After meeting a friend for a yummy lunch at Mehri’s Bakery and Deli the other day, my wife and I went for hike at a small wilderness park near Clackamas. What started as a brief nature walk turned into a real hike on an overcast day. We just kept going, creating a nice loop I’d done in reverse before. One curious note was the white powder we saw at regular intervals on the switchbacks climbing out of the parking area. I was careful not to let our pup sniff it. Terrorism! Anthrax! Poison! My mind goes into overdrive with worry on occasion. At the first major junction, a giant X and an arrow showed the powder was simply marking the way for a race or organized walk/run. Relief ensued, and we enjoyed our paces through a pretty mixed forest. The so called summit was a tease, with no significant views.
On the way down, we saw a deer but weren’t quick enough to get a decent shot. One trailside tree seemed to have its own little watering trough. Ferns grew on tree branches. Crazy foliage. Light was fading fast as we returned to the trailhead. I have to admit that I can’t wait for the days to start getting longer. On this day of giving thanks, however, I am thankful for many things, among them the personal health and opportunity to take a hike with my bride. I hope my readers also have reason for gratitude.
To heck with waiting for sunny skies. It was time to climb. So it was that I headed out the gorge last weekend, rain gear in tow. I headed for a trail that is slightly off the radar for most hikers. The Rock of Ages trail is unofficial. It veers off of the Horsetail Falls trail just before Ponytail Falls, a nice hike I’ve documented in this cyberspace before. What I couldn’t decide was how far to hike. The views would come relatively early, but the trail continues for miles. Because it is unmaintained, some of the route is a bit rough. It felt steep and slick, with poor footing on occasion. Of course, the ground and foliage were wet. Under dry conditions, footing would have been much better. As it was, I slipped a few times, falling on my backside at least once. Keeping it interesting.
The route splits a couple times after rising above the top of Ponytail falls. I took the first unmarked junction and headed for the ridge to the left. Through the Douglas firs, there were a few nice views, but this was not what I came for. Onward, upward to the Rock. I didn’t know what to expect. I was briefly concerned about my route, but it all worked out.
Rock of Ages is an arch of volcanic rock perched on the rim of a steep forested ridge in the middle of the one of the prettiest areas of the Northwest. Emerging from the forest, one first sees a sort of steep amphitheater, decked in various hues of green and flecks of gold from the stands of alder and maple far below. Then there is the arch, large enough to walk through to the cliff’s edge, where hikers can look out over the gorge and the massive Columbia River. My eyes were drawn along the line of cliffs extending to the east, including St. Peter’s Dome, and across the river, the massive plug of Beacon Rock. Even on a gray day, the views were amazing.
After photographs and some philosophical contemplation, I continued upwards. Shortly I found a rockpile to scramble which gave a new perspective on the area. More fantastic vistas of rock and river. From there, I headed into the woods, unsure how far I would get. The way was not clear at multiple points, and I had to be careful, steep as it was. One of my trekking poles broke after an especially firm use. It appeared I would then have to traverse a steep slope below a spiny ridge. I knew the best part of the hike had probably already passed. It was misting steadily, and although I was not uncomfortable, I worried about my footing. When hiking solo, especially off the beaten path, I try to minimize risks. I decided to turn back, happy with what I’d already seen, but already planning a return on a drier day.
Amazingly, after decades in the Portland area, I can still find new parks and trails. Not that I’ve hiked everything, but at least I know about most of the trails in the metro area. Not so in the case of River View Natural Area, located on Highway 43 south of the Sellwood Bridge. It’s a small oasis of green nestled into the hillside above the highway and below upscale neighborhoods. I saw the park sign recently and wondered about it. So it was that I decided to take stroll there with Jackie Chan.
Parking is on the skinny side beside the highway. The hillside looked relatively open, with no dense groundcover. There were numerous deciduous trees on the hillsides across which the rudimentary trails navigated. The trees showed off a touch of fall color. Interestingly, the majority of them close to the highway had vines stick to their trunks or draped from branches. I could also see where people had hacked at the vines to kill them, presumably in the hopes that the vines would not kill their host trees. The trail was bit muddy in spots, and there were few signs of other hiker or joggers. In fact, I saw nobody else as my pup and I completed a pleasant loop and returned to the car. And now I know about the River View Natural Area.
The Springwater Corridor trail is a popular trail for cyclists, runners, walkers, and dogs. It’s paved, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its beauty. Since I moved recently, access to the trail is even closer. It’s just a few minutes away from my digs, so it was an easy choice when there was break in the weather. Last Saturday, rains last weekend pounded the Portland area, and there was minor flooding that lasted for a day. On Sunday, Johnson Creek, which runs parallel to the trail for miles of its length, was swollen and brown.
I’d walked and ridden my bike on the trail many times before. This time, as I avoided the many cyclists, I noticed how muddy Johnson Creek was. No surprise given the rains of the day before.
