Blog Archives

Chasing Snow, Finding Fog

dsc01105Having 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.



A moody look up this steep foggy hillside


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.

Powerlines in Reverse


Magical light


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.


Looking across North Portland toward St. Helens and beyond


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.


I loved this massive, open stump

Ferns and Forest

Back in the land of grey and rain, I found a bright spot in the weather and headed out to the massive Forest Park.  To put the scale into perspective, the Wildwood Trail, which traverses the whole length of the park, and a bit more, is over 30 miles long.   Exactly.

Going up the drive.

Going up the drive.

I began this jaunt with my pup at the end of Leif Ericson Drive, where I hadn’t walked in years.  I turned up the Wild Cherry Trail at the first junction to get away from joggers and cyclists (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  Going north on the Wildwood trail, I saw few people.  One speedwalking gent wearing ear buds passed me.  I compared notes with a couple other dog owners, then headed uphill on the Dogwood Trail.   The forest was very stark in places with smaller trees and minimal groundcover.


The path ended up on top of a broad ridge, and opened up a bit, where I got a couple peek-a-boo views of downtown Portland.  The photos aren’t great, but I could see a skyscraper or two.

Hazy shade of winter view

Hazy shade of winter view

Once the trail skirted a parking area on N.W. 53rd, then plunged downhill to a junction with the Wildwood Trail. I headed south this time.  I saw people every few minutes, but it was a quiet day on the muddy trails.  At one point, I found a great tree seemingly backlit with angel wings of ferns.

Love the ferns on the twin tree trunks.

Love the wing ferns on the twin tree trunks.

The Aspen trail directed me back towards the car.  All told,  this was a decent four-plus mile loop that took about an hour and a half.  I got a bit muddy, but it felt good, and I reminded myself that no, I haven’t hiked all of Forest Park.  It’s not Joshua Tree or the high Cascades, but it’s a worthy destination for an afternoon adventure.

Forest, Fog, Dog

A magical, watery web

A magical, watery web

My back was stiff today, so I wanted to stretch my legs after a few hours of writing.  I also wanted to procrastinate.  I didn’t know if the trails would be muddy, or if it would rain on me, but it seemed worth it.


Dense deciduous woods downhill

Shockingly, I found myself on the Wildwood Trail off Germantown Road.  I linked that with Firelane 10 and the Keyser Trail to make a loop.  At one point the sky seemed sunny, near the high point, where I saw one of the two people I encountered in an hour.  The temperature was almost perfect.

Skyward in triumph I gazed

Skyward in triumph I gazed

As I descended to a low point on the firelane, the fog was almost surreal.  The trail was a little slick in spots, so I had to be careful.  Jackie was good about staying with me, seemingly wondering what the deal was with the fog.  Making the turn and heading back up the firelane, the going got tough, but the hardest part may have been crossing back over the road.  Traffic on Germantown is relatively heavy for a windy road.  Hikers and dogs beware.

All right, this fog is rather strange, Jackie says

All right, this fog is rather strange, Jackie says.


Will The Real Classic Oregon Tree Trunk Please Stand Up?

Normal forest, normal trail.  I'll take it.

Normal forest, normal trail. I’ll take it.

I left the Germantown Road trailhead this afternoon to repeat an old hike I’d done for a quick burn.  Heading south with Jackie Chan almost two miles on the Wildwood Trail, I enjoyed a peaceful walk and focused on the trees beside the trail and the muddy track.  At a fire lane, I passed a bunch of city wheelbarrows chained to a tree and dropped down to Leif Ericson Drive.  There are no views, but the forest has some pretty spots, and I considered the various classic tree trunks typical of the area.

Love the ferns creeping up the trunk

Love the ferns creeping up the trunk

For some strange reason, as I looked at the various trees, I was reminded of the old game show To Tell the Truth wherein three people all pretended to have the same name, and panelists asked them questions to determine who was telling the truth.  At end of a round, the host would unveil the real person.

I live in Mossy Nation

I live in Mossy Nation

The color of cedars always gets me

The color of cedars always gets me

So which one of these could be considered the classic Oregon tree trunk?   I asked the forest, but received no reply.  Strange.   I might have to return to Forest Park or nearby spots for further investigation.  It always feels like a treasure to escape the mundane world of buy and sell, toil and strive, in such a lovely park within the city.

I love me my Doug Firs

I love me my Doug Firs

Jackie Chan says "I'm the only classic Oregon anything around these parts!"  He's a bit biased.

Jackie Chan says “I’m the only classic Oregon anything around these parts!” He’s a bit biased.

Ridge Trail and Hardesty Trail Loop in Forest Park

I had been on the lower part of the Ridge Trail in Forest Park before, but this time I followed it all the way to its end, where it merges with Firelane Seven.  The sun-dappled woods were lovely, especially up high, where there are no high ridges blocking light.

