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Archive for the ‘Jacksonville’ Category

Daily Constitutional #2: Petard Ditch Loop

In Daily Constitutional, Hiking, Jacksonville, Oregon, Outdoors on June 17, 2007 at 2:57 am

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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Daily Constitutional #1: Jacksonville Woodlands, Rich Gulch

In Daily Constitutional, Hiking, Jacksonville, Oregon, Outdoors on May 21, 2007 at 12:46 am

Although it’s not a great photo, this place, the Jacksonville Woodlands, is my favorite place to hike. It’s a rink of privately-acquired (though publicly accessible) woods surrounding the historic town of Jacksonville, Oregon, where part of my family is from.

I wrote up my favorite hike there as a sample for a column I was planning to try with the Medford Mail Tribune. Since I’ve accepted the job in Eugene with a large independent video game developer and publisher, I won’t be writing it for them. Hopefully, someone else will. As for me, I think, when the mood takes me, I’ll just do it here. Consider this the first installment of my “Daily Constitutional.”

Daily Constitutional #1

If you spend too much time in front of the TV, as I have done lately, your impression of fitness will wind up pretty skewed. According to the square oracle, the only way a person like you or I can get fit is to purchase something, usually something large and expensive, and then spend either hours a day on it or, less convincingly, minutes. But most doctors agree that you can grab great health gains from a simple activity that the overwhelming majority of us know how to do, even if we do it too seldom: walking.

When I say walking, I don’t mean hiking, even less snowshoeing or mountain climbing. A good walk of half and hour to an hour each day can result in weight loss, lowering of blood pressure, reduction of stress and strengthening of muscles. So, my plan is to put my feet where my mouth is (without actually putting my foot in my mouth, though no promises there). I’ll give you a nice, simple, easily-accessible walk to do somewhere in the area each day. If you take the walk, chime in on our online forums and tell us what you thought. If you have a walk to suggest, write me and let me know.

The Jacksonville Woodlands. Rich Gulch Trail. Two Miles Round Trip. Moderate

Over the past 17 years the Jacksonville Woodlands Association has secured and maintained 20 pieces of land surrounding the town of Jacksonville. They’ve created low-impact trails, trail maps (available for a buck at trailheads) and even in some places put in interpretive signage.

The Rich Gulch trail is one of my favorites. When I go to Jville, I drive up Highway 99, take a left on Old Stage Road, jog right on Griffin Creek and left back onto Stage, then come into town on California Street. At the far end of town, take a left on Oregon Street, an immediate right on Pine, an immediate left again on First, then another right after the Britt Festival grounds. Park in the lot at the trailhead.

From the trailhead at the map box, head out across the flat land through a widely-spaced oak forest, keeping to the left of the old water tank. Eventually, you’ll work your way up the slope, birdsong usually your only companion. Walk on, along the side of a little pine valley. As you come up to Rich Gulch itself, the site of a great deal of the gold mining that put Jacksonville on the map, you will see an area gated off with waist-high metal fencing. That’s one of the sinkholes created when local residents returned to gold mining during the depths of the Great Depression. The hole, ten feet wide and twice as deep, yields an unexpected occupant, the body of an old car.

Twelve interpretive signs will give you interesting information on the mining history of the area.

Walk a few feet further on and look down to the right. That’s Petard Ditch, that carried water for mining from Jackson Creek, hand dug by the miners. Now look to the left. There’s a ridge there and if you walk up to it, you’ll see it was the retaining wall for the small reservoir in front of it. There, the water would be stored, allowing pressure to build up. In the summer time (after the main gold mining died out) it was used as a swimming hole by local kids.

Across the further ridge you’ll see the main diggings. Here the water, whose pressure had built up in the reservoir, was loosed in soil-stripping gushes through great hoses, washing the dirt of the sides of the gulch and into the “long Tom” and other sluicing boxes to separate the gold.

