The Devil in the Hiking Details

Angel’s Rest is a great short hike ending on a spectacular promontory.  It can also be overcrowded.  Nearby Devil’s Rest, on the other hand, is less well known, and the trails have relatively few hikers.  It is accessible from Angels Rest, but I chose to hike from Wahkeena Falls.  The trailhead there also experiences crowds, but once above the falls, they gradually decrease.  I’d hiked the lower portion last year, but I’d never climbed Devil’s Rest.  Ten days ago, I finally made it to a completely underwhelming summit.

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Luckily, there are great vantage points along the way, and very pretty forests for hiking.  The upper portion of the climb was fairly taxing for me  There were two great viewpoints looking across the Gorge.  The summit consisted of two separate jumbles of mossy boulders in the trees. My pup and I sat there for ten or fifteen minutes relaxing, and then we descended via a loop trail connecting to the Angel’s Rest  trail.  The forest was very different: deciduous, muddy, and open. Once I reached the springs near the Wahkeena trail junction, I was in cruise mode.  This hike has a nice balance of exercise (a bit over seven miles), solitude (on the Devil’s Rest trail proper), and beauty.  It’s not a wish-list hike, but the details add up to a very nice experience.

Mitchell Point

While the crowds flock to trails near Multnomah Falls and Angel’s Rest, it is relatively simple to find more solitude by heading east.  I often struggle to find a balance between my life in the city and the solitude I crave, especially given a certain propensity toward laziness. I don’t want to drive three hours to get to the perfect trail on a day off.  So I compromise.  Mitchell Point was a great spot for that balance.  The trail was only a couple miles long, but filled with first class views from its rocky ridge.  Well worth a visit, but note that the top has very steep drop offs.

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Jenne Butte, I’ve Got Your Number

Jenne Butte is one of numerous tiny dormant volcanoes in the Portland metro area.  It lies just east of the larger and more well known Powell Butte.  A hike here was a nice way to spend an hour and a half.  There is no signage along the way, but it was not hard to find my way up to the butte from the paved Springwater Corridor trail where cyclists of all sorts zipped by.  In thirty minutes I was on top of the first wooded summit, then found my way to the second summit with its water tower, close to a hilly suburban development on the backside.  Views are sparse, but it was still pretty in the forest. My pup and I got a little workout and were delighted to find another location for find peace and quiet close to home.

Camassia Park Loop

To very loosely paraphrase NFL running back Marshawn Lynch, I’m all about those views, boss.  I need open space.  That may seem a tad ironic for a resident of heavily-forested western Oregon. Yet even when I am hiking close to home, there are spots that remind me of Colorado wildflower meadows, rocky Nevada canyons, or my beloved Mount Hood’s ridges. So it was when I went in search of Camassia Natural Area not far from home. I was intrigued because the landscape promised to be different than our typical temperate rain forests.

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Millennia ago, floods scoured the small rocky bench, stripping away soil. Now the area is dotted with relatively modest white oaks and madrones.  The mossy, rocky ground made the plateau seem like a mash-up of an eastern forest and alpine tundra.  A well marked loop trail is an easy way to explore the park.  I walked it quickly, but would love to return when I have more time.  It is also possible to link this with nearby Wilderness Park.  As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most unique natural sites in the Portland area and well worth a visit.

Wilderness Close to Home

The slight opening inside the loop trail made for great light on this tree

In the middle of Wilderness Park

I am always looking for green swaths of undeveloped land near me, and I tire of going to the same old places repeatedly. A photographer friend mentioned a nature park in West Linn, but I never caught the name.  No problem.  What I found was Wilderness Park, fifty-plus acres of pretty woods in the middle of upscale suburbia.

The trailhead, minutes from West Linn High

The trailhead, minutes from West Linn High

The trail system seemed relatively simple.  I could make a loop from various points. In short order, I found myself climbing a rather steep set of stairs with rounded log steps.  They seemed unique on the way up, but I had a different adjective for them on a wet descent.