Jackie Chan likes his hikes in the trees

Jackie Chan likes his hikes in the trees. This is Firelane Seven.

By the time I rested at the top, about forty minutes in, I had worked up some sweat.  For an urban hike, the elevation gain was very respectable.  My descent was via the Hardesty Trail, which for a brief period felt like the wildest trail I’d yet encountered in Forest Park.

The narrow Hardesty Trail

The narrow Hardesty Trail

The path  does a little jog on the Wildwood Trail, then drops down a narrow canyon to rejoin Leif Ericson Drive.  This took over an hour, covering a few pleasant miles.  Not bad.

Almost all of the way back to the bottom, there's this great view of the St. John's Bridge

Almost all of the way back to the bottom, there’s this great view of the St. John’s Bridge.  Wish I’d had a better camera.

Staying off of the Wildwood trail, it is easy to have the forest to yourself in Forest Park.  I saw only a few people, including a guitar player in the woods.  That’s Portland.  And for that, I am grateful.

Maple Trail and Firelane Loop

Jackie Chan likes finding sunshine in Forest Park

Jackie Chan likes finding sunshine in Forest Park

From Saltzman Road (see earlier post) I found a nice little loop that took about an hour, perfect for just needing to get some quick exercise.  It offered very little traffic except on Leif Erikson Drive.   The Maple Trail was closer than I remembered, and this time I headed south on it.  There was a detour at Firelane Four, so I climbed it, enjoying the more open terrain.

Partway up the firelane

Partway up the firelane

I saw a couple walkers on the Maple Trail, but none on the firelane.  The weather turned out to be perfect.   When I hite Leif Erickson Drive, I was ready for some flatter walking.

Junction of Firelane Four and Leif Erikson Drive

Junction of Firelane Four and Leif Erikson Drive

I am thankful that Forest Park has a nice collection of maps posted at major trail intersections.  The parks bureau doesn’t have to do that.  I suppose it saves on rescue calls!



Big tree.  No, really.

Big tree. No, really.

I headed north on Leif Erikson for quite a while.  Cyclists and joggers passed me.  Once I re-crossed Saltzman Road, the traffic seemed to diminish.   I headed to the far end of the Maple Trail, then cut back on it.

Maple Trail Signage

This sign has seen better days. No bikes, kids.

Very strange and wonderful at once.  A Walkman attached to a tree.

Very strange and wonderful at once. A Walkman attached to a tree.

The walking was all downhill now, and I was cruising without fear of getting run over by a bike.  The listening station (see above) I encountered was a first.   Somebody is keeping those batteries fresh, too!

This seemed like the entrance to a Hobbit house.

This seemed like the entrance to a Hobbit house.

This was another nice hike, nothing earth shattering.  I’m pretty sad that I haven’t had any nice epic trips this year, but it is my own doing.   I am learning a lot about local hiking, and if I know anything, it’s that Portlanders are pretty lucky in that regard.

Straight out of Linnton; a perfect short hike

Sometimes the destination we seek is impossible to attain, and what actually transpires on a journey can be more important than what’s on the original itinerary.  But enough sophomoric philosophy.  How about some hiking?  This afternoon I headed toward a particular trailhead, and while enroute, I discovered the Linnton Trail.  Dare I say that I took the path less traveled, and it made a heck of a difference?  Okay, probably not.  I shouldn’t mangle the poet’s intent, as many do.


The Linnton Trail takes off from a small parking area behind a bus stop on Highway 30.  It follows a creek for a short distance, then crosses it and heads into some switchbacks. At some point, I started hearing voices, and assumed I’d meet other hikers, but I never encountered them.  It turns out there is a neighborhood just over the ridge, and as I climbed, I realized I was hearing children playing.  I was reminded of a lyric by ‘Til Tuesday: “voices carry”.

IMG_6468 IMG_6473

Once across creek, Jackie and I put some effort into it.  A fair amount of elevation had to be gained.   I tried to guess how far I was from the trail I’d last weekend.   Later, I would figure it out.  The Linnton Trail eventually runs into Firelane 10, which is going straight up the hill then.

IMG_6482 IMG_6483

I found a pleasant loop detour called the Keyser Trail, which seems designed for mountain bikers who don’t want to deal with a steep pitch on their bike.  It rejoins Firelane 10 in three tenths of a mile.  Shortly after that, the fire lane intersects with the Wildwood Trail.

This was the section I had hiked when headed to the Powerline Trail.  Today, I was content to  simply head back downhill, taking photos of bulbous tree bases, moss thick enough for pillows, and wonderful light striking ferns.

IMG_6486 IMG_6487


My trail choice may not have made all the difference, but the Linnton Trail is certainly worthwhile for a quick afternoon hike.  Hikers on it will burn some calories and see some pretty forest. It’s also good for solitude. I only saw two boys at the very bottom of the trail, just as I was returning to the car, pleased with myself yet again as I pondered what larger hike to tackle soon.  Ah, choices!


