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It might as well be spring

Sunny interludes of our Southern Oregon “false spring” have appeared with the crocus patches lately, and they’ve proven irresistible. I take these as serendipitous invitations to play.

The latest invite on a spring-mimicking afternoon led me to a hike along Elk Creek. Piper O’possum rides along in my jacket, since she bellyached for days over missing the jaunt to Oredson-Todd Woods.

Living on the upper end of the valley makes it a quick 20-minute drive or so to Elk Creek, an 18-mile tributary of the Rogue River that begins its descent nearly 5,000 feet high in the Cascades.

According to the website All Trails, the Elk Creek Trail is an easy 10.9-mile out and back. To arrive there, use the left turn lane leaving Highway 62 at Elk Creek Drive just past the Trail area. Turn right at the large Army Corps of Engineers Elk Creek sign. On the right, you’ll see the remains of what almost was the Elk Creek Dam. It was one of three dams authorized in 1962 for flood control, along with the Applegate and Lost Creek dams. While the other two were completed, Elk Creek Dam ran into snags regarding healthy fish passage. In 2008, after more than 20 years of court battles and trucking trapped fish around the dam, the Corps blasted away to dismantle about 15% of what had been built. They restored the creek channel to its former maneuvers and revegetation began along the banks. The area is accessible to check the progress and marvel at the gravel mountains. Um, yeah.

Follow the deadend road around to the left for about a mile and a half and you’ll come to a parking area, outhouse and trailhead sign for Yellow Rock Trail. A map of the area explains it all. This is a blocked-off road, so the trail is wide and paved — great for bikers and easy for beginners or those who want to avoid hills but crave nature and breathing forest air.

We heard a robust Elk Creek churning away before seeing it. The water was a satisfying silty green with activity. This time around, we explored a spur veering left after crossing the sturdy footbridge. The spur follows the west branch of the creek for about a half mile then deadends.

Back on the main trail, we met a few happy hikers and a couple of bikers, but the atmosphere was quiet and peaceful. We like to check out the old homestead foundations that remain creekside. Climbing over them, we wonder about the former residents, who they were and what they said and did. Lane admires a wizened orchard. He would return another day with easel and paints to do it justice, since gnarly apple trees are a favorite subject.

There are inviting grassy areas along the five-mile trek for spreading a blanket and indulging a private afternoon snooze or picnic or dragonfly hunt. Birdwise, I saw a stellar jay, some busy finches and one ruby-crowned kinglet.

We made it about three miles and decided to turn back as an evening work shift niggled at Lane. It’s satisfying to scurry up in the afternoon and still have plenty of time to soak up nature’s vibe before duty demands.

I steer by the meteorological or Pegorian calendar when it comes to seasonal shifts. It was good enough for farmers of old. Therefore, I would like to wish everyone a joyous first day of spring tomorrow, March 1. It’s been verified. I got the call from neighbor Barb yesterday and watched them float into my evergreen today. The vultures have landed.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.