Adventure in Increments

I often think of adventure in terms of one big trip. Even on a modest scale, I think in terms of climbing a mountain. This was my mindset as I was asked to find an single adventurous hike in the gorge as a gift for a friend. (That’s the kind of gift list I can believe in). Yet we ended up finding adventure through a cumulative effect of multiple jaunts. My wife Denise and I ended up giving a friend a tour of several gorge classics, including an eatery.

Elowah Falls from the trail to Upper McCord Falls

Elowah Falls from the trail to Upper McCord Falls

Our venture began at John B. Yeon State Park, where a trail quickly splits, leading to multiple spots. We headed towards Elowah Falls, a serious plunge I’d never before visited, so I was very pleased to find such a high falls so close to the car. There is some healthy climbing, but it is brief, and we arrived at the spray in about fifteen or twenty minutes.

Elowah Falls up close and personal

Elowah Falls up close and personal

After gawking at the falls for five minutes and snapping some photos, we turned back to head upstream towards Upper McCord Falls. A sign at a trail junction said it would be one mile. The seems overly generous. The climb is certainly interesting.  In two switchbacks the trail climbs over two sections of rusted pipe at least a foot in diameter. I wondered if at some point it had come from a cistern to provide water for homes below.  Soon the views arrived.

Looking towards Hamilton Mountain in Washington

Looking towards Hamilton Mountain in Washington

When the trail levels off, it opens up with great views over the Columbia River. The tread traverses a steep area for a hundred yards, buttressed by CCC-era rockwork, a cliff overhanging the trail. It was a truly spectacular spot. (For the exposure wary, there is a railing, a rarity in this area besides Beacon Rock).

Overhang above, drop-off below.

Overhang above, drop-off below.

Upper McCord Falls was not much further. It consists of two side by side modest plunges. It reminded me of Triple Falls above Horsetail. While gorgeous, I realized we weren’t getting in the longer workout I’d imagined.  Ever the greedy hiker, I wanted more!

Upper McCord Falls

Upper McCord Falls

Since we had some time, we decided to show Rosa some falls she didn’t know. We drove west on the scenic highway and made a quick photo op stop at Horsetail Falls.  Pretty as always.

The lovely Horsetail Falls from a roadside pullout

The lovely Horsetail Falls from a roadside pullout

Then we briefly wandered the the primeval beauty of narrow Oneonta Gorge.  This is just west of Horsetail.  The water was higher than on my previous visit, and it was chilly enough we weren’t feeling up to wading in the water. Maybe in July.

The beginning of gorgeous Oneonta Gorge

The beginning of gorgeous Oneonta Gorge

Rosa had been to Multnomah Falls years ago, but barely remembered it, so that demanded a stop, of course.  Unfortunately,  the Benson Bridge is out due to rock damage.  As always, there were a lot of tourists there, so it was less appealing.  We did notice a few other falls hidden away, including a tiny rill right beside a viewing spot where people gawk at the biggest waterfall in the state.

Trailside rill by Multnomah Falls

Trailside rill by Multnomah Falls

Last, we hiked the quarter mile up to Wahkeena Falls, where we met a very stylish British trio. I felt like a schlub in my ratty hiking attire.  Oh well. The falls are pretty even when seen from the road, but the brief trail is well worth the minimal effort. There our walking was complete.

Posing with Wahkeena Falls as backdrop

Posing with Wahkeena Falls as backdrop

To complete the trip, we stopped at McMenamin’s Edgefield for a few beverages and a late lunch.   We’d squeezed five waterfalls, a gorge, and lunch into a few hours. Then it was back to the city and responsibility.   A light rain started falling just as we headed west.  It is Western Oregon, after all.

Multiple spots had roadside snow still!

Multiple spots still had roadside snow

Smile, You’re at Hug Point!

On the second day of a quick beach trip, my wife and I had a quick breakfast with her sister and brother and law. After breakfast, the four of us and our faithful canine companion, Jackie Chan, piled into our van and headed south towards Hug Point. I’ve explored the coast just enough to know a lot of the names, but not match them with the actual landscape. In other words, I couldn’t recall if I’d been there. Bob and Deanna remembered it as a great spot, so we decided to check it out.

Pretty waterfall

Pretty waterfall

The area is likely named Hug Point because there are spots where you almost have to hug the point to slip into the next section of open sand. If the tide is high, you won’t get too far. It’s also a great spot to hug a loved one. We did that. Then we walked north around the first narrow point to a gorgeous chunk of beach featuring a pretty waterfall beside a cave. A good start.

