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Guided outings offer insights into the outdoors

Clear skies and temperate weather this month bring plenty of opportunities to enjoy Southern Oregon’s spectacular landscape, forests and gardens. And for those who like a little expert information with their outings, guided hikes, plant identification workshops and gentle walks are inviting ways to learn away a couple of hours.

On Saturday, Aug. 10, conservationist Jeanine Moy will lead a 1-mile plant identification and seed collection hike from 9 a.m. to noon in the Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve, a high meadow about 16 miles up Dead Indian Memorial Road outside of Ashland.

Moy says the Takelma people collected camas here, and in the past 200 years, the meadow had been used for sheep and cattle grazing. Now, the land is in private ownership and managed as a conservation reserve.

“We’ll get into the nitty gritty of identifying plants in the meadow, talk about seed preservation and storage,” Moy says of the hike, which was organized by the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center Land Stewards Program.

The Land Stewards Program also runs regular community classes on forest and woodlands, stream ecology, fuel reduction, rain catchment and noxious weeds. It will offer field days on beaver dams and critter cams this fall, as well as an 11-week workshop series.

Saturday’s Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve hike costs $15, and registration is requested at extension.oregonstate.edu/sorec, where you’ll also find information about the Land Stewards Program. For more information about the Vesper Meadow Education Program and the preserve’s restoration program, see VesperMeadow.org.

The Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument run free guided ranger hikes every Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to noon through Sept. 1, meeting at the ranger station by the Green Springs Inn on Highway 66. Each hike focuses on a different aspect of the extraordinary biodiversity found in the area. Registration is requested but not required at cascadesiskiyou.org.

Closer to home and perhaps easier for some to negotiate are free volunteer-led walks through the gardens of North Mountain Park and Lithia Park.

Community gardeners associated with the North Mountain Park Nature Center will host a tour of the center’s gardens Wednesday, Aug. 14 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. There are at least six different garden areas to appreciate, including heirloom, native plant, pollinators, water wise plants, two herb gardens, a hummingbird garden and an amphibian garden.

On Saturday, Aug. 17, local birding experts with the Rogue Valley Audubon Society will lead a morning bird walk at North Mountain Nature Center from 8 to 9 a.m.

Through the end of August, local naturalists host free, easy-paced and shaded walks along Ashland Creek through Lithia Park on Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. The walk is a great way to learn about the trees, flowers, birds, climate, water, geology and history of the park. Meet at the entrance to Lithia Park across from the Plaza at 10 a.m. to get started. No registration is required. See AshlandParksandRec.org or call 541-488-5340 for more information.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

Photo credit Linda Thomas Volunteers collect seeds at Vesper Meadow.
Photo by Matt Witt Mount McLaughlin over Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve.