A couple days ago I walked part of what is known as the 4T Trail. The name refers to four modes of transportation by which travelers can experience a loop around the city: trail, tram, trolley, and train.
I started at a high point in Council Crest Park, and walked on a trail to the Hoyt Arboretum, where the famed Wildwood Trail begins. It is also right next to the train leaving the Oregon Zoo, where one could continue a loop to downtown Portland. I simply wanted to walk, not ride around Portland by mechanized transport. That might be nice on a another day.
Once I arrived at the Arboretum, I tacked on a loop through on the Wildwood and Maple trails. The diversity of tree species are amazing, and views are great too.
The trail is relatively easy, but I found myself dripping with sweat by the time I finished my uphill return to Council Crest. It was a well spent two hours of urban hiking, complete with a graffiti, oriental cherry trees, and a freeway crossing. Not too shabby.
Jackie Chan and I got out for a quick two park double walk this afternoon. Here is a section of sand along the Willamette looking downstream. It feels very serene until you hear the hoots and hollers from the small amusement park next door, Oaks Park. Regardless, the combination of trails and beach make for a nice spot to walk.
It’s hard to believe I’ve never been on Elk Rock Island before. It’s a little island paradise only minutes from Portland. The island has multiple ecosystems, ranging from cliffs to grasslands and forests to mudflats. Part of the year, a channel separates the island from the shore. When the Willamette River is low, however, people can easily walk across the rocky bed of the channel. Once across, a small network of trails gives easy access to most of the corners of the island.
Sunday I looked for a new hike at a reasonable distance. I found the Bonneville trailhead on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, just two miles west of the Bridge of the Gods. A half mile spur trail connects people to the Pacific Crest Trail. Then you can pretend you are hiking with the serious thru hikers. I only went a few miles, through an atypical landscape, partly denuded from logging, and partly from power lines. The trail gains little elevation, but the heat made me sweat. After crossing beneath the power lines, the trail drops near Gillette Lake, and then climbs a bit more, heading into the forest, hopping a beautiful creek and skirting a small pond after going through an open area infested with poison oak (I caught a little on my calf, but I’ll survive). In the end, I stopped at a great viewpoint where someone had made a little bench of stone. The trail continued toward Table Mountain and other viewpoints, but I did not feel like adding many more miles to my day. This was a good casual hike, although the power lines and dirt road crossings made it less than pristine. Still, that lake water definitely looked inviting, so it was no surprise that it seemed to be the main destination in the area, for both camping and swimming. This is not on the ever changing top ten list of favorite hikes, but it made for a worthy afternoon.
Champoeg State Park, set along the verdant banks of the of the Willamette River, is the sit of a pioneer town of the 1840s where settlers gathered to talk shop and politics. Today it is a fine place to show off some of that history juxtaposed to the natural beauty of the area.
Seven miles west of I-5, the park’s quaint visitor’s center helps people get a feel for the area’s history and natural beauty. After I had my fill of displays explaining regional Native American linguistic influence, endangered wildlife species in the area, and settler arguments over government influence, I set out for a walk in the midday heat.
I started down a paved path along fields dotted with the largest hay bales I’d ever seen. Eventually I skirted a disc golf course, which seemed an anomaly in a state park, but why not?
There are a couple main day use areas. At each one, there were pint-sized campers, accompanied by a few adult counselors. The kids seemed excited to go by the river.
The water was certainly a shiny beacon, but I continued along a giant field, in the middle of which there was an apparent archaeological dig. The walking was mostly flat, so I was surprised to see few other walkers. There were actually more cyclists on the paved paths.
After a couple hours at Champoeg State Park, I came to appreciate it on a few levels. I was a great spot for historical reference, nature appreciation, hiking–even a game of disc golf. After sweating my way through the sun scorched open fields, I was mostly appreciative of my car’s air conditioning.
I went to the Grassy Knoll but found no conspiracy theorists in the immediate vicinity. Of course, having to hike more than two miles uphill to this spot in Washington may have winnowed potential wackjobs. This Grassy Knoll has a fantastic view of the Columbia River Gorge as well as a few major mountains. The drive out of Carson is a bit tedious, but the hike is moderate and felt short. There are only a few steep spots.
I encountered only three people as I hiked. I met a woman with her German shepherd at the trailhead. An older couple descended past me in the first mile, close to the first great views, where I looked east toward the base of Mount Adam. The bulk of the massive mountain was cloaked in clouds, but it looked more interesting that way.
The remains of an old lookout tower are still very evident when you arrive atop the broad knoll, where the world seems to fall away beneath you. It was a spectacular spot to sit and ruminate on my place in the world.
The knoll itself is another mile past the clifftop views. It is a great bald area with views in most directions. Looking down at the sinuous Columbia was terrific in the moody light. The wind whipped the alpine grasses, suggesting I should not continue lest I get caught in a cloudburst. On a good day with no clouds or wind, perhaps I would go farther, but not that day.
On the way down the dirt road, I met a motorcyclist who was touring the country on back roads while on a vacation from his work as a military contractor in Afghanistan. We talked for ten minutes. He was well equipped with a beautiful modern Triumph. A pang of jealousy struck, and then I headed home to my wife, a cold beer, and a very comfortable bed.
Henry Hagg Lake sits an hour west of Portland, where the Coast Range starts to announce itself to travelers. I’d known of the lake for years but had never been there. I’d thought of it as a destination for boaters and triathletes, but it is more than that.
Seeking a new hiking destination on a day off, the lake popped into mind. The drive took about an hour. I parked near a boat ramp in a large parking lot. Boaters were putting in and taking out their craft, variously equipped with flotation toys and coolers. Nearby, families set up in myriad little coves and cute beaches to swim, tan, and eat. Such leisurely pursuits looked enjoyable, but I was here to hike. I headed counter clockwise on the trail that circumnavigates the lake. In total it is somewhere over 13 miles. I wasn’t up for that. To be honest, I didn’t want to put in that much effort when I thought I might be underwhelmed by the results.