Denise and Jackie Chan below Impressive rocky walls

Denise and Jackie Chan below impressive rocky walls

Beyond that, a shelf of rock generously spackled with mussels, barnacles, and various other marine critters lured us further north. That final section of sand was lined with some great steep rock features, including one with a fairly circular indentation where there is an obvious seep. In tens of thousands of years it might develop into an arch. At the bottom, the rock is green with mossy slime.

An odd little formation geologists could explain

An odd little formation geologists could explain

I kept checking out the waves, trying to figure out if the tide was going in or out. We decided not to risk it and headed back. It was necessary to time the escape from the rocky ramp, as waves rose past it, cutting off the exit—but only momentarily. We passed the first beach and continued south. This was slightly less dramatic, but after five minutes of walking and rounding the next point, we noticed a few houses high above us with spectacular decks. We had to clamber through a gap between a cliff and some other rocks, and timing it with the waves was again an issue.

Looking South by Hug Point, on the rocky shelf

Looking South by Hug Point, on the rocky shelf.  At the far right in the distance is a rock close to Arch Cape.

On the far side, the sand opened up for a long stretch at Arch Cape. There were a couple cool rocks adorned with sea anemones and sea stars, among other marine life. I tried to get close but the waves chased me away. Here we turned back towards the car, very pleased with our efforts.

Sea Anemones and Sea Stars hug the rock.  Note the wave coming in.

Sea Anemones and Sea Stars hug the rock. Note the wave coming in.

Later, we met at the quasi-legendary Camp 18 restaurant on the way home for a comfort food lunch. It is right along a creek, and they have created a brief hiking loop in the pretty woods.  It also has lots of logging memorabilia. The photos alone are priceless. It was a nice way for Denise and I to finish off our beach trip, and it reminded me that there is plenty to do west of the Willamette Valley.

My old friend Biggie Foot.  He's rather antisocial.

My old friend Biggie Foot. He’s rather antisocial.

Cannon Beach Strolls

Although I enjoy the beach, I never think about it as a place to get exercise.  Silly me.  When my wife and I joined her sister and brother in law in Cannon Beach, we did a lot of walking on the sand.   My legs actually got a bit sore.  Beach walking has a few benefits.  1. No navigation required.  Just don’t go in the ocean like those crazy kids.  2. The views reach a loooong way.   3. The rocks are bizarre and awesome.  The downside?  Sand gets in everything.  Ultimately, being at the beach is invigorating and life affirming.  Especially when you see the flock of gulls on Haystack Rock go nuts and realize a bald eagle swooped in on their turf to rule the roost.  Not bad at all.  (Note:  Click on images to see them full size)

Tryon Creek State Park Revisited

Tryon Creek in person

Tryon Creek in person

Once upon a time, when the earth was young and my hair was all brown, I grew familiar with the trails of Tryon Creek State Park, wedged between Southwest Portland and Lake Oswego.  I hadn’t revisited the park for years, but chance chose this past Sunday for a visit, which coincided with the park’s Trillium Festival.  Certainly, the flowers were out in force. As of 2013, there were 44 recognized species of trillium.

The famed flowers, lovely in all their colors

The famed flowers, lovely in all their colors

Here’s two fun facts: the White Trillium is the official flower of the Ontario, while the Large White Trillium is the official wildflower of Ohio.  But enough about learning.

Swampy area on Iron Mountain Trail

Swampy area on Iron Mountain Trail

My walk was uneventful but pleasant.  I saw the spot where I’d walked almost a mile in the dark many moons ago.  This time was simply a nice afternoon hike between the Iron Mountain Trail, Cedar Trail, and Old Main Trail, completing the link with the bike path along Terwilliger Boulevard.   I found serious ant activity, a lot of mud, and some very cool stumps.

Strange tree--it grew on the stump of another

Strange tree–it grew on the stump of another

I found the area muddier than I expected, so completing my loop on the paved path was a good call.  It also made for an easy downhill cruise to the car.  Tryon Creek State Park is free, it’s convenient, and all the best trilliums hang out there.  It’s a great place for hikers and flower lovers to spend an hour or three.

 

Remembering Salmon River Canyon

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For some reason I found myself poring over old photos tonight.  Flashback to two  summers ago.  I hiked up the Salmon River Trail with my friend Steve, who toted his infant daughter on his back. There are couple great lookout points on the trail including this one. After hiking a bit over an hour to get there, we sat and enjoyed the views and each other’s company. Glorious day.

