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.
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.
The Springwater Corridor trail is a popular trail for cyclists, runners, walkers, and dogs. It’s paved, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its beauty. Since I moved recently, access to the trail is even closer. It’s just a few minutes away from my digs, so it was an easy choice when there was break in the weather. Last Saturday, rains last weekend pounded the Portland area, and there was minor flooding that lasted for a day. On Sunday, Johnson Creek, which runs parallel to the trail for miles of its length, was swollen and brown.
I’d walked and ridden my bike on the trail many times before. This time, as I avoided the many cyclists, I noticed how muddy Johnson Creek was. No surprise given the rains of the day before.
Compare the water in this last shot to a post from early in 2014. Nature is always going through cycles, but sometimes it is more impressive than others.
Sometimes when I go for a hike, I want exercise. Climbing Hunchback Mountain near Mount Hood is good for that. Other times, I want to have an epic adventure. Making the traverse from Matterhorn to Sacagawea in the Wallowa Mountains fills that bill nicely. The other day, I simply needed some small scale beauty on a cloudy day. I knew right where to find it on the banks of the Willamette River. Yet when I snapped this shot near River Villa Park, I was doubly pleased to get the sense of it as more than a pleasant scene. Instantly it struck me as a vista a 19th century master might have portrayed with oils. Moody, complex, and lovely. It was just what I needed.
The rain is back, and I am a lazy hiker on rainy days. Sunday I forced myself to get out of slug mode. I have passed the Audubon Society of Portland’s wildlife sanctuary in the West Hills hundreds of times over the years. Strangely, I did not know until recently that the sanctuary had its own trail system. Hello, McFly! The sanctuary seemed a fine choice for a stroll on a rainy Sunday. I was surprised to find plenty of other hikers. Most were probably staying close to the Audubon buildings, but it is possible to walk a few miles on various trails spread over three tracts and 150 acres. I wandered around a loop on the Jay Trail on the north side of Cornell Road. The colors of foliage are always different on gray days, but it is easy to find tremendous beauty here. I was glad I got myself motivated enough to visit in the rain.
I’ve been here before. We’ve all been here before. Running out of new spots nearby, I revisited an old track and tried to focus differently, to see new pleasures in familiar spaces. The dry conditions certainly did their part to give me a different perspective. Marquam Nature Park is a sizeable greenspace in the hills of Southwest Portland, and I find it a great unsung spot to head outdoors.
As documented on this site, I have hiked from the part to the heights of Council Crest multiple times, but as it was quite warm this go around, I decided to make a loop lower in the trees, expending modest amounts of energy. It was a pleasant way to spend forty five minutes. I was surprised to see leaves already changing color, as well as creek beds completely dry. For a Sunday, few people seemed to be out compared to the crowds I’d seen recently at the Arboretum or in Forest Park. It’s nice to hike on a sunny day, and I know it’s August, but I hope we get some real precipitation soon. It’s disconcerting to see our world seemingly drying up. This too shall pass. It better.
I am behind on my posts. Oh well. Today I had a nice hike in the high country, but let me start by looking back to my last jaunt. I have blogged about the Hoyt Arboretum before, which I grew up calling the “Arbo”. It is notable mostly for the massive array of tree and plant species from around the world–over 2000 species are represented here. I love finding trees from Scotland and Kamchatka in close proximity. Many trails crisscross the hilly acreage in southwest Portland, but a road is always relatively close.
On this visit, I decided to simply wander back and forth. I started on the Creek Trail, used a connector trail to cross over a road to find the White Pine and Bristlecone Pine trails, then veered off on the Fir Trail, where I passed a bamboo festival in the big shelter just below one of the main parking areas. Ultimately I zigzagged on the Spruce Trail, Redwood Trail, and the mighty Wildwood Trail. It made for a nice sinuous back and forth, frequently getting different perspectives on locations from the second trail. I stopped at many benches in the area and read from Alan Lightman’s fascinating novel, Einstein’s Dreams. Forcing myself to frequently stop (I probably sat at ten benches), made me slow down and be more aware of my surroundings. I also read about 70 pages–the book goes quickly. It was an enjoyable exercise. Tune in next time for a report on adventures in Mt. Hood’s alpine tundra.