For some reason I found myself poring over old photos tonight. Flashback to two summers ago. I hiked up the Salmon River Trail with my friend Steve, who toted his infant daughter on his back. There are couple great lookout points on the trail including this one. After hiking a bit over an hour to get there, we sat and enjoyed the views and each other’s company. Glorious day.
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.
After a friend told me on two different occasions how he enjoyed the Clackamas River Trail, it was high on my hiking radar. When I got a day off today and the sun was shining, the Clackamas seemed a logical destination. Denise and I loaded up a couple packs and headed out there for a quick out-and-back trip. As I drove along the river, I fondly remembered kayaking it with a buddy years ago. The waters are more pristine upstream from North Fork Reservoir, but a road parallels the river for many miles.
Although I’d driven the road multiple times (its the route to the famous Bagby Hot Springs) it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d have the road as backdrop while hiking. Duh. It was in the background half the time. The woods are still really nice, more open than most forests on Mt. Hood, due to an obvious wildfire.
Denise led the way for a while, and then I took over. The walking was not too tough. The trail was rocky in a few spots, muddy in a few spots, and lined with poison oak for fifty feet (in the switchbacks). After climbing over a high point, we switchbacked down to the riverside and a tiny but pretty beach. Jackie wanted to chase sticks, so I obliged. Then it was onward and upward again. The trail was closed at the two mile mark due to recent slide activity that made the trail impassable. The signage had alerted us to the situation, but it was still a let-down.
The jade hues of the river were gorgeous from that high point. I wanted to jump into its depths or kayak down the whitewater. Maybe on a hotter day. There are many more miles to the trail. Hopefully it will get repaired and re-open at some point. I’ll be back.
A hill should not be called a mountain, but I couldn’t hold such mis-labeling against Mount Talbert for too long. After all, it definitely pokes above the surrounding landscape southeast of Portland. It is also one of the only such buttes in the area which still has a pristine forested top. There are signs of selective logging low on the west side, but it has been well done despite the remaining slash piles. When I got a surprise day off a couple days ago, I had to take advantage of the good weather. After all, our summer preview will soon come to a close. I’d been meaning to check out Mount Talbert for months, so this was a good opportunity to cross it off the tick list.
The well-designed trailhead on Mather Road was a perfect place to begin my walk. There is a small picnic shelter area, a bathroom, and ample parking (a Fed Ex truck took up four spots sideways, but there was no shortage of space). At the start of the trail there are a couple interpretive signs and a readable map. From there, it is easy to set out on multiple loop treks. More specifically, try the Summit Trail for a short loop with some views, or consider the much longer Park Loop Trail around the periphery for a longer ramble. I combined the two, with the West Ridge Trail as a connector. At the beginning, the trail heads uphill immediately through a few switchbacks, and I rapidly boosted my heart rate. Later I would see a couple joggers and a serious walker with ear buds in. Locals must know this a good spot for a workout. Me, I was just there for the scenery.
The interpretive signage at the bottom points out that there are various oak restoration areas in the park. I noticed that those areas have sparser undergrowth besides ferns, and they are much more open to sunlight. Although there is a good amount of uphill walking, the so called summit is very unassuming. There are slight views to the south. My favorite part was descending from that high point. The forest seemed more like a real mountainside, calling to mind the lower stretches of Salmon Butte.
I’d seen nobody on the Summit Trail, but I did encounter a few folks descending the West Ridge trail as it dropped to the north. Then I cut back on the Park Loop toward Mather Road. The walk lasted about an hour. I probably walked a bit over two miles. It was a weekday, but I was surprised how few people were out on a nice day. The trails were in good shape, the intersections were well marked with one exception, and the forest was unspoiled.
Note: Dogs are not allowed at Mt. Talbert in an effort to respect the local wildlife. Luckily, Jackie Chan was out of town with his mama, so I didn’t feel guilty about going it alone. A couple other people ignored the signs, but I might have noticed a bit more wildlife noise without Jackie on the path. There were lots of juncos, sparrows, and robins, some squirrels, and something big in the leaves below a drop-off. I never saw the creature. Maybe next time. I’ll have to come back, and it will be a pleasure.
