“Water is Life” – Mosaic Art on the Bandersnatch Trail

Karen Rycheck’s amazing artistic journey.
Honoring watershed animals.
29 photos!
Artist: Karen Rycheck.
Ashland Public Art series.

“In this sculpture, I was trying to make people aware of all the life that is supported by the Ashland watershed; how important it is to keep it clean, not just for our use but also for the wildlife in the area.” 

Karen Rycheck

Try the Bandersnatch Trail art walk

“Water is Life” is a dramatic sight as you ascend the Bandersnatch trail from Lithia Park up the hill toward the Siskiyou Mountains. It is the third, largest, and most complex sculpture you will see on this art walk. If you don’t know the Bandersnatch trail, I give instructions to the trail at the end of this article.

Water is Life on the Bandersnatch Trail in Ashland. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“When did you first create art?”

Artist Karen Rycheck replied: “I’d say before pre-school. I started taking art classes when I was five with the local art association. My dad was instrumental in that, because he was an amateur photographer.” In her Oklahoma K – 12 schools, she didn’t get much support for art. For example, the art teacher was a football coach and they had to bring their own art supplies from home. 

During her high school years, she thought she would become an architect. Jon Keith Swindell, a professor and mentor at University of Kansas, inspired her to pursue fine art. She also pursued furniture making for a while.    

“How did you become a mosaic artist?”

Karen’s response turned into a fascinating story. “I kind of fell into mosaic art,” she told me. “There was a guy in St. Louis who was a sculptor. He was also a real estate mogul, which is how he supported being an artist. He would buy up old buildings, rehab them and flip them. In the process, he bought a 10-story building that had been vacant for a long time.” The photo below shows the 10-story building after he developed it into a museum.

St. Louis City Museum
Exterior of the St. Louis City Museum. Notice the full size school bus “driving” off the roof. (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

I interrupt the story of Karen’s artistic journey for a brief description of this no-longer-vacant building from the City Museum website: “Housed in the 10-story, 600,000 square-foot warehouse of the International Shoe Company, City Museum is a mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of found and repurposed objects. The brainchild of internationally-acclaimed artist Bob Cassilly, a classically trained sculptor, City Museum opened for visitors in 1997.” I looked at the website and wished I could transport myself to St. Louis to see the astounding place they have created. If you want to see it, including a drone video tour, here is the link: https://www.citymuseum.org

In Karen’s words, “He turned the building into a huge art experience. People started donating materials to him. A large donation came from a ceramic factory in Oklahoma, which donated two full truckloads of tile, seconds from the factory, all different colors and shapes and sizes.” What to do with them? The warehouse floors were cement, like a parking garage. Cassilly decided to mosaic the huge expanses of floors, thousands of square feet. Initially a couple women with some ceramic tile experience began laying the donated tile on the floors, a little each day. 

St. Louis City Museum
Intricate mosaics at the St. Louis City Museum. (photo from St. Louis City Museum website)

This brings the story back to Karen Rycheck. One day in 1997 she was waiting by the elevator to go to an upper floor and paint the ceiling. Cassilly saw her there and said, “Hey, have you ever done this mosaic thing?” Rycheck replied, “No, but it looks really cool. I’d like to try it.” He said, “Then go over there, where they are laying tile.” And for the next year and a half she laid mosaic tile every day, 8 to 12 hours a day. It was an intense learning-on-the-job experience, and she has loved working with mosaic tile ever since.

That brings us to Karen’s creative mosaic sculpture called Water is Life.

How “Water is Life” was chosen for this site

Karen submitted a design idea to the Watershed Art Group for a sculptural mosaic piece. She highlighted flora and fauna that are present in the Ashland watershed, especially animals and plants that people might not notice. Her proposal was accepted and she built the piece over the next year or so.

“I like to look at the big picture, and also focus on the tiny little critters and plants that we take for granted or don’t even know are there.”  

Karen Rycheck

This was only Karen’s second sculptural mosaic artwork! Her first sculptural piece, a reclining nude made in 2010 or 2011, is displayed at Paschal Winery in Talent (and is for sale). 

Karen and her “Reclining Nude” mosaic tile sculpture.

Meaning of the sculpture

I asked Karen about the overall meaning of the Water is Life sculpture. She replied, “I was trying to make people aware of all the life that is supported by the Ashland watershed; how important it is to keep it clean, not just for our use but also for the wildlife in the area. [The watershed] supports a lot of plants and animals, many of which are not found anywhere else in the United States. The Siskiyou region is a really unique area biologically, so protecting the land here is really important.” 

Each of the four levels of the sculpture depicts different plants and animals. Let’s learn in Karen Rycheck’s own words what she portrays in each level, starting with the bottom.

Bottom (first) level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Water is Life, bottom (first) level. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“The bottom layer is imagery of the forests and mountains. I moved here from the Midwest, the flatlands. We went to the mountains on family vacations. That’s where my love of the mountains originated, so I wanted to have that as a base.”

The bottom level shows the Ashland watershed’s “greater ecosystem, a forested mountainous area.”   

Second level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Salamander on level 2 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

This level honors small, ground-dwelling creatures in the watershed. The small native salamanders live in moist areas near streams. Karen: “They tend to hide out so you’re not likely to see them unless you are looking for them, and that’s one reason I wanted to bring some attention to them. They are dependent on moisture and plant life in the area.” 

Notice the variety of plants in the mosaic design around the salamander. Karen took walks in the area where her sculpture was going to be installed. She found local plants to feature. Near the salamander’s head is a small, easily overlooked native flowering plant with tiny purple blooms. Above the salamander is a fern and by its tail another local plant. The green tiles below the salamander represent the mosses in its habitat.

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Rough-skinned Newt on level 2 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

On the other side of the second level is a rough-skinned newt, another animal in the watershed. Karen explained that “They have a pebbly-textured skin, so I found some tile that had a lot of texture to it.” You can see the texture difference in the photo and feel it on the sculpture.

Delightful details — notice the pebbles

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Notice the pebbles the artist found in Ashland Creek and incorporated into her sculpture that honors the Ashland Watershed, its animals and its plants. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Here’s why I like to talk with the artist, when possible. I didn’t notice this detail when I viewed the sculpture. I didn’t even notice this detail as I looked at my photo of the salamander on the second level of the sculpture. 

Take a look at the salamander’s front foot. What is it resting on? Those are not mosaic tiles. Those are pebbles that Karen picked up in Ashland Creek! This truly gives her mosaic creation a sense of place. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Notice the pebbles from Ashland Creek making up the “creek bed” on level 3 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Again, look for the pebbles in this detail photo from the third level. The third level features fish amidst the flowing multi-colored blue hues of river water. What is below the water, in the real world and in the sculpture? Pebbles in the creek, and from the creek. I love that creative touch. Learning that little detail helps me appreciate the entire piece even more.

More delightful details — notice the plant leaves

Each of the small ceramic tiles needs to be cut to shape. This is much more challenging in a rounded mosaic artwork like Water is Life than in a flat mosaic. Now look closely at the leaves next to the salamander and the newt on the second level. Unlike all of the other tiles, which have smooth edges, many of the leaves have serrated edges. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Detail showing the serrated plant leaves on level 2 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I asked Karen how she could add that kind of detail to hard ceramic tiles. She explained that most of her tiles with smooth edges are hand cut. However, to create the serrated leaf shapes she needed to use a tile “wet saw,” which has a diamond-encrusted grinding blade. In fact, she had to use different kinds of wet saws to give the leaves their individual details. I haven’t counted the leaves, but that’s a lot of individual serrated leaf creation. 

Third level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
Level 3 of Water is Life contains stylized steelhead or salmon. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

A variety of blue-themed shapes, colors and sizes of tiles make up the flowing stream in which the stylized steelhead or salmon are swimming.

Back to details, notice how many tiles shaped as small scales are on each fish. “Each of those little tiles I shaped like scales was hand cut and then ground on a glass grinder to shape the curve better.” Karen added, “At the time I was doing this, my dad was in the hospital. I would go to the hospital with my tile and my nippers and a clear plastic bag. I would sit there and I would nip the fish scales by his bedside. It was my therapy as I was there with him.”  

Fourth (and top) level

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
The Bald Eagle is soaring on level 4 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

This is the level of sky and birds. The Bald eagle is soaring above (and within) a green forest in a blue, cloud-filled sky. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
One of Karen Rycheck’s favorite local birds is the Spotted Towhee, here on level 4 of Water is Life. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

On the other side is a Spotted towhee, a favorite of Karen’s and one of the common birds of the Rogue Valley and Ashland watershed. 

How Water is Life was made

I was surprised when Karen told me that the core of each sculptural level was made of 2” or 3” thick insulation foam board laminated together. I had assumed the cores would be made of concrete, but that would have made them much too heavy for a four-level sculpture at this location. The recycled foam board was much lighter than a concrete core would be, and she could hand carve it to just the right boulder shapes. Karen told me insulation foam board is used a lot in creating theater and movie sets. 

Water is Life by Karen Rycheck
“Boulder” base made of foam board. (photo by Karen Rycheck)

The ceramic tiles were attached to fiberglass mesh, which was attached to the foam board base with Thinset cement.  

