Blair Lake Trail

On Fathers day we headed to Blair Lake outside of Oakridge, OR hoping to see some wildflowers. My parents had done this hike two years before on June 11th. In 2013 there were still patches of snow in the area and the majority of flowers were still a few weeks away. With the low snow pack we had this year we were hoping that we weren’t going to be too late. As it turned out the beargrass was spectacular and there were quite a few other flowers along the way. We encountered a few mosquitoes (most of them found Heather), but they were not too bad. There were a few people camped at Blair Lake Campground and another group set near the meadow at Spring Prairie but we didn’t see any other hikers on the trail.

We parked at the campground and took the short trail to Blair Lake first then walked back .4 miles along roads to the start of the Blair Lake Trail.
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The trail starts in a damp meadow where we spotted a large variety of flowers.
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Additional flowers appeared as we left the meadow and entered the forest.
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After climbing for about a mile and a half we arrived at a rocky viewpoint and our first good look at Diamond Peak for the day.
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Just after the rocky viewpoint the trail entered one of the best beargrass meadows we’d seen. Beargrass blooms in cycles so it could be several years before the meadow looks like this again, but we seemed to have chosen the right year and right time as most of the stalks were either in full bloom or nearly there.
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We came out of the meadow with a light coating of pollen.
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After the amazing beargrass display we climbed another mile to road 730 at Spring Prairie and the old Mule Mountain Shelter. We could have driven here just like the group camping had, but then we wouldn’t have passed through either wildflower meadow.
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The views from Spring Prairie included a string of Cascade peaks from Diamond Peak to Mt. Jefferson and more beargrass.
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Mt. Bachelor
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Broken Top
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The Three Sisters
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Mt. Washington
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Three Fingered Jack
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Mt. Jefferson
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There were a few more flowers here and as we were looking around I spotted a lizard that scurried into a clump of beargrass. It was one we had not seen before, a northwestern alligator lizard. He was hiding in the grass which made it difficult to get a decent picture but still a neat find.
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Northwestern Alligator Lizard

We continued past Spring Prairie on Road 730 to the continuation of the Blair Lake Trail then at a fork headed right to visit the site of the former lookout which was .6 miles away.
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We found some different flowers along this path including bleeding heart and yellowleaf iris, but the views were inferior to those at Spring Prairie.
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When we got back to the fork we decided to continue on the Blair Lake Trail for another couple of miles just to see what it was like. The trail itself continues all the way into the Waldo Lake Wilderness and connects with trails near the Eddeeleo Lakes. The trail lost quite a bit of elevation in the first 3/4mi before leveling out somewhat. We were now in a rhododendron filled forest.
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We went about 2 miles along this portion of trail before deciding to turn around. The trail was beginning to descend a bit to another road crossing and we didn’t want to have anymore elevation to gain. The highlight of the 2 mile extension was another beargrass meadow. This one was much smaller but still very nice.
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On our way back the butterflies and other insects were out giving us something new to look for as we returned to the trailhead.
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We wound up covering 12.6 miles but shorter hikes would still yield plenty of flowers and longer hikes could lead to backpacking trips into the Waldo Lake Wilderness. The variety of flowers in the first meadow make this a worthy wildflower hike and if you happen to hit a beargrass year as we did then it’s like hitting the jackpot. Happy Trails!

