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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Returning to Eagle Creek

After working 18 days straight thanks to pressures associated with the upcoming  holiday, I finally got a day off today.  I helped my broken-footed wife get set for the day in her arts shop, then took my faithful canine pal, Jackie Chan, to the Columbia Gorge for a stroll in the forest.  It was chilly and cloudy, so I decided the famed Eagle Creek trail wouldn’t be too overcrowded.  Normally I avoid popular trails, but there’s a reason this trail is so well known in in the area.  It’s easy, and it’s beautiful.  The round trip to High Bridge is a casual afternoon at 6.5 miles.  There were plenty of people on the trail, but it never felt crowded.  I hadn’t been here in a couple decades, and I was pleasantly surprised to find new spectacular features unfolding the entire way. By the time Jackie and I returned to the trailhead, I knew I would not wait two decades for another hike up Eagle Creek.

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A Brisk Walk Between River and Train

The waters of Oaks Bottom in afternoon light

The waters of Oaks Bottom in afternoon light

I have walked all over in the Oaks Bottom area in Southeast Portland.  Some of those rambles have been documented on Hiking Northwest posts.  But I’d never walked on the Springwater Corridor bike path along the banks of the Willamette River, heading north.

This is part of a network of bike paths that extends for many miles

This is part of a network of bike paths that extends for many miles

I wanted exercise and I wanted to see some new perspectives on the area.  I got chilly but walked fast with my pup by my side.  With lots of cyclists and joggers around,  I had to keep Jackie leashed.

Looking west near the parking lot in the Sellwood neighborhood

Looking west near the parking lot in the Sellwood neighborhood

I got a special treat when I encountered a holiday steam locomotive giving passengers rides back and forth in the area.  Looked like fun.

The sunlight seemed magical here

The sunlight seemed magical here

Lots of people were out on the trail, but few were simply walking.   There were serious cyclists who buzzed by as if the rest of us were annoying,  casual jogge4rs, one very serious runner in very short shorts, and even a pair of inline skaters.   They were not wearing neon.

I liked this strip of hardwood trees

I liked this strip of hardwood trees

When my wife and paddled to Ross Island last summer, we’d seen the path break into the open along a steep bank.  Now I wanted to get to that spot, but it was farther than I realized.  I walked fast, but daylight was waning rapidly.

Looking upstream from my endpoint

Looking upstream from my endpoint

Along the way, I stumbled onto a special steam locomotive holiday train.  It passed me one way and later passed me another way on the return trip.  I wanted to enjoy the moment more, but it was chilly.  Jack was shivering.  We were both glad get back to the car and head home.

The tail end of the train was cool, too

The tail end of the train was cool, too

Jack doesn't complain, but he was shivering

Jack doesn’t complain, but he was shivering

Giving Thanks for the Squirrels

Life does not always proceed according to plan. Okay, it almost never does.  And besides my self imposed tangents (Squirrel!), much has changed in my life since I started this blog.  I do not get to climb as many mountains as I like, but I savor memories of trips to the Wallowas, like this gray summit day on Eagle Cap where I was surprised to see a squirrel at well over 9000 feet.

The squirrel seemed to toy with me.   Matterhorn in the  background

The squirrel seemed to toy with me. Matterhorn in the background

I hope to continue feeling grateful for what I do have, like a great family, and what I am able to do, such as hiking on occasion rather than what I do not have or have not done.  Happy Thanksgiving, and happy hiking.

Oregon Color

hoyt arboretum

Looking south from a high point

It’s not quite Vermont or Virginia, but Oregon has its own autumnal color to enjoy.  On a recent walk through Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum, I enjoyed the juxtaposition of colors from leaves and grass and even clouds.  As many Portland residents know, the Arboretum is a great place for a quick hiking fix, even if you are losing light in the late afternoon.  One disappointment is that the main parking areas are now charging a fee, but so it goes.  Happy trails.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Hiking Mount Talbert

The sky was blue and cold this morning.  I wanted to hike but wasn’t quite motivated enough to gear up for more extreme conditions found on Mount Hood area or the Columbia Gorge.  I’m not in winter mode yet, despite this week’s recent cold snap in Portland.  A casual walk at nearby Mount Talbert seemed like a worthy and safe option.  I had been there months earlier when shorts and t-shirt sufficed.  Not today.

I accessed Mount Talbert’s trail system from the north, off Sunnyside Road, rather than the Mather Road trailhead.  Originally, that location was supposed to be the main trailhead, but plans changed.  There are five parking spots across from a gravel path descending to a creek where a sturdy steel bridge lets people cross.

Sections of the Park Loop, West Ridge, and Summit trails made for a nice hour of walking through various forest types.  As I finished up in the sun, I realized that the Gorge might have been warm enough, although ice has been an issue in recent days.  There is a twinge of regret that I didn’t go for a bigger adventure, but then I move on.  Time to gear up so I don’t hesitate to get out in burlier conditions again.  Happy hiking.

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