Here is the bottom level showing tiles attached to fiberglass mesh. (photo by Karen Rycheck)

Each tile was attached individually, glued on with Thinset, a special type of mortar made for attaching ceramic tile. Early in the process, Karen created drawings and a small model of the sculpture. For the flatter areas of each level, she was able to transfer her drawings to the concrete as a guide for placing the tiles. The curved areas were much more challenging and often required cutting tile pieces smaller to make them fit. 

You can see four real rocks in between the mosaic “boulder” layers. She got these rocks at Leave Your Mark in Phoenix. They were kind enough to drill holes through the rocks for her. A long steel rod holds the levels together and anchors them to the concrete base.

Ashland Parks Department staff assisted with Water is Life installation in early 2018. (photo by Karen Rycheck, 2018)

The levels of Water is Life were assembled on site with the help of Parks Department staff. Karen is very grateful for their help!

Ashland Parks Department staff who helped Karen install Water is Life. (photo by Karen Rycheck, 2018)

Water is Life dedication

A dedication had been planned for early 2018, but it was rained out. Karen laughed as she told me a few people showed up anyway, so there was an informal ceremony in the rain. Except that Karen wasn’t there because she had been told it was cancelled!

Water is Life
Karen Rycheck (on the left) and Stef Seffinger of the Watershed Art Group at the formal dedication. (photo provided by Stef Seffinger)

Fortunately, later there was a formal dedication on a sunny day in September 2018. It was held the same day as the dedication of the nearby sculpture “Elevation,” by Cheryl Garcia.

Other artwork by Karen Rycheck

“I love public art. I love the idea of art being free to everybody. I know that there are a lot of people who never get to go to museums, so I like that they can live with it in their community.”  

Karen Rycheck

Karen makes both private commissions and public artworks. As you can tell from the quote above, she loves to create public art, especially in collaboration with others. See examples below of both public and private pieces she has created.

Talent Bee City U.S.A. mosaic

This community mosaic was designed by Karen Rycheck. (photo by Karen Rycheck)
Detail of the Talent Bee City U.S.A. mosaic. (photo by Karen Rycheck)

Karen initiated and designed this stunning 32′ long mosaic for the City of Talent, Oregon. This mosaic flower garden was once a blank cement wall at the base of a stage that is used for music during the Harvest Festival and other gatherings. Karen told me, “People sat there facing the blank wall and I thought it needed to be brightened up.”

She took her idea to the Talent Public Arts Committee, which loved it of course. They presented it to the Talent City Council, where it was approved.

Karen explained the purpose behind this mosaic. “We tried to focus on plants that were host plants for pollinators in the valley, some native, some non-native. We wanted it to be educational, so people could see what kinds of flowers people could plant in their yards to attract pollinators. It’s around the corner from the Pollinator Garden in front of Talent’s City Hall building.”

This is truly “public art,” as over 100 community members worked on the mosaic with her. Following training by Karen, the individual flowers were initially laid out on fiberglass mesh by many different people. Then Karen put them together in the overall design. The mosaic was dedicated on June 22, 2019 after about a year and a half of community creativity.

“Home of the year” in St. louis

Cover of St. Louis Homes + Lifestyles magazine, 2000.

In the year 2000, this house won the “Home of the Year” award given by St. Louis Homes + Lifestyles magazine. All it takes is a brief glance to see how stunning it is. Using plaster, Karen crafted the snake that surrounds the kitchen entry. Wow! Those are seashells circling the snake.

Karen, Red Keel and one other woman designed and laid the ceramic tile on the floor, kitchen countertops and backsplash.  Following the nature and ocean theme, the floor mosaic is a huge squid.

“mosaic marathon” healthcare mosaic

This mosaic designed by Karen Rycheck (pictured) is at La Clinca Wellness Center in Medford.

This mosaic was created during an Ashland conference put on by the Contemporary Mosaic Artists organization in 2015. Karen designed it, but it was put together by attendees of the conference during a “mosaic marathon.”

Tiles for this project were provided by a Los Angeles group called “Piece by Piece.” Karen worked closely with Dawn Mendelson, the Managing Director of the organization. Since 2007, their mission has been to “provide low-income and formerly homeless people free mosaic art workshops using recycled materials to develop marketable skills, self-confidence, earned income and an improved quality of life.” I looked at their website and was very impressed. Here is a link if you’d like to learn more. https://www.piecebypiece.org

This circular mosaic hangs at La Clinica Wellness Center in Medford. When Karen told me that, I immediately thought of Jeremy Criswell and his mentor Lilli Ann Rosenberg. Mosaic artworks by Jeremy and Lilli Ann are also in La Clinica buildings. At the end of this article, you will find a link to the article about Pacific Fisher, Jeremy’s public art sculpture that is also on the Bandersnatch trail.

How to find “Water is Life” on the Bandersnatch trail

Just above Lithia Park, the Bandersnatch trail is one of the easiest Ashland trails to access. It begins near the swimming hole on Ashland Creek. If you are driving or biking, take Granite Street south to the swimming hole, then turn left on Glenview Drive.

Glenview Drive, Ashland

After a short distance, you’ll see a parking area on the right that can accommodate about eight cars, followed by a larger parking area on the left. If you are in a car, park here.

Ashland trails

Near the smaller parking area is a sign that says, “Waterline Trail” and “To Bandersnatch Trail 820′.” 

Keep an eye out for mountain bikers zooming by in this section of the trail because this section is a multi-use trail. When you reach the Bandersnatch trail, it will be only for pedestrians and equestrians.

Ashland trails

You’ll know you are heading the right way if you pass this gate and sign.

You will reach the Elevation sculpture about 1/10 of a mile from the parking lot, while you are still on the Waterline trail. Next to Elevation is another sign pointing to the beginning of the Bandersnatch trail.

Ashland trails

When you see the Bandersnatch trail sign, head uphill a short distance to see the other two sculptures on this art walk: Pacific Fisher and Water is Life.

Built in 2012 for walkers and equestrians, Bandersnatch trail is 1.7 miles long and intersects multiple trails, so you can hike in a loop or just go straight up and back. 

Ashland Public Art series – Links to other articles

Elevation by Cheryl Garcia

Pacific Fisher by Jeremy Criswell

Street Scene by Marion Young

References:

Anon. City Museum website.
https://www.citymuseum.org

Rycheck, Karen. Interview and communications, August and September 2020.
Karen Rycheck kindly shared some of her personal photos with me for the article.

Seffinger, Stef. Interview and communications, August 2020.

“Pacific Fisher” – Art on Ashland’s Bandersnatch Trail

The “Pacific Fisher” by Jeremy Criswell is part of Ashland, Oregon’s public art collection. I am writing an article about every public artwork in town.

Learn how it was made, step by step
Why is it named “Marty?”
31 photos!
Artist: Jeremy Criswell
Ashland Public Art series

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Pacific Fisher sculpture at its site. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

When I first saw the Pacific Fisher sculpture

My wife and I first saw the “Pacific Fisher” sculpture on the Bandersnatch trail in July 2020. As I climbed the hill and saw the front of the mosaic sculpture, I thought, “This is beautiful.” If you are not familiar with Bandersnatch trail, see detailed instructions for finding it at the end of this article. 

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Face of Pacific Fisher sculpture, front detail. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Pacific Fisher by Jeremy Criswell
“Front” of Pacific Fisher sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

When I walked around to the back of the piece, then came the “Wow!” I immediately wanted to learn what a Pacific fisher is and about the artist Jeremy Criswell. This article shares with you what I have learned.

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Face of Pacific Fisher sculpture, back detail. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Pacific Fisher by Jeremy Criswell
“Back” of Pacific Fisher sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Jeremy’s artistic journey

When I asked Jeremy how he started making art, he laughed and told me “As a kid, I was sure I was not an artist. I couldn’t draw. But my grandpa was a potter. So when I got to RCC [Rogue Community College], I took a pottery [ceramics] class. I was fortunate that it was taught by Tom Wilson, who introduced me to sculpture and was an early inspiration for me.” 

This began his process of opening up to what he called “exploring and playing a lot.” His mind opened up to the natural creativity within him. He writes in his Bio: “With ceramics as my anchor, I began to explore other art forms. Painting, sculpture, woodworking, carpentry, and welding all found their way into my life.”

He studied art and ceramics at Humboldt State University for five years, then moved back to Oregon in 2006. He currently makes art in his home studio in the Applegate Valley. He wrote, “I created a space that supports all forms of my artwork, from tile and cement sculpture, to pottery, welding, and woodwork. My primary focus is on art for public enjoyment.”

Jeremy Criswell studio
Jeremy Criswell’s studio, from his website. (photo by Robert Frost)

When he is not making art, you will find Criswell in his fourth year of teaching at Madrone Trail school, a Waldorf-inspired public charter school in Central Point. 

Jeremy Criswell’s mentor

Criswell met Lilli Ann and Marvin Rosenberg when they were in their 80s and still creating public art projects for placement in Oregon and beyond. He and Lilli Ann clicked from the start, and he was her assistant from 2007 until her death in 2011.