Gray Butte Trail to Smith Rock State Park

We were in Central Oregon to pick Dominique up from college and took the opportunity to hike in the Smith Rock area. We had hiked in the state park twice before, both times taking the Misery Ridge Trail up and over the summit and completing a loop via the River Trail. For this visit we decided to access the park via the Gray Butte Trail which passed through the Forest Service administered Crooked River Grassland and BLM managed lands before reaching the park trails. We parked at a trail junction along Gray Butte Saddle where the Cole Loop Trail (854) meets the Gray Butte Trail (852).
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The trail was marked by a lone unsigned post.
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The trail traversed a hillside amid scattered juniper trees and sagebrush. Despite being a little late in the year for the best flower displays there were still clumps of color scattered along the trail.
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We also spotted a couple of deer above us on the hill.
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One of the nice things about the trail was, as it passed through the sagebrush filled grassland, the snowy peaks of the Cascades lined up on the horizon.
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The views were spectacular and as we continued around the trail more of the mountains came into view as well as many nearby rock formations.
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At the 1.4 mile mark we arrived at Bitterroot Pass where the trail crossed a dirt road.
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Shortly after crossing the road the trail and road intersected again. This second junction proved confusing and after several minutes reviewing our maps we decided to head up a hillside along another old road.
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This wound up being incorrect. At the second junction we should have taken a clear trail that veered down and slightly to the right along the side of the ridge. There was also a trail further to the right that just ended atop a little crest. The route we took led almost 400′ up to the summit of an unnamed butte. We climbed steeply for over half a mile before arriving at the rocky summit. It was only after reaching the top that we knew we had taken a wrong turn. Actually Dominique had been fairly certain we should have taken the right hand fork but that didn’t seem to jive with the map we were looking at. In any event the views from the top were amazing including a good look at Mt. Hood far to the NW.
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We could see Smith Rock below us as well as the trail we were trying to get too at a junction with Burma Road.
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On the way back down we passed a western fence lizard sunning on the rocks and a hummingbird busy collecting nectar from paintbrush.
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We got back on the correct trail and continued to head toward Smith Rock.
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We passed along the side of the butte we had detoured up before arriving at the trail junction we had seen from above.
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Even though the grassland doesn’t put on the kind of flower show that alpine meadows or the Columbia Gorge can we continued to see various flowers all throughout the hike.
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We were now on the Summit Trail in Smith Rock State Park and heading for the Mesa Verde Trail. At a viewpoint along the way we could see the Crooked River as it was winding through the park as well as a section of the Misery Ridge Trail that we would be descending later on.
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We could also see Gray Butte and the hillsides we had traversed earlier.
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We had already passed through Forest Service, BLM, and Oregon State Park lands when the Summit Trail entered a short section of privately owned lands.
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The Crooked River and Smith Rock’s most famous feature, Monkey Face, came into view as we reentered the park.
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We were greeted by number of locals.
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As we passed by a rockfield we noticed a group of rather large very interesting flowers. They turned out to be smoothstem blazing-star.
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smoothstem blazing-star Mentzelia laevicaulis

The colors and textures of the rocks in the park never ceases to impress.
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We turned up the Mesa Verde Trail and climbed to a junction with the Misery Ridge Trail below Monkey Face.
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As mentioned before this was our third time on the Misery Ridge Trail but the first time we had gone up from this side. We all agreed it was actually easier to go up this side than down it due to the loose dirt and rocks that make the trail slick. We followed the switchbacks up along Monkey Face to the busy summit where the view is worthy of a long look.
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We could once again see Mt. Hood and Gray Butte.
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Climbers were busy making their way up Monkey Face.
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We could also see our return route along Burma Road which ran along the hillside below our earlier unscheduled summit.
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We crossed the summit and got ready for our descent down Misery Ridge to the Crooked River below.
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Unlike the other end of the trail we had many steps to use.
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We passed under a number of rock climbers before reaching another trail junction near the only footbridge over the river in the park.
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We turned left along the Wolf Tree Trail which traveled along the Crooked River.
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Butterflies were flitting along the banks while geese enjoyed the water.
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After almost a mile we reached a sign for Burma Road.
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We had a .9 mile climb up Burma Road to get back to the Gray Butte Trail junction. The road passed by a canal and reentered BLM lands. It was another fairly steep climb with the sun beating down on us, but we managed to make it up to the junction.
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Our backs were to the park and mountains for most of the return trip on the Gray Butte Trail, so we focused on spotting additional wildflowers as we went.
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What should have been a 10.5 mile hike had turned into 12.1 miles thanks to our little detour but it had been well worth it. This was a tough hike and probably best during the month of May, but it was packed with big views, plenty of wildlife, various wildflowers, and lots interesting scenery. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157652211766433

