Category Archives: Willamette Valley

Pigeon Butte – 05/31/2020

A cloudy weekend forecast had us looking for a hike that was not only open with the ability to properly social distance, and was also not view dependent. This led us to revisit the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge which is open except for the main entrance road, Finley Refuge Rd; was closed to vehicles. We had hiked some of the trails at the refuge in October 2017 (post), but left others unexplored. For this hike we planned to start at the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead located .9 miles along Bruce Road and hike up Pigeon Butte and then continue on a loop that had yet to be determined. We had a few possible options and were playing it by ear based on the weather and how we were feeling as we were still recovering from our first backpacking trip of the year the over Memorial Day weekend.

We had downloaded copies of the refuge map which we learned pretty quickly didn’t show everything present at the refuge. The map showed two parking areas prior to the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead so after passing two parking areas we pulled into the third small gravel lot.
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If I had been paying more attention I would have realized that this couldn’t be the right trailhead based on a marsh being on our right instead of Muddy Creek and there not being a view of Pigeon Butte from here. Maybe it was because I was distracted by a heron that flew by right as I was getting out the car which disturbed an egret on the opposite side of the road. I grabbed the camera and was trying to get to a spot where I could see the egret or where the heron might have landed. I couldn’t make anything out through the reeds in that direction but then I looked at the marsh on the side of the road we had parked on and there was another blue heron just about right in front of me.
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There was also a rough-skinned newt on the bridge and a duck leading her ducklings away through the marsh.
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It also may have had something to do with it having been just before 6 am when we’d arrived but in the excitement of seeing all the wildlife my critical thinking had no chance and we set off on the grassy path which was not leading by Cheadle Marsh but rather McFadden’s Marsh.
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We hiked through the wet grass for .6 miles before starting to think we might be on the wrong path. It was here that we crossed a drainage ditch coming from Muddy Creek and feeding into the marsh. That prompted a look at the GPS which seemed to indicate that we were in the wrong spot, but I didn’t believe it at first because we’d parked at the third parking area and the map showed that Cheadle Marsh was the third.
IMG_4726Lupine along McFadden’s Marsh

IMG_4727Small bird in the grass.

IMG_4731I am almost never sure on yellow flowers like these which one it actually is.

IMG_4733Mallard at McFadden’s Marsh.

IMG_4738Ditch draining into the marsh.

Wood duck and ducklingWood duck and duckling speeding away down the ditch.

IMG_4743Watch your step in the grass!

IMG_4747Another heron standing in the marsh.

We went another quarter mile before I was able to convince myself that we were indeed on the wrong path and that I shouldn’t have trusted the map. It’s a love hate relationship with maps. You should always have at least one map of the area with you but they aren’t always accurate so sometimes you have to use other available information to get the full picture. We walked back to the parking area and decided to just leave our car there and walk up Bruce Rd. to the correct trailhead which was a little less than a quarter mile away.
IMG_4751Walking over Muddy Creek on Bruce Road.

IMG_4759A pair of California quail and a rabbit on Bruce Road near the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead.

Now that we were at the correct trailhead we did indeed have a view of Pigeon Butte.
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We passed a gate and followed another grassy track between Cheadle Marsh on the left and the hidden (thick vegetation) Muddy Creek on the right.
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There wasn’t as much activity at the smaller Cheadle Marsh but there was a lone duck paddling about in an apparent effort to unveil breakfast.
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There were also numerous smaller birds which was a theme throughout the whole visit. Most were so busy flying from tree to tree or reed to reed that only quick glimpses could be had while hiking, but we could see that settling down in one spot to bird watch would likely be productive.
IMG_4769Red-winged blackbird that did pose for a moment.

We followed this grassy path for almost a mile as it headed north past the marsh then turned west toward Pigeon Butte.
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Just before the mile mark we came to a junction where a short grassy track headed uphill to the right just over 100 yards to the historic Cheadle Barn. Originally constructed in 1900 the barn is now on the Benton County Reister of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.
IMG_4783Note the rabbit in the foreground, this was a theme on the day.

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After visiting the barn we returned to the junction and continued what was now south on the grassy track for another 110 yards to another junction near a pond. Continuing south would lead us back to Bruce Road not far from the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead allowing for a short (around 2 mile) loop. We turned right passing by the pond on what was now a gravel track.
IMG_4808The pond and Cheadle Barn.

Pied-billed grebe familyPied-billed grebe family at the pond.

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IMG_4809Heading toward Pigeon Butte.

We followed this path to the edge of Pigeon Butte where it turned north again and climbed a bit along the butte’s shoulder.
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We turned left on another grassy track at the edge of the tree line and headed up the 543′ butte. The road was fairly busy but not with other hikers.
IMG_4814Snail on a stick.

IMG_4820Rough-skinned newt

IMG_4825Spotted towhee that wouldn’t look at us.

IMG_4836Quail on the road near the quarry.

This old road bed led past a quarry to a viewpoint on the SW side of the butte.
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With all the clouds it wasn’t the greatest view and Mary’s Peak (post), the highest point in the Coast Range, was completely hidden by those clouds.
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There was a very overgrown trail leading up toward the summit from the viewpoint.
IMG_4832The trail is on the right of the mass of vetch blooming.

IMG_4842Checkermallow

After checking for any hidden poison oak, the trail was deemed clear and we climbed to the wooded summit.
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The trees obscured any view and thoughts of looping back down along the summit ridge were abandoned when we noticed the increasing presence of poison oak so after tagging the summit we returned to the viewpoint and headed back down the way we’d come. The side trip up Pigeon Butte was just a mile round trip with 180′ of elevation gain. When we arrived back at the junction on the buttes shoulder we turned left and continued north descending past some fields .
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Amid the fields to the left we passed a shallow pond where we spotted an American Coot and her young.
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Just under a mile from the path up Pigeon Butte we came to another intersection. This one had a big sign with pointers for various refuge features.
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From here the loop hike described in the Oregonhikers Field Guide would have us turn left (west) toward the Cattail and Beaver Ponds. We wanted to revisit Cabell Marsh and the Homer Campbell Boardwalk though so we continued north passing some big lupine plants.
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When we reached Cabell Marsh a half mile from the sign we were surprised by the lack of water.
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Later after returning home a little research revealed that the marsh had been drained to try and deal with some invasive species. We turned right at the Homer Campbell Boardwalk which was still as impressive as it had been on our first visit.
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IMG_4879With so little water there wasn’t really a reason to visit the blind.

