Author Archives: Josh Baker
Dawn broke clear and cool over the upper Clackamas River drainage after an impromptu camping trip amid the teeming hordes escaping the metro area. Every campground was full for miles. So it goes. It was a great morning to look at clear water, tall trees, and mossy rocks. Then there was the low waterline at Detroit Lake, living the late summer reservoir life of stumps and marinas in the mud. We did a lot of walking, although we didn’t end up taking a serious hike. We simple went with the flow, something at which I do not always excel. We found gorgeous spots of placid river, and soaked up views from the dam at the foot of Detroit Lake. Ten to fifteen fishermen cast their lines right off the top of the dam. Some of them were even successful. Pretty cool.
Once we got out of the foothills, we had a decision to make. We could go to a popular hiking area like Silver Falls or Opal Creek, but we opted instead to do something a bit more unique, based on the classic on-the-fly smart phone search. Onward to Willamette Mission State Park! It was there that Jason Lee established a Methodist mission in 1834, two decades before Oregon was even a state, and survival had to come before any conversion of Native Americans. The part comprises almost 900 acres of river, lakes, orchards, and open fields. It’s just over an hour from home, yet I’d never visited. Time to change that.
Once in the park, we walked the short trail to the of Goose Lake, then drove to the viewing spot of the nation’s largest Black Cottonwood, which is not incredibly tall in comparison to redwoods or Douglas firs, but boy, that trunk is massive!
One of the cool things the park does is create what they term a ghost structure, which duplicates the basic shape of the original mission buildings. The structure was built close to the riverbank, and mosquitoes were a big problem, along with malaria. Not such a great spot, as it turns out. The mission moved to Chemeketa, now known as Salem, in 1840. Ironically, an 1861 flood ravaged the area, and the main river channel moved further west. The water below the ghost structure is now a landlocked lake most of the year.
The trails were pretty, and dotted with nut trees and apple trees. There were many walnut trees, and a lot of a few other species, which probably included filbert trees. A few deer darted through the area, perhaps looking to nosh on some apples.
Once we left the orchard area, we discovered a path to the Willamette River itself, on a quiet rocky beach with calm water that instantly make me think of Huckleberry Finn. I skipped a few rocks, which Jackie wanted to chase. Sorry, not a ball, buddy.
It was a lovely spot, and the temperature was perfect. Just visible downstream was the Wheatland Ferry. It seemed such an quaint anachronism that we had to take it.Such happenstance led us to Dayton, a cute little town which was apparently founded by Joel Palmer, part of the Barlow Road entrepreneurial team and namesake of the Palmer snowfield and chairlift at famed Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. We also chowed on great burgers at the Block House Café. Then came the Sunday afternoon traffic issues, part of which was caused by a pair of tractors on the highway, which seemed humorous yet fitting in Oregon’s wine country, and a fitting capstone for the day.
I just wanted to get out of the city on a hot afternoon. Without meaning to, however, I found a series of tiny cascades in the Columbia River Gorge. The primary trail I hiked ends in a nice spot, but ever inquisitive, I wanted to see what was around the corner. I continued up the bedrock of the stream. There were a couple of herd paths around logs and tiny cliffs, but it was almost as easy to clamber over rocks and logs, or simply hike in the very shallow water. Every turn offered a new gorgeous scene, with water, rock, greenery, and sky all vying for my attention.
Many of the spots seemed more dramatic due to the volcanic rock over which the water flowed, and on which I trod. Eventually, I sat on a mossy boulder at one point and simply took it all in, walking down only after I’d enjoyed the quiet canyon for almost an hour. It may seem strange to not mention the name of the trail, but I’d like to keep this a hidden gem. What about you? Do you have special places in the wild you would prefer to keep secret?
It is not often one gets to walk on flat ground in the Columbia River Gorge. For an area with a wide river and mostly minor mountains, there’s few hikes without healthy elevation gain. For those of you keeping score, that’s what makes it a National Scenic Area. That and the countless classic waterfalls. Sometimes, however, flat ground is the best spot of all from which to appreciate high ground.
Rooster Rock State Park has a hidden side, reached best from the east bound exit ramp from Highway 84. A short access road drops down near Mirror Lake to a tiny parking area. An obvious track leads east over mostly flat ground through a deciduous forest toward open land that does indeed offer great views of the surrounding hills. The walking is easy for the first mile and a half. After that, the land gets more brushy, and I had to exercise care to avoid thorns and stickers which seemed to possess varying levels of malice. I still got some nice scratches on my calves. Waaah.
