Hike #39 Cape Horn: Try Not to Plummet to Your Death Trail

On grey Oregon morning in the last days of January I set out for Cape Horn. The 7 mile loop hike on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge was slated for closure in just a few days. The hike passes through critical Peregrine Falcon breeding habitat. The lower part of the trail closes from February 1st to July 15th every year to allow the falcons mate and raise chicks in peace. It seemed like a good, snow-free, hike to get out of the way. Plus, I’d done it once before in late summer some years ago. I remembered the hike as pleasant with good views, though it did pass through some rock slides.

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Remembering that the hike did have some cliff-side trail, I did make sure to check the weather for rain. I am not the most coordinated person in existence and I have full confidence in my ability to slip on a muddy trail and plummet to my death. There was no rain forecast and, in addition, I checked trip reports on Portland Hiker’s Field Guide. Reports indicated there was a little mud in spots, but not much. Encouraged by a favorable forecast I dashed off to the trailhead.

Upper Cape Horn Trail

What I didn’t think to check was the wind gusts. This is the Gorge, after all.

I first realized my mistake when I arrived red-faced and huffing at the first major viewpoint, Pioneer Point. As I stepped out of the treeline I was hit by gust of wind strong enough move me against my will. The view was stunning, but the wind was battering me at around 45 miles an hour, as I would later learn. While I did venture a little way out on to Pioneer Point between gusts, I was never far enough to be in danger.

Larch Mountain from Pioneer Point

Pioneer Point is about 1.2 miles from the trailhead. This 1.2 mile took be a little under an hour to hike. While Lacamas Heritage Trail was my first moderate hike, the Cape Horn trail was my first moderate hike with any significant elevation gain, about a 1600 foot gain total. 800 feet of that elevation gain is in the first 1.2 miles to Pioneer Point. I won’t lie, this was a tough hike for sedentary 260lb woman. But it is doable. If you can make it this far, you can make it the rest of the way. If you don’t get blown off a cliff and plummet to your death.

Pioneer Point, Cape Horn

After Pioneer Point, you keep climbing, but it’s more gentle as the trail becomes reclaimed access and logging roads. There are are beautiful views to be had on the northside of the cape as well.

Northface of Cape Horn

The you cross Strunk road and find yourself in a field and on your way to the Nancy Russel Overlook. I was planning on eating lunch here, but it was much too windy.The trail then dives down in the forest. I found some obstacles, a decaying shelter, and Cape Horn Falls.

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Cape Horn Trail

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I started thinking the worst was over and the rest of the hike would be cake. And it was cake: Windy Death Cake. As the trail winds under Cape Horn Falls, you’ll see the dramatic cliff on which the falcons make their eyries, sweeping views of the Columbia River, Cigar Rock, Beacon Rock, Larch Mountain, and lonely Phoca Rock, Where the tree line thins and the trail becomes cliff-side viewpoints, the wind is the worst and the trail here is full of loose rocks. There were a couple different times on this portion of the lower trail where I found myself huddling next to tree waiting for the wind to die; waiting for a moment when I felt it was safe to pass by cliff edges without danger of losing my footing and being blown into the Columbia below.

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But it was pretty.

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After you past the death cliffs, the trail becomes a scramble over broken rocks. Here, you find the trail be look to where the moss is not growing. It is very hard on the knees. I forgot my hiking poles, but I would highly suggest them here for anyone with knee problems, or more portly adventures like myself as our knees take more strain.

Rocky Cape Horn Trail

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Frozen Cape Horn Falls

After passing under Cape Horn Falls, the path continues to be rocky and somewhat treacherous until you reach the country road you’ll follow back to your car. I spent most of this walk back to my car praying some nice farmer would offer me a ride back up to the trailhead in the be of his pick-up. Instead, I just go yelled at by sheep and goats.

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Sullivan’s Stats:                    My Stats:
Distance: 7.2 mile                   6.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1300              1600
Difficulty: Moderate                 Moderate

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Hike 16A: Round Lake at Lacamas Park

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Round Lake can be a magical place. Years ago, I often felt the call to come here, cross Round Lake Damn, and wade down Lacamas Creek to dive off a waterfall know as The Potholes. Hiking down the creek is like wandering into a fairy land. It has been a few years since I’ve done any cliff diving, but Lacamas Park will always have a little bit of urban magic as far as I am concerned.