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We arrived at the parking lot on the far end of the .4 mile boardwalk to find that despite no vehicles being allowed to the trailhead it was still busy.
Three rabbits along the side of the parking areaThree rabbits at the parking area.

IMG_4884Rabbit #1

IMG_4885Rabbit #2

IMG_4886Rabbit #3

IMG_4887Finley Refuge Rd from the parking area (the dark spot in the mowed grass along the far side of the road was another rabbit).

We had left open the possibility of doing a long loop by following this road left to the Woodpecker Loop and retracing much of our 2017 hike but better judgement (and tired feet) prevailed so we returned to Cabell Marsh via a gated grassy roadbed located at the SW corner of the parking area.
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While the lack of water had an impact on the number of birds at the marsh we did manage to spot a few (and a muddy rough-skinned newt).
Band-tailed pigeonsBand-tailed pigeons

IMG_4897Killdeer

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When we arrived back at the signed juction we turned right (west) and headed for the ponds.
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The roadbed headed west for a little over half a mile, passing a nice wooden bench with a view back to Cabell Marsh, before turning south for just under a half mile to a sign for the Cattail Pond.
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IMG_4920One of several male American goldfinches we spotted along this stretch.

IMG_4926Vegetation along Gray Creek.

IMG_4929Mushrooms

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IMG_4941Roses along the roadbed.

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IMG_4951Slug

IMG_4954Yep, another rabbit.

IMG_4956We started to think this rabbit wasn’t going to hop into the brush like all the others had.

IMG_4957Sign for the Cattail Pond.

A left turn here was one option for the loop but we wanted to see the Beaver Pond so we stayed on the roadbed for just a little longer to a sign for the Beaver Pond.
IMG_4959Cattail Pond from the roadbed.

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Common YellowthroatCommon yellowthroat

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We turned left onto a grassy track at the Beaver Pond sign and were soon passing by the pond.
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At the far end of the pond we found ourselves on an actual trail.
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The trail led us around the forested base of Maple Knoll a quarter of a mile to an unsigned junction.
IMG_4981The junction.

Here the maps failed us for a second time. We had expected to come to a junction with the path that had passed by the Cattail Pond at which point we would turn right and head back out to Bruce Road. The maps we had showed no other junctions so we turned right at this junction and followed it along the base of Maple Knoll.
IMG_4982Forest on Maple Knoll’s hillside.

IMG_4983Pinesap

The track we were on was sticking to Maple Knoll though and as it wrapped around the base we were quickly heading west again instead of due south to Bruce Road. After .4 miles we decided we had been fooled again and turned around. The detour hadn’t been a total waste as we got to see a hawk fly over and a group of ground squirrels plotting something nefarious from a stump.
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IMG_5000It’s the one peaking out from behind the stump that had us the most concerned.

When we got back to the unsigned junction we turned right and in 175′ came to a second unsigned junction. We turned right (south) here and this time it was nearly a straight shot along a roadbed for a half mile to Bruce Road and the Beaver and Cattail Ponds Trailhead.
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IMG_5007Northern flicker

IMG_5011Sparrow

It was a mile road walk back to the Cheadle Marsh Trailhead (one and a quarter back to where we had parked). After the 4 mile paved road walk the weekend before (post) this one gravel wasn’t too bad. There were nice views of Pigeon Butte and quite a few flowers and birds to look at. We were especially excited to see a couple of yellow headed blackbirds, a bird we’d only seen one other time at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (post).
IMG_5018Pigeon Butte

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IMG_5028Red-winged blackbird

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IMG_5066Pollinators in a poppy.

IMG_5070Turkey vulture

IMG_5074Douglas spirea

IMG_5076Grand collomia

Our excursion (with the two accidental out and backs came in at 11.8 miles so we were more than happy that we hadn’t tried to do the longer loop along Finley Refuge Rd. For a cloudy day this was a great hike with a lot of wildlife sightings and a few flowers. The paths were wide enough that the poison oak was rarely an issue (there was a lot of it starting on the path along the base of Maple Knoll that we had mistakenly taken). The wide paths also would have been useful for social distancing, but we only passed one other hiker all day even though there were a lot of cars parked and driving along Bruce Road.

As we were preparing to leave I mentioned that the only bummer was having not gotten a good look at the egret that morning. When we started to drive across the marsh on Bruce Road I looked over to see if there might be an egret there now and sure enough there was.
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We are looking forward to some of the higher country opening up and melting out so that we can take some poison oak free hikes. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pigeon Butte

Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge – 05/03/2020

Our “hiking season” has typically coincided with the start of May. This has been a unique year and the current situation with COVID-19 meant that if we were going to stick with our normal starting date we needed to scrap our plans (at least for the first part of our season) and find hikes that are open, nearby, and allow us to recreate responsibly. For our April outing that had meant a long walk around Salem to visit various parks (post). To officially kick off our 2020 season though we opted for a more traditional hike.

Despite living nearby, it had been nearly 10 years since we had done our one and only hike at Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge. The previous visit was our second hike in July of 2010 which is the year in which we started to get serious about hiking. To change things up from our first visit we chose to start our hike from the Smithfield Road Trailhead (we had started our 2010 from the Baskett Butte Trailhead). Please note that the Smithfield Road Trailhead is closed from October 1 – March 31 to protect wintering wildlife.
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We set off straight ahead from the trailhead and soon were passing Morgan Lake. A couple of heavy rain showers had passed over between 5 and 6:30am but there was some encouraging blue sky overhead as we passed the lake.
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There wasn’t a lot of activity on the lake this morning, just a few mallards, but there were plenty of other birds singing and flying between the trees along the lake, most of which wouldn’t sit still long enough to be photographed.
IMG_2909Mallards

IMG_2905Crow

IMG_2914Sparrow

IMG_2916Guessing some sort of warbler

IMG_2919California quail scattering

After passing Moran Lake the trail headed toward a saddle between two hills. Heather noticed something up on the hillside to our left.
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The camera confirmed it to be a pair of elk.
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She had actually pointed out an area in some grass just a bit earlier that appeared to have been used as beds but we weren’t really expecting to see elk on this hike.

The grassy path that we were on seemed to be a popular breakfast spot for the wildlife. We spotted a couple of rabbits, several quail, and many small birds.
IMG_2941Rabbit with sparrows behind.

