Just yesterday, I heard about a Postal Service picnic which would include an epic softball battle between area stations. Unfortunately, I had other plans, but I when I was done I tried to check out the picnic. Too late. Luckily, Cook Park is a good destination for more than softball watching. The park, located in Tigard, Oregon, has frontage on the Tualatin River in addition to numerous ball fields and picnic shelters. There are some paved paths as well as what the map called “soft trails”. As in dirt trails. Okayyyy. I wandered away from the parking lot and picnic areas and soon found such a soft trail. The forest was fairly typical for our area. Cedars and Doug firs and alders. I saw light in the canopy and realized we were beside the river. A kayaker was floating downstream, yelling at some friends. Tree branches dipped low by the water. It was an enticing spot which instantly made me think of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, up to some boyhood daredevilry, climbing, swinging, and diving into the cool water at last.
Upstream a little, I found my way up a small rise and realized I’d come upon the boat launch. Nice. Apparently, the park rents kayaks here. People were sprawled on the grass, in the shade, while others were boating. This grassy area seemed a great spot to spend a hot Sunday afternoon. I continued walking, following my instincts along a paved path into the woods, which led back to the ball field area where I spied my car. Cook Park looks like a great place to revisit some time, perhaps with a ball game followed by kayaking or fishing, or just some Tom-and-Huck fun in the water.
Three Creeks Natural Area was a bit of an unknown quantity to me prior to today. There are no formal trails, but there is plenty of space to wander. I simply wandered the area and found some great spots. A giant meadow greets hikers once they descend from the parking area. In the middle a photographer was taking serious close up shots of daisies. I nodded and kept going toward the trees on the far side, unconcerned with where I was heading. The area is all hemmed in by roads, after all. Soon I encountered came upon the cattails, seemingly out of place in what seemed to be a dry area. Of course, precipitation is well below normal for much of Northwest Oregon.
I made rough loop through the area. These photos only skim the surface. There were occasional reminders that it is essentially an urban hiking area, remnants of graffiti, homeless camps, and industrial buildings nearby. There is also evidence of rebirth in many planted trees–over 21,000 in the past decade according to the Three Creeks website. One group comes out to work on cleanup ever Sunday. Yes, every Sunday. That dedication helps make the Three Creeks Natural Area a small gem for outdoor lovers on the south side of the Portland metro area. Check it out.
One trail to the banks of the Willamette River is about a three minute drive from my condo. On a sunny afternoon, it makes an easy getaway for Jackie Chan and me. Due to subnormal precipitation levels, the waterline already looks like it’s at midsummer levels. That means it is an easy walk across the channel to Elk Rock Island. I’ve mentioned the island at least once before in my blog, but it bears repeating.
Having a natural spot with multiple ecosystems close to home is a treat. The dry channel we cross resembles a desert landscape (compare to the second photo from this February post), while the shorelines are a mix of beach and rocky ramparts. The center of the island rises up with groves of both Douglas firs and alders, along with small meadows. Fisherfolk were out in force, along with pleasure boaters nearby. I could happily have wandered the island for hours in the perfect weather, especially on the rocky southern and western shores.
Jenne Butte is one of numerous tiny dormant volcanoes in the Portland metro area. It lies just east of the larger and more well known Powell Butte. A hike here was a nice way to spend an hour and a half. There is no signage along the way, but it was not hard to find my way up to the butte from the paved Springwater Corridor trail where cyclists of all sorts zipped by. In thirty minutes I was on top of the first wooded summit, then found my way to the second summit with its water tower, close to a hilly suburban development on the backside. Views are sparse, but it was still pretty in the forest. My pup and I got a little workout and were delighted to find another location for find peace and quiet close to home.
To very loosely paraphrase NFL running back Marshawn Lynch, I’m all about those views, boss. I need open space. That may seem a tad ironic for a resident of heavily-forested western Oregon. Yet even when I am hiking close to home, there are spots that remind me of Colorado wildflower meadows, rocky Nevada canyons, or my beloved Mount Hood’s ridges. So it was when I went in search of Camassia Natural Area not far from home. I was intrigued because the landscape promised to be different than our typical temperate rain forests.
Millennia ago, floods scoured the small rocky bench, stripping away soil. Now the area is dotted with relatively modest white oaks and madrones. The mossy, rocky ground made the plateau seem like a mash-up of an eastern forest and alpine tundra. A well marked loop trail is an easy way to explore the park. I walked it quickly, but would love to return when I have more time. It is also possible to link this with nearby Wilderness Park. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most unique natural sites in the Portland area and well worth a visit.
Last summer and even in the fall, I visited Spring Park and make the hike to Elk Rock Island multiple times. This involves a short hike to the bank of the Willamette River. From there, for half the year, the water is low enough to rock hop a side channel and get to the island for exploring. Not in January. It is now high water. Such seasonal dichotomies fascinate me and sustain me even as the weather and my ridiculous work schedule conspire to eliminate lengthy excursions into the mountains.
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.
It’s not quite Vermont or Virginia, but Oregon has its own autumnal color to enjoy. On a recent walk through Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum, I enjoyed the juxtaposition of colors from leaves and grass and even clouds. As many Portland residents know, the Arboretum is a great place for a quick hiking fix, even if you are losing light in the late afternoon. One disappointment is that the main parking areas are now charging a fee, but so it goes. Happy trails.
A few days before Halloween, I decided to stretch my legs at nearby Mary S. Young State Park. I’d been there a few times, but had never really ventured far. Some of the trails had the trappings of a spooky night time walk, which would probably be great for kids. It was fairly muddy, and in some spots hilly, so slips might be the scariest part of a night walk. I was glad to access the riverbank, where splashes of leafy yellows dotted the shore. The skies were grey overhead, so I didn’t extend the walk as far as I might. I did find a nice hilly tangential trail, and found my way back to the car easily. I had other walking plans in store… On the way home, I checked out Powers Marine Park just south of Portland along the river. It is a narrow strip set between road and river with an old railroad splitting it. It seems like a site for fisherfolk and young inebriates. After a steep descent on a tired set of stairs, I walked along the water for half a mile or so until rocks blocked the way. A light drizzle had me pull my hood over my noggin. I saw no other humans there. It was pleasant. On my return, the sun broke out. It was nice double dip of a hiking afternoon.
The more I look, the more oases I find scattered around the city. Here’s another: Kelly Butte in Southeast Portland. Jackie and I took a jaunt up there a few days ago. The hiking is fairly limited, but it was nice to get into a greenspace for a brief period. I saw no other people, and the weather was perfect. It seemed like a nice spot for a picnic. Perhaps another time.