Grizzly Peak and Beaver Dam Trail

Friday it was time to head home and we had originally planned a shorter hike up Grizzly Peak. The Grizzly Peak Trailhead is located off of Dead Indian Memorial Highway. From the Green Springs Inn where were staying we could take Hyatt Prarie Rd. between Hwy 66 and Dead Indian Memorial Hwy avoiding the windy drive back down into Ashland. We noticed the 2.1 mile Beaver Dam Trail was close to where we would come out on Dead Indian Memorial Highway from Hyatt Prarie Rd. so we decided to start our final day with that hike prior to Grizzly Peak. The trail started at the Daley Creek Campground which we surprisingly found gated closed. We could see a trail sign just on the other side of the gate so we parked on the shoulder and headed down.
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The first part of the trail clearly hadn’t been maintained for some time and it took a bit of searching at times to keep on it.
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After recrossing the creek, where a bridge had obviously been, the trail was in a little better shape. Then we came to a sign post that was set against a tree at a trail junction.
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The trail supposedly traveled .6 miles to the start of a .9 mile loop. The directions that this sign was giving made no sense. It indicated that the start of the loop was in the direction we’d just come. We disregarded the sign and took the path that seemed correct. We chose wisely and arrived at the signed start of the loop.
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Here we tried taking the left fork toward the creek which brought us to a creek crossing with another missing bridge.
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Neither of us were in the mood for a fording and we weren’t sure what the trail would be like on the far side so we turned around and headed back to the confusing sign. When we got back to the sign post we took a moment to attempt to figure out where the sign should have been placed and when we did we noticed the pointer for Daley Creek CG was not pointing in the direction we had come from early but toward a different path. We decided to follow it to see where it took us and ended up at a different trailhead further down the closed campground road where we had parked. Here were additional signs including a notice that parts of the trail were closed due to missing bridges.
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Later I checked the Forest Service website but it hadn’t been updated since 2013 regarding the trail and said that the campground would be reopening in May 2015. We should have checked the website before visiting, but in this case that wouldn’t have made much of a difference. After returning to our car we headed for Grizzly Peak arriving at the empty trailhead under the first virtually cloud free skies we’d had on the trip.
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The first portion of the trail offered nice views to the NE of Mt. McLoughlin, Union Peak, Crater Lakes rim, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey.

Mt. McLoughlin
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Union Peak, Mt. Scott, Crater Lakes rim, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Bailey.
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Mt. Bailey
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Union Peak, Crater Lakes rim, and Mt. Thielsen
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Crater Lakes rim and Mt. Scott
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From the trailhead the trial travels 1.2 miles through open forest with wildflowers to the start of a 3 mile loop.
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We took the loop counter-clockwise passing by the viewless summit first.
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Then the trail passed a broad meadow.
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As the loop continued around the peak we came to another meadow with a view to the north.
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Here we could see the city of Medford and the Table Rocks.

Upper Table Rock
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Flowers here included camas
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and ookow which was very popular with a swallowtail butterfly.
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As we continued on the views shifted to the SW. Here Mt. Ashland and Wagner Butte which we had climbed the day before were visible.
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Mt. Ashland
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Wagner Butte
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We had entered an area burned in 2002 where the fire left open views and plenty of sunlight for wildflowers.
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Further along the views included Mt. Shasta, Black Butte, Pilot Rock, and Mt. Eddy.
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Mt. Shasta
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Black Butte and Pilot Rock
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Mt. Eddy
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and the distant Trinty Alps
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Just like all our other hikes in the area there were lots of birds happily singing along the way and here in the burnt trees they were easier to spot.
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Hummingbird going for the paintbrush
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We completed our loop and headed back down to the now packed trailhead. This was the first trail besides Lithia Park where we saw more than 5 other hikers on the trail but with views like this packed into only 5.4 miles we could see why it was a popular hike. Our first hiking trip to Southern Oregon had turned out well. We got to see new flowers, plenty of wildlife, and nice views along with a wonderful play. That’s the recipe for Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157653715322378