The scenery was attractive, if not spectacular. At any rate, it was already close to noon, so I decided to hike a couple hours and turn around if I wasn’t blown away. I was not blown away, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The trail is not particularly well marked, but it was easy to follow as it meandered past the coves and promontories with occasional spur trails to a nearby road. Few people used the trail itself, but I could hear picnickers and boaters and lakeshore splashers much of the time. Once I left the immediate environs of the boat ramp and campground area, however, I saw more mountain bikers than walkers.
I was pleasantly surprised at the environmental variations along the path. There was typical lush western Oregon forest, a nice patch of oaks, as well as some open grassy areas that make me think of “amber waves of grain.” The views were excellent in the open areas. There were also stands of berry trees lining the trail. Currants? I did not recognize them.
The views gradually change after meandering around watery fingers of the lake. On a sunny day, Henry Hagg Lake definitely seemed like the Oregon version of a camping and boating paradise. It is not exactly a wilderness retreat for thru hikers, but it’s a great place to get away from the city. I turned back after hiking a few miles in one direction, and as I left, I felt satisfied with my afternoon.
I have been working way too much, so I try to find the time to savor nature when I can. For example, a couple nights ago I admired an amazing sunset. Last night I took a walk by the light of a huge rising moon. Still, I would rather be in the mountains, perhaps camping with my wife in the trees near a lakeshore, watching the colors on the mountains change as the sun set. Yet as always, it’s good to be thankful for what we have. I thought I might have to work today, but since I don’t, I’m getting out early for a hike today, destination unknown. To be continued…
It’s finally summer, and I am ready to hike. A year ago I looked at hiking to Wauna Point, but it didn’t pan out because I didn’t have a good map or guidebook. This year, that wasn’t a problem. As I am working a new job that only allows me one day off a week right now, I was very focused on getting in a good hike today. It had been far too long. I took my faithful canine hiking companion Jackie Chan with me and headed to the majestic Columbia River Gorge. Unfortunately, I was delayed by a traffic problem. Two lanes of the three lane highway were closed. It was backed up for three miles. Ugh. Still, I managed to be at the Tooth Rock trailhead by noon.
I opted for a simple route via an access road past a couple junctions. The road curves about two casual miles uphill to the old Tanner Butte trailhead. I’d climbed Tanner Butte as a teenager. Now it’s a sixteen mile adventure. Not for everyone. Wauna Point, on the other hand, is a relatively modest ten miles, the last leg of which is very rugged. More on that later. Beyond the old tiny trailhead, a path continued upwards, briefly following a beautiful stream. Multiple wispy cascades drape the drainage within a quarter mile, after which the trail veers away from the small canyon.
The landscape along the trail is typical western Cascades: lush, green, and viewless in the lower elevations. It is also relatively people free. One guidebook as well as a hiking website refer to the Tanner Butte trail as steep. It certainly forges uphill steadily, but it rarely felt steep. That’s not to say it wasn’t challenging. Whooee, my legs are gonna feel it, I recall thinking. Eventually, after climbing to a landscape of salal and fern undergrowth with stately evergreens overhead, the trail flattens briefly at a junction. To reach Wauna Point, one goes straight ahead on an unmaintained trail. Due to dense damp ferns encroaching on the path, my boots and legs were soaked in a few minutes.
Despite the dampness, this secondary trail seemed easy. It descended the far side of the ridge, dropped beneath a rocky rampart, and then plunged down a very narrow ridge via some very steep, scrabbly and muddy spots. This is not for the casual hiker. Good traction and balance are necessary. I used my hands a few times. As always, descending a steep bit is the tricky part. Once I was down into a little saddle, the rest was relatively easy. I eventually sat on an airy perch, the Columbia River undulating like a shiny snake 2500 feet below me. I kept Jackie close by my side. Wauna Point is not a place for a pup to be a squirrel chasing spaz. It is fairly rocky, and only a few feet wide, with some exposure in places plunging hundreds of feet.
Wauna Point is a notch below the best viewpoints of the Gorge, largely because its views are dotted with manmade structures like Bonneville Dam, the Bridge of the Gods, and the buildings of a couple towns. Still, it was pretty great, especially the unique horizontal perspective of the bare, steep flanks of Munra Point, which faithful readers may recall I climbed last July.
The way down was quiet and relatively quick. In all, I took just over 5 hours for the round trip of 10 miles, with some extended relaxation on top. I might be a touch sore tomorrow. This was a great first serious hike of the year. Hopefully there will be many more great hikes forthcoming. Ah, summer!
On Sunday, I visited an elderly friend in my former hometown near Mount Hood. We enjoyed a delectable meal at the Resort at the Mountain, which offers some of the finest restaurant views I’ve ever seen. Some people sat out on the large patio. Even inside, there is a view over the golf course towards massive forested ridges which define the green Salmon River valley. Not bad. After our meal, we drove to the Lost Creek Campground. This is often less crowded than other campsites in the region, and it also offers a short nature trail with interpretive signs. Part of the path is paved, although the massive firs and cedars in the area have buckled some of the pavement.
It was fascinating to once again realize the power of volcanic eruptions and how it shaped the landscape. Volcanic mudflows emanating from Mount Hood in the 18th century changed the floor of the area ecosystem and preserved stumps of old trees right in the creek bed. What a wild world. At the end of the path, we sat on a bench in front an old beaver pond. The beavers have vanished in recent years, ostensibly to find better trees to eat. I hadn’t been to Lost Creek in at least four or five years. It’s a gorgeous, peaceful place to spend an afternoon with an old friend.