Lilli Ann Rosenberg, 2007
This 2007 mosaic by Lilli Ann Rosenberg (pictured) for La Clinica was the first one Jeremy Criswell helped her with. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

“Everything I know about mosaics I learned from her [Lilli Ann Rosenberg],” Jeremy told me. “For a number of years, I was her assistant. I was her eyes and hands in many ways. My work is incredibly influenced by her. The things that she held important, they became such a part of me … if anything, I think I honor her when I work.”

Lilli Ann and Marvin Rosenberg with sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, 2008
Lilli Ann and Marvin Rosenberg with Jeremy’s first mosaic sculpture (photo by Jeremy Criswell, 2008)

The photo above shows Jeremy’s first mosaic sculpture, made in 2008, which he described as “sort of a self-portrait.” He said: “This was a joyous moment for Lilli Ann and Marvin” because they could see that “what they shared was coming to life in me.”

Lilli Ann had created public art nationally for decades before she and Marvin moved to the Rogue Valley around 1990. In the Rogue Valley, the Rosenberg’s are most known for their incredible ability to engage with people in the community and for their mosaic artworks at many La Clinica buildings. 

In 1978, Lilli Ann’s created what may be her most dramatic piece. It is a 12-ton, 110’ mosaic tile mural installed at America’s oldest subway station – the 1897 Park Street station in Boston. 

Mosaic by Lilli Ann Rosenberg, Park Street subway station, Boston
Mosaic by Lilli Ann Rosenberg, Park Street subway station, Boston. (photo from MBTA)

The Watershed Art Group

The Pacific Fisher sculpture exists because Stef Seffinger, Pam Marsh and Sue Springer formed the “Watershed Art Group” to place public art along a trail above Lithia Park. Their goal — to bring attention to the importance of the watershed. They received support from the City of Ashland Public Arts Commission, with funding primarily from the Haines & Friends art fund. 

They put out a call for artists to propose ideas for a sculpture of a Pacific fisher, an important but little known animal in the Ashland Watershed. When Jeremy began his creative process, he had an idea to include leaves picked in the watershed as part of the design. Criswell’s mosaic design was chosen for this public art commission.

How the “Pacific Fisher” sculpture was made

The first step was design. Jeremy fine-tuned the design he had presented to the Watershed Art Group. Since he makes his own ceramic mosaic pieces, he visualized the colors, textures, shapes and sizes of the mosaic pieces for Pacific Fisher. Then he hand-made all the striped quarter moon tiles for the front side of the piece and the round green tiles for the back side. The glass tiles he used on the back side are hand-made Italian glass.

Ceramic tiles made by Jeremy Criswell
Hand-made ceramic tiles by Jeremy Criswell. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

He cut out the exact shape and size of the sculpture in 2” thick Styrofoam. You can see in the photo below how he laid out his mosaic design.

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Styrofoam mold of Pacific Fisher sculpture on slab of clay. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

The Pacific fisher was built flat on his large work table. Jeremy began with a huge slab of clay about 1” thick, laid out on the table. The Styrofoam cutout of the Pacific fisher shape was laid on the clay for a mold and held firmly in place. 

He pressed the design of glass and ceramic mosaic pieces for the back side of the Pacific fisher into the soft clay, using gentle taps so the pieces would stay put but not sink into the clay. Each of the hundreds of pieces needed to be exactly where he wanted it. Once the mosaic pieces were in concrete, there was no going back!

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Jeremy at work. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

About half of the concrete (1” thick) was carefully poured into the mold so it would not move any of the small pieces that were pressed into the underlying clay. 

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Half of the concrete has been poured into the mold. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

As the cement dried, it “grabbed” the glass and ceramic mosaic pieces. When the cement was lifted off, the mosaic pieces remained attached to the cement.

After the first half of the concrete was poured in the mold, rebar armature was added for strength and for attaching the piece to its base. 

The second half of the concrete was poured, making the sculpture about 2” thick. While this concrete was moist, the quarter-moon shaped brown ceramic pieces on the other side of the Pacific fisher were placed directly into it. As I listened to Jeremy describe this, I started to get worried the cement would dry before he could apply all 140 or so mosaic pieces exactly where he wanted them. He laughed and told me, “You always have enough time. I used to get very, very frantic and Lilli Ann would tell me it would work.” (Back when he was her apprentice and assistant.)

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Applying the tiles to the “front” side of the Pacific Fisher sculpture. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

Working on his own a few years later, he once again would start to get frantic at this point in the process. Eventually he learned a routine to calm himself. “I would mix the cement, and while it was sitting in the wheelbarrow, I would go make a cup of coffee, just to remind myself that I had enough time.” When he told me there was a three-hour time period to work within before the cement dried, I was able to relax.   

“Real” leaves on the base

The base concrete was formed without a mold, using expanded metal lath as the structure. After hand-forming the base from thick wet concrete in and around the metal lath, he tapped the leaf ceramics into place before it dried. 

The ceramic leaves on the base had been created from fresh leaves Jeremy collected in the Ashland watershed. The multi-step process began by pressing the leaves into fresh clay and applying dark glaze around them. After carefully removing the leaves to preserve some detail such as the leaf veins, he fired the clay for the first time. Using a sponge, he then applied multiple colors of glaze to the individual leaves and fired the clay for a second time.

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
This photo shows the metal lath for base. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)
Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
This photo shows the still damp hand-formed concrete applied over the metal lath. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)
Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
The ceramic tile leaves have been placed in the base. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

Introduced to the public in June 2015

Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, Ashland Oregon
Ashland Daily Tidings, April 21, 2015. (photo from Stef Seffinger)

The Watershed Art Group introduced Criswell’s Pacific Fisher to the public during Ashland’s June 2015 Earth Day celebration, held at ScienceWorks Museum. Then it was on display at the Ashland Library until its October dedication on the Bandersnatch trail. There was even a contest to name the mosaic statue.

Dedication in October 2015

Pacific Fisher dedication October 2015
This photo from the dedication shows John Stromberg, an unidentified woman, Stef Seffinger (Ashland Watershed Group member), Ann Seltzer, and Pam Marsh (Ashland Watershed Group member). (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

About 40 people attended the dedication of Pacific Fisher on the trail October 9, 2015. People toasted the first sculpture on this new “Art Walk” with sparkling cider and cookies in the shape of Pacific fishers. Dave Clayton, a wildlife biologist who has studied Pacific fishers, spoke about their role in the ecosystem.

Pacific Fisher dedication October 2015
Jeremy Criswell keeps an eye on his sons Adrian (on the left) and Alden “riding” the Pacific Fisher during the dedication. In the background, Diarmuid McGuire is talking with Barry and Kathryn Thalden.  (photo by Greta Nikkelsen)

Why is it named “Marty?”

At the sculpture’s dedication, Ashland City Councilor Stef Seffinger explained why this Pacific Fisher is named “Marty.” It honors Southern Oregon forester and ecosystem restoration expert Marty Main.

Seffinger added: “This is somebody who has spent over 30 years working in this forest, who has spent his life educating and making sure that creatures in the forest continue to have a home. That the trees in the forest continue to be healthy. He’s one of the most generous and most wonderful men I know. Thank you, Marty.”

Marty Main
Marty Main teaching in June 2012. (photo by Stef Seffinger)

Marty Main has been a consultant to the Forest Lands Commission since 1995, and he is widely respected in the community. Unknown to Main, several people from the City of Ashland Forest Lands Commission nominated the name “Marty.” He attended the dedication ceremony not knowing the sculpture would be named for him. He told me, “They surprised me. I was embarrassed.” 

What is a Pacific fisher?

Pacific fisher
Pacific fisher. (from the KS Wild website)

I asked Marty Main to tell me a little about the Pacific fisher. He explained that they are in the same family as weasels, and are about the size of a house cat. They are now rare on the West Coast, and a healthy, growing population of Pacific fishers in the Ashland watershed is a sign of ecosystem health in our watershed.

Throughout Oregon and North America, the population of Pacific fishers was decimated by the fur trade in the late 1800s, the use of powerful poisons at illegal marijuana grows in federal forests for decades (thankfully fewer since the legalization of marijuana) and the loss of old growth habitat. Pacific fishers nest and rest in large, older trees. They are nocturnal, so they are not very visible. 

What do they eat? Fish, of course…NO, not fish. Their unusual common name is thought to come from the word fiche (or fichet, or fitch, or fitchet), an old term for the pelt of a European polecat, a related animal that 19th century fur trappers were familiar with. 

They actually eat small mammals like mice, squirrels, rabbits, and one that’s a surprise…porcupines! Marty Main told me, “They are one of the few animals that eat porcupines. They have learned to flip porcupines over to get to the soft belly. They are unique that way.”

How to find the sculpture on the Bandersnatch trail

Just above Lithia Park, the Bandersnatch trail is one of the easiest Ashland trails to access. It begins near the swimming hole on Ashland Creek. If you are driving or biking, take Granite Street south to the swimming hole, then turn left on Glenview Drive.  

Glenview Drive, Ashland

After a short distance, you’ll see a parking area on the right that can accommodate about eight cars, followed by a larger parking area on the left. If you are in a car, park here.

Ashland trails

Near the smaller parking area is a sign that says, “Waterline Trail” and “To Bandersnatch Trail 820′.” 