The end goal of the Youngs Creek hike is a bridge over the modest creek. I wandered around the area for a while, trying to get a glimpse of waterfalls above. I could not, although I could see Angel’s Rest in the distance as well as numerous nearby cliffs before I plunked my pack down on the bridge and contemplated the noises of the sunlit world. The highway is near to the north, and the railroad is just below the flanks of the hills to the south. Yet I felt very serene in this so called bottomland, which would certainly look rather different in winter or early spring. Today, however, it was a dry, yellowing land. The forested areas felt very different, with tall grasses and bushes pushing into the shaded track. Another good one in the books.
The other day we tried stand up paddle boarding. The temperature was mild, it was cloudy, and wind was fairly constant, creating a little chop on the water. Add to those conditions our novice nature, and the standing up part was more difficult than I imagined. Did I mention Jackie Chan came with us? He started on Denise’s larger board, but when we got far apart at one point, he jumped off and tried to swim to me. Keystone Kops complications ensued. Luckily, all ended well, and I got more confident standing by the time we finished. I will happily try this again, preferably when it’s sunny and calm. Photo courtesy of Jeff Briley at Cascadia SUP. He rents locally in Portland if people are interested. Now I’m off to a hike in the sun.
The view is easily worth the effort expended on the short hike and scramble to reach the top of Cobble Hill, especially when considering the trail’s proximity to town. The Adirondacks can be like that. My wife and I set out for a small adventure last week as our vacation was winding down. A big peak did not seem in the offing, but we found another small hike to a great view, this time near the tourist town of Lake Placid.
The beginning of the hike meanders through flat deciduous forest, but soon starts climbing. There is even a signed warning that the way is steep. We continued. At one point the route crosses rock steep enough that someone has placed a rope for a handline. I was slightly surprised to see one guy pass us wearing only Crocs on his feet. Said path continues across patches of open rock and ledges. We had to use our hands in a few spots, but the grade tapers off before the summit. Like our last hike at Flume Knob, Cobble Hill offers broad views in a few directions. There are great views to the south and east, but I was slightly disappointed that we didn’t catch glimpses of Mirror Lake and Lake Placid.
An alternate route takes a longer, mellower route down, one that actually has switchbacks. The way is peaceful and the grade is easier. We passed through some gorgeous birch forest and skirted the edge of the lovely Echo Lake. Other than that, the descent was uneventful, but this is a worthy hike if you have limited time.
I did no other significant hikes while I was back east, but it was great to be there, visiting family and enjoying an entirely different environment. The Adirondacks are a long way from Oregon, but visiting them is always a pleasure.
When earlier this year a cousin did a short post about Flume Knob in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, my curiosity was piqued. It is far from a major peak, but it offers great views for a modest effort. What’s not to like? So when my wife and I returned to the Empire State for a mini family reunion last week, Flume Knob was on my mind.
The Adirondacks are a huge area. The mountains are not high, but they make up for that in ruggedness. Any given trail will feature rocks and roots and varying degrees of steep factor. Some are fairly brutal. (I’m looking at you, south side of Haystack!) Flume Knob is on the easier side of the difficulty continuum.
The namesake of the peak is a rocky narrows of the West Fork of the Ausable River. I was impressed with that before we’d set foot on the trail. The beginning of the trail, meandering through the Wilmington Wild Forest, barely climbed at all. It was crossed by mountain biking loops at regular intervals, though we saw no bikes. The quiet woods and easy grade made it easy to chat. Then the trail got more serious, and we climbed over rock and log, and up steep root-seamed dirt, to multiple false summits. Occasional ledges offered sunny views of the green blanketed valley and distant rocky peaks and let us catch our breath.
Eventually we all made it to the rocky nub of a summit, in the shadow of mighty Whiteface Mountain, two time site of the Winter Olympic skiing. Lunch, talk, bees, and photos were the order of the moment. Smiles came easily, and I took what was perhaps the sweetest mother-daughter shot I’ve ever taken.
We lolled about on top for a while, enjoying the sun. It was hard to leave the view, but we did, and walked down with care over the steep pitches. Back at the bottom, we looked at the namesake flume from the bridge on Route 86. The river shoots through an impressive rocky slot, below which is a popular swimming hole. If you can avoid the flying critters (a yellow jacket on top wanted my sandwich), the Adirondacks offer a wealth of outdoor pleasures.