Lacamas Park Entry

The 3.4 mile loop hike described in Sullivan's Book takes you across Round Lake Damn to views of the Potholes and Lower Lacamas Falls. An optional side trip will take you to the secluded Woodburn Falls. In spring, the trail leads you past fields of Camas Lilies, which are well worth a trip to Washington. The trails here are well signed and maintained. Often you’ll find yourself walking on closed gravel access roads. This is great park to explore with children, they even have an education kiosk describing the lake ecosystem and history across from the playground. Fishing, dogs, and cycling are all allowed.

Lacamas Education Kiosk

Lacamas Ecosystem

Sullivan’s Stats                                   MyStats
Distance: 3.4 miles                             3.25
Elevation Gain: 200 feet                   180 feet
Difficulty: Easy                                    East

 

In a futile effort to keep this post succinct, on to the pictures!

Round Lake:

Round Lake, Camas, Washington

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Round Lake Dam:

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Round Lake Dam

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The Potholes:

The Potholes

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Pretty trails:

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Lower Lacamas Falls:

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And a few random shots:

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Hike #16B: Lacamas Lake

When I first declared to my brother-in-law back in November that I was going to hike all 100 hikes in 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington, I wasn’t considering the fact that Sullivan’s 100 hikes is actually more closer to 150 hikes. Let’s use Hike #16 as an example. Hike #16 is titled “Lacamas Park,” but instead of one hike in Lacamas Park, it is actually two hikes in two different parks. I will refer to them as hikes #16A and #16B.

Hike #16B is a 7 mile hike in Heritage Park and Hike #16A is a 3.4 mile hike in Lacamas Park. In this particular instance, the parks are across the street from each other and you could make Hike #16 into one long 10.4 mile loop. However, it is not always like that. Sometimes, Sullivan puts together hikes that are miles apart. Take Hike #12 for example: Hike #12A is 5 miles away from Hike #12B and in a completely different park. I haven’t quite decided what this means for my Mission yet. For now, if all the hikes listed under a given hike number are listed as “Easy” or “Moderate” then I am going to hike them all.

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On January 19th, 2014, I hiked the 7 mile Lacamas Heritage Trail which follows the shoreline of Lacamas Lake in Heritage Park, otherwise known as Hike #16B.

Sullivan’s Stats                   My Stats
Lengeth: 7 miles                 7.25
Elevation Gain: None          None
Difficulty: Moderate             Mostly Easy

This lakeside trail is well-traveled and popular with both walkers and trail runners. It is open to both dogs and bikes, and, in retrospect, I do think this trail is better suited to running or cycling. I chose the Lacamas Heritage Trail as my first “moderate” hike because of the lack of elevation gain. I wanted to gauge how I would physically handle a longer hike. For me, this long, flat hike was relatively easy physically, but a bit of a challenge mentally because, well, flat can get quite boring. I gave it a “Mostly Easy” rating on the Girl vs. Trail scale because of the mental tedium.

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While I am not strong or fit enough at this point to handle anything more then a 500 foot elevation gain with anything akin to grace, elevation gain does require mental focus. Lacamas Lake is beautiful. There is awesome birding to be done here. However, flat walking for 7 miles on a trail I’ve hiked before just got a bit boring. I started adding 60 second jogging intervals to help keep me focused. I don’t usually listen to my MP3 player while hiking, but if you are walking this trail I suggest you download a good podcast.

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That being said, Lacamas Lake is lovely. The trail starts out alongside a golf course and then meanders into the marshy lake shallows. Quickly, the glacier-carved lake widens and becomes a playground for kayakers and waterfowl alike.

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The trail passes through both forested areas and McMansions with private docks.

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The Pittock-Leadbetter House-Not a McMansion!

