Gateway to Forest Park: Lower Macleay Park

Lower McLeay Park is an easy access point to a massive urban park trail system, one I spent much time on as a teenager and a young adult.  It was more than a decade since I’d last been there, so it takes me a couple extra minutes to find the trailhead off Upshur.  The weather seems mercurial, but when I walk into the park, the sun is shining and all is well.

Lower Macleay Park

Starting point, the weather looking good

My dog Jackie was so appreciative, he leaves a doggy land mine on the trail in less than two minutes.  I bagged it and quickly toted it back to a trash can.  The initial trail is easy, and nobody else was carrying a pack.  Call me old school.  Once I am on the Wildwood Trail, fifteen minutes up Balch Creek Canyon, people seem a tad more serious.

Balch Creek looks like it has glacial runoff.  It doesn't.

Balch Creek looks like it has glacial runoff. It doesn’t.

Funny how long it has been.  I hiked this canyon dozens of times when I was younger, but I have not been here in years.

Lower Macleay Park stone house

The old stone house at the bottom of the canyon.

I see fewer folks once I make the turn on the Wildwood and start head angling back uphill.  At the first firelane, I peel off and head further uphill.  There is not a soul here.   Clouds boil overhead, yet sun pops through on occasion, backlighting the mostly deciduous trees.

Looking across the valley, still in the city limits

Looking across the valley, still in the city limits

The higher I climb, the muddier the track gets, and I rapidly regret my shoe choice.  I opted for my mids, and although they are comfortable, their traction is poor.

Jackie on the firelane

Jackie on the firelane

The map leaves something to be desired, and where the firelane ends, I head onto a trail that seems to be the logical location of the Birch Trail.  Wrong answer.  But I follow the track, Jackie off leash of course.  Eventually the trail peters into a muddy steep pitch, just as it is ready to join the Wildwood Trail again. People are on the trail below, so I figure I should leash Jackie.  Silly man.  He tugs me when I have little traction, and I slip and slide a bit, but I make it down, only slightly embarrassed that I’ve taken a herd path rather than finding the real trail.

Lovely Forest Park woods

Lovely Forest Park woods

I catch up to a group of four young men who don’t seem like typical hikers, and eventually pass them. A woman with a dog is close behind me with her own dog, and she suddenly starts running to pass.  OK.  There are glimpses of houses below as we near the neighborhoods of inner Northwest Portland , the great writer Ursula Leguin’s old Thurman Street hood.

I consciously decided not to head back the same way, but below the base of the fire lane cut through a meadow where I spent some time making bad choices as a teen.  This connects to an informal trailhead above the park where I started.

The meadow

The meadow

I have to navigate my way through forgotten streets as a mist turns to solid rain.  I am not thrilled about that, but it stops before I make it back to the car.

NOrthwest Portland

The rough neighborhood walk back to the car

This is no bucket list hike, but it’s a good quick fix hike, and I enjoy the literal trip down memory lane.  Next time, I’d bring better boots and a better map.

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on April 27, 2013, in Flora and Fauna, General Hiking, Hiking with dogs, Memories, Navigation, Outdoors, Solo Hiking, Urban Hiking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Love the photo of the old house – in the mist and the colorations; a really nice pic!

  2. Love your blog. We are headed that way next April..Thanks for visiting Sushi Tale’s..

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