Wagner Butte

We continued our exploration of the trails around Ashland on the fourth day of our trip. Our destination this time was the former lookout site atop 7140′ Wagner Butte. This trail sometimes does not open until mid-June due to snow but this year that wasn’t an issue. What could have been an issue was a forecast that called for a slight chance of thunderstorms. We checked the forecast once more before leaving in the morning and the possibility of thunder storms had been removed although it still called for mostly cloudy skies. The drive to the trailhead was indeed through thick fog and once again we were setting of on a trail in the clouds.
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The trail climbed for almost a mile along an old road before leveling out through a series of meadows.
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The largest meadow having been created in 1983 by the Sheep Creek Slide when 400,000 tons of debris slid down from high up on Wagner Butte.
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There weren’t many flowers yet in the meadow but we could easily see how it would be an impressive show once the bloom began.
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Beyond the Sheep Creek Slide the trail continued to pass through meadows where an increasing amount of sagebrush was present. We also began to get glimpses of blue sky above which we began to think might mean there was a chance that we would be above the clouds once we reached the summit.
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We had seen several rabbits on the drive in and one on the trail near the slid meadow. I had not been able to get a picture of that one but we wound up spotting another one that was too busy eating to worry about my picture taking.
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At the 2.4 mile mark the trail began to switchback up through sagebrush filled meadows where there was more evidence of the clouds breaking up.
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We climbed for almost a mile before reaching a sign announcing Wagner Glade Gap.
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From the gap the trail turned left for the final 1.9 mile climb to the summit. We passed through trees and meadows, some in the fog and some in the sun.
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This portion of the climb was never very steep and when we arrived on the ridgecrest for the final scramble we were indeed greeted with blue skies.
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To reach the former lookout site requires a bit of rock scrambling. The trail seems to end at a pile of boulders below a railing where the lookout once stood.
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A faint path around to the right led to a fairly easy scramble up the rocks to the top of the rocks and spectacular views.

Mt. McLoughlin along with Brown Mt. to the right and Mt. Scott, Mt. Thielsen, and Mt. Baily to the left.
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Mt. McLoughlin
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Mt. Ashland and Mt. Shasta to the south.
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We couldn’t see much to the SW which was still mostly covered by a layer of clouds.
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We stayed at the summit for awhile watching the clouds continue to break up.
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When we noticed another batch of clouds moving toward our position on the summit we decided to head back down. The meadows and forest was now mostly fog free allowing for better views.
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As we passed back through the meadows we noticed several types of flowers we had somehow missed on the way up including the very interesting elkweed or monument plant. A large stalk several feet tall full of pretty blossoms which we have no idea how we managed not to notice it earlier.
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We also spotted some peony
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Lewis flax
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and Fritillaria
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We eventually made it back down into the cloud bank, but the lower meadows were far less foggy revealing some additional flowers and views as well.
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For the fourth straight day we had somehow managed to sneak in some views despite the cloudy/foggy conditions. Southern Oregon was not disappointing with its hikes and we had one day left. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157654117259261

Mt. Ashland Meadows

After hiking to Boccard Point in the morning and resting for a couple of hours back at the Green Springs Inn we headed into Ashland. Our plan was to pick up a meal to go and then eat it at Grouse Gap Shelter on Mt. Ashland. The shelter makes for a good turnaround point for a moderate hike along the Pacific Crest Trail on the flanks of Mt. Ashland. After picking up some sandwiches from the Greenleaf Restaurant we headed toward the Mt. Ashland ski area south of Ashland. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses Mt. Ashland Rd. (Road 20) just beyond the 7 mile marker which is where we parked at a pullout with a signboard to begin our hike.
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We crossed the road and headed south on the PCT.
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The first section of trail passed through forest before emerging in the first of the meadows.
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It was a little early in the year for most of the flowers but we spotted a few.
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In the second meadow we had views of the now mostly cloud covered Mt. Shasta and the now cloud free Pilot Rock. A near reversal from that mornings hike.
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After leaving the second meadow the PCT crossed a drier slope dotted with red paintbrush and manzanita. We were also joined by some golden-mantled squirrels.
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After about a mile and a half we crossed a gravel road and entered another meadow.
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Just beyond this meadow was another smaller meadow where we spotted a deer far below at the meadows end.
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The trail continued to pass through alternating meadows and forest before entering the final broad meadow before the Grouse Gap Shelter. It was still early for flowers but this large meadow had the most we’d seen on this hike.
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From the meadow we could see the shelter at the far end.
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A quarter mile road led from the PCT down to the shelter.
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The shelter looks out across the meadow toward the summit of Mt. Ashland. We were below the clouds this time but the summit wasn’t.
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After eating our sandwiches we headed back. On the way we spotted another deer in the same meadow we had seen the earlier deer in, an owl who was nice enough to sit and have its picture taken, and a final deer amid the hillside trees.
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Then as we were driving back down the mountain a pair of turkeys emerged from the forest.
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This hike wound up being a little over 7 miles long with about 700′ of elevation gain. The Grouse Gap Shelter proved to be a perfect place to stop for a meal making this a great relaxing hike to end the day. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157651795646153

