Category Archives: Urban 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.
Amid a lot of literal and figurative cloudy weather, I found the perfect golden window other day for a walk. Nothing like leg stretching and photography experiments in the sun to make me feel better about the world. Okay, a mountain top would beat it, but hey. Rocks, moss, leaves, a passing seaplane, wings of a dove, er, seagull, and my boy Jackie Chan. Seeing him cut loose on a beach would prompt a smile from the biggest curmudgeon. All is right with the world. Well, mostly.
In the Baker family, when one wants to check out an area with which we are not familiar, we say that we are “‘vestigating.” A gray Sunday seemed like the perfect time for such an outdoor ‘vestigation that offered possibilities for photographic endeavors. My new Sony DSC HX400v was calling my name, as I am still less than adept at its various controls and menus. My friend Hamid was game for a hike, and he knows more about photography than me. Winning!
Kellogg Lake is a major geographical feature in the Milwaukie area, yet few people see it unless they live in certain spots or ride the light rail train, which crosses the outlet from an elevated perspective. Elsewhere, it is hard to view the water. A modest trail network descends a hillside behind the Presbyterian Church. I’d heard of this but had no good information. So Hamid and I explored, trying first this route and then that. There is plenty of walking to be had for a small area, spur trails going out both sides of a small peninsula, where we checked out waterbirds, foliage, and views across the lake. We kept spooking an egret who was close to us on a few occasions. I was never fast enough on the shutter to catch it in flight, but I did find it from afar. Magnificent bird.
Rain started coming down in earnest after we hit the far end of the lake, and although we saw a heron and enjoyed the different vantage points, there was less to explore there, so we adjourned to the Beer Store Milwaukie, which is also a restaurant and bottle shop. I opted for Ninkasi’s seasonal ale, Sleigh’r. Hamid got a stout. It’s tough to go wrong with 15 rotating taps. We enjoyed lots of interesting conversation about art, music, friends, and the circuitous paths our lives had taken, topping off a very pleasant afternoon.
These flowers on the flanks of mighty Mount Talbert were one of the highlights of a pair of afternoon walks I took today. They remind me of avalanche lilies, but it could be another species. There were other lovely flowers too, which surprised me given how wooded the area is. I did not hike very far. I just wanted to get a good sniff of nature. Everyone should do that now and again.
Besides Mount Talbert, I also checked out Minthorn Natural Area, a small wetland area close to home. It was not exactly pristine but I enjoyed seeing mallards and Canada geese with a train of goslings (no Ryans, sorry). There were also signs of homeless camps, but I chose to ignore them. The weather actually got nicer after I was done walking, and I thought about hitting a third spot for walking, but my hunger go the best of me. It usually does. Time to cook. Happy Sunday.
Hmm. Maybe after dinner I could walk along the river….
Yesterday was gray and damp, and I didn’t have any great ambitions for a hike. Instead, I opted to explore an area where I used to rock climb on the flank of Portland’s Rocky Butte. As documented last year, a trail scales the butte in conjunction with the road, but I had no intention of climbing to the open summit with the cyclists and viewseeking drivers. I parked near the upper end of the trail and dropped into the forest as the trail cut through a gap in the crags.
The path flattens as it nears the noisy I-205, and I was somewhat surprised to see a number of tents dotting the area. A makeshift branch fence surrounded one camp. A pickup bedliner was used as a roof by another. How things change. The city is known to have a homeless problem, like many other cities. But for whom is it really a problem? These people live from hand to mouth in areas developers can’t yet touch and make massive profits. There is more trash in the woods than there used to be, but even when I came here to top rope routes in high school, there was graffiti and the occasional smashed beer bottle or three. I continued walking, wishing there were easy answers.
The cliffs are often dirty and covered in moss and the like, yet there are stretches that are very pretty, where there are climbs like Bird of Paradise, White Rabbit, and Blackberry Jam, that seemed like testpieces when I was 18. After navigating the slippery, mossy boulders beneath the crags, I found all of those climbs and more. Good memories. Climbers still use the butte, but probably not as much with the advent of indoor gyms and the development of the climbs in other nearby areas. Rain spattered the area as I wandered, but beneath the trees, it barely affected me. I only had to be exceedingly careful as I clambered over the rocks. Very slick going. Urban hiking can be a mixed bag. After seeing the homeless camps, and thinking about the twists and turns of my own life, I found myself with plenty to think about as I hiked back up hill to the car. It may have been just what I needed.
