town. And then the complaints roll in about how thereโ€™s no parking, the trails are too crowded, you need a permit or must pay a fee, itโ€™s raining, etc.

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Osgood Ditch Trail (California) 31-Mar-2019

The history of Southern Oregon is defined, in large part, by the search for gold. Here, the principal form of mining was hydraulic, where copious amounts of water were used to wash a water-sediment slurry through sluice boxes to capture the gold. All this water was usually conveyed to the mines via ditches, with a berm on one side along which ran a trail for the ditch tender.

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Back on the Sunny Ditch (Oregon) 24-Mar-2019

Last week, I returned to the middle section of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail for the first time in several years. Except for the absence ๐Ÿ˜ฆ of The LovedOne, it was a great hike in near perfect weather. It was this earlier hike between the Bear Gulch and Tunnel Ridge Trailheads that convinced us that Southern Oregon was a good place to be if you wanted to enjoy the outdoors year-round. Today was cast as a similarly near perfect hiking day between periods of rain and gloom. And The LovedOne was free (temporarily) of both the library and her numerous fabric projects. So I pitched a bike-assisted hike of the eastern end of the ditch – one we hadn’t done since 2013 – and she went for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Sunshine on the Ditch (Oregon) 17-Mar-2019

We’re enjoying a (likely temporary) spate of near perfect hiking weather: sunshine ๐Ÿ˜Ž , blue skies, cool breezes, and still dormant ticks. This being Oregon in the Spring, such perfection won’t last long (the ticks, however, will likely go on forever). I was keen to use this interlude of hiking nirvana to continue working the kinks out of my back, while fooling with the straps on my new daypack. I needed a 10-mile or less hike with some gain and no snow. Thus the year-round, low-altitude, south-facing (mostly), and nearby Sterling Mine Ditch Trail came to mind. The trail doesn’t form a natural loop but I could make one using my mountain bike (thank you REI dividend ๐Ÿ™‚ ). It hadn’t gotten out of the garage at all this winter, was feeling a little deflated (at least its tires were), and needed to get back on the road. The LovedOne opted out of this adventure, electing to stay inside o_O and work on a fabric project of some complexity.

So, going it alone, ๐Ÿ˜ฅ I drove up the Deming-Armstrong Road, hid the bike at the Wolf Gap Trailhead, then drove back down and parked at the Deming Gulch Trailhead. One of these days I’m going to ride this trail (it’s an easy and popular mountain biking route) but today I was focused on walking it. I ambled along the 8.3 miles between Deming Gulch and the junction with the Wolf Gap Trail (closed to bikes), enjoying the sun, the ditch, and the occasional views. Climbing back up to Wolf Gap added 1.5 miles and 950 feet of gain to the hike but also opened up some bigger views. After retrieving the bike, I coasted back down to where I’d parked. The last time we did this hike was four years ago, so this return was wonderful, my back held off complaining until the very end, and no ticks were sighted or squished (yet). In another month there will be wildflowers along this trail. ๐Ÿ˜€

Near Deming Gulch, a fallen tree blocks the trail and spans the ditch
Morning along the ditch
A corridor of ferns thanks to this year’s many rains
A charred madrone
A canopy to leafless trees
From the viewpoint: (1) Grayback Mountain, (2) Big Sugarloaf Peak, (3) Burton Butte, (4) Mount Baldy, (5) Ben Johnson Mountain
Along the ditch
The trail leaves the forest and crosses sunny slopes bearing oaks and madrones
View from the trail: (1) Burton Butte, (2) Tallowbox Mountain, (3) Mount Baldy, (4) Ben Johnson Mountain. The arrow points to the ditch trail.
Madrones along the trail
Sunshine! ๐Ÿ˜Ž
Madrones line the ditch
Lightly charred Ponderosa bark
Near the Wolf Gap junction, the trail enters a forest of madrones and Ponderosa pines
Climbing the Wolf Gap Trail through still dormant meadows
Oaks along the Wolf Gap Trail
The hike (solid red line) and the bike (dotted black line)

Madrones in the Abstract III (January 2019)

Natural processes create a seemingly infinite variety of abstract patterns in and on the bark of the Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Southern Oregon’s signature tree. So, as another round of winter weather (with snow! ๐Ÿ˜€ ) closes in on us, here are more images selected from the bark of these endlessly fascinating trees.

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To An End of the Jack-Ash! 04-Sep-2018

Jack-Ash Trail Jacksonville Ashland Oregon

In October 2017, we did our first hike on part of the recently completed Phase 1 of the Jack-Ash (Jacksonville – Ashland) Trail. This then new (yeah!) trail connects both ends of the well known Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, allowing for various hiking loops and other footy options. Because of the way we arranged that hike, we left the Jack-Ash at its junction with the Grub Gulch Access Trail and thus didn’t go all the way out to Griffin Lane.  I was thinking of correcting this oversight with a hike & bike between there and the Deming Gulch Trailhead when I realized that I didn’t know exactly where the Jack-Ash connected with Griffin Lane. Owing to the amount of private property in the area, it was critical to know this location exactly, as unintentionally hiding the bike in someone’s backyard would be problematic (at best). So nothing for it then but to hike north from Deming Gulch, up Grub Gulch, and down to the end of the Jack-Ash (The LovedOne opted to avoid yet another instance of my hiking OCD by going to the library).

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