Boccard Point – Soda Mountain Wilderness

After attending Pericles the day before we spent our third day in the Ashland area hiking. We were staying east of town at the Green Springs Inn and Cabins on Highway 66 in the Cascade-Siskyou National Monument under two miles from where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses that highway on its trek from Mexico to Canada. We were also only 20 minutes from the Hobart Bluff Trailhead where the PCT crosses Soda Mountain Road as it emerges from the Soda Mountain Wilderness. Our hike to Boccard Point started at the Hobart Bluff TH, but instead of heading north on the PCT toward Hobart Bluff we headed south into the wilderness. It was a damp and foggy morning as we set off.
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We spotted a number of different flowers before we even made it into the wilderness.
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Shortly after passing under some powerlines we entered the wilderness.
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The flower show continued as the trail passed several rocky meadows.
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The PCT also traveled through some more forested areas with other flowers.
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After 2.9 miles at a large wilderness sign the PCT meets an old road junction. Here we left the PCT and headed deeper into the wilderness on an abandoned road just to the left of the sign.
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Along this stretch of trail the old road curved around a damp wildflower meadow where there were many nearby birds and other wildlife.
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We had been in the fog almost the entire hike but just as we were starting the final quarter mile stretch to Boccard Point we emerged from under the clouds and were greeted with a view of Mt. Shasta.
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As the rocky outcrop of Boccard Point approached the views to the south kept getting better.
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To our right the edge of the clouds were lapping over Pilot Rock.
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To the left the clouds were busy drifting over the lookout tower on the summit of Soda Mountain.
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And behind us was the cloud that we had spent the morning in.
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The rocky terrain around Boccard Point was also dotted with wildflowers.
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We headed back under the cloud. On the way back by the damp meadow we spotted more wildlife including a pair of deer that Heather spied.
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The fog had at least lifted as we traveled back to the trailhead revealing more of the meadows we had passed earlier that morning.
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We skipped heading up to the lookout based on the cloud situation given the views we did get on Boccard Point. The total distance for the hike ended up being 10.5 miles with only about 1200′ of elevation gain. It was a gentle enough hike that we decided to head out again that afternoon after a brief rest back at the Green Springs Inn and Cabins. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157653708085508

Lithia Park – Ashland, OR

We had tickets for a play (Pericles) at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on the second day of our Ashland vacation. Lithia Park is located next to the theaters and makes for a great opportunity for an urban hike. We parked at Lithia Park prior to the play and completed a nearly 3 mile loop.
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Ashland Creek flows through the center of the park giving the trails a woodsy feel despite being right near downtown Ashland.
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We spotted many ducks and other birds along the route.
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Flowers also fill the park. We spotted several varieties of wildflowers in addition to the numerous Rhododendron bushes dotting the paths.
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We had traveled south along the east side of the creek to a reservoir on Granite Street.
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Beyond the reservoir several signs let you know that trails and roads make it possible to go all the way to the Pacific Crest Trail on Mt. Ashland.
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We had a play to attend so we turned around at the reservoir and completed the loop. The creek, wildlife, and wildflowers aren’t the only attraction in the park as several fountains and ponds add to the scenery.
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After the easy stroll through the park we wandered through some of the shops located near the theater before attending the play.
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The play was wonderful. It was Heather’s first play at the festival and my first since attending A Winter’s Tale while in grade school. Neither of us were familiar with Pericles before purchasing the tickets, but it turned out to be a great choice. As Shakespeare’s first romance this adventure ended on a happy note, but not before an emotional roller coaster that had many in the crowd reaching for tissues. We really enjoyed the cast and the production was very well done.

After the play we went looking for somewhere to get a bite to eat. We ended up at Taroko Pan-Pacific Bistro which was located near the theater. It was happy hour and we shared orders of Dumplings, Pad Thai, and a Mini Tuna Poke. All the food was good, but the Mini Tuna Poke was amazing. It was a perfect way to end a relaxing day. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157653673457849