Compare the water in this last shot to a post from early in 2014. Nature is always going through cycles, but sometimes it is more impressive than others.
Sometimes when I go for a hike, I want exercise. Climbing Hunchback Mountain near Mount Hood is good for that. Other times, I want to have an epic adventure. Making the traverse from Matterhorn to Sacagawea in the Wallowa Mountains fills that bill nicely. The other day, I simply needed some small scale beauty on a cloudy day. I knew right where to find it on the banks of the Willamette River. Yet when I snapped this shot near River Villa Park, I was doubly pleased to get the sense of it as more than a pleasant scene. Instantly it struck me as a vista a 19th century master might have portrayed with oils. Moody, complex, and lovely. It was just what I needed.
The rain is back, and I am a lazy hiker on rainy days. Sunday I forced myself to get out of slug mode. I have passed the Audubon Society of Portland’s wildlife sanctuary in the West Hills hundreds of times over the years. Strangely, I did not know until recently that the sanctuary had its own trail system. Hello, McFly! The sanctuary seemed a fine choice for a stroll on a rainy Sunday. I was surprised to find plenty of other hikers. Most were probably staying close to the Audubon buildings, but it is possible to walk a few miles on various trails spread over three tracts and 150 acres. I wandered around a loop on the Jay Trail on the north side of Cornell Road. The colors of foliage are always different on gray days, but it is easy to find tremendous beauty here. I was glad I got myself motivated enough to visit in the rain.
A certain social media site reminded me this week about a five year memory of my trip to the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington and offered this photo. It was just a two day backpacking trip but it was a good one. I hiked in and camped in a clump of trees on the edge of gorgeous alpine meadows. The second day was one of the best days I’ve had scrambling in a stunning setting, peeling off of the PCT to bag both Old Snowy and Ives, with plenty of rock hopping along the way, including a sketchy talus slope traverse. Good memory. Thanks, Facebook. I need to return.
At a secret location near Milwaukie, Oregon, I took my boy Jackie Chan for a river shoreline stroll. This is no typical shoreline. Hardly a sandy spot in sight, and the one we found was protected by audibly possessive Canada Geese. One of the curious attributes of walking near a major metropolitan area is the juxtaposition of natural elements with manmade elements. It was no different this afternoon. I found remnants of what I believe is a dock, floating lumber surrounded by old stumps, and a heron badgering a kayaker when it neared the roost.
The walk was almost entirely on rocks, so we did not move quickly. Yet with a narrow focus on nearby objects rather than on distant viewpoints, I found it endlessly fascinating, and very peaceful. Seeing the heron take off multiple times with a great squawking, gracefully soaring over the river, was a highlight. I only wish I had a better camera more suited to catching a magnificent creature in flight. Perhaps next time.
On the map, it’s called Dead Lake. This seemed a bit morbid, and now it’s part of Fallen Leaf Park, so people are calling it Fallen Leaf Lake. Either way, the lake just outside Camas, Washington is a pretty place, just a hop and a skip from the myriad trails near Lacamas Lake, about which I’ve previously written. I visited there two nights ago for a wedding. What a lovely spot, among the trees above the shoreline. I wish I had a better photo, but the light was already failing as clouds and a setting sun conspired. The wedding was wonderful, and I’d like to return when I’m not in clothes I want to keep clean. Until then, check out the lunar eclipse late tonight–and hike on!
It was a crazy weekend. For starters, family from California were here for a quick visit. There was also a lot of hullabaloo over a new light rail line opening in Milwaukie. I missed much of the party because I worked on Saturday. Luckily, the festivities continued into the evening, when we walked on the Trolley Trail, which parallels the light rail line. A gentleman from the Milwaukie Historical Society gave a guided tour of the features along the way. That included artwork, infrastructure, and a Giant Sequoia. It was a nice walk on a trail usually populated by joggers and cyclists.
In addition to a hectic Saturday, we were also booked Sunday for a good cause. After breakfast, my wife and I picked up our son and headed to the Portland International Raceway to take part in the annual Alzheimer’s Walk to Remember along with Denise’s sister and brother in law, their daughter, and her stepdad. This event is a great cause we are proud to attend. Our team, AKA the Jackie Chan Champions, raised hundreds of dollars to help find a cure for the disease or minimize costs for caregivers. The weather was almost perfect. The walk around the 1.9 mile racetrack was accompanied by a zydeco band at the grandstands and a bagpiper who apparently walked the whole route. Some folks were pretty wiped out at the end, but very peppy cheerleaders motivated everyone at the end. This is a great event.
After walking both weekend days, I walked some more at work yesterday to deliver mail.I have to admit, I was a bit tuckered last night. We learned a few things about local history, did our part in fighting a disease, and played games late into Sunday night with family. I didn’t walk anywhere today. Life is good.