Mining changed the area. It created fascinating, and in some cases even beautiful, effects, though it took its toll as well. The land is not the same as it was before the gold rush.

From the diggings, you can head back the same way your came, or take your pick of further walks. The half-mile Frenchman Mine Loop will take you up over the valley where many early French pioneers lived, ranched and, yes, made wines from the vineyards they planted, long before Rogue Valley wines had won any awards. In the other direction, the 1.5 Petard Ditch Loop will take you to Jackson Creek.

Walking is man’s best medicine. –Hippocrates, Greek physician, 5th century B.C.

[We’re going over to do the Petard Ditch Trail tomorrow. Perhaps I’ll write that up and ask S. to take a decent photo. Once back in Eugene, I’ll do Mt. Pisgah, my favorite place to walk in that area.]

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Latest Publication: Jacksonville Essay in Medford Mail Tribune

In Jacksonville, Publications on December 19, 2006 at 2:32 pm

My latest publication came out Sunday in the Medford Mail Tribune. It was an essay on the changes I’d seen in the town my mother grew up in, Jacksonville, Oregon. It was published in an occasional 2A column called, Southern Oregon Journal, which doesn’t get posted online apparently. The reaction to it was very positive, which was rather gratifying.

Memories of a Jacksonville gone by

My strongest memory of Jacksonville was seeing my Uncle Arch in his volunteer fire department uniform, jacket discarded, hat on backward, dancing with a hippy chick in a tube top to a band on the back of a flatbed playing “House of the Rising Sun” during Pioneer Days.

The Jacksonville of my youth was impossibly charming, featuring characters with names like “Red” and “Oakie.” To be young and on the loose in the summertime in Jacksonville was like being free to wander around Heaven, despite the fact our father was in Vietnam. In the years since, the town has changed a great deal, some for the better and some for the worst. The same could probably be said of me.

“You know, when we moved here,” said Aunt Darsy, talking about when my family came to Jacksonville in the Fifties, “this was where they sent the poor people, the welfare cases.” It was cheap and run-down, she said. It was out of the way and the houses were those awful old things, more than a few over a hundred years old. Who’d want them?

When I was growing up the most famous resident of Jacksonville, and no doubt among the richest, was professional bowler Marshall Holman. My brother Kevin, a lane rat to this day, was in awe. Now the town is full of refugees from Hollywood and corporate America. Bruce Campbell, famous for his roles in the Evil Dead series and the Hercules and Xena TV shows, has started a Jacksonville-based film production company.

When people move into a town that has its own distinctive identity, the new residents tend to fall into two camps. The first are those who value the place and what it provides so much that they exert an extra effort to give back to it. Then there are those who, having turned their own communities into combination amusement park-garbage dumps, move in and start the process again.

I would never have imagined when I was a youngster that I would actually do Christmas shopping on California Street. But I did. At one store, a personable purveyor of kitchen implements took time and joy in demonstrating a raft of doohickeys to the few of us who had wandered in. At a nearby café I stood in line for coffee and the new owner, not even making eye contact, waved a future former customer away from the bar to make room for others. Tourists visit Jacksonville in the summer. Then, it’s all about how well you serve the town. And dismissing them without even making eye contact may not work as well in Jacksonville as it did in Santa Clara.

Just the other day, my wife and I went to Jville to have breakfast at the Mustard Seed, a little erstwhile greasy spoon across from the museum that my grandparents used to own when it was called the Polar Bar. We were joined by a group of men in Jacksonville Fire Department outfits. Not volunteers. Professionals. When did this happen? I asked. The chief said only a year and a half ago. It was a “split department,” with a volunteer crew that helped out when necessary. I was a bit proud I have to say. Jacksonville deserved a real fire department, staffed by dedicated professionals. But none of them had heard of Uncle Arch. And none were likely to have one too many, throw off their jacket, turn their hat backward and dance with a hippy chick in a tube top to a band playing “House of the Rising Sun” from the back of a flat bed truck.

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