IMG_2945Rabbit with a quail behind.

Golden-crowned sparrowsGolden-crowned sparrows

IMG_2955Most of the rabbits we see run off right away but this little guy was pretty brave.

A little before reaching the saddle (a little over 1 1/4 miles from the trailhead) the trail made a nearly 180 degree turn turning from the grassy track to a dirt path that climbed along a wooded hillside. Near the turn we started seeing a few wildflowers.
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Meadow checker-mallowMeadow checker-mallow

IMG_2961Tough-leaved iris

IMG_2969Columbine

IMG_2974Morgan Lake from the trail.

IMG_2975Heading into the woods.

We met another trail user in the woods when we spotted a rough skinned newt.
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IMG_2981Spotted towhee

I had just mentioned to Heather to be on the lookout for Tolmie’s mariposa lilies when we noticed a patch of them on the hillside.
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They were a little watered down but still pretty.
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We came to a signed junction 1.6 miles from the trailhead. A right turn here would keep us on the 3 mile Moffiti Marsh – Morgan Lake Loop while a left turn would lead us .2 miles to the start of another loop and eventually a viewpoint atop Baskett Butte. We went left and headed uphill to a meadow in a saddle.
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In the meadow were a few more types of flowers including lupine and plectritis.
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We were busy looking at the flowers and nearly missed a pair of deer passing through the meadow ahead of us.
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At the far end of the meadow the trail split. Here we turned right and entered a denser wood with lots of underbrush and a few more newts.
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IMG_3041Old tree trunk

IMG_3042Ferns

IMG_3033Woodland stars

Thin-leaf peaThin-leaf pea (and a spider behind the blossoms)

IMG_3043Fringecup

IMG_3030Given their size we believe this was proper social distancing for rough-skinned newts.

The trail left the woods after four tenths of a mile and entered another meadow.
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We spotted several additional types of wildflowers in this meadow all while being serenaded by a western meadowlark.
IMG_3053Western meadowlark

Tomcat cloverTomcat clover

IMG_3056Giant blue-eyed Mary

IMG_3057A checker-mallow surrounded by pale flax

IMG_3059Camas

A tenth of a mile later we arrived at a junction near a signboard.
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The loop continued to the left but we headed right to visit the viewpoint on Baskett Butte and to enjoy the display of wildflowers that lined this stretch of trail.
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IMG_3065Plectritis

Castilleja levisecta - Golden PaintbrushCastilleja levisecta – Golden Paintbrush which historically occurred in the grasslands and prairies of the Willamette Valley. The species had been extirpated from the valley with the last sighting in Oregon occurring in Linn County in 1938. It was reintroduced to various areas starting in 2010 including here at Baskett Slough. In the wetter areas it failed to take but the plant has managed to take hold on Baskett Butte.

There appeared to be at least a couple of different flowers from the mallow family present.
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IMG_3079Larkspur

IMG_3089Biscuitroot

IMG_3083The white patch in the foreground is coastal manroot while the red patch uphill is columbine.

IMG_3091Some of the mass of columbine.

IMG_3104Tolmie’s mariposa lilies

We took a break at the viewpoint listening to ducks and geese in the wetland below.
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Before heading back to the loop we followed a small path east (left) from the viewpoint. The path appeared to go all the way down to one of the refuge roads but it would have taken us out of the way (and left us with even more of a climb back up) so after about 450 feet we turned around. In that little distance though we spotted two more flower types that we hadn’t noticed yet.
IMG_3118Meadow death camas

IMG_3120Oregon sunshine

There was also another nice patch of columbine mixed with some cow parsnip.
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We headed down from Baskett Butte to the junction where we found a swallow sitting on the signboard.
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We turned right back onto the loop and descended for a tenth of a mile to another junction spotting yet another couple of different flowers along the way.

Hairy vetchHairy vetch

IMG_3153Purple sanicle

There was another signboard at this junction where we turned left (the right hand trail led down to the Baskett Butte Trailhead.
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We followed this path three tenths of a mile to the junction where we had started the loop and turned right passing back through the meadow where we’d seen the deer.
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IMG_3162Yarrow starting to bloom.

We didn’t see the deer this time but we did spot the red head of a house finch.
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After passing back through the meadow we came to the signed junction for the Moffiti Marsh – Morgan Lake Loop and veered left down a grassy track.
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There were a few nice flowers along here, nothing that we hadn’t seen already during the hike though. We did however spot some new widlife.
IMG_3175A pair of American goldfinches

IMG_3184Silvery blue butterfly

IMG_3194Common yellowthroat

The grass gave way to gravel as we approached Moffiti Marsh. This time of year the marsh has a pretty good amount of water and judging by the number of ducks, swallows and other birds in the area is much preferred over Morgan Lake by those with feathers. There was also a loud chorus of frogs signing along this path.
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IMG_3197Moffiti Marsh

IMG_3200Great blue heron flying over

IMG_3214Ducks on the water and swallows in the air.

IMG_3215Northern shoveler on the left.

IMG_3219A couple different types of ducks.

The gravel path ended at a gate along Smithfield Road where we turned right on another grassy track.
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It was just a little under a quarter mile back to the trailhead which gave us plenty of time to spot more flowers and wildlife.
IMG_3222Western bluebird

IMG_3229Female western bluebird gathering items for a nest.

IMG_3230Wild rose

IMG_3235Canada geese flying over.

IMG_3236Two pairs of American goldfinches.

IMG_3242Cinnamon teal

IMG_3248Bald eagle flying overhead

IMG_3250Red-winged blackbird

Our route on this day covered a similar area as that of our first visit although we started at a different trailhead and wound up being just a tad under 5 miles. That is where the similarities ended. Our photo album from 2010 consists of a total of 10 photos. There are a few deer, a dragon fly, and a couple of photos from the viewpoint atop Baskett Butte. The album for this hike ended up having 208 photos. The number of different flowers and types of wildlife that we were lucky enough to see exceeded our expectations. We were also lucky enough to escape all but a brief sprinkle of rain.

One caution for the area is that there is a decent amount of poison oak off trail which at this time of year was also looking rather nice even though we wanted nothing to do with it.
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Even though we were only doing this hike due to COVID-19 it wound up being a wonderful morning and a great start to what looks to be a really different hiking season.
IMG_3243Moffiti Marsh

Happy (socially distanced) Trails!

