Editor's note: This article is taken from staff writer Kira Rubenthaler's dailytidings.com blog, Ecologue, which is the featured on the Sustainable Ashland page (click here).
On Saturday we hiked the Middle Fork Applegate Trail, a lush riverside track that's actually in California, but only accessible to humans through Oregon.
Located south of Applegate Lake, the trail follows a fairly level meandering course through the forest along the middle fork of the Applegate River. The trail is supposedly 6 miles long, but we didn't have enough time to walk the entire length.
Part of this lack of time was due to the gorgeous array of wildflowers, intriguing bryophytes (mosses and lichens) and other bits of nature that caught my camera's eye. It's hard to hike fast when every bend brings another waterfall or orchid or an old mining cabin that I need to try to capture in pixels.
I've been working on a story about the potential for a Siskiyou Crest National Monument, and one of the key arguments in favor of preserving this land is its stunning biodiversity. The variety in flora was evident along this hike, from the exquisite calypso orchids to the flowering dogwood trees to the old-growth Douglas fir to hundreds of plants that I would need to consult a botanist to identify.
The Applegate is untamed in the reaches of the canyon, cascading wild over boulders and working itself into such a lather that we sometimes called the dogs back from the banks, fearing they might overestimate their swimming abilities. At other points along the trail the water was more mellow, and we saw some nice swimming holes, although it was too cold for a dip. (I tested the water at an unbridged crossing and I wouldn't have wanted to submerge more than my bare feet.)
Another traverse featured a narrow bridge made from a giant tree, sawed flat on top but without hand railings and resting high enough above the water to give nervous crossers a little vertigo.
The hike is beautiful in the grip of spring, and I imagine it would be nice in summer, too, as the trees would provide shade and the river's handy for a swim.