A Walk in the Park: Lacamas Park

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Sometimes when I leave the house for a hike, I don’t thoroughly prepare. Life feels too hectic to take an extra thirty minutes to check all my gear. I just want to be on the trail. Shocking, I know. Sunday was such a day. I threw on trail runners and my old worn out hiking pants, grabbed a backpack with stale water, leashed the pup, and drove to Lacamas Regional Park outside Camas, Washington. An acquaintance had said there wasn’t much reason to go hiking there, but I wanted to check. The map I found had looked interesting.

Lacamas Lake is a long narrow lake with one developed trail along its southwest side.  Although it’s pretty, I will admit that the lake looks rather ho-hum for hiking. Across the road at Round Lake, on the other hand, there is  a whole system of trails circumnavigating the body of water and ranging into the woods beyond.  loops A variety of casual and moderate loops are possible. The main round-the-lake trail is essentially an access road in many places. Offshoots, however, can be much more challenging, especially in muddy conditions. I encountered steep grade more than once.

The park has three healthy waterfalls. That was a lot of white water in a medium-sized park. Shortly after leaving the dam at the outlet of the lake, I heard a bird of prey crying. It was way up a many-limbed snag. I tried to get a better angle and zoom in with the camera, but I was only partially successful. I could not identify its species, but I was sure it was not a red tail hawk, perhaps the most common raptor in our area.

For a weekend, there was only a smattering of other hikers, mostly near Lower Falls, which is impressive indeed. It’s not a steep drop, but it feels massive from the footbridge across its lip.  Beyond the popular areas,  there were a few intersections with no signage, and the map didn’t quite match the world.  I made an educated guess and plunged down a steep path to a muddy valley. It was a happy mistake, as I came upon Woodburn Falls, the third waterfall of the day. It was perhaps the prettiest of all, conjuring a smaller version of the famous Ramona Falls on the west side of Mount Hood.

Lacamas Park had a full parking lot, but the crowds were well dispersed.   A number of people  were fishing, and some were birdwatching. I saw at least one mountain biker.  This would be a great place to go for a run. The official lake loop is 1.2 miles, but with additional lops to waterfalls, you could easily add three or four more miles.  This would also be a great place to canoe or kayak. While the trail along Lacamas Lake itself may not be spectacular,  there is plenty of  exercise to be found in the regional park, so consider a visit.

I had not prepared for much, so I certainly got more than anticipated. The weather had looked iffy early, but it was almost perfect until the end. I got some great sunny moments to light up green, gold, and brown of the ubiquitous moss. As I finished the lake loop, mist started to fall. Good timing. It was a perfect way to end the hike-almost as if I’d planned it.

A Great Day to Take Jackie Out in Forest Park

I love it when a plan comes together. Although I pushed myself to get work a lot of work done during the daylight hours a few days ago, I found enough daylight to go for a brief hike. Without having a plan, I ended up again on Leif Erikson Drive. This time I headed north to the Alder Trail, 1.5 miles from my car. At that point, there is almost no traffic on Leif Erikson. There was less on the Alder Trail. It climbed rapidly into a side canyon, then more gradually. There was a point at which I was breathing fairly heavily, which surprised me. Few trails in Forest Park will do that to you besides the Ridge Trail or the Powerline Trail.

In many spots on the day’s hike I saw numerous bright white patches of Trillum.  I remember wondering if the plural should be “Trillia” or “Trilliums”. Silly writing geek.

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I hooked back on the Wildwood Trail and headed south for about a third of mile until it hit 53rd Drive.  I took a brief offshoot uphill to the spot that as a teenager, I knew as Inspiration Point. At least, I think that’s where it was. I was disappointed that it did not seem very inspiring. At sixteen, an open place in the woods must have been inspiring because it let you sneak a beer, a clove cigarette, or a kiss. I’ve grown a lot since then. So have the trees. There are essentially no views.

From there it was all downhill. I encountered two interesting people on the Wild Cherry Trail. Before I’d even turned onto the trail from its terminus near my second encounter with 53rd Drive, I saw a boy about ten years old take off from the parking area, staring at what I assumed was a smart phone. He wandered down the trail for a hundred yards. I walked slowly, waiting for an adult to catch up to him. The boy then stepped off the trail, holding the phone up in front of his face. I surmised he was geocaching. He did not seem to realize Jackie and I existed. I quietly passed the lad.  Ten minutes downhill, I heard big strides behind me. I pulled off to the side to let a tall man with impossibly short shorts pass on impossibly long legs. He said ‘great day to take him out,” referring to my canine partner. I agreed. And he was off.