One man spent a year photographing the Birds of Lacamas Lake. He found 82 different species. I did not see that many, but I was excited to see two Belted Kingfishers. They were arguing quite loudly. Before this year, I’d never seen a single Kingfisher and now I’ve seen three! There were also plenty of Mallards, a few Wood Ducks, and below is a picture of some Double-creasted Comorants:

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This is and out an back hike. The turn around point is Heritage Park. There are picnic tables, bathrooms, a playground, and boat docks. Children would enjoy this park, but rather than starting from the Heritage Trail trailhead, I’d suggest starting at Heritage Park proper. You can explore the trail and head back to the playground and picnic area when the kids are done. I had lunch on one of the docks and chatted with the kayakers.

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After a dockside lunch, the return trip was just a 3.5 mile walk back the way I’d come. I’m really more of a loop kinda girl, but it was still gorgeous.

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Latourell Falls Hike #44

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Since I am so behind in my blogging, I had planned to mush the Latrourell Falls hike together with another post, but my camera was doing some interesting things. That means this will be a picture heavy post.

First, the stats:

Sullivan’s                                                                         Mine:
2.3 mile loop                                                                  2.28 mile loop
600 ft. elevation gain                                             575 ft. elevation gain
Easy                                                                                   Mostly Easy

 

Latrourell Falls in locate in Guy W. Talbot State Park. It is one of the classic Oregon tourist hikes along the Historic Columbia River Highway; the kind that most Portlanders only hike ironically. As much as I’d like to consider myself hip and ironic, I am never sad to see waterfalls. The last time I made this hike, it was spring and Bleeding Hearts, Dutchman’s Breeches, and Trillium lined the pathway, but even in winter this is a pretty hike.

Lower Latourell Falls from Veiwing Platfrom

This hike is “Mostly Easy” on the Brenda scale because almost all the elevation gain is right at the beginning of the hike. Which as a very sedentary person means I was definitely breathing heavy.  However, after the first 3/4 mile, it’s a pretty easy hike. The only reason it took me an hour and a half was because I took so many pictures.

The hike begins with touristy historical information, a viewing platform for Lower Latourell Falls, and steps build during the Great Depression.

Steps at Latourell Falls

Apparently, on the day I visited, there was also a blind hipster loose in the wilds. I stayed vigilant but did not sight him/her.

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The path from the viewing area begin an immediate assent that had my heart rate up pretty quickly, but the path was lovely and ferny (I am a great fan of ferns) with delicious views of the lower falls.

Latourell Falls from Path

Lower Falls from Trail

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Lower Falls

Not long after you lose sight of the falls, you begin to catch glimpses of other views through the trees.

Lower Falls Viewing Platform from Trail

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Once you reach the top of the falls, most of the elevation gain is finished and you get your first glimpse of the Gorge.

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Woodpecker Hangout

Then you continue onward and slightly upward crossing four wooden bridges over feeder streams until you loop below Upper Latourell Falls.

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Upper Latourell Falls:

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Upper Falls Splash Pool

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After the upper falls, it’s all down hill. The trail skirts the creek most of the was down, winding around old cedar trees until a side path takes you to viewpoint above the the Lower Falls. If you’re hiking with children, don’t let them climb down here. You can see the spectacular view even without scrambling down onto the granite outcropping above the falls.

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Next the trail winds away from the creek and falls, taking leisurly path down to the Historic Columbia River Highway.

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From here you can walk down the road to your car, or cross the street and continue on a paved path under the highway to the splash pool of the lower falls before returning to your car.

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The sun was setting as I reached the splash pool of Lower Latourell Falls and the flash on my camera started going off. With all the mist in the air, the light began doing interesting things.

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I fully realize there are too many pictures in this post, but it was hard for me to chose. I am not a gifted or visionary photographer, but I liked the ways a lot of these came out. Overall, I would say this is a nice hike for those of us working on our fitness. Dogs are allowed on leashes. It would also be a great hike for kids that are old enough to be trail-safe, say 5 and up. There are places where younger kids could be walking on their own safely, but there are certainly spots where you’d want to have toddlers in a pack and/or have some serious hand-holding going on.

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Willamette Mission State Park Hike # 14

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I have been to Willamette Mission State Park on two previous occasions. When I think back to those spring days, the one thing that stands out in my mind is the great clouds of brilliant yellow goldfinches flying across the meadows and over Mission Lake. Willamette Mission Park is known for its vibrant and varied bird life. The 14th and last of the “Portland Area” hikes, Willamette Mission is only five miles for Salem. Despite being an easy and shorter hike, it is definitely worth the drive for us Portland people.

