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The trail app for that

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ASHLAND — Consider it a perfect first date with the best wing man a free download could offer.

Take him or her to Ashland’s Oredson-Todd Woods, a gem of a postage stamp of free environment within the sea of the city of Ashland. But first download a new free app and study the flora, fauna and cultural nuances visitors can find along a 1-mile trail.

So, yes, that tree is a big-leaf maple, next to the Oregon ash, you can say. Calypso orchids bloom here in spring. Oh, and here that “neep,neep neep” from over there? That’s a red-breasted nuthatch. They walk head-first down tree trunks pecking away at insects.

Suddenly, you seem so much more interesting than you really are.

Tara Laidlaw laughs at the notion. She’s education project manager of the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy, and helped put the app together. And though the hip first-date scenario isn’t necessarily the point of the endeavor, Laidlaw sees the app’s application.

“It’s a really handy thing to have in your back pocket,” she says.

The app is the latest addition to this story of how developers with a heart can do something for the city as well as the environment, and it literally discusses the ABCs of forest ecology and how they relate to this special place.

A is for abotic, which are nonliving things like sunlight, temperature and topography.

B is for biotic. That’s living things like plants and animals.

C is for culture. Basically, it’s how humans have intervened on the landscape, like with development or even just trails.

“We really wanted to create an app to encourage visitors to slow down and look at this place with new eyes,” Laidlaw says. “There’s always something new to see on every visit, if you know what to look for.”

And you can learn your ABCs every day at the park off Tolman Creek Road.

To get directions to the woods and to download the app, visit www.landconserve.org.

This is the latest twist to a long and intriguing story of how this urban landscape that often takes a very far backseat to Ashland’s Lithia Park has come to be and adapted over time.

Developers Vince Oredson and John Todd were building houses off Tolman Creek above Siskiyou Boulevard when they deeded 10 acres of land around Clay Creek to the fledgling land conservancy.

The main conditions were that the land never be cut for timber or developed. With the help of local Boy Scouts and other volunteers, the conservancy carved out a 1-mile trail that highlights the woods’ natural environs, including a portion of Clay Creek that cascades over bedrock like a thin waterslide.

The woods were later signed over to the city of Ashland, while the conservancy retained an easement and regularly used the woodlands as a natural classroom in its “Loving the Land” program for throngs of grade-school kids annually.

“It’s really a living classroom where kids get to put their classroom learning in context with the real world,” Laidlaw says.

The trail now connects with the city’s Siskiyou Mountain Park. Curious wanderers can park at a lot off Greenmeadows Way and hike through North Mountain Park into the Forest Service’s holdings in the Ashland Watershed and all the way to the top of Mount Ashland.

Very few take on such an expansive trek. Instead, most visitors are morning dog-walkers, joggers, hikers and others who can parachute into this tiny sliver of wildness to see the woods and waters that are forever in flux.

“It’s practically in your backyard and it changes every week,” Laidlaw says. “You could come back a week and see a completely different park, so it’s a great place to explore the changing of the seasons.”

And for those who stay within the original Oredson-Todd Woods, the interpretation of what to see and hear are just one phone click away.

The app was created with help from the city as well as the land conservancy, including Leah Richards, the lead GIS worker on the project from the city.

It contains a walking naturalist guide down the trail, what and where to find natural features, and even offers discussion points on topics relevant to those stops.

They include features such a resprouting madrone snag, and how a single madrone can send up to 300 sprouts from the base of a dead tree. Another highlights a washed-out hillside from a slide caused during the Rogue River Basin’s 1997 flood that ripped through downtown Ashland.

The app also highlights how the woodlands sit at the intersection of two distinct geological formations.

One is called the Ashland Pluton, which is a massive piece of granite formed about 160 million years ago when magma pushing its way to the earth’s surface didn’t make it and instead cooled slowly underground, forming crystals in the rock.

The other is called the Hornbrook Formation, which was created about 100 million years ago when an inland sea dried up and left behind a thick layer of very fine-grained sediments, which squished together and eventually formed rocks like sandstone, mudstone and siltstone, the app states.

If dropping that knowledge doesn’t get you a second date, then at least you know early on that you need someone more curious in your life.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

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Mail Tribune / Jamie LuschTara Laidlaw, Education Program Manage with the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy, hikes the Oredson Todd Woods trail in Ashland.