I was soon stuck behind a young couple. It seemed rude to try to pass them on a narrow trail, and I was in no rush.  I didn’t try to eavesdrop,  but I couldn’t help hearing a lot of twenty-something cute couple conversation. I couldn’t tell you the substance of a single utterance of either party.  I couldn’t help but think how different my hiking experiences are. I almost never hike with others, and I rarely speak. They were shiny happy people, and good for them.  It was a great day for all of us to get out in Forest Park.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

JC at the Dog Bowl

JC at the Dog Bowl

Saturday night, I decided to go for a walk after dark with my dog.  I headed away from the streetlights,  instantly ramping up the potential for adventure.  Every dark spot seemed rife with danger.  Every subtle noise might be a panther.  Years ago, I walked half a mile or so into Tryon Creek State Park in complete darkness, without a flashlight.  Walking by feel, my imagination went into overdrive. It is quite an experience.  This time was much mellower.  I was close to home.  But it was not without a sense of adventure.

A few blocks from home I encountered a police car blocking the street, its light bar flashing.  A man was getting arrested.  We walked past the scene to the natural darkness of the Dog Bowl.  At the south entrance,  I hesitated for a moment before cutting Jackie loose and descending. I seemed to be  the only person down there.  The industrial area across the river was visible by its lights.  Right around the grassy bowl, the darkness around us was deep. Eventually we rambled up the path on the far side of the bowl, where we encountered two young guys philosophizing on a bench.  That’s what passes for adventure in my life. I hope to change that soon.

Tree Trunk from Gnarlyland Boosts the Walk Score

In between writing about liability insurance and working on an essay about the vagaries of facial hair, Jackie Chan and I darted out for a twenty minute walk during a break in the gray. As someone who is contemplating moving, I have been reading about walk scores, which seem to relate to the proximity of restaurants, shops, and other services.  I don’t score my walks or hikes, but if I did, features like this tree would boost a score.  The trunk seemed as if it had almost been formed to be deformed.  I could picture it as a character in a fantasy film, warning passersby of the evil that lurks beyond…  Jackie was obviously not all that impressed.   I thought it was, well,  gnarly, dude.   Walk score: 90.

With the first day of spring, Jackie Chan has lots of hope for a rebirth

With the first day of spring, Jackie Chan has lots of hope for a rebirth

Cherry Orchard Tease Hike

The Columbia Gorge is more diverse than some people realize. People who rarely stray from the Portland metro area are missing out on many worthy trips. The eastern end of the Gorge is drier, rockier, and more open, and trail signs there alert hikers about snakes, ticks, and poison oak.  Unlike trails near waterfall central, there is a viewpoint every other switchback on trails east of Hood River and Bingen. I was reminded of this after the wife and pup and I drove up to The Dalles following our adventures along the Deschutes River .

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While sitting at a park chomping on some unhealthy food (sorry, Ma), I looked across the mighty Columbia (rolling on, of course) and I saw a massive basalt escarpment I’d noticed before. I mistakenly thought this was the Coyote Wall I’d heard of as a hiking and biking destination.  It seemed a good spot for a hike, but we ended up somewhere else entirely.  Life is like that.

The Lyle Cherry Orchard trailhead is a broad pullout a mile or so east of Lyle, Washington.  The trail itself begins right beneath a rocky tower.  We knew we were in the right place because we saw dozens of cars.  As it turns out, there is a group called Friends of the Gorge and they organize group hikes.  We quickly met a couple dozen people descending the trail.  Everyone was smiling—a good sign.

We gained elevation rapidly, soon meeting the old roadbed of highway 8, a predecessor to the current highway.  At a flat spot, there was a signpost with waivers to fill out, as the trail goes through private land.  Fair enough. Above that, the trail switchbacks through scrub oaks and small crags, then comes out onto grassy benches rimmed with cliffs. There are stellar views of the gorge, both east and west.  Even with a few clouds in the sky, it was a sublime place to relax for a few minutes.

The trail shifts its approach, and beyond a stile, climbs steeply across an open slope.  A fall here would not be pretty, so we didn’t fall.  Coincidentally, I bumped into a man I knew from Portland.  It was no place to chat, so we moved on, climbing out of the steep stuff into an undulating oak forest.   No cherry trees yet.  Along the way, the trail passed two seasonal ponds, along with a skull and skeleton of a critter.  The last mile of the trail is rather humdrum in comparison to the first mile, but it’s still enjoyable.   After turning onto an old road, the trail opens up in the meadow of an old homestead site which offers a great picnic spot.  We found no cherry orchard, but there were more amazing views. Taking in the breeze, sun, and views was enough for us.

Jackie Chan met a few ticks on the descent, which I quickly dispatched with ninja swiftness.  Other than that, the hike was smooth,  and we were happy to get back to the car and think about cold beverages.  It was a very nice hike overall.  People with less time could stop at the upper grassy bench and be very satisfied.

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