Exploring the Illinois Valley: by Laura Mancuso

The rain stopped Saturday, Jan. 27, so my son, Jaxon, and I gathered our faithful, four-legged companions, Lucy and I.V.; some water; leashes; and boots, then headed to Eight Dollar Mountain Road for a quick hike.
Eight Dollar Mountain Road is located off Hwy. 199 just past Kerby from Cave Junction to Selma. After turning left you will see the Jeffrey Pine Loop Trailhead on your left hand side (across the road to the right will be a road that leads to the Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside, home of a field of Cobra Lilies – a must-see in the spring).
At the trailhead, you will find a kiosk for the TJ Howell Botanical Drive. The kiosk will give you a nice overview of the Siskiyou Mountain botanical drive, which is 7.5 miles one way ending at Mike’s Gulch. If you are in the mood for a scenic drive, instead of a muddy hike in the winter, this is a nice option.
Considering that the hounds needed some exercise, I chose the muddy option. Waterproof boots are a smart purchase if you like to hike in the winter. Jaxon and I hiked from the Jeffrey Pine Loop to Little Falls Loop Trailhead (1 mile). The rushing water in the Illinois River was a beautiful sight. It was the most water that I have seen there in the 12 years that I have been hiking to this point. The trail was filled with groundwater trickling down to the Illinois River. It was good to see so much moisture during the foggy morning.

Laura Mancuso with Lucy and I.V. (right) near Little Falls.
(Photo by Jaxon Schatza, The Illinois Valley News)

I like doing this easy hike each season so I can enjoy the changes in the river and plants. This spring, I plan to drive to the end of the botanical drive and hike the Contact Trail, a more difficult 1,8 mile hike.
Hiking tip of the month: Adequate Water – Water is perhaps the most important item on your hiking gear list. Without enough water, your body cannot perform at its best. Make sure to hydrate before the hiking trip and sip water throughout the day. Whether it is cold or hot outside, an adequate water supply should always be a priority.