Keep an eye out for mountain bikers zooming by in this section of the trail because this section is a multi-use trail. When you reach the Bandersnatch trail, it will be only for pedestrians and equestrians.

Ashland trails

You’ll know you are heading the right way if you pass this gate and sign.

You will reach the Elevation sculpture about 1/10 of a mile from the parking lot, while you are still on the Waterline trail. Next to Elevation is another sign pointing to the beginning of the Bandersnatch trail.

Ashland trails

When you see the Bandersnatch trail sign, head uphill a short distance to see the other two sculptures on this art walk: Pacific Fisher and Water is Life.

Built in 2012 for walkers and equestrians, Bandersnatch trail is 1.7 miles long and intersects multiple trails, so you can hike in a loop or just go straight up and back. 

Other art by Jeremy Criswell

Lilli Ann Rosenberg, 2007
Lilli Ann Rosenberg in 2007, creating a mosaic for La Clinica. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

This piece, now at La Clinica in Central Point, was the first artwork of Lilli Ann Rosenberg that Jeremy helped create. It is still very meaningful to him.

Mosaic sculpture by Jeremy Criswell
Mosaic sculpture by Jeremy Criswell at Applegate School. (photo by Jeremy Criswell)

This tree mosaic Jeremy called “Tree of Living Things” was created in 2017 or 2018 when he was the artist in residence at Applegate School. Every one of the school’s 100 students was involved in creating the artwork. Each one drew an animal or plant, pressed the drawing into clay and then painted it. Jeremy incorporated all of these into the mosaic tree. Look closely to see similarities between his hand-made tiles used in this mosaic and the ones used in Pacific Fisher.

Tortoise by Jeremy Criswell at Cantrall Buckley park
Tortoise by Jeremy Criswell, Cantrall Buckley County Park. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The tortoise at Cantrall Buckley County Park is one of Jeremy’s favorite pieces because of the way kids climb on it, interact with it and have fun with its colorful personality. 

Finally, what is a Bandersnatch?

I don’t suppose it’s helpful to know that the Bandersnatch is found in the vicinity of the Jabberwock and the Jubjub bird. It might be more helpful to know that it occurs in the follow-up book to Alice in Wonderland, in which nearly everything is topsy turvy.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Lewis Carroll, from the poem Jabberwocky in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

More articles about Ashland Public Art

“Elevation” – Art on the Bandersnatch Trail
https://walkashland.com/2020/08/28/elevation-art-on-ashlands-bandersnatch-trail/

Street Scene Sculpture: Who Are These People?
https://walkashland.com/2020/05/26/street-scene-sculpture-who-are-these-people/https://walkashland.com/2020/05/26/street-scene-sculpture-who-are-these-people/

Ashland Public Art map

A map at the link below shows City of Ashland public art, from the city website. Photos of the art are by Graham Lewis.
https://gis.ashland.or.us/publicart/

References:

Anon. “Pacific Fisher is One Cool Critter,” KS Wild website, accessed September 22, 2020.
https://www.kswild.org/imperiled-species-profiles/2017/6/12/pacific-fisher

Criswell, Jeremy. Interview and personal communications, August and September 2020. Jeremy graciously shared some of his personal photos with me.

Darling, John. “Watershed Art Trail: Elusive Pacific Fisher to have prominent spot,” Ashland Daily Tidings, April 21, 2015. 

Darling, John. “Mural artist Lilli Ann Rosenberg leaves a lasting legacy,” Medford Mail Tribune, July 23, 2011.

Dickinson, Alec. “Ashland Watershed Art Trail inaugurated with unveiling of ‘Marty,’” Ashland Tidings, October 12, 2015. 

Main, Marty. Interview, September 2020.

Marsh, Pam. Email communications, September 2020.

Seffinger, Stef. Interview and communications, August and September 2020.

“Elevation” – Art on Ashland’s Bandersnatch Trail

“Elevation” – First artwork of three as you walk Bandersnatch trail
Artist: Cheryl Garcia
Ashland Public Art series

Introducing the artist

Cheryl Garcia has loved art ever since she could pick up a crayon. I will describe her artistic journey after I introduce her Ashland public artwork entitled “Elevation.”

Creation of Elevation

The “Watershed Art Group” (originally Stef Seffinger, Pam Marsh, Sue Springer and a few others) wanted to place public art along the Bandersnatch trail above Lithia Park. Their goal was to bring attention to the importance of the Ashland Creek watershed, where we source our drinking water. Three sculptures have now been placed along the trail: Elevation, Pacific Fisher and Water is Life. They received funding primarily from the Haines & Friends art fund.

When you walk the Bandersnatch trail, the first of the three sculptures you will see (just before the trail starts) is Elevation by Cheryl Garcia. Cheryl is a metal artist, and Elevation is made of steel. Her initial concept for Elevation included a poem by Edward Abbey with three small birds flying above it. 

Ashland public art
Cheryl Garcia’s original concept drawing for Elevation. (photo by Cheryl Garcia)

Over time, the design became three large birds representing the “elevation” you experience as you walk up Bandersnatch trail, as well as a hope for elevation in our spirits through art and nature. 

Ashland public art
Elevation, with a view of trail continuing to the right of the sculpture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

My question: What brought you to metal art?

I asked Cheryl how she came to love metal art. She replied: “It goes back to my love of junky old iron as a kid. My grandfather was a collector of artifacts. I loved going into his garage and digging around in all of his artifacts and playing around with tools. I loved going around collecting rusty old iron in the canyons of southwest Colorado where I grew up. I fell in love with the material first.”

As a child, Cheryl entered many local art contests, whether it was a coloring contest or who could draw a scene from Mesa Verde National Park the best. 

“I won quite a few art contest prizes as a kid, including a year’s supply of free fountain sodas from a local convenience store.” 

Cheryl Garcia

She laughed as she told me, “I was a popular kid,” and then “I think they didn’t do that [contest] any more after I won it, because I was down there every single day getting my free sodas with my friends.”

After a couple years off from school, when she worked drawing illustrations for archeological digs in the Four Corners area, she took every art class at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. During trips to Santa Fe, she was inspired by the large scale metal art sculptures there. Since welding was not offered at Fort Lewis College, she switched to a vocational school and became a certified welder in 1993. That opened the door to metal working and metal art.

Love at first sight

When she lived in Missoula, Montana for a year to enjoy the music scene there and work as a welder, she met her husband Criss. It was a case of “love at first sight” – not the sappy movie kind, but the lasting real-life, through the ups and downs to this day kind.

It was through Criss that they decided to move to Ashland in November 1996. “It was just what we were looking for.” Her first Southern Oregon job at Medford Fabrication enabled her to save enough money to purchase her own metal work and welding equipment. 

“Living my dream”

Cheryl Garcia
Cheryl Garcia in 1998. (photo by Criss Garcia)

Now that she owned her own equipment, Cheryl said goodbye to the 9-to-5 in order to “live my dream.” She began by making garden ornaments that she sold at the Growers and Crafters Markets in Ashland and Jacksonville.  

Cheryl Garcia
Garden ornaments Cheryl sold at Growers Markets in 1998. (photo by Criss Garcia)

People who bought her garden ornaments started asking her to make gates and handrails for them. She found out that making structural art required a contractor’s license. Dedicated to growing both her skills and her business, she went to Rogue Community College and got the license. Since then, she has made many bright-colored nature-inspired sculptures both large and small, gates, fences, vessels, sacred art and more. 

She is especially proud of a large spiral staircase she built for a private customer, a project that required her to draw upon all of her skills and creativity.

Cheryl Garcia
Spiral staircase by Cheryl Garcia in a private residence. (photo by Cheryl Garcia)

Public art

Though she accepts many private commissions, Cheryl especially enjoys creating public art: “I certainly enjoy the public commissions the most, because they’re reaching a bigger audience. I know the joy and wonder I am trying to put out in the world is affecting more lives than just a private commission.”

Cheryl Garcia

Cheryl is a visible artist in Southern Oregon. If you have been to Jacksonville in the past few years, you may have seen her huge poppy flowers in the vineyard just outside of town. (photo by Peter Finkle)

Ashland public art

If you drive by Walker School on Walker Street in Ashland, you may have seen her large flowers on the school grounds.

Sunflower by Cheryl Garcia at Walker School. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Cheryl Garcia, Britt Festival

If you have been to Britt Music Festival in the past few years, you have walked by her huge flower sculpture at the Britt entrance.

Cheryl Garcia poses with her Brittilaria sculpture at the Britt Festival grounds. It is named for the fritillaria flower.

(photo by Rita Ashley)

Elevation: the artistic process

Cheryl Garcia at work in her studio. (photo by Jim Craven)

Now let’s look in detail at the piece called Elevation, which was installed near the beginning of the Bandersnatch trail. Elevation began with a Corten steel plate, a stainless steel plate, steel posts, more steel plates for the base, nuts, bolts, paints and more.  Corten steel is a quick-rusting steel often used for outdoor installations. The different pieces were each cut out and worked on individually before they could be put together.

This 4-minute video shows an overview of the entire process of creating Elevation.

To complement the video, here is my summary of the steps involved, illustrated with photographs taken from the video. First, the heart of Elevation is the Corten steel plate. Cheryl drew a complex design on the steel, then cut precise holes in the steel with a plasma cutting tool. 