Looking up the steps. Wait, I might have to huff and puff?

Looking up the steps. Wait, I might have to huff and puff?

Once on the loop, the trail is at an easy grade, and the walking is pleasant.  It is a good place to escape from the noise of the world, even for brief visit.

Cool greenery, and a fungus among us

Cool greenery, and a fungus among us

I found myself looking at the subtleties of the greenery a lot.  Leaves fascinate me at times as the perfect examples of the cycle of life.  The tree might not die for centuries, but the leaves come and go annually.   They are so green with youth in the spring, colorful in their maturity, and then they fall, wither, decompose, and vanish. I find it beautiful to note the way they add different notes to a landscape depending on the light.

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Even on a wet gray day, Wilderness Park was great place to hike locally.  I also found a second nature park on the way home, which I believe is the one to which my friend referred, but that’s for another post. Happy trails.

Jackie tested, Jackie approved.

Jackie tested, Jackie approved.

Hiking Along Coyote Wall

Coy9

Coyote Wall is a volcanic escarpment in the eastern Columbia River Gorge. I had seen it for years while driving on the Oregon side of the river. To me, it looks like the sloping end of a laminated layer of earth, and I always thought it looked like it would be an amazing place to hike or mountain bike. Somehow I never investigated further until recently. It turns out I was right; it is a great place for those outdoor pursuits.

The trail starts on an old roadbed skirting the base of the cliffs. East of the cliffs, views open up to the mighty Columbia. In short order there is a junction and most of the hikers and bikers peeled off to the left. Junctions are not marked, but there appeared to be only a couple main options. Both climb up in sinuous curves, which seemed to suggest that mountain bikers spurred the development of the area. That and the deep ruts in certain curves…

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The day was almost perfect for hiking. There were blue skies, and the temperatures were moderate. I enjoyed open terrain with stupendous views the entire time. There were plenty of other hikers and bikers, but because it was open terrain, it didn’t cramp my style. I was too busy gawking in all directions and getting a decent workout.

After forty or fifty minutes of uphill walking, I was skirting the edge of the cliff. The views kept getting better, but eventually, I decided to stop climbing.  There was no official summit, so felt  good turning around at a small dip in the trail, especially when I got a late start.  Most others had stopped below.  Jackie Chan the wonder dog took the opportunity to go nuts a little.

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What a treat to have continuous views on the descent!  I veered into the area known at the Labyrinth, where the trail darts across a creek and along a few different undulating hollows between small crags.  Perhaps because the terrain was not as lush as the usual environments around Portland and in the Cascades, each splash of green, each little rill, each colorful flower was a visual treat.

This was a terrific place to visit, and I definitely want to return, perhaps with a mountain bike. Coyote Wall is another reason for outdoor lovers to visit the wondrous Columbia Gorge.

Sunny Morning on Neahkahnie Mountain

Climbing the Neahkahnie Mountain meadow

Climbing the Neahkahnie Mountain meadow

Who knew winter could be so fantastic on the Oregon coast?  After a great night with my wife in Seaside, I wanted a solid hike.  I had visited Neahkahnie Mountain from the south with my sisters in the 90s, and I knew the views from the top were great.  There is another trailhead at a pullout just over 15 miles south of the Highway 26 and Highway 101 junction.  The Oregon Coast Trail goes both ways here.  There were only two other vehicles in the lot when I arrived about 9 a.m.  The trail was serene but for the highway noise below in the first mile.

Looking back the way I came

Looking back the way I came

The route climbs steadily uphill, and there are great views immediately as the path takes a few switchbacks across a steep meadow of salal and sword fern.  Eventually I entered the trees. Athough the day was perfectly sunny, it was hard to tell inside the dark forest.