Today I had to get out of the house, and I was lucky enough to hike with Jackie Chan. We visited Elk Rock Island, as I had the other day, but the weather was very different. It was dry but gray and cool. I found a new spot to scramble on mossy rocks that’s out of the way. Jackie was pretty excited about a sandy spot among the rocks, but he was content sniffing everything in the woods, too, including some very cool small ferns. Unfortunately, his mere presence seemed to spook some crows as I was trying to get a better shot of a large group of them. Does any reader know why it’s called a murder of crows? Enjoy the photos.
I have written of Elk Rock Island in previous posts, but I hadn’t been there in months. Spring Park, the access point, was closed for some time for maintenance. Today I found out what that meant when I zipped over there after the first half of the Trailblazers game. North Clackamas Parks & Rec crews completely resituated the access and revamping it so it will not bog down in mud, and the grade is improved. They put in a bridge over a little boggy area and a resting spot over a side channel. Nice work.
Walking on Elk Rock Island is neither epic nor exotic. Yet it is a small natural oasis Portland area residents should treasure. I know I do. My experience today was very different than my previous hikes here. With winter rains collecting in spots that are bone dry in summer, and water level high enough to cover part of the north side beach, the overall feel of the island was very different. That is not a bad thing. The light on the now mossy, grassy rocks on the south and west sides was amazing. Without leaves on the cottonwoods, the forest high on the bluff was much different, with sneak views in various directions. The beach area was gloomy in the shade, so I didn’t dally there. By the time I circled the island, the light was already shifting, but the views were still great. Something about the water made me look forward to getting out in a kayak when it warms up more. Happy outdoor adventures, everyone.
A couple years ago I did the powerlines hike in Forest Park, making a loop in conjunction with Newton Road, the BPA Road, and the Wildwood Trail. That time went counterclockwise on the loop park, descending Newton Road first, then doing the climb up the BPA powerlines road. Today I flipped the script and went clockwise, figuring I might get better views that way as I descended the powerline road. It was a bit muddy, but a fine hike if you don’t mind the namesake electrical lines overhead for a mile. It’s a treat to be able to see three Cascade volcanoes in one view. Ironically, because the view is skewed north, you can’t see the nearby Mount Hood. Instead, Mounts St. Helens, Adams, and Rainier dominate the view across the Columbia.
I also found numerous tiny treasures in the woods as I walked along the muddy paths, through sunsplashed woods. The trails were relatively deserted. I walked about 6.6 miles, and I saw only six people, which isn’t too bad given the location of the trails. Not everybody wants to walk along powerlines, but the views are nice, and the climb back up Newton Road is a solid workout.
It’s Super Bowl Sunday, and I’m waiting for the game with hours to kill. The weather is spectacular for February in Cascadia. Must be time for a hike! I have been fairly lazy about getting my hiking fixes lately, focusing more on other writing and creative endeavors (follow me on Instagram) but I was happy to hit Forest Park today with my canine pal, Jackie Chan. The parking areas on Germantown Road were packed, which is normal on a weekend, especially when the weather is nice. I parked on the shoulder and headed down a nearby fire lane. People flock to the Wildwood Trail, but there is a lot more solitude on most Fire Lanes in Forest Park. Fire Lane 10 dives down the side of a canyon, crossing a nice little creek. Everything is green, which is more spectacular when the mossy edge of a tree limb are backlit.
Beyond the creek, there is some work to do. The fire lane climbs to the Linnton Trail, where I started seeing other hikers or runners. The Linnton Trial is not too steep, but it’s all uphill for about a mile until it meets the Wildwood Trail. From there I could meander back towards Germantown Road and my car. Now I’m ready for the game. Go Broncos!
I’ve written about the Springwater Corridor Trail before for a good reason. It’s convenient, it boasts some nice scenery, and it’s an easy outdoor fix. Today Jackie Chan and I walked a stretch just beyond our normal haunts. To be sure, it’s not as pretty an environment, with industrial buildings nearby, but I was entranced early by ducks below a bridge over Johnson Creek, and then by an electrical tower getting taken over by vines.
There were not too many bikers or joggers today. It was cool but not cold. Perhaps they were gearing up for parties for the MLS Cup (Go Timbers!) or NFL games (the Eagles leading the Patriots?). Perhaps it was the location in the open, near businesses and houses. Still, there were pretty spots. Jack sniffed like a madman as we walked.
This is strictly an out and back walk, unless you want to have a shuttle 15 or 20 miles away in Boring, where the trail ends. We opted to turn around at a side street crossing the path. Two pups were coming in on the side street, and a bigger dog was headed toward us. U turn. It was far enough. We took one last stop at a trailside bench. Jack might have wondered why I didn’t sit there myself. Perhaps when the place dries out a bit. Happy Sunday.