Enjoy a quiet hike on Greensprings Loop

Carter Howe-Stokes, age 21 months, walks along the Greensprings Mountain Loop Trail.Courtesy of Gabriel Howe

Southern Oregon's Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is one of a kind. Designated by President Bill Clinton in June 2000, it was the first national monument that was preserved just for its biodiversity.

And although it's just barely outside the monument, the easy, 2.2-mile Greensprings Loop is a quiet way to enjoy this fun area.

From the south Ashland Interstate 5 exit, head east on Highway 66 for about 15 miles and head left on Old Hyatt Lake Road. It's gravel but well graded and is suitable for any car. Drive for about three-quarters of a mile and turn left, following signs to Greensprings Mountain Loop Trail. There is a small, convenient parking lot about two miles from the highway.

From the parking lot, walk down the road another few minutes to the intersection of the Pacific Crest Trail. To PCT south there is a sign for Greensprings Mountain Loop connector. Follow it northward around a meadow and through a gate.

This puts you on the loop heading counterclockwise up above the road, through a shady conifer forest that will show some color and character in the spring. Before long you'll reach the Pacific Crest Trail, and head left, PCT south.

After an easy half-mile, this hike breaks out of a dull conifer forest into a broad meadow with big views of the Bear Creek Valley and I-5 heading over the Siskiyou Summit. To the south you'll be able to point out Mount Ashland and Pilot Rock. And at your feet, you'll find the array of wildflowers that define why this area was recognized and preserved.

Check out the oak stands scattered around the southwest slopes of Greensprings Mountain. Bigger, older pines protrude here and there. It's prime habitat for the mardon skipper, an unusual butterfly that has been located in these meadows now protected from grazing.

The Mardon skipper doesn't migrate, and a rare subspecies of it (P. mardonklamathensis) is found exclusively in Southern Oregon. Their populations are very fragmented, and they have evolved in four very far-apart and distinct areas, including the Puget Sound, southern Washington Cascades, the Northern California Coast, and of course, the wild Siskiyou.

Keep your eyes open for them. And if you see a Mardon skipper, get a picture. These butterflies are extremely rare, and because their populations are so small and scattered, listing them has been considered by the National Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Mardon is one of the many things that make the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, and the lands like these surrounding it, truly one of a kind.

After enjoying this dreamy meadow and searching high and low for my new favorite butterfly, continue to head south on the PCT. It will bring you into another fir forest that might impress some, and back to the meadow where you started.

This hike is suitable for anyone who can walk, and perfect for those looking for a relatively easy stroll to a very, very special place.

Download a BLM brochure with directions at www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/csnm/files/green-springs.pdf

Freelance writer Gabriel Howe is executive director and field coordinator for the Siskiyou Mountain Club. Contact him at howegabe@gmail.com.

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