My 2.7 mile hike began with a little bit of hiccup. Once again, I found myself needing to reverse engineer a hike and start from a different trailhead then indicated in the book. While on the Powell Butte Hike my plans were sabotaged by construction; here my plans were sabotaged by Mission Lake, which rudely decided to overflow its shore and flood the main roadway into the park.
Willamette Mission's Flooded Road

After paying my $5.00 parking fee only to discover a locked gate (and a ton of water) blocking the roadway, I pulled out the book and found an alternative trailhead a little further down the main road. Instead of parking at the main park, I parked on Wheatland Road in the ferry parking area. This is normally where the hike ends.

Heading into the park, I was a little apprehensive since the sign on the locked gate at the main park said, “Road and trails closed due to flooding and high water.” Part of me worried that the trails would be unsafe and I’d fall in a sink hole and drown or something. But mostly I thought, “I’ve already driven to Salem and paid $5 for parking: I am hiking this blasted trail, water or no.” Emboldened by my frugality, I soldiered on, passing the ferry dock on the Willamette River and to the first trail junction where I turned left to hike along mission lake. This trail junction is also where I first noticed sign noting that cougars had been sighted in that area and not to hike alone. I spent the next hour thinking every squirrel in the bushes was cougar waiting to eat my face.

Cougars Will Eat Your Face!

I have long wanted to to see a cougar in the wild. However, while on this hike I was overcome with the intense desire NOT to see a cougar in the wild.

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Nookta Rose Hips

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So far, this has been the easiest hike in the book. Though it did take me an hour and half, that was because I was dawdling  and taking lots of pictures and watching the wildlife. With the main entrance closed, I had the park to myself and I took my time thoroughly enjoying the solitude and bird life on this lakeside trail.

Mission Lake

Also, when you sneeze in an abandoned and silent hazelnut orchard in the middle of winter something akin to a scene from “The Birds” occurs. I think a terrified at least 300 birds, but it was awesome to watch them fly off.

Abandoned Orchard

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There were tons of robins, dark-eyed juncos, mallards, Canadian geese, wood ducks, and spotted towhees. In addition, I saw both a Hairy Woodpecker and Red-breasted sapsucker. However the most exciting sights were at the ferry dock, where I saw a Belted Kingfisher sitting on the one of the ferry wires strung across the river. I also saw an Osprey take off from its nest near the ferry dock. Throughout the hike, and park, there are bird blinds and wildlife viewing areas. Summer and spring would be spectacular for bird watching.

If you’re not excited by thoughts of kingfishers and towhees, the park also boasts the oldest cottonwood tree in the United States.

America's Largest Cottonwood

And the site of one of the first missions west of the Cascades was once here.

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Placement of the Original Mission Buildings

Ability-wise, this hike could be completed by most people, would be a great place to picnic with children, and there are even barrier free options. There is no elevation gain, so even if you are very out of shape, this is a very doable hike. If I lived closer, I would hike here often. Bicycles and dogs are welcome, as are horses.

No Picnics in Winter

Plus, you get to take a ride on Oregon’s longest continually operating ferry when you are done.

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Then you can walk to Arcane Cellars for a tasting. Or drive up the road to Willamette Valley Cheese Company, where you will be greeted by the farm dog:

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And the farm goats:

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Or you could just sit and watch the Willamette River flow by.

