Category Archives: Waterways
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 middle of a stretch of long days at work, it was nice to take a riverside walk with Denise and Jackie Chan the other day. It was another chance to play with my new camera as well. The weather was terrific, and we lucked out seeing a great blue heron as well as other waterbirds. The water level has risen with autumn rains, and the Willamette’s shore is very rocky, so we had to pick our path with care. We didn’t go far, but a short trip in nature is always a good thing. Happy trails.
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.
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.
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.
Contrary to popular belief, I enjoy many pursuits besides hiking. Many of them involve creativity, eating, or nature. So it was that my lovely wife and I took out our new kayak the other day for a quick spin. It is a Swedish kayak that comes in three pieces which ratchet together. This means we can stuff the pieces in the back of a modest-sized vehicle or easily carry them down a path to the river. (The modular nature of the boat is also crucial for ease of storage). With all three pieces assembled, it’s good for two people (and a dog), while if you take out the middle piece, it works for one person. The trial run was on a gorgeous day in the Willamette Valley. We paddled upstream to Elk Rock Island, where we debarked and played around for bit on a beach. An osprey soared over the channel, and I longed to see it dive for a fish, but it was not to be. On the return leg, we passed a large sightseeing boat, the Portland Spirit, and we were concerned about its wake after ski boats had rocked us a tad, but because of its relatively slow speed, we were fine. I’m looking forward to more kayaking adventures in the future. Time for sunscreen and flotation devices!
It was a long week at work and I was exhausted, so I was slow moving yesterday morning. In the afternoon, however, D. and I headed out for a Gorge exploration in my new vehicle. We ended up hitting on a Gorge tick list of sorts, starting with the short hike to Bridalveil Falls, and ending in Hood River for a pint on a patio. We had our son’s new dog, which kept things interesting but fun. There were lots of clouds on the west end of the gorge, and we walked in the rain a bit at Bridalveil Falls, but we saw sunshine as we neared Hood River. At Starvation Creek Falls and Mitchell Point it seemed especially bright. It was a good afternoon and evening, reminding me how much I have to be thankful for. I am a lucky man, indeed.
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.