Flickr: Baskett Slough

Salem Parks – 4/26/2020

With COVID-19 still affecting every day life we decided to get a little creative with our April hike. We wanted to get outside and do our best to see some of the typical Spring sights that we have been missing while still following responsible stay-at-home guidelines. Our solution was to set off on an urban hike from our house to visit a number of area parks and natural areas. We grabbed our smallest day packs and some face masks (just in case) and headed out our front door.
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Living in the hills of West Salem we are often greeted with blue sky when the city below is shrouded in fog and this was one of those mornings.
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In addition to a few less mornings of fog, living up in the hills also provides us views of several Cascade mountains from various spots in the neighborhood. At one intersection we always look for Mt. Jefferson (Jeffry as we refer to the mountain). It’s become a kind of running joke that even if it’s pouring rain one of us will ask if Jeffry is visible. We were lucky enough this morning to be able to make out the mountain through a thin layer of fog.
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Our hope for the outing was to spot some wildlife and enjoy some flowers. Being an urban hike through neighborhoods there were plenty of flowers to see in different yards but what we were really looking for were the ones growing wild.

The first park that we passed was 5.5 acre Eola Ridge Park. The neighborhood park is thin on development other than some picnic tables and short paved path between Eola Dr. and Dan Ave NW. Wetlands on the western end of the park attract birds and other wildlife.
IMG_2631Wetlands near Eola Ridge Park

IMG_2633Red-winged blackbird

IMG_2635Madrone in Eola Ridge Park

Continuing east on Eola Dr the next natural area we came to was the Salem Audubon Nature Reserve. This seven acre reserve has a few trails and interpretive signs.
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We drive by the reserve daily and often see volunteers working on the area and their dedication showed as we made our way through the area.
IMG_2643Bleeding heart and miners lettuce around a small bench.

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IMG_2650Possibly forget-me-nots.

IMG_2653Fringecup

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IMG_2655Giant white wakerobbin

IMG_2657Coastal manroot and annual honesty

IMG_2659Blue-bells

IMG_2661Plummed solomon’s seal

IMG_2664I think this is a checker-mallow but I’m never sure between the checker-mallows and checkerblooms.

After leaving the Audubon Nature Reserve we made our way down to Edgwater Street where we turned left eventually passing the old West Salem City Hall.
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From 1913 to 1949, when it merged with the city of Salem, West Salem was it’s own incorporated city. The old city hall building was opened in 1935 and functioned as city hall until the merger.

We could have followed Edgwater east to Wallace Road (Highway 221) and from that intersection crossed the Willamette River on the Center Street Bridge, but that is a noisy walk along the busy Highway 22 so instead we opted for a slightly longer route to the bicycle and pedestrian only Union Street Bridge. To reach the Union Street Bridge we wound through some neighborhoods eventually making our way to Wallace Road on Taggert Drive and then heading south along Wallace to the now paved former rail line leading to the bridge.
IMG_2672 The city has put up a number of these direction pointers all over Salem which are actually really helpful.

We’d heard a lot of birds in the nature reserve but couldn’t see most of them in the woods there but in the neighborhoods they were easier to spot.
IMG_2667Scrub jay

IMG_2668Starlings

IMG_2673Spotted Towhee

The morning fog was burning off quickly save for a little lingering over the Willamette here and there as we approached the bridge.
IMG_2674Path leading to the Union Street Bridge

This bridge showed up in one of our other hikes back in 2018 when we toured Wallace Marine, Riverfront, and Minto-Brown Island Parks (post). The bridge connects Wallace Marine and Riverfront Parks by spanning the Willamette River and is always a good place from which to spot ducks and geese.
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IMG_2676Family of geese

IMG_2682A very light colored mallard

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As we reached the eastern end of the bridge near Riverfront Park we started to see a lot of squirrels.
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IMG_2687Two squirrels on a tree.

IMG_2693This squirrels was vigoursly attacking this bush.

As we neared the Willamette Queen Heather spotted a rabbit in the grass.
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There were a few people out and about, some of which were wearing masks.
IMG_2692 (We hope this mask was no longer usable because we’d hate to see them wasted, but it did make us chuckle.)

Since we covered Riverfront Park during our 2018 hike we walked through the park and crossed into downtown at State and Front Streets. We then walked a block down State Street to Commercial Street where we turned right (south) and passed the Salem Convention Center on the way to The Mirror Pond in front of the Salem City Hall.
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IMG_2698Pringle Creek from Commercial Street with City Hall in the distance.

IMG_2699The Mirror Pond

We’d seen blue herons in the water here (in addition to the statute of one that is in the pond) but as we neared the pond today it was two sets of eyes that caught my attention. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing until one set disappeared and then I realized they were frogs.
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IMG_2705The heron statue

IMG_2707Mallards

We passed The Mirror Pond and followed a path beneath Liberty Street and over Pringle Creek.
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We then made our way to High Street crossing it in front of the SAIF building where another small green space and water feature tends to attract ducks.
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We passed through the green space and then turned right on Church Street (south again). We crossed over Pringle Creek again and took a quick detour down to the George Arthur Powell Meditation Garden.
IMG_2718Pringle Creek at Church Street.

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The small garden had a small bench and lots of flowers.
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On the opposite side of Church Street is Pringle Park and the Pringle Community Hall. When we both worked near the hospital we would often walk through this park during lunches.
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We skipped Pringle Park today though and continued south on Church Street toward Bush’s Pasture Park.
IMG_2725 Passing the Let’s All Play Park. part of the Salem Hospital Campus on Church Street.

IMG_2726Sign at Bush Park

IMG_2728Bush House Museum

At 90.5 acres Bush’s Pasture Park is one of the larger parks in Salem and may provide the most diverse set of activites. Along with the Bush House Musuem and Rose Garden there are picnic areas, playgrounds, tennis courts, ball fields, woods, and open swaths of grass. There is also a soap box derby track and some of Willamette University’s sports fields.
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Our main motivation for getting to Bush Park though was to check out the camas bloom. For years I’d been wanting to see the camas bloom at Bush Park up close instead of from the car while driving by on Mission Street. COVID-19 had at least provided the right situation to prompt us to finally get here. We made our way to the NE end of the park and turned into the woods at the interpretive signs for the camas.
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IMG_2774A white camas

While camas was the predominate flower there were a few others present.
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IMG_2776Western buttercups

IMG_2765Buscuitroot

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We emerged from the woods near the SE end of the park at a large open field.
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IMG_2778Ground squirrel

We headed SW along the field to a newer flower garden along a hillside.
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After climbing the hill we passed through a grassy picnic area (the tables weren’t out due to COVID-19) and exited the park at its SW corner.
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Our plan from here was not very well thought out. The rough plan was to make our way up to Fairmount Park in the foothills of South Salem. We hadn’t laid out a route though so after recrossing Liberty and Commercial Streets we simply zigzaged our way through neighborhoods up to the park. On on occassion we had to back track when the street we had chosen had no outlets.
IMG_2792Neat old carraige in a yard.

