Sunday, October 15, 2017

Mildred Kanipe Park

This was one of those days where I felt like hiking but not driving. When I feel so conflicted, well, that's the time to hike local. The day prior, I had such a great hike on the Upper Rogue River that I wanted more, it wasn't enough, and yes, I am a hiking addict. One of these days, I'll be standing in front of my local chapter of H.A. (Hikers Anonymous), confessing "Um...Hi...My name is Richard and I hike a lot..." At any rate, I was not so enthused about spending another half-day of car seat time, so it was time to visit Kanipe Park in nearby Oakland. 

Park security corps
As I parked my car on a drizzly and overcast morn, a pandilla of peacocks came by to accost me, with several hopping on top of my car. "Say, nice paint job there, dude. I'd hate to see some bird crap on your car just because you couldn't see your way to give us some food" I got the message and ponied up a handful of sunflower seeds and my car didn't need a washing afterwards.

Rustic horse barn at the Underwood Home site
There are several loop trails in the park, most being centered around a bridge over muddy Bachelor Creek. I had never hiked in the equestrian area or on the Mildred's Forest Loop so I headed up a gravel road in search of a path to Mildred's Forest. Didn't find one and in short order, I found myself in the nearly empty park campground, wondering "Where'd the trail go?"

Which way do I go?
Quick, consult the phone!
There are many trails that braid across the park acreage and a good map is essential and oops, I didn't bring one. No problem, though, I cheated and popped the map up on my phone and navigated that way. It's not too often I get to hike somewhere with cell phone service. It just goes to show that from a hiking standpoint, cheaters sometimes do prosper!

Think of it as "our" pasture, cows
Anyway, after consulting the phone map, I walked across a pasture, startling a herd of cattle in the process. A wet wade across Bachelor Creek and a short walk on a muddy cow track through the blackberry brambles brought me to the real trail in a thoroughly chewed up field. The bulldozers had been at work here in what presumably was a battle in the war to rid the park of English hawthorn.

Trail through the hawthorns
This area had originally been settled by English pioneers, giving the nearby valley the rather generic name of English Settlement. When they did settle, the English brought English hawthorn with them and Oregon has been trying to export them back ever since. Anyway, Mildred's Forest Trail entered a field full of the thorny invaders before heading uphill to the Drill Barn site.

Oak galls
All that is left of the Drill Barn are the foundation piers in a grassy square in the middle of a young forest. Small oaks were covered in oak galls, and an impenetrable growth of bramble, poison oak, and honeysuckle vines discouraged any off-trail hiking. The trail headed uphill before cresting and closing the loop on a leg through a forest of bigleaf maple and oak. 

Oregon ash provided the only autumn color
After the marvelous autumn display on the Upper Rogue River the day before, I must say I was disappointed in the autumn colors at Kanipe Park. The oaks were still leafed dark green, holding autumn at bay for another couple of weeks. The maples were just starting to blush yellow, so a dispirited "meh!" to them. Occasional Oregon ash trees were in full yellow autumn song but they were few and far between. In all, it was fairly colorless which was appropriate seeing as how the sky was gray too.

It's a jungle out there
The next loop was the Underwood Hill Loop. I had hiked this loop before in the counter-clockwise direction and the uphill climb was brutal, making me think the loop should be named Undertaker Hill instead. However, a clockwise loop is not too bad at all, especially when the gray clouds dissipate and the day morphs from damp and dreary to sunny and cool.

Picturesque trail on Underwood Hill
One of the things I enjoy about Kanipe Park are the acres and acres of some of the most stately and regal oaks you can find in all of Oregon. The trail ambled underneath the majestic trees and the trail was bathed in dappled sunlight as it crested Underwood Hill. Birds twittered and flittered in the branches overhead and blue sky loomed over all. 

Shady glade near Bachelor Creek
Upon returning to the bridge and Bachelor Creek, the next loop of choice was the Fern Woods Trail, colored bright purple on the map. The route paralleled Bachelor Creek before angling gently uphill toward Fern Woods. However, I was distracted by a "shiny object", the distraction being a faint path peeling off the main route and heading up and across a bald and grassy slope. Basically, the path bypassed Fern Woods but served up some Vitamin D restoring sunlight and some nice views of Oakland and the English Settlement valley. 

Kanipe Park is the oak capital of Oregon
As the path descended a ridge festooned with beautiful oak trees, the afternoon sunlight filtered through the trees and shadows lengthened. A picnic table underneath a tree just invited a contemplative sit-down and I obliged. A slow breeze soughed softly through the trees and small songbirds warbled in the surrounding vegetation. There was nary a cloud in sky and best of all, no thieving deer to be seen. Life was good and some serious soul-soothing took place under the oaks as I lazed for a few minutes.

Oak arbor
My route kind of looked like a wobbly clover leaf, but I did get nearly 8.5 miles in. At the day use area, the peacocks came running "He's back! Seed Dude is back!" They did enjoy the remainder of my sunflower seeds and I certainly enjoyed the hike, plus it was a short drive home.

Blackberry considers the arrival of autumn
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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