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Powell Butte Nature Park Hike #10

Powell Butte Nature Park is a 600 acre park atop an extinct cinder cone volcano. Along with Rocky Butte, Mt. Tabor, and Kelly Butte, Powell Butte is part of the long extinct Boring Lava Field which once enveloped the Portland area. This urban nature park is Hike #10 in 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington . The stats for the hike as given in the book are as follows:

Powell Butte:
Easy
3.5 mile loop
Elevation gain: 400ft
Open all year
Hiker, Bikers, and Horses

The one thing I do agree with Mr. Sullivan is that the park is open all year and there are hikers, bikers, and horses. Here are my stats after finishing my attempt at this hike:

Mostly Easy*
4.98 mile loop-ish
Elevation gain: 200ft elevation gain
Open all year, except for the signs asking you not to hike in the rain to avoid widening paths
Hikers, Bikers, Horses, and Dogs . . . lots and lots of dogs (but not the scary wild kind, just drooly please-be-my-friend kind)

You will notice that my hike ended up being a mile and half longer than the book indicated it would be. This was the result of the complete closure of the main trailhead and parking area due to construction. Underneath the verdant, or as this is winter, dry and stickish, meadows of atop the summit of Powell Butte is housed a 50 million gallon water tank that collects water from the Bull Run Watershed which supplies the drinking water for the city of Portland. Apparently, this water tank was lonely so they decided to put in another one to keep it company. Construction on this project will continue until March 2014 and the main trailhead listed in the book will be closed to both pedestrians and parking until then. There is a list of alternate trailheads at the gate blocking the main access. Sullivan did note that there may be some trail diversions due to ongoing construction.
Powell ButtePowell Butte

Not to be deterred, I headed to one of the alternate trailheads suggested on a handy sign. I choose the nearby Center Street trailhead on the Northwest side of the butte thinking it would be the easy to reverse engineer the hike from.

Directions From Alternate Trailhead

As you enter the Center Street trailhead, veer to left and begin climbing up the 248th Street Trail. This trail will connect allow you to connect to the larger trail network on Powell Butte. The wheel-chair accessible Dogwood Trail on the right does not connect to the main trail system. Once you’re on the 248th street trail you will begin climbing up a short series of steep switchbacks for about half a mile until the 248th Street Trail joins the Old Holgate Trail. Keep left and follow the Old Holgate Trail another quarter of a mile until it connects with the gravel construction road at the edge of the meadow atop the butte (some maps refer to it as Pipeline Road).

Powell Butte: 242nd Trail Holgate Trail Pipeline

Turn right here and follow the road along the edge of the fenced construction area until you come to a four-way trail junction. And here’s where things get confusing. My plan had been to hike the trail as mapped by Mr. Sullivan backwards since I was coming at it from a different direction. However, there has been a lot of trial reconstruction during the installation of the new water reservoir. Some trails have been rerouted and others have been decommissioned and are missing entirely. Signs are missing as well. I was using the app Map My Hike, but it’s map are not updated to reflect changes.

My plan to start on Cougar Trail and then join up with Cedar Trail for the hike. However, a look at current map shows that Cougar Trail no longer exists and Cedar Trail has been renamed. Instead, continue east at the four-way junction on the gravel Goldfinch Trail then veer off to the right on Meadowland Trail. Follow Meadowland until it meets back up with Goldfinch at a three junction with Elderberry Trail, which was formally part of the now defunct Cedar Trail (as you hike you will notice where trails have been realigned or completely removed). Singage has not been updated so you may still see signs for Cedar Trail, which means you’re headed the right direction. Keep to the left (east) at all trail junctions, joining up with Blacktailed Deer Trail (sometimes old signs still call it Cedar Trail) and then the Mt. Hood Trail. From here, you can follow the directions in the book to Orchard Summit loop, then simply walk across the meadow on Goldfinch trail and return to your car via Pipleline and Holgate.

Enough with Directions! How was the Hike?

Overall, I found Powell Butte a “mostly easy” hike. I say mostly easy because coming from the Center Street trailhead you immediately start with a half a mile of switchbacks and 200ft of elevation gain. Being a 260lb woman, that is enough to make me huff and puff. If I had bad knees, I might avoid this trailhead and try one of the others. As it was, after the initial switchbacks, I found this hike easy and enjoyable to complete.

With the construction, the meadow was certainly not very scenic, but the forest was mossy and there are some giant old growth cedars on the forest paths. The views from the Orchard Summit trail are stunning. You can see Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams in their full glory on a clear day. It’s a great place to take tourist for some great views.

Powell Butte Meadow Construction

Powell Butte Meadow: Goldfinch Trail

Powell Butte: Cedar Trail
As for wildlife, I didn’t see much. There was nary squirrel to be seen. Mostly, I saw young families with babies in backpacks or sport utility strollers. This another good place to hike “alone” because it is well used and populated. I imagine it will be even more busy once the new Nature Center is open.