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After wandering for a little over a mile we finally arrived at Fairmount Park.
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This neighborhood park is just under 17 acres with a picnic shelter, playground, a half-court basketball hoop and is next to the Fairmount Reservoir.
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Our reason for coming here though was the Fairmount Park Trail which we could theoretically follow down to the River Road entrance to Minto-Brown Island Park.
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I said we could theoretically follow the trail down becuase we knew from other people that it was possible, but we had never tried it and we quickly discovered that there were a number of spur trails, none of which were marked to let us know if we were following the correct one. The muddy sufrace and presence of poison oak along the trail made it a bit more of an adventure than anywhere else we’d been in the morning.
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We had been behind a couple and their dog but lost them when we stopped for a quick break at one of the unmarked intersections. We decided that we would simply choose downhill trails to the right whenever possible knowing that River Road was in that general direction. This worked fine for the first three tenths of a mile or so but just after spotting River Road the trail we were on began deteriorating quickly on the steep hillside.
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We weren’t all that high up, but the poison oak had become much more abundant so we didn’t want to get off the trail at all. Some fancy footwork and a lot of luck at the bottom got us onto the shoulder of River Road less than a quarter mile NE of the entrance to Minto-Brown. As we arrived at the entrance we spotted the couple that we had briefly followed on the Fairmount Trail approaching form the opposite direction. Clearly they had known a safer route down than we had and must have kept left at one of the junctions where we had gone right.
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At this point we were approximately 8.5 miles into our hike and given that most of it had been paved our feet were starting to feel it so we took the most direct route through Minto-Brown to the Peter Courtney Bridge which brought us back to Riverfront Park. We did of course stop for birds and flowers along the way.
IMG_2805Another scrub jay

IMG_2806We risked the caution for mud and high water since this was the shortest way to the bridge.

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IMG_2812The high water wasn’t an issue, but it was really muddy around that puddle.

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IMG_2820I mistook this small bird for a hummingbird but after looking at the photo it might just be a baby?

IMG_2823We tried to take our first sit down break of the day here but the bench was still wet from the morning. On to Riverfront it is.

IMG_2824Riverfront Park and the Peter Courtney Bridge in the distance. (We had found a dry bench by this time, thank you Gallagher Fitness Resources)

IMG_2825Looking across a field to West Salem and its green water tower in the hills.

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IMG_2835Crossing the Peter Courtney Bridge.

We then headed back through Riverfront Park to the Union Street Bridge and took a slightly modified route back to the Audubon Nature Reserve.
IMG_2836Willamette River from the Union Street Bridge

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Having taken the Hillside Trail that morning we followed the Upper Trail uphill through the reserve.
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IMG_2860Another checker-mallow(or checkerbloom)

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IMG_2863Haven’t figured this one out yet.

One of the things that we look forward to every year is the return of osprey to a nesting platform at the reserve. The platform had been replaced earlier this year and Heather had noticed some new sticks showing up recently. We hadn’t noticed any activity earlier when we passed by but now there were osprey flying around overhead.
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We watched as one landed with another stick for the nest. It was soon followed by a second.
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Hopefully there will be young osprey to watch later this year.

After watching the osprey we trudged uphill (and down and back up) past Eola Ridge Park and back into our neighborhood. By this point we were both dealing with blisters and generally sore feet. Jeffry was still visible, although the positioning of the Sun made it difficult to see. In addition we were able to see both Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams briefly as we limped our way back to our house.
IMG_2878Mt. Hood beyond the green water tower.

IMG_2882Mt. Adams through a little haze.

I had used Google to map out a potential route a week before our outing and it had led me to believe that it would be around 13 miles to hit these different parks. Our Garmin 62s and watch had us in the 15 mile range though which made us feel a little better about how we were feeling at the end.

As long as things stay locked down we’re planning on heading out from home to check out what’s close by (definitely not 15 miles worth though). Hopefully everyone reading this has stayed healthy and things will start getting back to normal sooner rather than later. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Salem Parks Tour

Spencer Butte, Shotgun Creek, and Horse Rock Ridge – 2/9/2020

We jumped on a favorable forecast and headed for Eugene for our February outing. On our itinerary was a trio of stops that would allow us to check two more of Sullivan’s featured hikes off our to-do list. The three stops were short enough that even with doing them all the total mileage would remain under 10 miles.

We chose to start off with Spencer Butte (Hike #74 in the 5th edition of “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Central Oregon Cascades”). We started here in hopes to avoid crowds as we’d read that this was a popular hike. We started at the Spencer Butte Trailhead which provides the shortest routes up to the viewpoint atop Spencer Butte.
Spencer Butte Trailhead

Other trailheads and longer hikes are possible using Eugene’s Ridgeline Trail System but we stuck to Sullivan’s described hike this time.
Map for the Ridgeline Trail System

At a fork at the top of some stairs leading uphill from the trailhead we veered left following a sign for the “West (Difficult) Route to Spencer Butte Summit”.
Spencer Butte Summit West Route

This route gained nearly 800′ in less than 3/4 of a mile climbing steeply over exposed rocks and mud. There was a fair amount of fog in the forest which was helping to keep things nice and damp which made the rocks a little slick.
Spencer Butte Summit West Route

Spencer Butte Summit West Route

As we neared the summit we began to break out of the thicker fog and gain some views. A mass of clouds covered the lowlands to the West.
Cloudy, foggy view from Spencer Butte

The trail left the trees a little below the summit and a confusion of trails headed up into the rocks. To fine the recommended route keep left on the main trail to a big switchback in the trees. We turned up a bit early on one of the other, steeper trails which eventually joined the better route above the switchback.
Looking up toward Spencer Butte's summit ridge

A word of warning for this hike (in addition to it being steep) is that there is a fair amount of poison oak in the exposed grassy areas and the butte is home to some rattlesnakes. It was way too cold to be worried about any snakes on this visit but apparently in warmer weather they could be about.

