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North Mountain Park during rush hour

Yesterday went down as a tough day at the office.

The idea of driving to the south end of the valley for the second day in a row had little to do with the sun doling out 55-degree rays that felt like Kauai through my windshield. Wearing my grande-sized shades, I saw a middle-aged Linda Ronstadt looking back at me in the rearview mirror. I sang like Linda, too, belting out tunes from the Bridge on Sirius XM. Passing motorists stared.

Then came the bigger challenge as I reached the upper stretches of Foothill Road, where I needed to watch the road while admiring the Table Rocks and the sun-blasted countryside. My assignment got a bit dicey then, requiring nerves of steel. My friends tell me I’ve plenty of nerve.

The plan included a trip to North Mountain Park Nature Center on Mountain Avenue in Ashland. I’d seen it mentioned, but in my 30-some years of local discovery, I had missed this sweet spot practically in the middle of town and along rushing Bear Creek.

I found the park, not by noting the directions staring at me from my cellphone on the car seat, but only when safely parked. Ahem. I entered the Nature Center building, where Brigette, the office assistant, greeted me warmly and told me about the surrounding 40-plus acres with various gardens available for anyone with wisdom enough to invest time in that “rose-smelling” opportunity. Volunteer fairies tend the gardens there. One group is the Ashland Garden Center. No sane outdoor rose sticks its blooms out in February, of course, though I have spotted a smattering of devil-may-care vultures ahead of their season.

Brigette assured me that spring and summer showed off the floral aspect best, but each season had an attribute all its own.

Before setting out on an explore, I noticed a woman sitting on a bench. She appeared to be enjoying the sun and the day in an experienced manner, so I struck up a conversation with Nancy, who lived across the street. She had moved from the Bay Area about 10 years prior and loved her new location.

“You don’t have to be afraid here. That’s a good thing.” I agreed.

As we visited about our respective neighborhoods, she waved and spoke to a neighbor walking his dog. Nancy closed her eyes and expressed how good the sun felt. We agreed a little sun wouldn’t hurt us. I left her soaking in winter balm and headed for unknown pathways.

Our false spring made the jacket something to carry. I followed one path over a wooden bridge and saw a kingly turtle on his log, head up and smiling. The not-overly-messed-with park slept as I discovered its nooks. There were few sounds except squeals from small children at play, an unfamiliar birdcall and the creek. One young man climbed a tree; I wished I could join him, but that would seem odd I guess.

I stood inside a teepee made of boards, watched two bucks foraging unpestered, and noticed a large, open space with stump seats and a fire pit, that looked and felt like promising storytelling territory.

Along with respite from the rush of everyday, the Nature Center offers classes and demonstrations for children and the public. Some upcoming programs include "Home Grown Food Around the Year" from 5:30 to 7 p.m. this Tuesday, "Learning Common Backyard Birds" and "The Joy of Growing Berries." Some classes are free, while others require a fee. They also host a preschool (ages 3-5) puppet theater using woodland animal puppets from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. on second Fridays. I wanted to play with the puppets, but there were adults present, so I tried to act my age, however one does that while remaining authentic.

For a complete list and additional info, call 541-488-6606 or check the website at www.NorthMountainPark.org.

— Peggy Dover is a freelance writer living in Eagle Point and guest writing on Lynn’s computer since hers is sick. Email her at pcdover@hotmail.com. She’ll reply ASAP.