It’s my birthday weekend. After a great brunch today with family and friends, I got in some walking. Not a remote alpine hike, exactly, but it was a walk for a great cause. Alzheimer’s Disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. Due to the complexities of the misunderstood disease, it is the most expensive of all disease.
Every year there are walks to end Alzheimer’s, and this year my wife and I got involved through a new friend. Thousands of people did the 2.9 mile walk in today’s heat at Portland International Raceway in North Portland. It was almost too hot for walking on a paved racetrack, but the cause was important and the company was good, so we were pleased to be involved. It was a bit strange walking around a curving track where cars scream by at 100 mph. We were glad to reach the end, where many volunteers applauded the racewalkers and a band played some great bayou blues.
For more information, check out the Alzheimer’s organization website.
Ross Island sits in the middle of a river in the middle of the largest city in Oregon. Knowing a company has long dredged the island for sand and gravel, I’d never before considered it as an outdoor adventure destination. Yet walking part of its shore after a short kayak trip, I found plenty picturesque scenery evoking 19th century landscape artists. Paddling from Sellwood Park in our inflatable kayak did not take us too long, but onshore, it quickly assumed the guise of an older, more natural world. We opted to leave the kayak and walk around the eastern short, not understanding how large the island is, and we were wearing only water shoes on our feet.
After rounding a corner, we navigated among exposed gravelly shoals along a channel between Ross Island and East Island. In a couple months, the water level will likely preclude walking there. As it was, the shallow water and gravel made for unique walking. Eventually, we passed a few boats anchored in the deeper parts of the channel. They appeared to be residential in nature. Someone called out about needing to go shopping. I wondered how they survived long term.
Meanwhile, paddle-boarders and kayakers meandered along the channel toward the point at which Ross Island opens into a large bay where the dredging still occurs. There is much industrial machinery on the east side of the bay. We tried to find a path into the heart of the island to cut back to our staring point but it was too brushy. There were walls of blackberry bushes
twenty feet high. Truly, this was a good little adventure. Next time, we will kayak further up the west side and check that out. Our kayak trip upstream was a little tougher, especially because we had developed a slow leak in the kayak. I’d brought the pump and had to keep re-inflating. That effort added to the adventure, but we were glad to be done.
I first visited Lost Lake when I was about 14. My family hiked partway around the lake and found camped along the shore in our four person Eureka tent. It is a fading memory of which I am fond. I have been back to the lake a few times in recent years. A flat trail circumnavigates the water in about three miles. Somehow I had never climbed Lost Lake Butte, directly east of the lake. I rectified that situation last Sunday. The two mile hike starts by meandering past the campground, then starts climbing in earnest. There is no flat section of the trail, but it is mostly moderate climbing, In two miles, the path gains 1400 feet. There are few views along the way as you climb through pleasant forest, but there are nice ones on top, mostly to the east and north. Even on a partly cloudy day, Mount Hood dominated the scene, but looking down the valley towards Hood River was also pretty. The trail is hardly bucket list worthy, but if you are visiting the area, try combining the hike with a kayaking trip, or simply camping at Lost Lake, or just hanging out at the little lodge.
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.