At an elevation just over 2000′ the summit was above most of the clouds although there was some thin fog lifting from the thicker clouds below impacting the views a bit.
Spencer Butte's summitSpencer Butte’s summit high point.

View from Spencer ButteView north from the high point towards Mary’s Peak (post) which was above the clouds.

There is said to be a nice view of the Three Sisters from the summit, but by avoiding the crowds (we hadn’t seen another hiker yet) we were staring directly at the rising Sun which effectively stymied any hopes of a mountain view.
View east from Spencer Butte

The lack of a view was partially mitigated by a really good “glory” or Brocken spectre which is the magnified shadow of an observer cast upon clouds opposite the Sun’s direction surrounded by a rainbow-like halo.

After a short rest we started getting chilly so we began our descent. We headed down a path on the east side of the butte.
Descending Spencer Butte

This longer route was a little less steep and definitely an easier descent than trying to go down the West Route would have been. After a series of stone steps the trail reentered the foggy forest.
Fog in the forest at Spencer Butte

Descending Spencer Butte

A little over 3/4 of a mile from the summit we came to a junction with the Spencer Butte Tie Trail which connects the loop to the Ridgeline Trail.
Trail junction at Spencer Butte

We stayed right here to complete the loop back to the trailhead passing a grassy picnic area near the end.
Picnic tables near the Spencer Butte Trailhead

We passed quite a few more hikers on the way back to the trailhead. Given that we were back at the car by 8:35am we could only imagine how crowded the summit would be later, so even though the view could have been better we were happy with our choice to start here.

Our next stop was at the Shotgun Creek Recreation Site. There is a $3 fee listed on the BLM website but that appears to only be enforced during busier months although be prepared to pay the fee at any time. We began the hike from the Shotgun Creek Trailhead and immediately started up a trail next to the signboard with a pointer for the Tiki Trail.
Tikit Trail

Not far up this trail we spotted our first wildflower of the year, some little snow queen.
Snow queen

We also quickly realized that we were going the wrong way (at least for the hike Sullivan describes in Hike #76 of the 5th edition. We had only gone about a tenth of a mile so we turned around and returned to the trailhead where we crossed the parking lot and took a paved path past the recreation sites amenities.
Shotgun Creek Recreation Area

We followed paved paths to Shotgun Creek and then along the creek to the signed Upper Shotgun Trail.
Shotgun Creek

Upper Shotgun Trail

This trail followed along the creek for a mile before turning into the forest to loop back toward the recreation site.
Shotgun Creek

Upper Shotgun Trail

We spotted our second variety of wildflower as we began to loop back around, a lone skunk cabbage near a small seasonal stream.
Skunk cabbage in the forest

Skunk cabbage

After a little over 2 miles on the Upper Shotgun Trail we came to a 4-way junction.
Upper Shotgun Trail junction with the Tiki and Drury Trails

The trails straight ahead and to the right were labeled for the Tiki Trail with the right hand trail being the one that we had started out on earlier which would have allowed for a short loop of approximately 2.5 miles. Sullivan’s description of the hike would have had us go straight here on the Tiki Trail loop resulting in a nearly 3.5 mile loop. This time we decided not to stick to Sullivan’s hike and instead turned left past a pointer for the Drury Trail.
Drury Trail

This route was the suggested route in the Oregonhikers.org Field Guide. This trail climbed nearly 500′ over the next mile as it passed through the forest. The climb provided no views but simply began dropping back down after reaching its high point near a BLM road. The second mile of the trail approached a clear cut where there were views out of the forest but the view consisted of clear cut scars which are frankly just depressing to look at. That being said along the 2 mile Drury Trail there were a few nice sights include some older trees and our first yellow violet of the year bringing our wildflower variety county up to three.
Drury Trail

Big tree along the Drury TrailAn older tree along the trail.

Tree mushroomsMushrooms on a trunk near the clear cut view.

Wood violet along the Drury TrailViolet

When we arrived back at the Tiki Trail we turned left.
Drury Trail junction with the Tiki Trail

Initially we were headed back toward the clear cuts but then the trail did a 180 degree turn heading back toward the trailhead. Shortly before arriving back at the recreation site we again had a look at Shotgun Creek.
Shotgun Creek

The loop that we did came in at 5 miles. We were just under 7 miles for the day with one stop to go, Horse Rock Ridge. The Horse Rock Ridge Trailhead was only about 6 miles away but 1400′ higher in elevation than Shotgun Creek. We followed the windy narrow paved roads to find that while we’d seen no other hikers at Shotgun Creek that was not going to be the case here. There were a number of cars here so we parked on the side of the road at a pullout and walked up to the start of the trail behind some boulders and a wire fence.
Horse Rock Ridge Trailhead

The first part of the trail follows an old roadbed which is banned to OHVs and other motorized vehicles. The boulders, fence, and logs laying across the old road are unfortunately necessary because despite having miles of OHV friendly roads and trails in the area some of those folks just can’t respect the fragile habitats set aside for preservation such as Horse Rock Ridge.
Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Horse Rock Ridge Trail

After .7 miles the trail entered the first of a series of meadows along the ridge where a reportedly impressive display of late Spring wildflowers occurs in May and June. Being February we were treated to frost :).
Frosty meadow along the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Frosty meadow

Steam rose from the wet hillsides as we followed the trail through the meadows past exposed basalt formations.
View from the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Horse Rock Ridge Trail

About halfway through the meadows the trail passed to the north of a large rock outcrop. It had to drop beneath the rocks which proved to be the trickiest part of this hike because the outcrop shielded the north facing side from the Sun leaving the rocks icy and slick.
Frost on the backside of a rock formation along the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Horse Rock Ridge Trail

I picked on the OHV folks earlier but they aren’t the only ones that can cause damage. Despite signs at the trailhead to remain on the trail to not damage the vegetation it was obvious many “hikers” had been walking on the grass and other vegetation, especially along this section. In a case like this if the condition of the trail is such that you feel it is not safe or possible to use it then it probably should be your turn around point. We took an inventory of the trail and decided that there were enough exposed footholds that we could carefully navigate the icy conditions and continued.
Horse Rock Ridge TrailHeather emerging from behind the outcrop.

