Blog Archives

Man’s Best Friend and a Murder of Crows

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Seasonal Treasures on Elk Rock


Not bad for five minutes from home


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.


The foreground makes me think of the U.K

Meeting Mr. Heron

This morning the wife and I took a casual stroll along the riverbank with our pup.  While I was gawking at an osprey way up in a tree, I didn’t see the Great Blue Heron standing in the mouth of the creek.  We are lucky to have lots of both birds in our area.  The heron, I learned, weighs less than ten pounds despite a massive frame.  Apparently this is due to hollow bones, like all birds.  And it if looks slow, don’t tell the fish. It strikes fast when it’s going for food.  I was able to get fairly close before the bird spooked, doing a graceful flight out over the river, then a return swing up the creek drainage.  Quite a treat for a Sunday morning stroll.

That's Mr. Heron to you...

That’s Mr. Heron to you…

Marquam Nature Park in the Heat

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.

Cook Park and the Tualatin River

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Introduction to Three Creeks Natural Area

Entry to the Three Creeks Natural Area.

Entry to the Three Creeks Natural Area.

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.

The cattails seemed out of place with the water apparently hiding

The cattails under a blue sky

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.

Can you identify the lilac flower? There were not many of them.

Can you identify the lilac flower? There were not many of them.

Oregon Color

hoyt arboretum

Looking south from a high point

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.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Hiking Mount Talbert

The sky was blue and cold this morning.  I wanted to hike but wasn’t quite motivated enough to gear up for more extreme conditions found on Mount Hood area or the Columbia Gorge.  I’m not in winter mode yet, despite this week’s recent cold snap in Portland.  A casual walk at nearby Mount Talbert seemed like a worthy and safe option.  I had been there months earlier when shorts and t-shirt sufficed.  Not today.

I accessed Mount Talbert’s trail system from the north, off Sunnyside Road, rather than the Mather Road trailhead.  Originally, that location was supposed to be the main trailhead, but plans changed.  There are five parking spots across from a gravel path descending to a creek where a sturdy steel bridge lets people cross.

Sections of the Park Loop, West Ridge, and Summit trails made for a nice hour of walking through various forest types.  As I finished up in the sun, I realized that the Gorge might have been warm enough, although ice has been an issue in recent days.  There is a twinge of regret that I didn’t go for a bigger adventure, but then I move on.  Time to gear up so I don’t hesitate to get out in burlier conditions again.  Happy hiking.

Mary S. Young and Powers Park Too

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.

Kelly Butte in the Middle of the City

Jackie a having a stroll on Kelly Butte

Jackie sniffing the green world

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.

Looking back whence we came

Looking back whence we came