Second are the rigid side-poles that support the Corten steel plate and anchor it to the base. 

Third is the steel base, which in this case required two large pieces of steel with bolts anchoring it both to the sculpture above and to the concrete foundation below. In most of her jobs, Cheryl makes the concrete foundation as well as the metal sculpture. “That’s why part of my contractor’s license is certification in concrete work as well,” she said. In this case, the Parks Department was responsible for the concrete foundation. 

Ashland public art
Steel base for Elevation, showing the mounting bolts. (photo from the Cheryl Garcia video)

Fourth, the three birds were cut out of stainless steel. The steel had to be ground, sanded and buffed until it was smooth to the touch, without sharp edges. 

Ashland public art
Stainless steel birds being painted. (photo from the Cheryl Garcia video)

After each individual part was done, she finally put it all together. The birds were welded to the Corten steel plate from the back side. After they were attached, everything was masked off in order to apply anodized, long lasting industrial paint for the blue color of the birds.

Ashland public art
Corten steel of Elevation before the rusting process. (photo from the Cheryl Garcia video)

Finally, the rusting process is a key part of the artwork that we see but don’t normally think about. Cheryl painted a chemical solution on the Corten steel, which is made to rust quickly. She said, “It [the Corten steel] takes a chemical solution I can put on. The rusting itself takes some finessing as well; I don’t want it to go too far, and I don’t want it to be too little. So I need to use the right amount of chemical solution to get the perfect rust and then neutralize it with a neutralizer, then rinse it all down before the installation.” 

There is so much that people don’t see, including “a lot of grinding” that goes into every piece of artwork. Cheryl summed up, “It is very labor intensive.”

Ashland public art
Detail of Elevation showing the Corten steel on site after the rusting process. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Installation and Dedication

Elevation was installed at the site in June of 2018. The dedication ceremony didn’t happen until September 2018. As it turned out, the dedication for both Elevation and Water is Life (also on Bandersnatch trail) were held on the same day.

Where to find Elevation

My wife and I first walked the Bandersnatch trail to see the three public art sculptures there in July 2020. Just above Lithia Park, the Bandersnatch trail is one of the easiest Ashland trails to access. It begins not far from the swimming hole on Ashland Creek. If you are driving or biking, take Granite Street south to the swimming hole, then turn left on Glenview Drive. After 2/10 of a mile, you’ll see a parking area on the right that can accommodate about eight cars, followed by a larger parking area on the left. If you are in a car, park here.

Ashland trails
Sign near the parking area on Glenview Drive pointing the way to Bandersnatch trail. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Near the parking area is this sign that says, “Waterline Trail >” and “To Bandersnatch Trail 820′.” Keep an eye out for mountain bikers zooming by in this section of the trail because this section is a multi-use trail. When you reach the Bandersnatch trail, it will be only for pedestrians and equestrians.

You’ll know you are heading the right way if you pass this gate and sign.

Ashland trails
Next clue that you are heading in the right direction to see Bandersnatch trail artworks. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

You will reach the Elevation sculpture about 1/10 of a mile from the parking lot, while you are still on the Waterline trail.

Ashland trails

Next to the Elevation sculpture, you will see this sign.

Continue up to the Bandersnatch trail if you want to see the other two sculptures on this art walk: Pacific Fisher and Water is Life. Continue to keep an eye out for mountain bikers until you reach Bandersnatch trail. Built in 2012, Bandersnatch trail is 1.7 miles long and intersects multiple trails, so you can hike in a loop or just go straight up and back.

Ashland trails
Not far past Elevation is the official beginning of the Bandersnatch trail, where you will find the other two works of public art. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

What is a Bandersnatch?

You may be wondering, as I did, “What is a bandersnatch?” It is found in the unusual world of “Alice in Wonderland.” Here is how it is described.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Lewis Carroll, from the poem Jabberwocky in Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

Cantrall Buckley County Park

Because I am writing about Cheryl Garcia’s artwork, I want to briefly introduce you to the sculptures being installed at 88-acre Cantrall Buckley county park, located along the Applegate River near Ruch. The park and community have collaborated to raise funds for what has become an Art Walk at the park. 

The art in the park began with concrete and mosaic artwork Applegate Valley artist Jeremy Criswell created for the playground at the park. 

Cantrall Buckley park
Tortoise mosaic and concrete sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, located in the children’s playground at Cantrall Buckley County Park. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Jeremy is the sculptor of the Ashland public art piece on the Bandersnatch trail called “Pacific Fisher.”

He introduced community members to Cheryl Garcia, which resulted in a plan for Cheryl to create eleven metal art pieces that embody local flora and fauna in the Applegate Valley. She has completed eight so far as of August 2020, with three more to go.

Cantrall Buckley park
Mock Orange by Cheryl Garcia, at Cantrall Buckley County Park. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

The community group A Greater Applegate wrote: “Art enthusiasts are delighted to see the numerous sculptures in the Educational Sculpture Art Walk series installed near the river. Cheryl Garcia, our very talented Jacksonville artist, completed the first awe-inspiring metal rendition, “The Mock Orange,” in the Fall of 2018. This spectacular 12-foot sculpture depicts the large and beautiful white blossom of this tender but tough native species.”

Cheryl enthusiastically described the project to me, and said, “It will become Southern Oregon’s first sculpture park!” 

If you would like to learn more about Cheryl’s work, her website is GreatMetalWorks.com.

Cantrall Buckley park
Northern Flicker by Cheryl Garcia, at Cantrall Buckley County Park. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Ashland Public Art map

A map at the link below shows City of Ashland public art, from the city website. Photos of the art are by Graham Lewis.
https://gis.ashland.or.us/publicart/

Here is my other Ashland Public Art article published so far.

Coming soon: Pacific Fisher sculpture by Jeremy Criswell, also on the Bandersnatch trail.

Coming soon: Water is Life sculpture by Karen Rycheck, also on the Bandersnatch trail.

References:

Anon. “Ashland Public Art Collection: A map tour of Public Art installations in the City of Ashland, Oregon,” City of Ashland website.

https://gis.ashland.or.us/publicart/

A Greater Applegate, http://agreaterapplegate.org/cantrall-buckley-park/

Jackson County Parks, https://jacksoncountyor.org/parks/Day-Use/Cantrall-Buckley

Anon. “Cantrall Buckley Sculpture Park Takes Shape, Jacksonville Review Online, June 5, 2018. https://jacksonvillereview.com/cantrall-buckley-sculpture-park-takes-shape/

Garcia, Cheryl. Interview and personal communications, August 2020.

Seffinger, Stef. Interview and personal communications, August 2020.

Liberty Street Update 2020

The house that moved one block.
How can Liberty Street start and end at Siskiyou?
Two Little Free Libraries…and ending with humor.

This is a greatly expanded version of my April 2018 Liberty Street article. Liberty Street has an Ashland Tree of the Year, architecture from historic to modern, not just one but two “Little Free Libraries,” and access to Ashland’s extensive trail system.

Here’s how Liberty Street can start and end at Siskiyou — it goes from Siskiyou Boulevard to the Siskiyou Mountain Range. 

You’ll find tiny Triangle Park where Liberty meets Siskiyou Blvd.

Triangle Park when quiet. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

Triangle Park

You might have wondered why this tiny, triangular park is here. Marjorie O’Harra in her book gave credit to Ashland’s newly formed Woman’s Civic Improvement Club. Formed in April 1908, this large group was described by the Ashland Tidings at the time as promoting “civic improvement agitation.” That agitation led to the creation of Lithia Park, among other accomplishments. But that is another story.

According to O’Harra, here is the Triangle Park story: “When the Temple of Truth Society announced plans to build a structure on Siskiyou Boulevard — on a triangle lot between Beach and Liberty Streets — the ladies believed such a building would ruin the view from the homes on Iowa Street, so they bought the land for $550 and developed it into a park.”

The Temple of Truth Society ended up building its church in 1909 or 1910 on Siskiyou Boulevard, where the expanded Fire Station #1 is now located.

This historic photo shows the Temple of Truth church about 1910, at 457 Siskiyou Boulevard. This interesting structure was torn down in the 1960s. (“This image is part of the Stories of Southern Oregon Collection in the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library digital archives and made available by Southern Oregon University Hannon Library.”) 

Triangle Park tends to be quiet.  You might see high school students eating lunch in the charming gazebo during the school year, or young people walking slack lines attached to the posts in the park.  The one day Triangle Park comes alive with a “boom” and a “bang” is the 4th of July.  When Ashland’s huge Independence Day celebration rolls around, parade headquarters is at Triangle Park.  It becomes a beehive of organizers, marching band members and honored guests ranging from locals, to Oregon’s U.S. Senators, to our Sister-City Queen and city council members from Guanajuato, Mexico.

Triangle Park before the 4th of July parade, when it is packed with people. This photo, taken in 2011, shows Ashland City Band members warming up their instruments. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2011)

2-story camellia and healing massage

At the corner of Alaska Street, Joseph and Janie enlisted some of their friends to turn a large lot into a beautiful cooperative vegetable and fruit garden.  Let’s see how many of the fruits in their garden I can remember: cherries, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries and gooseberries.  Yes, they like berries.  Sorry, they are not for public consumption!