More sunny meadows awaited (as did another little climb) and we passed a small pool of water and the only wildflowers we would see here today on some manzanita.
Small pool along the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Manzanita

Near the top of the meadows the trail approached a basalt dike which we are taking to be Horse Rock although we couldn’t confirm that.
Horse Rock Ridge Trail

From this area the view extended to the snowy Cascade Mountains although the clouds that had been covering the valleys from Spencer Butte had lifted and moved east enough to now be interfering a bit with those views. We still managed to get nice looks at Mt. Jefferson and North & Middle Sister.
View from the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Mt. Jefferson

North and Middle Sister from the Horse Rock Ridge Trail

Three Fingered Jack was also somewhat visible above the clouds.
Three Fingered Jack

At the end of the dike was a rock overhang.
Small overhang at the end of Horse Rock

The trail continued on into the trees ending near some towers. We went ahead and followed it finding a reminder that despite the sunny green hillsides it was still Winter for a bit longer.
A little snow near the top of Horse Rock Ridge

A little snow near the top of Horse Rock Ridge

We returned the way we’d come ending this hike just under 3 miles giving us 9.8 total miles for the day. While there were quite a few hikers on Horse Rock Ridge it didn’t seem like as many as the cars at the trailhead suggested. All three of the hikes were relatively short but Spencer Butte was not an “easy” hike. The slick rocks on Horse Rock Ridge made that a little tricky although we saw a child around six and another hiker that was easily in their 80’s on the other side of that tricky section. For kids though the Shotgun Creek Recreation Area would probably be the best with the creek and other amenities. We will probably look at getting to Horse Rock Ridge during wildflower season somewhere down the line, but for now it’s another hike checked off our to-do list and we couldn’t have really asked for a much nicer day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Spencer Butte, Shotgun Creek, and Horse Rock Ridge

Maple Trail (Forest Park) and Tilikum Crossing – 12/14/2019

For our final outing of 2019 we combined a little hiking with a bit of Christmas Shopping by heading up to Portland for the day. Our plan was to do a pair of Sullivan’s featured hikes before visiting the Portland Saturday Market.

We started our morning at the 5,200 acre Forest Park for a 7.5 mile lollipop hike using the Maple and Wildwood Trails. Our hike started at the Lower Saltzman Road Trailhead

We were the second car at the small parking area where we set off past the green gate blocking further access to Saltzman Road.
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We followed the closed road for .4 miles to a junction where the Maple Trail crossed the road. Here we turned left onto that trail.
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We followed this trail for a mile and a half, ignoring side trails, as we climbed gradually to Leif Erikson Drive. It was a cloudy morning and the forest was damp but it wasn’t raining which made for a pleasant walk amid the trees.
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IMG_1975Bridge over a small stream.

IMG_1977Heading into a little bit of fog.

IMG_1981Too cloudy for any real views.

IMG_1983Leif Erikson Road.

We crossed the closed road and continued on the Maple Trail for another .4 miles to a fork where we veered right at a pointer for the Wildwood Trail.
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A short climb brought us to the Wildwood Trail where we turned right and headed up some wooden steps.
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This was our third time on the 30 mile long Wildwood Trail (11/18, 5/18) and we followed it for 3.2 miles through a variety of scenery.
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Along the way we crossed Saltzman Road.
IMG_2018Saltzman Road at the 2.5 mile mark of the 3.2 mile stretch.

Approximately .7 miles after crossing Saltzman Road we turned right onto signed Firelane 5.
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This windy track was rutted by bike tires as it made its way downhill to Leif Erikson Drive after about half a mile.
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IMG_2025Aproaching Leif Erikson Drive.

We turned right onto Leif Erikson for .2 miles to a curve with a grassy flat on the left with a sign for the Maple Trail.
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We followed the Maple Trail for 1.2 miles back to Saltzman Road where we turned left and hiked the .4 miles back to the trailhead. The forest along this section of the Maple Trail was nice and on a clearer day there may have been a few views but we settled for the trees and some passing geese.
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The trailhead was full when we got back so we quickly changed our shoes and opened up a spot for another trail user. We headed for downtown Portland for our next stop at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. We actually parked at a lot on the corner of 4th and Harvey Milk St. and walked 3+ blocks to the park.
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The Saturday Market was just a bit to the left but we went right heading for the Morrison Bridge and planning on hitting the market at the end of our loop.
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There were almost as many geese as people in this section of the park.
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We followed the Waterfront Park Trail along the Willamette River under the Morrison Bridge and toward the Hawthorne Bridge.
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IMG_2056Hawthorn Bridge

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After about three quarters of a mile we passed through the South Waterfront Park Garden.
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This was quickly followed by Poet’s Beach under the Marquam Bridge.
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After passing under the Marquam Bridge we had a good look at OMSI and the USS Blueback Submarine on the far side of the Willamette and the OHSU Aerial Tram on our side of the river on Marquam Hill.
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There was also an interesting piece of art near the Tilikum Crossing Bridge where we would be heading across the river.
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The bridge was opened in September 2015 and is restricted to transit, pedestrian, and cyclist use only.
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IMG_2083Marquam Bridge from Tilikum Crossing.

After crossing the river we turned left towards OMSI on the Eastbank Esplanade.
IMG_2085Tilikum Crossing from the esplanade.

We followed the Eastbank Esplanade for a total of 1.75 miles to the Steele Bridge. The scenery along this stretch was a bit more industrial with sections not too far from the Interstate, but there were still some interesting and pretty sights along the way.
IMG_2086Behind OMSI

IMG_2090More geese.

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IMG_2094Cormorants

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We recrossed the Willamette on the Steele Bridge arriving back at Waterfront Park near the Japanese American Historical Plaza and the Portland Saturday Market.
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We wound our way through the market visiting all the booths before returning to our car and heading home. We did manage to find a couple of Christmas gifts so it had not only been a fun day hiking but it had been productive as well. We walked about 5 miles between the loop around the Willamette and the market which was just about as much as our feet could handle for the day.

That’s it for us as far as hikes go for 2019, we hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (and Happy Trails too!)

Flickr: Maple Trail and Tilikum Crossing

Mount Pisgah – 10/05/2019

We were going to be in Eugene for a joint celebration birthday celebration for our Son and Heather’s Dad at 1pm so if we were going to sneak a hike in it needed to be one close enough to Eugene to make it to the restaurant in time. It seemed like the perfect time to hike at Mt. Pisgah which is located SE of Eugene and just minutes from its downtown. The area is home to Buford Park and the Mount Pisgah Arboretum and offers many miles of trails.

