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Just Another Manic Sunday


Cool, clear, classic Clackamas River


Dawn broke clear and cool over the upper Clackamas River drainage after an impromptu camping trip amid the teeming hordes escaping the metro area.  Every campground was full for miles.  So it goes.  It was a great morning to look at clear water, tall trees, and mossy rocks.  Then there was the low waterline at Detroit Lake, living the late summer reservoir life of stumps and marinas in the mud.  We did a lot of walking, although we didn’t end up taking a serious hike.  We simple went with the flow, something at which I do not always excel.  We found gorgeous spots of placid river, and soaked up views from the dam at the foot of Detroit Lake. Ten to fifteen fishermen cast their lines right off the top of the dam.  Some of them were even successful.  Pretty cool.

Once we got out of the foothills, we had a decision to make.  We could go to a popular hiking area like Silver Falls or Opal Creek, but we opted instead to do something a bit more unique, based on the classic on-the-fly smart phone search.  Onward to Willamette Mission State Park!  It was there that Jason Lee established a Methodist mission in 1834, two decades before Oregon was even a state, and survival had to come before any conversion of Native Americans.  The part comprises almost 900 acres of river, lakes, orchards, and open fields. It’s just over an hour from home, yet I’d never visited.  Time to change that.


The edge of Goose Lake


Once in the park, we walked the short trail to the of Goose Lake, then drove to the viewing spot of the nation’s largest Black Cottonwood, which is not incredibly tall in comparison to redwoods or Douglas firs, but boy, that trunk is massive!


Denise soaking up the wisdom of the tree


One of the cool things the park does is create what they term a ghost structure, which duplicates the basic shape of the original mission buildings.  The structure was built close to the riverbank,  and mosquitoes were a big problem, along with malaria.   Not such a great spot, as it turns out.  The mission moved to Chemeketa, now known as Salem, in 1840.  Ironically, an 1861 flood ravaged the area, and the main river channel moved further west.  The water below the ghost structure is now a landlocked lake most of the year.


The ghost structures

The trails were pretty, and dotted with nut trees and apple trees.  There were many walnut trees, and a lot of a few other species, which probably included filbert trees.   A few deer darted through the area, perhaps looking to nosh on some apples.


Once we left the orchard area, we discovered a path to the Willamette River itself, on a quiet rocky beach with calm water that instantly make me think of Huckleberry Finn.  I skipped a few rocks, which Jackie wanted to chase.  Sorry, not a ball, buddy.


I swear Huck left his raft here somewhere


It was a lovely spot, and the temperature was perfect.  Just visible downstream was the Wheatland Ferry.  It seemed such an quaint anachronism that we had to take it.Such happenstance led us to Dayton, a cute little town which was apparently founded by Joel Palmer, part of the Barlow Road entrepreneurial team and namesake of the Palmer snowfield and chairlift at famed Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood.  We also chowed on great burgers at the Block House Café.  Then came the Sunday afternoon traffic issues, part of which was caused by a pair of tractors on the highway, which seemed humorous yet fitting in Oregon’s wine country, and a fitting capstone for the day.


Rather pretty if I do say so.  Note the cabin on the far left.

This is What’s SUP, Oregon

20160807_105811The other day we tried stand up paddle boarding.  The temperature was mild, it was cloudy, and wind was fairly constant, creating a little chop on the water.  Add to those conditions our novice nature, and the standing up part was more difficult than I imagined.  Did I mention Jackie Chan came with us?  He started on Denise’s larger board, but when we got far apart at one point, he jumped off and tried to swim to me.  Keystone Kops complications ensued.  Luckily, all ended well, and I got more confident standing by the time we finished.  I will happily try this again, preferably when it’s sunny and calm.  Photo courtesy of Jeff Briley at Cascadia SUP.  He rents locally in Portland if people are interested.  Now I’m off to a hike in the sun.

History and the View at Canemah Bluff


Looking down at the mighty Willamette


In a shocking development, I went for a walk last Sunday.  The weather was iffy, so I stayed close to home, and I was able to find another pleasant place to leg stretch close to the city.  Canemah Bluff is located above the Willamette River at the south end of Oregon City.  In the 19th century, pioneers settled there and established their own community, which predicated its economy on people who necessarily portaged around nearby Willamette Falls as they headed up or down the Willamette. The town was eventually annexed by Oregon City in the 1920s.  It is still a lovely area, and the Children’s Park (no, I didn’t go down the slide) is a great place to start a walk.  A small network of trails offers a few different options depending on your ambition and interest. Like Mount Talbert and Powell Butte, they have nice signage and mini maps on posts at junctions.

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One of the things about this area is that, historically, Native Americans conducted annual controlled burns, and this affected biodiversity.  Unlike many areas in Northwest Oregon, the bluffs here offer broad wildflower meadows lined lots of oaks and madrone trees, as well as alder and cedar forested areas further uphill.

The walking was easy, and I found myself marveling at the great colors all around.  Bright wildflowers abounded in the open areas, but the most amazing hues of all (and this on a gray day) were on the madrone trunks.  In a couple photos, they seemed to almost glow a rusty color.  Eventually, I caught a glimpse of a pioneer cemetery, then headed uphill on the Old Slide Trail.  They were very pleasant woods to amble about.  On that segment of  trail, I found myself falling into arty photography, noticing the symmetry in a certain fern’s fronds, a stand of deciduous trees, even the perfectly placed bee in the center of a flower. I have found that taking a great photo gives me a great deal of pleasure, but there is nothing like a good walk.  Happy hiking, everyone.