Joseph and Janie are both massage therapists with the business name Advanced Myotherapy.  Janie also teaches Eden Energy Medicine all over the world, but I have benefited from her healing skills in both massage and energy medicine, without going any farther than Liberty Street.

They have the most amazing camellia bush I have seen in my life, and I have seen many.  Is it still a “bush” when it’s two stories tall?  The dramatic two-story camellia is hard to see from the street, so I am including photos of it here, taken in April 2018.

2-story tall Camellia bush. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
Camellia bush close-up. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

Houses historic and modern

285 Liberty Street, built in 1924, a historic “Bungalow style” architecture. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

According to the National Register description of historic properties in Ashland, “the Whitaker house [at 285 Liberty Street] is a fine example of the bungalow style, with the shallow pitched roof, broad eaves, large porch, massive posts and brackets and other elements of the style.”

Bright colors at 289 Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

Anyone who walks or drives on Liberty Street will remember this colorful house. Some people love it and some think it sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m in the “love it” camp. Traditional neighborhoods where all homes are built in the same style or similar colors can be aesthetically pleasing. But there is freshness that comes with variety, and Liberty Street has variety.

I would like to point out the beautiful, colorful tulip garden in the front yard of this colorful house, at its peak in early April.  Notice the deer fence, without which the tulip garden would not exist.

Tulips at 289 Liberty Street in April 2018. (Photo by Peter Finkle)

Short Ashland deer rant

I may go on a rant about the Ashland deer from time to time as I write my Walk Ashland articles.  The number of plants that Ashland deer do not eat seems to be shrinking from year to year.  For example, during the first 15 years I lived in Ashland, the deer did not touch the Hypericum or Star jasmine in my front yard.  Now they eat both, and I have even seen them nibble on ivy!  At least rosemary, lavender, daffodils and iris seem to be safe for the present.

Little Free Library

A few steps up the street, I came to the first of two “Little Free Library” stands on Liberty Street.  This book sharing movement began in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin placed the first Little Free Library in his front yard.  There are now over 65,000 registered Little Free Libraries in over 80 countries around the world!  (And many more not registered with the official group.) 

Little Free Library on lower Liberty Street (photo by Peter Finkle)

The City of Ashland has a map of Little Free Libraries in town. It shows the locations of 14. I think there are many more than that. Just in April 2020, I have seen two new Little Free Libraries as I walk around town.

324 Liberty Street, built about 1910. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

Though this house is not set far back from the street, the dense vegetation gives it a secluded feel. I especially like the entry arbor and vines.

This house moved one block

391 Liberty Street. Note the front porch with columns. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

John and Artemisia Easterling moved from Kentucky to Ashland in 1903. During the next few years, he bought and sold properties and businesses around town, especially in the Railroad District. In 1909, the family bought an orchard with a home on Beach Street. They lived there until 1925, when they sold the property to the school district for construction of Lincoln Elementary School. This was to be a training school for teachers educated at nearby Southern Oregon Normal School (now Southern Oregon University), which reopened in 1926.

The Easterlings then purchased a lot one block over on Liberty Street and decided to move their Beach Street house to the new location. Easterling was known as a wheeler-and-dealer. He decided to upgrade his house when it was moved. He found a college building that was being demolished and purchased the columned porch of the building. You can still see it at the front of this Liberty Street home. 

390 Liberty Street, built in 1921. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I met homeowner Bill Quassia as I was taking a photo of his historic 1921 house at 390 Liberty Street. It was in bad shape when he got the house, so he had to do major work on parts of the ceilings and floors. In the older part of the house, he was able to keep the original wood floors and original horsehair-infused plaster interior walls. Yes…horsehair. One hundred years ago, hair from the mane and tail of horses was used in making plaster for walls. These long, strong horsehair fibers provided strength and stability to the plaster.

Louise Antz, previous owner of 390 Liberty Street in yellow blouse, with Grace Pratt-Butler in this 1972 photo. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020; this 1972 photo was in a box that Bill Quassia found after he purchased the house)

A previous owner of the house, Louise Antz, moved to Ashland from New York. She had been the Chair of the Department of Education at New York University. According to Bill, she realized her dream of “living out West” when she retired from teaching. She is the one who enclosed the old porch. Doing so created a hothouse room for growing orchids and other tropical flowers.

Look closely at the 1972 photo above that I am holding in my hand. Do you see the variegated-color window shades behind the two ladies? Now look at the blinds on the current porch, just above the 1972 photo. If they look similar, that’s because they are the same blinds! As with the photo, Bill found them in the old barn/garage behind the house as he went through boxes of possessions Louise Antz had left behind.

Can you see the tree?

Notice the one foot tall tree in the park row in front of 390 Liberty Street, just behind the man with his shirt off. (this 1970 photo was in a box that Bill Quassia found after he purchased the house)

This made my jaw drop, so I want to share it with you. As we were standing out in the front yard, Bill pulled the photo above from the box of old photos Louise Antz had left in the house. He had me look at the tiny tree just behind the man with his shirt off. I thought to myself, “okay, that doesn’t look like much.”

Then Bill said, “Look at that,” as he pointed to a nearby tree. “What!,” I exclaimed as I put two and two together and realized the connection. Take a look at the photo below and see if you make the connection.

390 Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

I expect you figured it out by now. That is the same tree! It is now 50 years old, very tall and very healthy.

More dramatic trees

Liberty St is home to two other trees that caught my eye.  The first, at 391 Liberty Street (the house moved from Beach Street), was Ashland’s 2001 Tree of the Year.  Each year residents nominate favorite trees around town, the Tree Commission narrows the selection to a few, and then residents vote for their top choice.  The 2001 choice was a majestic Blue Atlas Cedar.  My photo through the electric wires doesn’t do it justice.  I hope you will see it for yourself.

Sign for Tree of the Year 2001, a Blue Atlas Cedar. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
Blue Atlas Cedar, Ashland Tree of the Year 2001. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

The other tree, toward the top of Liberty, is a very unusual Ponderosa pine.  Most Ponderosa pines I see are straight as an arrow, reaching for the sky.  Not this one.  It forks, and then forks again.  With tall trees, I have read that a lightning strike can destroy the crown of the tree and lead to a forked top as the tree strives to continue growing. This tree looks like it just decided to be different.

Ponderosa pine near top of Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

More contrasting architecture

Ascending Liberty Street, I took photos of houses with contrasting architectural styles, showing the variety of houses on Liberty. 

Historic house at 575 Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

If you like traditional, here is one of the original farm houses on Liberty Street, built in 1886.

Modern architecture is just up the block on Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

If you prefer modern, you might like to view this one on the 600 block.

642 Liberty Street has a vibrant, unusual and enjoyable color combination. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Here is a close-up of the porch, wisteria vine and door at 642 Liberty Street. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
This front yard at 600 Liberty Street is filled with newly planted trees. I hope I am here in 20 years to see how large they grow, and to take another photo. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)
I like the creative house numbers at…what’s the address?…oh, yes…676 Liberty Street. (photo and juvenile humor by Peter Finkle, 2020)
Here is the second Little Free Library on Liberty Street, at 684 Liberty. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)
I expect you have heard of “raised bed gardening.” This garden on Liberty Street takes the concept to a whole new level. This is the most creative “raised BED garden” I have ever seen, headboard and all. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2020)

“The Road Goes Ever On and On”

Finally, arriving at the top of Liberty Street, you have the option to leave the city streets for the world of trails.  From here, you can connect with a variety of trails and forest service roads that will take you almost anywhere.

End of Liberty Street, Ashland – start of mountain trails. (photo by Peter Finkle, 2018)

As Bilbo said to Frodo in Lord of the Rings: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

From the top of Liberty Street, as well as from many other streets in Ashland, you can follow trails to the top of Mt. Ashland. If you are really swept off your feet, you could end up walking all the way to Canada or Mexico on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Thank you for reading all the way to the end. If you are not already a subscriber and would like to be notified each time I publish a new article, please write your email address where it says “Subscribe to our Newsletter.” That will be at the top right if you are reading this on a computer screen, or below the article if you are reading this on a mobile phone.

Now follow this trail to a ghost story

There is a connection between 391 Liberty Street and another article I wrote. John Easterling, who moved his house from Beach Street to 391 Liberty Street, also owned the Peerless Rooms on 4th Street from 1904 to 1908. I wrote an article about the ghost of the Peerless: “Mystery of the Peerless Hotel Marbles.” I think you will enjoy it.

References:

Enders, John.  Lithia Park Centennial 1916 – 2019: The Heart and Soul of Ashland, Ashland Parks Foundation, 2016.
National Register of Historic Places, Siskiyou-Hargadine Historic District, September 14, 2002.
O’Harra, Marjorie. Ashland: the first 130 years, Northwest Passages Publishing Inc. 1986.

Greenmeadows Way

My wife Kathy and I walked Greenmeadows Way on a cool January afternoon. The sun occasionally peaked out through the clouds and smiled on us, as did some of the neighbors we met during our walk. 

Greenmeadows Way is the heart of a late 1970s to early 1980s housing development in South Ashland known as the Mountain Ranch subdivision. There are 74 houses in the neighborhood association.

