In between winter and summer, there is an awkward transition phase called spring. It's almost like the teenaged years of the seasons. The weather isn't hot, but isn't cold; allergies are as thick in the air as bike riders on the streets, and everyone is antsy for summer to embrace the valley with its 24/7 nice weather. So, to make up for spring's awkwardness, Mother Nature threw a few flowers into the mix.
And somehow that makes it all okay.
Although flowers are abundant in all of Southern Oregon, the best place to witness the colorful grandeur is in downtown Ashland. If you take the park loop, starting at the lower duck pond and meandering your way up for as far as you please, you will witness flowers o' plenty. Rhododendrons, brightly colored yellow flowers the size of silver dollars, and purple flowers nested in vibrant green leaves decorate the park, and the air smells like a roomful of fancy women. Bees drift lazily through the air and the songs of bluejays chorus through the trees. But, for better or for worse, you will never have the park to yourself.
Walking through the Lithia Park, you will always find an interesting array of ... things. Turtles on rocks, ducks, swans, photographers, married couples, and ... Barbie photo shoots? That's what Natalie Miller, 11, came downtown to do with her nana, Victoria Miller. They sit sprawled in a comfortable spot under a tree, equipped with three Barbies and a tiny car. "This is our first time to the park this spring," says Victoria. Natalie, who is making a small daisy bouquet for her Ken doll to give to Barbie, chimes in to point out that the last time they were downtown, they were ice skating. Victoria nods in agreement. "Yeah, it's hard to believe that the last time we were here, four months ago, we were wearing our winter coats. It's just insane that it went from us all bundled up, to ..." She starts to say something else, but is interrupted by Natalie as she finds a funny picture of Barbie in a tree on Victoria's camera.
From the young to the elderly, everyone can find something they love during springtime in Lithia Park. Rhonda and Sydney Abraham, ages 87 and 88, come to the park two or three times a week. Wearing sun hats and colorful floral shirts, they don the typical attire of any Ashland hiker. They smile as they describe how much they love it.
For those who want a more secret escape in Lithia Park, try "Rhodie Way." It's about 100 feet away from the bandshell, by the drinking fountain, and is exactly what it sounds like. The small patch of nature is simply overflowing with flowers, the rhododendrons skyrocketing 15 feet up into the air. Birch, pine and dogwood trees kiss the sides of the pathway, and wildlife such as birds, lizards and the occasional rabbit meander across the pathway.
It makes awkward spring worthwhile.