Category Archives: Cold weather hiking
Having lived in the mountains for years, I am accustomed to dealing with cold, rain, and snow. That said, as a city dweller now, I play it cautious because I’ve learned not to trust other drivers. When the Portland area got its first snow freakout warning of the season, however, I decided it would be a nice opportunity to take a hike in different conditions. Luckily, the roads were simply wet on the way to Marquam Nature Park. Good start.
I left my vehicle in one of numerous pullouts along Terwilliger Boulevard and headed up the muddy Marquam Trail. I had no particular place to go, I just wanted to gain elevation and hopefully see a little snow. Ultimately, I created a loop with the Flicker and Towhee Trails. My route trended upward for a while, and then flattened out in a quiet forest. I topped out at less than 800 feet above sea level. There were dustings of snow here and there, and I did see a few flakes falling. The slick mud underfoot affected me more than any white stuff.
While Marquam is not a well known as its big brother to the north, Forest Park, it is also sizable and a fine choice for any Portland area hiker or jogger in need of a few trail miles, even when a touch of snow is in the forecast. Happy trails.
A few days ago, the wife and I had an nice chilly walk in Hoyt Arboretum. Snow was in the forecast, and she wanted to go to one of the higher spots in the metro area to see it. The white stuff amounted to little more than sky dandruff, yet we enjoyed walking on the Wildwood, Hawthorn, and Maple trails. I enjoyed learning about a few more species of tree. Amur maples. Who knew? Plenty of people walk around the arboretum, yet it is always a serene and lovely spot.
There was some wind, and some walking. More wind and more walking. Did I mention wind? It was quite the day on the Cape Horn trail. Continuing in the recent vein of not letting the weather stop me, I picked one of the closest spots in the Gorge for a jaunt. I’d been atop Cape Horn before, as documented on this site, but I’d never completed the loop. Doing so became the goal for the day. Of course that was before I go out of my warm car and realized just how windy the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge was.
The temperature was probably in the high thirties or low forties, but the constant winds made the windchill well below freezing at times. Once I was on the actual trail, the views got fairly spectacular in a hurry.
I seemed to be the only human who opted to take the clockwise approach to the Cape Horn trail loop. This is a popular spot, but the lower half seems shamefully under-hiked. Finally I set out to hike this section, thanks to two underpasses and a road on which I walked without seeing vehicles for 1.3 miles, farmland beside me, and the cliffs and ridges of the Cape high above. I had stashed extra warm layers in my pack. In less than ten minutes, I had to pull out the gloves.
The topological and aesthetic surprises kept coming. I have always been of the mindset to head to high ground for the best adventure, but in this case, it was almost the opposite. The high ground on Cape Horn offers a few nice viewpoints, along with open fields, but the most unique features were on the lower section, close to the river, with up close and personal views of the cliffs from below, along with stunning Gorge views. In addition , there was more of a wilderness feeling at the lower elevations. Eventually, of course I had to start climbing. This began gradually and then started in earnest with switchbacks. I kept thinking I must be close to the highway, but it took longer than expected. I got a few nice sights in right before that with another stellar viewpoint, a small waterfall, and lovely brook.
After the trail ducks back under the highway, it starts climbing a ridge. Suddenly there is an oddly-built shack beside the trail, as if it were a homeless camp or hunters hideaway. Strange. The path continues uphill at a mild grade through attractive woods. In half a mile or so, after a significant amount of elevation has been gained, there is another spectacular viewpoint. A quartet of bundle up hikers hunkered below a gray masonry wall to avoid the vicious wind. I took in the expansive views of the Gorge behind them, snapped a couple photos, then continued walking. It was no place to dawdle. Not today.
Away from the gorge rim, the open land is gently sloping. A few homes are visible. The trail crosses a field, then hops a road and heads back into the woods. I started seeing lots of hikers and a few runners too. The numbers surprised me a little bit. Either I’m a bit wimpier than I thought, or other people are a little tougher than I thought. Both? With the exception of a quick photo op at the Fallen Tree Viewpoint, I boogied on down the trail, raising an eyebrow at runners in shorts, one of whom had music blaring from his backpack. I didn’t care for that (artificially flavored pop), but at least it warned me he was coming. All told, I hiked almost 7.5 miles, saw many stupendous views, and fully enjoyed a chilly half day in the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge.
My wife and I were very lucky to get what was basically a free trip to the beach. The weather finally turned, so we hoped the rain would help firefighters with the many fires in the American West. Alas, the precipitation was relatively modest, but that meant our beach trip was more pleasant than expected. After romantic walks on the beach in Newport, we visited Yaquina Head. While Denise stayed in the visitor center, I strolled up Salal Hill and checked out Cobble Beach below. Great spots. I think we visited the area more than a decade ago. This was a great rediscovery, and well worth the time.
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.
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.
I got a special treat when I encountered a holiday steam locomotive giving passengers rides back and forth in the area. Looked like fun.
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.
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.
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 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.