Nice rock work on Greenmeadows Way.

Walking Greenmeadows, we chanced upon Margaret (Peggy) Evans and her sister Barbara, who were out walking Peggy’s dog “Jack.” If you enjoy organ music, keep an eye out for the name Peggy Evans. She has performed organ recitals throughout the United States, and still occasionally performs organ recitals locally. 

If you have attended or worked at Southern Oregon University, you may recognize the name Margaret (Peggy) Evans. She is an SOU Professor of Music Emerita and still teaches organ. She has taught for decades at the SOU Music Department. She now also teaches music in the OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) program. Peggy was the Music Department chair years ago when my wife was office manager for the Music Department, so they had lots of catching up to do as we strolled the street.

Peggy and Barbara explained to us that every house in the neighborhood is connected, along its back yard or side yard, with a comprehensive network of paths.

Part of the network of paths that runs throughout the neighborhood.

In addition, there actually is a neighborhood “green meadow.” Like the paths, it is private property of the Mountain Ranch neighborhood association. However, they are flexible with others walking the paths as long as people are quiet and respectful.

Yes, there is a “green meadow” for residents of the neighborhood.

What are these?

You will find out what these are, and who made them, toward the end of this article.

Let’s start our walk

Greenmeadows Way can be accessed from either Tolman Creek Road or Bellview Avenue. Let’s start our walk at Tolman Creek Road. The pretty house at the corner, 2398 Tolman Creek Road, first looked to me like one of Ashland’s historic houses. It turns out it was built in 1972. The Italianate architectural details lend it a historic look. It brings to my mind several well-preserved Ashland homes from the late 1800s that contain Italianate elements. These include the McCall House on Oak Street and the Coolidge House on North Main Street. 

2398 Greenmeadows Way, with Italianate architectural elements.
1298 Greenmeadows Way.
The McCall House at 153 Oak Street, built in 1883, is a fine local example of Italianate style architecture.
The Coolidge House at 137 North Main Street, built in 1875, also incorporates the Italianate style.

Toward this end of Greenmeadows Way, I saw for the first time a yard sign I have noticed in other yards around town since then. Unlike the most common yard sign in Ashland, which emphasizes “Love Wins,” this one counters with “Truth Wins.” A house across the street hosted a “Love Wins” sign, so here are photos of both.

Heather for January garden color

Because we walked here in January, I could not capture the yards and trees in their flowering glory. However, the heather was glorious. Here it is.

Here is white and pink heather side by side at 1630 Greenmeadows Way.

Yard Art

Greenmeadows Way contains examples of sculptural, artistic and whimsical yard art, all of it enjoyable.

Greenmeadows Way has sculptural yard art.
Greenmeadows Way has practical yard art. I love the deep red color of the chair next to the bright green colors of the raised bed plants.
Greenmeadows Way has regal eagle yard art.
Greenmeadows Way has statue-esque yard art.
Greenmeadows Way has whimsical yard art.
Look at that face! It is definitely worth a close-up photo.
I don’t want to bore you with yard art photos, but here is another one filled with details that deserves to be appreciated. If you walk Greenmeadows Way some day, you can see more.

Artistic rock work, a surprise, and your answer to the “What is this?” question

I was admiring the rock work at 1090 Greenmeadows Way, when I spotted the owner out front talking with one of his friends. I got brave, introduced myself, and discovered that he is a man of many talents. 

Weeping blue atlas cedar, said to be about 40 years old, with a rock “garden” in front of it.

Jeff Yockers and his wife created this beautiful yard. On one side of the corner house is a 40-year-old Weeping blue atlas cedar. The trunk, which is hidden by the cascading branches and leaves, is nearly a foot in diameter. I like the rockwork in front of the Weeping cedar, and I like even more the rock “waterfall” on the other side of the cedar. 

From a rock “garden” on one side of the blue atlas cedar to a rock “waterfall” on the other side.

Jeff also does some lovely wood carving. It began due to nearby forest thinning to reduce wildfire risk. When a Lomakatsi crew was thinning the nearby forest, Jeff asked for and received several twisting madrone branches from them. 

Jeff Yockers’ carving of a chili-colored chili pepper.

He carved the two chili peppers in the yard from these branches. The two in the yard are painted – chili pepper colors, of course. When I told Jeff they are lovely – but – I wish I could see the grain of the wood, he replied “Just a minute.”  He popped into his house and emerged with an even more beautifully carved madrone wood chili pepper that has just a light stain to bring out the grain of the wood. This piece has a place of honor in his living room, and rightfully so.

Jeff Yockers with the clear-stained chili pepper he carved from a madrone tree branch.

I will end the article with a little history, and a useful tip for Ashland trail walkers.

Greenmeadows Way and the three cross streets were built by Mountain Ranch Development Company, a partnership between developers Vincent Oredson and John D. Todd. As mentioned in the beginning, housing construction here began around 1976 and continued through the mid-1980s. 

In 1983, Oredson and Todd donated 10 acres of land adjacent to their subdivision to the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy. The Land Conservancy website says: “The Oredson-Todd Woods was designated to be a natural area for public use. Several years later, SOLC donated the Woods to the City of Ashland, where it was joined with other city-owned land [Siskiyou Mountain Park] to make up these two forested parks, comprised of 300 acres and used by hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts today.”

From the small parking area at the end of Lupine Drive, you can go this way for a Multi-Use Trail.

The Northwest Nature Shop “Best Trails in Ashland” page describes how you can access Oredson-Todd Woods and the trail system from the Greenmeadows Way neighborhood. “There are several places to access these trails.  The most straightforward is off Greenmeadows Way.  Go south on Siskiyou, turn right on Tolman, then right on Greenmeadows Way.  Turn left on Lupine and there is parking area on the right.  Park and follow the signs.  It is thickly forested with a canyon and small creek running through the canyon.” 

Or you can go this way to reach a Hiking-only Trail.
You can start at “YOU ARE HERE” on this map and access miles of Ashland park system and Siskiyou Mountains trails.

If you walk this trail, you might like to refer to an online brochure from Southern Oregon Land Conservancy that shows photos of winter birds you could see along the way. Here is the link.

Thank you for joining me on the Greenmeadows Way walk. In this stressful time, you might enjoy reading my article about the anti-stress (and other) health benefits of walking.

Three Huge Health Benefits of Walking

References:

Southern Oregon Land Conservancy:
https://www.landconserve.org/oredsontodd-woods-siskiyou-mt-park

This brochure from Southern Oregon Land Conservancy shows photos of winter birds in Oredson-Todd Woods & Siskiyou Mountain Park. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/565cf1d6e4b0df45d8c1bb69/t/5879737820099e5ef220ad50/1484354429348/Bird+Brochure+Winter2014.pdf

Comprehensive list of birds that can be found in Oredson-Todd Woods & Siskiyou Mountain Park in each season of the year. No photos, just names. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/565cf1d6e4b0df45d8c1bb69/t/57928dd3b8a79bdfd1450f29/1469222355337/OTW_SMP_birds_Web_NewLogo.pdf

The Northwest Nature Shop “Best Trails in Ashland” page: https://www.northwestnatureshop.com/things-to-do/hiking-biking-and-running-trails/the-best-trails-in-ashland-for-hiking-biking-and-running

Note: All photos are by Peter Finkle.

Three Huge Health Benefits of Walking

Three Huge Health Benefits of Walking

Why am I writing an article about the health benefits of walking in a blog about Ashland?  Well, my website is called WalkAshland, isn’t it?  I am walking for the fun of it, and for my own health.  I hope these articles about the streets and neighborhoods of Ashland will inspire others to walk more.  So here is a short introduction to three of the myriad health benefits of walking.

The next time you have a medical check-up, don’t be surprised if your doctor hands you a prescription to walk.” Harvard Medical School report

That is some powerful “medicine!”  Let’s see what Dr. Frieden, the head of the Centers for Disease Control from 2009 – 2017, said about walking.

Ashland is a Great Walking Community

Ashland is a great community to walk in.  Our citizens and city government leaders have made a conscious decision through the decades to keep Ashland as compact as possible, which encourages walking.

Lithia Park is a jewel of a park for taking short or long walks in any season of the year.  Beyond Lithia Park, community leaders committed years ago to create parks near every neighborhood in town, so everyone can relax in “a bit of nature.”

Speaking of nature, from the end of many Ashland streets we can access nature trails that lead into the Siskiyou Mountains and beyond, literally all the way to Canada or Mexico.

A mountain trail starts at the end of Liberty Street

Stress in Your Life?  Walking is an Anti-Stress “Wonder Drug”

Why would your doctor give you a prescription to walk?    The Harvard report goes on to say:

“Walking can even help your mood. A number of studies have found that it’s as effective as drugs for decreasing depression. It can help relieve everyday stresses, too. Tension starts to ease as the road stretches out in front of you. Mood-elevating endorphin levels increase.” (Harvard 2017)

When it comes to stress in life, it doesn’t get much tougher than having PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress). A recent study with women Veterans looked at the impact of walking on their PTSD stress.  The women took a brisk walk four times a week for 12 weeks.