In a shocking development, I went for a walk last Sunday. The weather was iffy, so I stayed close to home, and I was able to find another pleasant place to leg stretch close to the city. Canemah Bluff is located above the Willamette River at the south end of Oregon City. In the 19th century, pioneers settled there and established their own community, which predicated its economy on people who necessarily portaged around nearby Willamette Falls as they headed up or down the Willamette. The town was eventually annexed by Oregon City in the 1920s. It is still a lovely area, and the Children’s Park (no, I didn’t go down the slide) is a great place to start a walk. A small network of trails offers a few different options depending on your ambition and interest. Like Mount Talbert and Powell Butte, they have nice signage and mini maps on posts at junctions.
One of the things about this area is that, historically, Native Americans conducted annual controlled burns, and this affected biodiversity. Unlike many areas in Northwest Oregon, the bluffs here offer broad wildflower meadows lined lots of oaks and madrone trees, as well as alder and cedar forested areas further uphill.
The walking was easy, and I found myself marveling at the great colors all around. Bright wildflowers abounded in the open areas, but the most amazing hues of all (and this on a gray day) were on the madrone trunks. In a couple photos, they seemed to almost glow a rusty color. Eventually, I caught a glimpse of a pioneer cemetery, then headed uphill on the Old Slide Trail. They were very pleasant woods to amble about. On that segment of trail, I found myself falling into arty photography, noticing the symmetry in a certain fern’s fronds, a stand of deciduous trees, even the perfectly placed bee in the center of a flower. I have found that taking a great photo gives me a great deal of pleasure, but there is nothing like a good walk. Happy hiking, everyone.
It has been far too long since I wrote a significant post. I could have posted about this hike or that, yet my life isn’t that simple. I work more than 40 hour a week, and I have other interests besides hiking. Shocking, I know. I learned today that I won a juried photography contest (a shot from a local hike), I have been working on a collection of poetry, and I am trying to attend musical events when I have the energy for local heroes and national stars alike. An ingrown toenail is also a big reason I have put off big hikes. I know, excuses, excuses. Enough about that. Let’s go somewhere!
This morning, I helped hang an art show which will benefit Alzheimer’s research, then caught a lunchtime concert by Franco Paletta and the Stingers, a summertime series of outdoor shows in the park by our neighborhood library. An outdoor adventure seemed like great way to top the day. I decided on the kayak, and went for a jaunt upstream on the Willamette, paddling solo past Elk Rock Island, taking in a view of scrubby cliffs, including what in the winter is a sizeable waterfall but is now little more than a trickle bound in slimy green verge.
Then I met Mr. Heron. He eludes me much of the time. When I’ve walked along the bank to capture his image, he spooks and flies away in that dinosaur way. In the kayak, however, I got within thirty feet from two directions. He seemed curious but never left the spot behind a giant log in the rocky shallows.
The shoreline crags of Elk Rock Island were teeming with swimmers and fisherfolk, and I was glad to have a view of that rocky world rather than be among them. The river itself had occasional wakeboarders and tubing boats, yet it still seemed serene. A new perspective is almost always a good thing. Look for more water adventures in the future. Happy summer.
My week of vacation was coming to a close. My visiting mother had left for the east coast, and I had to get back to the grind on Monday. One last hike. My target was a short hike to a waterfall southeast of the metro area. Abiqua Falls is near Silver Falls State Park, but more remote. Given the spotty weather and the below average access road, I was surprised to see as many people as I did. That seems to be a theme for me. I should probably stop being surprised. Recreating in the outdoors is more popular than ever, and in the Pacific Northwest, hiking to waterfalls is a great way to do that.
The trail is actually on private land, so don’t abuse the access privilege. Almost immediately, the path crosses over what looks like part of a motocross track. There is a nice viewpoint off to the right, but don’t get distracted. The route stays left. At times it is steep and muddy. People have attached ropes to trees as handlines in multiple spots, which speaks to the popularity of the spot as well as the nature of the trail. I found that trekking poles handy. In a quarter mile or so, the trail emerges on the rocky shore of a creek. The falls are out of sight, but the canyon is so gorgous, so lush and green, I wasn’t focused on that yet. I meandered upstream and turned a corner to find the falls in a rocky amphitheatre, like a jewel set in the forest. Truly spectacular.
Abiqua Falls is a good sized drop, and the pool below is large. Mossy cliffs curve away on either sides, making for a unique sight. I took my time, as others seemed to do, to absorb all those negative ions. Mist on the lens spoiled a number of my photos, but it was hard not to get some great shots of this verdant world. I loved the rusty hue of some of the exposed rock and the clarity of the water below. Like a great summit, this was a spot I didn’t want to leave.