Daily Constitutional #2: Petard Ditch Loop

Today I went back to the Jacksonville Woodlands to do the Petard Ditch Loop, a 1 1/2 mile hike that starts at Rich Gulch, which I covered here. To get to the trailhead, either hike up to Rich Gulch as I described in that post, or drive further up Oregon Street to the streetside trailhead that goes through the Chinese Diggings area.

I took the latter. I parked in the gravel triangle where another street intersected Oregon and walked back to the trailhead, past a pair of bobbing quail. I walked up past the cougar warning notice for a quarter mile, turning right at the intersection of another trail and walked through the field above Rich Gulch. At Rich Gulch, I turned left at the sign for Petard Ditch. You travel along the ditch in question, a mile-long watercourse dug by hand in the 1850s to provide water for large scale gold mining, for about half a mile until it loops. Take the higher fork and drop down to Jackson Creek for the return walk.

Because my hikes tend to turn, or so S. maintains, into Death Marches, naturally I took the third fork on the main trunk instead of the second and wound up meandering uphill to the east. The trail eventually started switchbacking. Courting a heart attack, I stuck with it and wound up on the broad top of a high ridge that descended gently to the north. Although the views were minimal, the sinuous madrone trees and elevation made the broad ramp a breezy colonnade. There was a sense in the wavy salmony trunks of the madrone of a view of the Mediterranean through the trees in a post-impressionist painting.

I followed the ramp downward through a strange little bit where the madrone and oak were mixed uncharacteristically with pine and fir. Here a scattering of pale yellow butterflies danced across the path. Once the trail started switchbacking down the east side, I figured out that since the trailhead was northwest of the ridge that I might be offbase just a smidge. So I hiked back up hill to the ridgetop, down the westside switchback, back down the path to the juncture and took a left again to complete the loop.

From the Britt area parking lot the hike would be about 3 1/2 miles but from the Oregon Street trailhead it was only about 2. (With my crazed Death March addition it was about 3.)

Next on the agenda: Ashland’s Lithia Park, from the plaza to the reservoir.

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