The researchers reported that at the end of 12 weeks: “Both post-traumatic and depressive symptoms improved significantly by the end of study.”  In addition, the women who were interviewed said that walking helped both their emotions and their physical health. (Shivakumar 2017)

If a basic brisk walk four times a week can help reduce post-traumatic stress in women Veterans, think what it can do for your everyday stresses.  This gives an idea of the power we are talking about.

Need a Mood Lift?  Go for a Walk (preferably in nature)

Ashland, Lithia Park
Lithia Park, a favorite place to walk in Ashland

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  John Muir

I think we all know intuitively that time in nature can be relaxing and healing.  If you live in a city, you may find yourself drawn to the park on a sunny day, or heading for a campground in the woods on a 3-day weekend.  Surrounded by trees or flowers or desert or sky, you can feel “the weight” of many worries melt away, at least for a time.

What about the science?  Numerous studies describe the benefits of walking in nature, but this one by researchers primarily at Stanford University really intrigued me.  They compared people who took 90 minute walks in either a natural setting or an urban setting.  Here is what they found.

“Neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination – repetitive thought focused on negative emotions – decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in an urban environment.” (Bratman 2015/Jordan 2015)

In other words, people had fewer negative thoughts and less activity in this “mental-stress-promoting” area of the brain after walking in natural surroundings rather than along a busy street.  The study authors theorize that allowing people in cities access to natural areas could be important for maintaining positive mood and mental health as the world continues to urbanize.

So once again, hooray for Ashland parks and trails, and hooray for the commitment to planting many trees along busy streets.

Want a Brain Health Boost?  Yes, Go for a Walk!

Walking, brain
Walking stimulates new brain cells (graphic by GDJ on pixabay)

“Greater amounts of walking are associated with greater gray matter volume [in the brain], which is in turn associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment.”  (Erickson 2010)

One of the ways walking is able to boost mood is by improving brain health.  The ageing of the “baby boom” population and the increase in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have led to a boom in brain health research.  We have learned in recent decades that the brain has significant “plasticity,” the ability to grow new cells, heal and change even in later life.  (Windle 2010)

One way walking supports brain health is by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that helps keep brain neurons healthy and even stimulates the creation of new neurons. Higher levels of BDNF are associated with better memory and overall cognitive health.  (Vaynman 2005)

Walking even increases the size of the brain, another indication of brain health.  Brain gray matter volume tends to shrink in old age, and this shrinkage is often associated with cognitive decline and dementia.

A study with 299 adults in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 65 years and older compared the amount of walking they did with their brain gray matter size 9 years later and their cognitive health 13 years later.  The people who walked the most had greater gray matter volume in all areas of the brain tested.  They also had less risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in the final set of tests.  (Erickson 2010)

So the next time you go out for a walk, enjoy knowing that you are receiving mood-lifting and brain health benefits along with the physical exercise!

Another trail that leaves from an Ashland neighborhood. This trail to the Oredson-Todd Woods and beyond starts at the end of Lupine Drive, which is off Greenmeadows Way.

REFERENCES

Bratman GN et al. Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation.  PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), June 29, 2015, described in “Stanford Researchers Find Mental Health Prescription: Nature” by Rob Jordan June 30, 2015: https://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/

Erickson KI et al. Physical activity predicts gray matter volume in late adulthood: the Cardiovascular Health Study.  Neurology. 2010 Oct 19;75(16):1415-22.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20944075

Harvard Medical School Health Report  (accessed 11/10/2017)
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/walking-for-health

Shivakumar G et al. Exercise for PTSD in Women Veterans: A Proof-of-Concept Study. Mil Med. 2017 Nov;182(11):e1809-e1814.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=shivakumar+g+2017

Vaynman S & Gomez-Pinilla F. License to run: exercise impacts functional plasticity in the intact and injured central nervous system by using neurotrophins.  Neurorehabil Neural Repair.2005 Dec;19(4):283-95.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16263961

Windle G, Hughes D, Linck P, Russell I, Woods B. Is exercise effective in promoting mental well-being in older age? A systematic review. Aging Ment Health. 2010;14(6):652-669.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20686977

Liberty Street Walk

How can Liberty Street start and end at Siskiyou?

I walked Liberty Street on a windy, partly cloudy afternoon in April 2018.  Liberty Street has an Ashland Tree of the Year, architecture from historic to modern, not just one but two “Little Free Libraries,” and access to Ashland’s extensive trail system.

Here’s how Liberty Street can start and end at Siskiyou — it goes from Siskiyou Boulevard to the Siskiyou Mountain Range. 

You’ll find tiny Triangle Park where Liberty meets Siskiyou Blvd.

Triangle Park

Triangle Park

Triangle Park tends to be quiet.  You might see high school students eating lunch in the charming gazebo during the school year, or young people walking slack lines attached to the posts in the park.  The one day Triangle Park comes alive with a “boom” and a “bang” is the 4th of July.  When Ashland’s huge Independence Day celebration rolls around, parade headquarters is at Triangle Park.  It becomes a beehive of organizers, marching band members and honored guests ranging from locals, to Oregon’s U.S. Senators, to our Sister-City Queen and city council members from Guanajuato, Mexico.

A few steps from the park, you will see a historic bungalow-style house built in 1910, called the Grubbs Rental House.  There are many historic houses on Liberty Street, but this simple one caught my eye to share with you.

Historic 1910 bungalow

Lovely Garden and Healing Massage

At the corner of Alaska Street, Joseph and Janie enlisted some of their friends to turn a large lot into a beautiful cooperative vegetable and fruit garden.  Let’s see how many of the fruits in their garden I can remember: cherries, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries and gooseberries.  Yes, they like berries.  Sorry, they are not for public consumption!

Joseph and Janie are both massage therapists with the business name Advanced Myotherapy.  Janie also teaches Eden Energy Medicine all over the world, but I have benefited from her healing skills in both massage and energy medicine, without going any farther than Liberty Street.

They have the most amazing camellia bush I have seen in my life, and I have seen many.  Is it still a “bush” when it’s two stories tall?  The dramatic two-story camellia is hard to see from the street, so I am including photos of it here for you.

Anyone who walks or drives on Liberty Street will remember this colorful house.

Some people love it and some think it sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m in the “love it” camp. Traditional neighborhoods where all homes are built in the same style or similar colors can be aesthetically pleasing. But there is freshness that comes with variety, and Liberty Street has variety.

I would like to point out the beautiful, colorful tulip garden in the front yard of this colorful house.  Notice the deer fence, without which the tulip garden would not exist.

Short Ashland Deer Rant

I may go on a rant about the Ashland deer from time to time as I write my Walk Ashland articles.  The number of plants that Ashland deer do not eat seems to be shrinking from year to year.  For example, the first 15 years I lived in Ashland, the deer did not touch the Hypericum in my front yard.  Now they eat it regularly.  At least rosemary, lavender, daffodils and iris seem to be safe for the present.

Little Free Library

A few steps up the street, I came to the first of two “Little Free Library” stands on Liberty Street.  This book sharing movement began in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin placed the first Little Free Library in his front yard.  There are now over 65,000 registered Little Free Libraries in over 80 countries around the world!  (And many more not registered with the official group.)  Ashland has at least six in total.  I will find them all as I walk every street in town.

Little Free Library

Dramatic Trees

Liberty St is home to two striking trees that caught my eye.  The first, at 391 Liberty St., is Ashland’s 2001 Tree of the Year.  Each year residents nominate favorite trees around town, the Tree Commission narrows the selection to a few, and then residents vote for their top choice.  The 2001 choice is a majestic Blue Atlas Cedar.  My photo through the electric wires doesn’t do it justice.  You have to see it for yourself.

Blue Atlas Cedar, Ashland Tree of the Year 2001

The other tree, toward the top of Liberty, is a very unusual Ponderosa pine.  Before this, every Ponderosa pine I have ever seen was straight as an arrow, reaching for the sky.  Not this one.  It forks, and then forks again.  With tall trees, I have read that a lightning strike can destroy the crown of the tree and lead to a forked top as the tree strives to continue growing. This tree looks like it just decided to be different.

Ponderosa pine near top of Liberty St

Here is a close-up of the forked section of the Ponderosa pine.  Does anyone have an explanation how or why this tree is so different?  If you do, please leave a note in the comments.

Ponderosa pine near top of Liberty St

Architecture Old and New

Ascending Liberty Street, I took photos of two houses with contrasting architectural styles.  This is another example of the variety of houses on Liberty.  If you like traditional, here is one for you – on the 500 block.

If you prefer modern, you might like to view this one on the 600 block.

If you love bedtime stories, this one might be more to your liking.

“The Road Goes Ever On and On”

Finally, arriving at the top of Liberty Street, you have the option to leave the city streets for the world of trails.  From here, you can connect with a variety of trails and forest service roads that will take you almost anywhere.

End of Liberty Street, Ashland – start of mountain trails

As Bilbo said to Frodo in Lord of the Rings: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

From the top of Liberty Street, as well as from many other streets in Ashland, you can follow trails to the top of Mt. Ashland. If you are really swept off your feet, you could end up walking all the way to Canada or Mexico on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I hope you have enjoyed walking Liberty Street with me.  Stay tuned for the next installment.