Powell Butte: Orchard Loop Summit and Mt. Hood

I did have some exciting bird sightings. There was a huge pair of ravens at the summit (who would not sit still for a photo) and an American Kestrel. I could tell it Kestrel by it’s reddish tail feathers and banded wings as it hovered above the summit meadow searching for prey. . . Okay, full discloser: I could tell it was bird by the fact it was flying in the air. However, the older woman surrounded by a fleet of corgis told me one could tell it was Kestrel by it’s pretty red tail feathers and the bands, or stripes, on the underside of it’s wings. I have found it is always educational to strike up conversations with older women who go birding (and let you pet their corgis).

Mt. St. Helens from Powell Butte

 

One other things to note, the Orchard Loop trail around the summit does indeed loop around an orchard and you are allowed to collect the fruit in the fall. Jam, anyone?

Only 98 hikes left!

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The Journey Begins At Oaks Bottom Hike #8

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge is hike #8 in 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington

New Year’s Day. The plan is I will be up and out on the trail by 8 a.m. The reality? I bleary-eyed me clambered out of bed about 10:30 am and finally made it out of the house about 12:30 pm. Luckily, the destination was only about 8 miles from my house.

I chose Oaks Bottom for my inaugural hike because it is close, easy, and I’ve been there a million and a half times. As I leaf through the book trying to decide which hike to do when, I find myself struggling to decide which ones I will do in winter. I want to see every hike in it’s most spectacular verdant glory, but that’s not going to happen. No way can I do all these hikes at that perfect time. So, for the time being, while the Oregon weather is being, well, Oregon-y, I am going to concentrate on the hikes I have done before.

So, my first day out, I decided to prove what professional blogger I can be by forgetting both my phone and my camera. And the book. Luckily, I have done this hike enough in the past that I didn’t need the book. Normally, I will be using only my own photography on the blog, but today I will be using some Flickr photos under Creative Commons licensing.

Now, to the hiking!

Secretary Jewell and the Northwest Youth Corps

As listed in the book, Oaks Bottom is a 2.8 mile loop hike around flood alongside the Willamette River. In the middle of the Sellwood neighborhood, the Refuge is shielded from the busy neighborhood by a 100-foot cliff. A popular birding spot in all seasons, don’t expect any alone time on this urban hike. However, if you’re nervous about hiking alone, Oaks Bottom is a great, safe spot for the lone hiker. On New Year’s day, I was hiking amid gaggles of children and dogs. While the book doesn’t list this as a crowded hike, it is. As you pull into the parking lot on Milwaukie Avenue, don’t be shocked to find it full. Don’t worry though, there is plenty of street parking across the street.

From the trailhead you immediately descend 100-ft on a well-graded paved path. After that, there is really no elevation gain or change of significance until you return up to the parking lot. So, if like me, you are significantly overweight and out of shape, this is a great hike. Very easy on the knees. Sullivan listed this hike as “Easy” and I agree. I finished the 2.8 mile loop in 57 minutes.

This photo is quite a contrast to the one where the sun looks like the moon

The best thing about this hike is the birds. Years ago, this was the first place I saw a Blue Heron. Even in winter with tons of stick wielding children charging about the birds are still there. Take your binoculars. On this trip a saw a several pairs of Buffleheads, a mated pair of Trumpeter Swans, and tons of mallards and Canadian geese. While at the bird deck, I heard reports of Kingfishers. However, when I got to the appointed spot all I discovered was a young boy standing atop a rock and holding a mossy stick. Upon sighting me the boy shouted, “Hold your ground, men!” Then held his stick in a defensive position. I did not try to take his rock.

Buffleheads

Once you come out of the woods and cross a small meadow on the edge of the lake, you’ll find yourself on the Springwater Corridor. While this paved bike path is not as pretty as the path through the refuge, there are still great birding spots and a beautiful views of the Willamette River and the murals on the Portland Memorial Funeral Home.

Now I only have 99 hikes to go. Hopefully, my next report will have some better photos.

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