The woods got dark and dense

The woods got dark and dense, but Jackie is no scaredy cat

Sometime when I hike a mountain, I get frustrated in the middle of the ascent, after the early motivation wears off and before the effort starts paying off in stellar view. At times,  I’m a bit impatient and unrealistic, rather like Roald Dahl’s Veruca Salt. As in:  I want my summit and I want it now!  This time, however, the hike felt very balanced.  The views at the bottom were followed by nice forest flora variety, a stream crossing, a saddle, and of course the climb into the open at the top.

A little size juxtaposition. Jackie is a modest sized dog;  whereas the tree is rather large.

A little size juxtaposition. Jackie is a modest sized dog; whereas the tree is rather large.

Loved this Dr.Seuss tree.  A huge limb fell but remains suspended by other limbs below

Loved this Dr.Seuss tree. A huge limb fell but remains suspended by other limbs below

Coming into the open after a couple miles reminds me of Bald Mountain to the west of Mount Hood. In this instance, the amazing view that is suddenly in your face is the Pacific Ocean.  Not too shabby.

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I met a fellow hiker on top.  We chatted for a while and then he left. Per usual when faced with a million dollar view, I didn’t want to leave the summit.  Such glorious weather!  Had the wind not been whipping on top, I could have been in shirtsleeves.  Eventually, of course, I had to descend.  The walk was pleasant, and fast.  Halfway down, I started encountering lots of people.  They were lucky too.

Rusty creek, or at least one with some iron in the water

Rusty creek, or at least one with some iron in the water

Even near the bottom, the views are great.  What a nice hike.

Even near the bottom, the views are great. What a nice hike.

This is a great hike for impatient folk  I was up and back before noon, so I had time to spend the afternoon with my wife back in Seaside.   It helped make our trip to the coast a great one.

Now That’s An Island

Elk 1

Last summer and even in the fall, I visited Spring Park and make the hike to Elk Rock Island multiple times. This involves a short hike to the bank of the Willamette River. From there, for half the year, the water is low enough to rock hop a side channel and get to the island for exploring.  Not in January.  It is now high water.  Such seasonal dichotomies fascinate me and sustain me even as the weather and my ridiculous work schedule conspire to eliminate lengthy excursions into the mountains.

Last summer the water was low enough to walk to the island here

Last summer the water was low enough to walk to the island here

A Tale of Two Rivers Walking

Too lazy to drive to a serious hiking destination, I went out for a day and hit two trails along riverbanks.  The first was a mere paved path along the Clackamas river in Gladstone, relatively near its confluence with the Willamette.  It’s definitely an urban hike (the DMV is a block away from one end of it), but there is still plenty of beauty.  Multiple people were fishing in a short stretch downstream from the popular High Rocks area.  I found some unique human interest points, too, like a park dedicated to a volunteer fire department chief.   As a former firefighter for 11 years, I found that very touching.  Nearby, there was a public Christmas tree, still fully bedazzled with decorations. The pretty path ends shortly, so I doubled back, and made my mind up to check out a park along the Willamette.

I’d heard of a small nature preserve in West Linn, but didn’t know its name. I took a quick look at a digital map, and drove less than ten minutes to a trail there.   It began in a heritage property that abuts a park.  Nobody was walking on the trail but me, although I did see one mountain biker at the far end, in what is called Burnside Park.  In the end, I realized this was not the nature preserve, but the walking was rewarding anyway.  It was a beautiful, if chilly afternoon, and taking two walks for the price of one was just the ticket to recharge my personal batteries.

 

Making the Time For a Hike at Powell Butte

Powell Butte is a true gem for Portland outdoor enthusiasts.  I have blogged about it before, but it bears repeating.  While there are more serious trails nearby for both hikers and mountain bikers, nowhere in the middle of Portland can you find a combination of different ecosystems, moderately challenging trails, and great views.  As always, free time is at a premium for me, so Powell Butte was an easy choice for a quick hike on a nice day.  It was breezy in the meadow, but as you can see, it was a great day for a walk.

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