Once upon a time, when the earth was young and my hair was all brown, I grew familiar with the trails of Tryon Creek State Park, wedged between Southwest Portland and Lake Oswego. I hadn’t revisited the park for years, but chance chose this past Sunday for a visit, which coincided with the park’s Trillium Festival. Certainly, the flowers were out in force. As of 2013, there were 44 recognized species of trillium.
Here’s two fun facts: the White Trillium is the official flower of the Ontario, while the Large White Trillium is the official wildflower of Ohio. But enough about learning.
My walk was uneventful but pleasant. I saw the spot where I’d walked almost a mile in the dark many moons ago. This time was simply a nice afternoon hike between the Iron Mountain Trail, Cedar Trail, and Old Main Trail, completing the link with the bike path along Terwilliger Boulevard. I found serious ant activity, a lot of mud, and some very cool stumps.
I found the area muddier than I expected, so completing my loop on the paved path was a good call. It also made for an easy downhill cruise to the car. Tryon Creek State Park is free, it’s convenient, and all the best trilliums hang out there. It’s a great place for hikers and flower lovers to spend an hour or three.
I love it when a plan comes together. Although I pushed myself to get work a lot of work done during the daylight hours a few days ago, I found enough daylight to go for a brief hike. Without having a plan, I ended up again on Leif Erikson Drive. This time I headed north to the Alder Trail, 1.5 miles from my car. At that point, there is almost no traffic on Leif Erikson. There was less on the Alder Trail. It climbed rapidly into a side canyon, then more gradually. There was a point at which I was breathing fairly heavily, which surprised me. Few trails in Forest Park will do that to you besides the Ridge Trail or the Powerline Trail.
In many spots on the day’s hike I saw numerous bright white patches of Trillum. I remember wondering if the plural should be “Trillia” or “Trilliums”. Silly writing geek.
I hooked back on the Wildwood Trail and headed south for about a third of mile until it hit 53rd Drive. I took a brief offshoot uphill to the spot that as a teenager, I knew as Inspiration Point. At least, I think that’s where it was. I was disappointed that it did not seem very inspiring. At sixteen, an open place in the woods must have been inspiring because it let you sneak a beer, a clove cigarette, or a kiss. I’ve grown a lot since then. So have the trees. There are essentially no views.
From there it was all downhill. I encountered two interesting people on the Wild Cherry Trail. Before I’d even turned onto the trail from its terminus near my second encounter with 53rd Drive, I saw a boy about ten years old take off from the parking area, staring at what I assumed was a smart phone. He wandered down the trail for a hundred yards. I walked slowly, waiting for an adult to catch up to him. The boy then stepped off the trail, holding the phone up in front of his face. I surmised he was geocaching. He did not seem to realize Jackie and I existed. I quietly passed the lad. Ten minutes downhill, I heard big strides behind me. I pulled off to the side to let a tall man with impossibly short shorts pass on impossibly long legs. He said ‘great day to take him out,” referring to my canine partner. I agreed. And he was off.
I was soon stuck behind a young couple. It seemed rude to try to pass them on a narrow trail, and I was in no rush. I didn’t try to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help hearing a lot of twenty-something cute couple conversation. I couldn’t tell you the substance of a single utterance of either party. I couldn’t help but think how different my hiking experiences are. I almost never hike with others, and I rarely speak. They were shiny happy people, and good for them. It was a great day for all of us to get out in Forest Park.
The Columbia Gorge is more diverse than some people realize. People who rarely stray from the Portland metro area are missing out on many worthy trips. The eastern end of the Gorge is drier, rockier, and more open, and trail signs there alert hikers about snakes, ticks, and poison oak. Unlike trails near waterfall central, there is a viewpoint every other switchback on trails east of Hood River and Bingen. I was reminded of this after the wife and pup and I drove up to The Dalles following our adventures along the Deschutes River .
