Sunday, May 8, 2011

Williams, Oregon

Williams, Oregon sits just 15 miles from California's northern border and is nestled neatly in a valley that is surrounded by the Siskiyou Mountains.  Just over 2,000 people live within William's unincorporated town limits.  Most people commute to Medford, Grants Pass, Jacksonville or Ashland, Oregon for work, many are retired and a small number make a living right here in the valley.  The lands surrounding town are a checkerboard of US Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, Josephine County and private (including commercial timber companies) property.  Most of it open to exploration and adventure for those that seek that out.

My father, Paul, moved here in May of 2007.  He settled in Williams because of its great hometown feel (neighbors helping neighbors) and its excellent growing climate.  He's got a big green thumb.  As irony would have it I moved to Ashland (only an hour to the east) for several years during his tenure here.  I visited often, but never took too much time to explore his "backyard."  Since moving to Flagstaff, AZ I've been back a few times for extended stays and have found this place to be a small mecca for the enthusiastic trail runner.

Since Zane Grey, I've taken some time to help my pa on the farm, explore what Williams has to offer and to get reacquainted with myself.  Here's a small taste of what lies hidden here in the Williams Valley.

A view of the Williams Valley from the high slopes of Grayback Mountain.

7,050' Grayback Mountain looks down on Williams.

The Grayback Mountain Trail is better known to many ultrarunners as the first climb in the famous Pine to Palm 100 Mile Endurance Run.  Construction of the the trail was started in 1990 and it was completed in 2006.  Once on top you're afforded great views of southern Oregon and northern California.  A few more miles further will lead you to the Pacific Crest Trail.

Enchanted Forest & Felton Trail

The Enchanted Forest Trail

This trail starts innocently enough, but soon turns into one steep mother near its terminus on the ridge line above.  A side trail, the Felton Trail contours gently and leads to a memorial for three gentlemen killed in a helicopter crash in 1993. 

Pipe Fork Trail & Port Orford Cedar

The Pipe Fork Trail is best done in conjunction with Rock Creek Road (miles 4 to 7 of the Pine to Palm 100 Mile course), the Glade Fork logging road and East Fork Road.  A great loop.  It is within this dark and lush drainage, when you're not hopping over and diving under downed trees and brush, that you can find the eastern most stands of Port Orford Cedar, a tree with very limited range (only found in northern CA and southwestern OR).

Brushriders and the West Fork of Williams Creek

This trail was built by the Brushriders Equestrian Club, hence its name.  Though the single track lasts for roughly three-quarters of a mile, it leads to Clapboard Gulch Road and many more miles of logging roads.

Upper Powell Creek

The Upper Powell Creek Road (paved) follows the creek for many miles and is seldom traveled.  As you climb higher and higher the creek gets louder and the shadows longer as the walls of the mountains close in around you.  An extensive network of logging roads (some active, most inactive) open up many running opportunities from this main road artery. 

Ferris Gulch

Like hollows are to Virginia, canyons are to Arizona, gulches are to Oregon.  The Ferris Gulch Road starts off tame, but, like all logging roads, begins its ascent into the ridges and mountains above the Applegate Valley floor.  This road, like the aforementioned Powell Creek Road, leads you to endless traveling options above.

Panther Gulch

The quiet lane that heads up Panther Gulch

The Panther Gulch Road, like its brethren above, starts out easy but smacks you in the face with a good climb.  I found a sweet 10 mile running loop up here, but no panthers.

Findley Gulch Road takes you to the low saddle in the middle of the photo.

How many gulches can there be?  Once you figure out which are the private driveways and which is the actual route Findley Gulch Road presents itself as a short and steep bugger.  In fact, the local mountain bikers take time trial stabs on Findley.  See them here.

Bristol Marble Mine

Believe it or not, there is a piece of Williams, OR in the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.  The rock was quarried at Williams' Bristol Marble Mine (see the rock above) and sent to DC.  The mine isn't too far off the main road, but, again, its neighboring logging roads make for an excellent detour.

Applegate Lake

Though Applegate Lake isn't in the Williams Valley it sits only two ridges to the east.  I'd be remiss if I didn't include what I've found to be the only flat non-paved running in the area.  18 miles for the loop and home of the Granite Man Events.  A popular run for those in Ashland as well.

It is also very important to include post run recovery havens in the Williams Valley. 

The Out of the Way Cafe - great burgers and beer

The Williams General Store - everything you need post-run conveniently located under one roof.