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Ashland’s Acid Castles

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Ashland’s Acid Castles

By Peter Kleinhenz

“It’s the view you always knew existed in Ashland, but that you could never find.” My housemate, Muuqi Maxwell, spoke those words two days ago as he and I took in a stunning Ashland panorama.

We were sitting atop a 20-foot tall granite boulder, enjoying the cool air and clear skies on the first day of the new year. I had heard of the Acid Castles before. They seemed to be this mythical entity that existed somewhere up above Ashland, but that few people seemed to know much about.

All that I know about this boulder field above town is a result of living with an Ashland native, and my actual experience of visiting the site. The castle part of the name must come from the fairy-tale feel of the interconnecting trails that wind around the towering stone “turrets”. The many intrepid adventurers that sought to take the scenery up a notch must have put the word acid in front. Personally, I was satisfied with enjoying a couple beers and good company but to each their own.

The rocks clearly appeal to another type of person beside the drug-ingesting view seeker. White discoloration was evident on the small ledges and cracks on the rock. A closer look revealed the source of the discoloration: chalk. Bolts on top of certain rocks fulfilled my hunch that the area is a major climbing site.

A few climbers, I’m sure, use ropes to ascend the larger rocks but ropeless bouldering is probably the main climbing activity practiced there.

I used to climb back in the day and I can tell you that the climbing on many of these boulders looks very difficult. That being said, The Ashland Outdoor Store could probably help you with suggestions for routes suited to your climbing skill set, if you are so inclined to try.

Acid Castles

The boulders of the Acid Castles

As a graduate student studying environmental issues, I could not help but divert my attention from the spectacular views and focus on some troubling aspects of the acid castles. Clearly, not every visitor does the same.

Shattered glass, cigarette butts, and plastic bottles covered the base of most easily-accessible boulders. Surprisingly un-artistic graffiti tainted the natural surface of several boulders. Worst, though, was the staggering amount of erosion in the vicinity of the boulders. Moss was scraped off the rock, deep furrows were carved in the exposed dirt, and the whole hillside seemed to be slowly washing away by way of the trails.

The acid castles are an Ashland treasure. In fact, I am still in disbelief that they are so unknown.

I think every Ashland resident should cherish this beautiful secret, but we need to treat the site with more respect. Simply packing out what you take in would go a long way. Try to stick to one trail, if you can, and do not step on the fragile moss that grows on the surface of the rocks. Finally, if you see others leaving their trash, kindly remind them that others use the site and would appreciate not having to pick up their mess.

Ashland’s natural wonders are what make this such an fabulous town to call home. So visit the acid castles and count your lucky stars yet again. You live in an incredible place.

Directions to The Acid Castles: Just north of the plaza in downtown Ashland, turn onto Church Street and head uphill. Turn left on Scenic Drive until you reach Nutley Street. Turn right, then take a quick left onto Alnut Street. Turn right onto Strawberry Lane, then turn left on Hitt Road. Follow this to a gate, park in the pull-off near the gate, and hike up the trail past the gate. After climbing uphill for approximately 100 yards, the boulders will appear on your left.

If you enjoyed this article, Peter has also written about other natural wonders in and around Ashland: the Streams, the Savannah, the Snow Forest, the Lakes and Lower Table Rock.