P.S.  This is the one year anniversary of my blog. I’m not hip or brilliant or tech savvy enough to have 10,000 followers yet, but I appreciate those I do have.  Thanks for reading.  Pass it on, and more importantly, get out there and hike, climb, run, bike, ski, or whatever you like to do outside.   Cheers.


Powerline hike: a new view of Forest Park

I was torn today between checking out a new spot to hike and getting the dog out.  Mount Talbert didn’t allow dogs.  The species discriminators strike again!  So I blew it off and drove toward Forest Park so I could bring Jackie Chan.   The trailheads on Germantown Road were relatively crowded, so I headed north on the Wildwood Trail.  Good thing, too.

Kids would love to crawl under these roots

Kids would love to crawl under these roots

The Wildwood Trail is always relatively popular, but my theory is that north of German town would be more quiet.  I certainly saw some traffic, but not much.


When I hit Newton Road a little over a mile from the trailhead, I took a quick look at the map posted at major intersections.  I saw loop potential and headed downhill toward the bottom of the BPA Road.   I then lost a good 500 feet of elevation as the trail almost went down to Highway 30.   As the bottom,  Newton Road (which felt like a firelane until close to the bottom) opens up in a meadow where a single runner passed us.  Then we saw no people for 30 minutes.



I found the BPA road and headed up the gravel and grass track.  I assume the road is named for the Bonneville Power Administration, as it gives access to the powerlines.  Parts of the path were quite steep and I took my time.  Since I was in the sun now, I started sweating like the water glass on my  bedside table at night (reading World War Z right now).


Looking back toward the Willamette River and beyond to the Columbia, views started getting tremendous:  Mt. St. Helens, Mount Adams, and more.


My vantage could fool people.  Without a shot of downtown, many residents probably wouldn’t know it was Portland below.


The climb uphill was longer than expected, but it was very pleasant, and then there was rolling open terrain as we closed back in on the Wildwood Trail.  This felt nothing like the rest of the lovely but darky wooded Forest Park, and that made it a treat.

Jackie had time to smell the crabgrass while I plodded: steeper than it looks.

y Jackie had time to smell the crabgrass while I plodded: steeper than it looks.

This hike was a nice surprise.  The Newton Road and BPA Road was a solid four mile loop that had few walkers or runners, and the latter half had a unique feel due to the open nature.  Powerlines are not the most aesthetic landscape feature on a hike, but I felt thankful that I could safely walk along them, enjoy the view, break a healthy sweat, and just think.   It turned out to be a seven mile hike– just the right length for an afternoon.

Near the end of the hike I noticed a placard near the ground with a quotation from the famous Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, in honor of someone who died in 2003.  It read “Be Free where you are.”  I contemplated where I was, where I had been, powerlines and all, and I felt a little freer.

"Be Free Where You Are."  Agreed

P.S. In a tiny piece of only slightly forced synchronicity, I realized this evening that a new foodcart down the street offers Vietnamese cuisine.

Maple Trail, Saltzman Road, and a golden light

Looking back toward home and the University of Portland

Looking back toward home and the University of Portland

With more daylight lately and strangely nice weather for Oregon , it almost seems a crime not to head out for a hike or a bike ride after work.  Unfortunately, I am generally gone for about eleven hours daily during the week, and I often feel wiped out when I return home.

The other day, with a dash of motivation caused by perfect weather, I drove across the Willamette River toward Forest Park.  The bottom end of Saltzman Road is an odd mix of lovely homes, tight curves, a water bureau site, and a gate at a closed off forest road.

I saw no other cars at the pseudo trailhead, but I soon encountered a couple descending cyclists moving at a good clip.   The road turned path would be perfect for that. Eventually I arrived at a junction where the curving road neared the edge of a forested canyon.  The Maple Trail split off on either side, descending one way and climbing the other.

Maple trail turnoff

Works for me right now

I felt a touch lazy, so I opted for downhill.  Besides, the canyon on that side looked spectacular.  Really.

Looking up, trying to spy the sun line

Looking up, trying to spy the sun line

I wandered for a while with my pup through some phenomenal forest until the trail crossed a creek near the head of a lovely drainage.

Jackie searching for trolls.

Jackie searching for trolls.

The setting was serene, and I wish I’d had more time, but light was fading, so I turned back.

Deck the hills with firs and ferns

Deck the hills with firs and ferns

The temperature had cooled off considerably in the shade, so I kept moving.  Interestingly, some of the best views of the day were  yet to come.  The Maple Trail definitely merits more exploration.   I shall return.

Looking at the railroad bridge from the trailhead.

Looking at the railroad bridge from the trailhead.