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Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

Crater Lake Under Snow

In Oregon, Outdoors on February 27, 2009 at 4:18 am


Llao Rock and Wizard Island: it was the stillest day we’d ever seen at the lake

My dentist, the first Klamath Indian to become one, was talking about Crater Lake the other day, in the moments before the panicked shrieking began.

“We get free entrance to the park,” he said, speaking of the members of his tribe. “A trade-off, I suppose. We give them the lake and they let us visit.”

For millennia prior to its “discovery” in June of 1853, the Klamath Indians had used the lake as an open-air cathedral, of sorts. Climbing up to the rim to see the lake was allowed only on religious pilgrimage and only with a reverential cast of mind.


The lodge
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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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100 Peaks Over 7,800 Feet in Oregon

In Oregon, Outdoors on May 20, 2007 at 4:25 pm

Some time ago I came across a great article by Jeff Howbert on the Mazamas’ web site. (The Mazamas are a 113-year old Northwest mountain-climbing organization.)

Want to make a couple of quick bucks? Here’s a bar bet almost any Washington climber should jump at. The conversation would go something like this…After swapping lies for awhile, you casually observe, “Boy, there’s a lot of high mountains down in Oregon, too. In fact, I heard there’s almost a hundred that are over 8000 feet high.” Your climbing buddy/victim will probably deny this without even thinking about it. “Nah, no way!”

In fact, it’s true. Check out Jeff’s piece on the Mazamas site and then check out their list of Oregon’s 100 Highest Peaks.

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Crater Lake Fees Doubling?

In Outdoors on January 12, 2007 at 6:11 pm

According to Kurt Repanshek of National Park Traveler, Crater Lake National Park intends to double its entrance fee to $20.00.

Several years ago when I first started researching an article on Oregon’s only national park, one of the administrators told me that the park had a hellish maintenance backlog and had begun to cut ranger-led programs because President Bush’s commitment of money to the park system had been more politics than economics. Bush’s war has insured that this situation would remain dire. But passing on the costs of the park to its users, who are already double-paying in both taxes and fees, is unacceptable. I’m pleased to discover that my representative, Peter “The Foz” DeFazio, agrees. According to Kurt, Rep. Greg Walden has joined the Foz.

Make your voice heard people. Contact your Representative and Senator.

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Walk home at dusk

In Outdoors on September 27, 2006 at 4:24 am

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The yard

In Outdoors on September 6, 2006 at 4:24 am


Mt Ashland

In Hiking, Outdoors on September 6, 2006 at 4:20 am

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Light from on high

In Hiking, Outdoors on September 6, 2006 at 4:14 am


Cooper Spur & Mt. Hood: Keep the Gremlins Off the Hill

In Outdoors on January 9, 2005 at 3:21 am

A couple of years back I wrote to Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman David Wu to complain about plans to develop the most beautiful part of Mt. Hood, Cooper Spur. A company, Meadows North, LCC, an affiliate of Mt. Hood Meadows ski area, had plans to develop the area into yet another gargantuan Gortex hellhole.

Cooper Spur had a small family ski area with a rope tow and a little ticket building. Down the road a piece was a small lodge. The area’s key was its long Tilly Jane Trail to my favorite place on the mountain, the Eliot Glacier.

I don’t recall Wyden responding. Wu said he couldn’t do anything because no official paperwork had been filed. Once it had been I wrote them both back and neither responded. One can hardly blame them. It’s not as if the state has a tradition of taking the long view regarding development and it’s not exactly a state whose main resource is its beauty.

Hey, wait a minute — Yes it does and yes it is.

Well, it turns out Wyden is pushing for the addition of the Tilly Jane area to adjacent wilderness areas. I am not certain that would stop the expansion. But also, the Hood River Valley Residents Committee is prosecuting a lawsuit to challenge the expansion via Cascade Resources Advocacy Group. There are other issues in the area, such as logging and watershed conservation.

Please keep in mind that Mt. Hood, at twelve thousand plus feet Oregon’s highest mountain, a glaciated peak in the Cascade Range, and the second most popular such peak for ascents (second only to Japan’s Mt. Fuji), already has FIVE SKI AREAS.

You can find more about the Cooper Spur development at the Cooper Spur Wild & Free Coalition site, and at the Friends of Mt. Hood site.

Whether you live in Oregon or not, do what you can to keep these gremlins off our hill.


In a related development, many people don’t realize that Oregon has 100 peaks over 7,800 feet in elevation, but only one National Park, Crater Lake, where I worked several summers.

Some folks want to make Mt. Hood a National Park. Considering how President Bush’s priorities have screwed National Parks as a whole, and Crater Lake in particular, I’m uncertain how viable this is now, but I think it is definitely worth examining.