While sitting at a park chomping on some unhealthy food (sorry, Ma), I looked across the mighty Columbia (rolling on, of course) and I saw a massive basalt escarpment I’d noticed before. I mistakenly thought this was the Coyote Wall I’d heard of as a hiking and biking destination. It seemed a good spot for a hike, but we ended up somewhere else entirely. Life is like that.
The Lyle Cherry Orchard trailhead is a broad pullout a mile or so east of Lyle, Washington. The trail itself begins right beneath a rocky tower. We knew we were in the right place because we saw dozens of cars. As it turns out, there is a group called Friends of the Gorge and they organize group hikes. We quickly met a couple dozen people descending the trail. Everyone was smiling—a good sign.
We gained elevation rapidly, soon meeting the old roadbed of highway 8, a predecessor to the current highway. At a flat spot, there was a signpost with waivers to fill out, as the trail goes through private land. Fair enough. Above that, the trail switchbacks through scrub oaks and small crags, then comes out onto grassy benches rimmed with cliffs. There are stellar views of the gorge, both east and west. Even with a few clouds in the sky, it was a sublime place to relax for a few minutes.
The trail shifts its approach, and beyond a stile, climbs steeply across an open slope. A fall here would not be pretty, so we didn’t fall. Coincidentally, I bumped into a man I knew from Portland. It was no place to chat, so we moved on, climbing out of the steep stuff into an undulating oak forest. No cherry trees yet. Along the way, the trail passed two seasonal ponds, along with a skull and skeleton of a critter. The last mile of the trail is rather humdrum in comparison to the first mile, but it’s still enjoyable. After turning onto an old road, the trail opens up in the meadow of an old homestead site which offers a great picnic spot. We found no cherry orchard, but there were more amazing views. Taking in the breeze, sun, and views was enough for us.
Jackie Chan met a few ticks on the descent, which I quickly dispatched with ninja swiftness. Other than that, the hike was smooth, and we were happy to get back to the car and think about cold beverages. It was a very nice hike overall. People with less time could stop at the upper grassy bench and be very satisfied.
When the sun hits this time of year in Portland, you can’t wait for permission to get outside. Someone once said of western Oregonians that we don’t love the rain, but it’s easy to celebrate sun chooses to grace us. Wednesday was such a day.
I debated heading solo to the Gorge for a new hike, but the morning was chilly and the gorge would be shady, so I hedged. My wife finally said she’d go with me, but she needed to finish some paperwork. We got out of the house in the middle of the afternoon and headed northwest to Sauvie Island–NOT for the “clothing optional” beach, but just for a nice walk. I hadn’t been out there in years.
We had a false start on one trail that was shut down to protect wintering birds. Ultimately we drove all the way out Reeder Road, where there are many places to stop along the Columbia River. We walked for a while at beachy areas that seemed artificially enhanced by the look of the heavy equipment tracks. We were not alone. Lots of sun worshippers were out.
Where there was no sand, the shore was somewhat mossy in the way of Old Maid Flats on Mount Hood. There were some great raptor nests atop power poles in the area, but I saw no eagles.
The beaches did not feel satisfying , so we returned to the car and drove all the way to the end of the road. Right away I saw a trail closure for vegetation rehabilitation. This was going well. Sarcasm aside, we could still walk along the bank of the river, which wasn’t half bad.
At one point the bank had completely washed away, right next to a barbed wife fence. I was getting really frustrated, as though the hiking gods (I suspect Loki is involved) were saying, “Yo, a good hike ain’t gonna happen.” Okay, that was Loki filtered through Jesse Pinkman*.
After a few moments, we hopped the fence gingerly and continued. We spied couples canoodling and enjoying the sun, wearing shorts no less! Californians and Floridians might not appreciate how surprising that is, but it’s kind of a big deal. Our dog chased sticks repeatedly.
The river was right below us all the while, and great views ranged from Mt. St. Helens to Hood, and I even caught a sliver of Mt. Jefferson’s’ craggy summit. It was a gorgeous afternoon. On the return leg, I really appreciated the way the light hit the water so it almost seemed metallic. It was the kind of walk that accrued pleasure over time. There was no dramatic climb or wilderness feel, but it was perfect spot for a walk on a preview-of-spring day.