Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mildred Kanipe Park

Sometimes you just have to be in the mood to hike in the rain. I haven't and since it's been raining for the last 19 months or so, I just haven't gotten out on the trail all that much lately. But the lack of hiking will become a medical emergency soon, so despite the gloomy weather forecast, I went hiking in Mildred Kanipe Park with the Friends of the Umpqua. Yup, it was cold and wet but nonetheless it felt good to tromp about on the muddy trails in the park.

Lichen forest
I've hiked in Kanipe Park on two other occasions and in both instances it had been a beautiful spring day. The stately oaks of the park were then leafed out and the grassy slopes were alive with the vibrancy of blooming wildflowers. Of course, now in the middle of winter the sky was gray and dumping water on our heads, there were no flowers, and the oak leaves were still hibernating. Nonetheless, the park still sports a different kind of beauty on a gray day and remains a worthy hiking destination, no matter the season.

Sploosh, sploosh!
Mildred Kanipe Park is a former ranch and many of the trails are on ranch roads. One such road led away from the hooting peacocks in the parking lot and it was immediately obvious that mud was going to be one of the themes of this hike. With all the rain we've been having (southern Oregon had been issued a flood warning on this day) the ground was waterlogged and the grassy pastures in the lowlands were all under an inch or two of standing water. Sploosh, sploosh, boots were in for some serious abuse as we hiked.

Muddy trail through the oaks
After a short road walk, we turned right on a real trail and the path angled steadily uphill through an oak savanna. The scrawny trees were all leafless and old man's beard hung off of everything, The trail did double duty as a creek as we splashed our way up the slope.

Oak silhouette
After coming out of the spindly oak grove onto an open grassy slope, the trail continued its mad charge uphill through larger and more stately oaks. The silhouettes against the gray sky kept my camera busy. It felt good to be out on the trail, uphill hiking notwithstanding, and I flew up the path in spite of all the picture taking.

Fern Forest
Once we topped out at the boundary fence, it was (for the time being) all downhill as we hiked through Fern Woods. This forest had been a source of some contention several years ago as there had been a vigorous debate about logging the forest to help pay for the upkeep of the park. The Friends of Kanipe Park were able to raise enough money to keep the forest intact and it was much more pleasant to descend through dense clumps of ferns underneath fir trees instead of hiking past stumps in a clear cut. 

Feet, shins, and knees got wet on this hike
Once out of the trees, the trail ambled next to Bachelor Creek and the rain started pretty much as we left Fern Woods. A creek was running across the trail and my hiking mates bushwhacked up the creek looking for a way to cross the creek dry-footed. Well, that seemed a little prissy for my tastes so I just waded across and the water nearly came up to my knees. 

Bachelor Creek
Bachelor Creek was running deep and muddy and we were grateful for the footbridge across the fast moving stream. None of us was ready to pack it in just yet, so we headed up the Underwood Hill Trail. First gravel road then muddy track, the trail headed gently up through the woods. Then the up was not so gentle as it angled straight up without even a pretense of a switchback. We were cold, wet, out of breath, and leg muscles were burning: was this a great hike or what?  At the top of the hill, a recuperative rest and a standing lunch restored dampened spirits as the rain abated somewhat.

Walking down the aisle
This 6-miler was closed out by dropping down a steep and muddy deer path that we were grateful not to be hiking up in the opposite direction. The slippery track claimed only one hiker (that I know of) who took a harmless but undignified spill on the way down. A return to the sploosh-sploosh of the low pastures brought us back to the hooting peacocks at the parking lot. This hike fit my mood perfectly and staved off for the time being any potential medical emergency due to lack of hiking.

Old man's beard
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. Yup, the weather has made hiking interesting this year, but it also makes me excited about spring hikes and wildflower season! We have been stretching our legs and getting ready for longer hikes as the weather warms up.

  2. Glad that the park was spared from logging.