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It’s Not just for Hiking Anymore


View from my office this afternoon

It has been far too long since I wrote a significant post.  I could have  posted about this hike or that, yet my life isn’t that simple.  I work more than 40 hour a week, and I have other interests besides hiking.  Shocking, I know.  I learned today that I won a juried photography contest (a shot from a local hike), I have been working on a collection of poetry, and I am trying to attend musical events when I have the energy for local heroes and national stars alike. An ingrown toenail is also a big reason I have put off big hikes.  I know, excuses, excuses.  Enough about that.  Let’s go somewhere!


This morning, I helped hang an art show which will benefit Alzheimer’s research, then caught a lunchtime concert by Franco Paletta and the Stingers, a summertime series of outdoor shows in the park by our neighborhood library.  An outdoor adventure seemed like great way to top the day.  I decided on the kayak, and went for a jaunt upstream on the Willamette, paddling solo past Elk Rock Island, taking in a view of scrubby cliffs, including what in the winter is a sizeable waterfall but is now little more than a trickle bound in slimy green verge.

Then I met Mr. Heron.  He eludes me much of the time. When I’ve walked along the bank to capture his image, he spooks and flies away in that dinosaur way.  In the kayak, however, I got within thirty feet from two directions.  He seemed curious but never left the spot behind a giant log in the rocky shallows.


The shoreline crags of Elk Rock Island were teeming with swimmers and fisherfolk, and I was glad to have a view of that rocky world rather than be among them.  The river itself had occasional wakeboarders and tubing boats, yet it still seemed serene. A new perspective is almost always a good thing.  Look for more water adventures in the future.  Happy summer.

Breaking in a New Kayak


Contrary to popular belief, I enjoy many pursuits besides hiking.  Many of them involve creativity, eating, or nature.  So it was that my lovely wife and I took out our new kayak the other day for a quick spin.  It is a Swedish kayak that comes in three pieces which ratchet together.  This means we can stuff the pieces in the back of a modest-sized vehicle or easily carry them down a path to the river.  (The modular nature of the boat is also crucial for ease of storage). With all three pieces assembled, it’s good for two people (and a dog), while if you take out the middle piece, it works for one person.  The trial run was on a gorgeous day in the Willamette Valley.  We paddled upstream to Elk Rock Island, where we debarked and played around for bit on a beach.  An osprey soared over the channel, and I longed to see it dive for a fish, but it was not to be.  On the return leg, we passed a large sightseeing boat, the Portland Spirit, and we were concerned about its wake after ski boats had rocked us a tad, but because of its relatively slow speed, we were fine.  I’m looking forward to more kayaking adventures in the future.  Time for sunscreen and flotation devices!



Good times!  Jackie says “throw the darn stick!”



Oregon Landscape in Gray

Willamette River Walking

Moody skies over the Willamette

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.

Rock Hopping to a Heron’s Roost

Water, rock, trees.

Water, rock, trees.

At a secret location near Milwaukie, Oregon, I took my boy Jackie Chan for a river shoreline stroll.  This is no typical shoreline.  Hardly a sandy spot in sight, and the one we found was protected by audibly possessive Canada Geese.  One of the curious attributes of walking near a major metropolitan area is the juxtaposition of natural elements with manmade elements.  It was no different this afternoon.  I found remnants of what I believe is a dock, floating lumber surrounded by old stumps, and a heron badgering a kayaker when it neared the roost.

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The walk was almost entirely on rocks, so we did not move quickly. Yet with a narrow focus on nearby objects rather than on distant viewpoints, I found it endlessly fascinating, and very peaceful.  Seeing the heron take off multiple times with a great squawking, gracefully soaring over the river, was a highlight.  I only wish I had a better camera more suited to catching a magnificent creature in flight.  Perhaps next time.

Oh, for a better camera...

Oh, for a better camera…

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…

Soothing Spot on Swan Island

Shhh... Beautiful Spot in Industrial Land

Can you spot Jackie Chan? He’s pulling a ninja dog photobomb.

This afternoon, the wife and I found a great spot to walk in one of the least likely spots in Portland–Swan Island, known for its shipping and industrial businesses. It is also the place where I ran the fastest 10K of my life, about 37 minutes, more than a few cheeseburgers and gray hairs ago.  Today, I’d be lucky to remain upright.

We’d heard about a nice walking path along the river behind the businesses and easily found it beyond the Daimler office. There were multiple spots to access sandy and rocky beaches, which our pup loved.  The flat concrete walkway had pine trees and benches alongside it and boasted views of the Willamette and the hills of Forest Park.  Not bad at all. It’s just another surprise Portland offers its residents. Heck, it almost made me want to break out the rollerblades. Almost.

Almost a Riverdance

The last of the Willamette

Near the mouth of the Willamette

Roll on, Willamette!   Doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Roll on, Columbia,” does it?  That’s  okay. I enjoyed a cloudy day walk this afternoon with Jackie Chan near the confluence of the two rivers in Kelley Point Park, feeling their power as I strolled.  There are lovely pockets with tall trees, leaf-covered earth, then glimpses of river and birds, surrounded by occasional industrial honks or roars.  Finally we reached the strand of sand.

Emerging from the trail

Emerging from the trail

Of course, Jackie Chan wanted the same thing he always wants.   He saw me bring the chucker, so I couldn’t just tease him. The sand was deserted, so  I threw the ball for a while, then got him back on leash and walked around more of the park.   The place seemed empty.

Hey, quit exploiting my cuteness and throw the ball!

Hey, quit exploiting my cuteness and throw the ball!

I passed only one other group the whole time I was at the park.  The cool, grey weather surely had something to do with that.  No complaints here.  A visit to Kelley Point makes for a unique walking experience in the Portland area, and I am sure I will return a few times a year.