We had been on some of these trails in December 2013 when we were participating in the Frozen Trail Fest 15k. That day had lived up to the race’s name, but now we were heading back to officially check off another of Sullivan’s Featured Hikes.
02 The Trail BeginsNorth Trailhead in 2013.

Unlike the Frozen Trail Fest the forecast for our hike was for patchy fog but otherwise sunny conditions with a high in the mid 60’s. During our drive we passed through several of the foggy patches but at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum parking lot the conditions were good.
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There is a $4/day parking fee which can be paid online or at a kiosk at the trailhead.
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We didn’t have a set route planned out. Sullivan suggests a 3 mile round trip to the 1529′ summit of Mount Pisgah and/or a 1.7 mile loop in the arboretum. We were looking for something closer to 10 miles. With reportedly over 30 miles of trail in the area, getting in 10 miles wouldn’t be a problem, it was just a matter of coming up with a route that included both the summit and the arboretum. We formulated a plan at the large map on the trailhead signboard.
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The trails in Buford Park are number with the main trails being 1-7 and with connector trails being a combination of the numbers of the main trails on either end of the connector. For instance we started our hike on Trail 17 which connects trails 1 & 7.
IMG_0182Trail 17 to the left with Trail 1 straight ahead.

The route we decided on included trails 17, 7, 3(with an out and back on 30), 4, 14, 1, 2, 24, 4 again, back to 2, 6(briefly), 3, and 5 which would bring us back to the arboretum where we would then decided which trails to take there among the various possible loops. The trails were all well marked so following the route was no problem.

Trail 17 climbed uphill for approximately half a mile to Trail 7. Like much of the park it passed through sections of forest and open oak woodlands.
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At the junction we turned left opting for a longer trek to the summit.IMG_0192

We now headed back downhill on Trail 7 to the North Trailhead where we had started the Frozen Trail Fest race.
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IMG_0196Some of the patchy fog in the valley over Eugene.

IMG_0195Swing Hill

IMG_0205Deer high up on the side of Swing Hill.

IMG_0208Geese flying in front of the fog.

At the North Trailhead we followed a pointer for Trail 3.
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Trail 3 wrapped around the base of Swing Hill to its northern side where it started to climb in earnest up to a saddle.
IMG_0214There were a lot of wet spider webs shining in the brush.

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IMG_0224The north side of Swing Hill was very forested.

IMG_0228Saddle below Swing Hill

At the saddle we turned right on the .1 mile Trail 30 which ended at a bench and swing atop Swing Hill.
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IMG_0232View from Swing Hill

We returned to the Saddle and continued on Trail 3 until we came to the junction with Trail 4.
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We could get to the summit going either way but chose the slightly longer (1.3 vs 1.0 mile) Trail 4 which traversed around a forested hillside to a junction with Trail 14.
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Trail 14 was only a few hundred feet long, ending at a junction with Trail 1 at a saddle with a bench where we turned left.
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We ignored Trail 2 when we came to it in order to visit Mount Pisgah’s summit which was just another tenth of a mile up Trail 1.
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It was a beautiful day to be at the summit although being so early in the day the position of the Sun limited the ability to get a good look to the east at the snowy Diamond Peak and the tops of the Middle and South Sister. It’s the one consistent issue with hiking early in the morning on the west side of the Cascades.
IMG_0258Diamond Peak on the horizon.

IMG_0260Diamond Peak

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IMG_0264Middle and South Sister.

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IMG_0278South Sister photobomb by swallows

IMG_0279South Sister without swallows.

IMG_0283Spencer Butte to the west.

IMG_0284Eugene and the Coast and Middle Fork Willamette Rivers.

After taking the views from the summit (and watching the swallows) we backtracked the .1 miles to Trail 2 and turned downhill.
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After a short stint in the trees Trail 2 entered an open hillside with additional views of Diamond Peak.
IMG_0297Looking back uphill.

IMG_0298Sun still causing problems with the view.

After .4 miles on Trail 2 we turned left at a pointer for Trail 24.
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Trail 24 was a narrower track that headed steeply downhill through the forest. We had to be a little more careful to avoid the occasional poison oak that is present throughout the area.
IMG_0301Some red leaves of poison oak along Trail 24.

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The trail was only about a quarter mile long ending at Trail 4 where we turned right.
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This stretch of Trail 4 followed an old road bed to some power lines where the road bed gave way to single track.
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IMG_0314More poison oak

IMG_0315Mushrooms

We went straight on Trail 2 when we arrived at that junction.
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Trail 2 reentered the oak grassland before arriving at a junction with Trail 6 near the East Trailhead.
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IMG_0321Bright red tree at a nearby farm from Trail 2.

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We turned right on Trail 6 near a signboard and followed it a few hundred feet before veering left onto Trail 3.
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Trail 3 passed through more grassland and crossed a couple of stream beds, one with flowing water.
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In between the stream beds we heard a ruckus as a few scrub jays sounded very agitated. We quickly spotted the reason, a hawk was in the area. It looked like it might have caught brunch but we couldn’t tell for sure until later; when looking at the pictures it became apparent that it had snagged a jay.
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Just beyond the flowing stream crossing we left Trail 3 (which headed uphill) and turned left onto Trail 5.
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Trail 5 was posted for hikers only as it headed to the South Meadow and Mount Pisgah Arboretum.
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Trail 5 followed the stream downhill then turned right as it approached the Coast Fork Willamette River. A very short unmarked path led down to the river bank here.
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After visiting the river we returned to Trail 5 and continued toward the arboretum. Before reaching the arboretum we passed a blank signboard at the South Meadow.
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We opted not to explore any of the trails in that area this time and stayed on Trail 5. There were a number of birds along this stretch (there had been quite a few all over but most weren’t interested in having their pictures taken).
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IMG_0368Ladybug

IMG_0370A few late bloomers.

A post announced the boundary of the arboretum.
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We decided that prior to taking any other trail we needed to make a pit stop at the restrooms so we stuck to Trail 5 aka Quarry Road on the arboretum map until we passed an old barn.
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We veered left onto the Riverbank Trail here and followed it to the restrooms.
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After the pit stop we headed back following Meadow Road past a pavilion back to the barn.
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Near the barn we stayed on Meadow Road following a pointer for the Wetlands Exhibit.
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We continued to follow pointers for the Wetlands Exhibit which led us to the unique exhibit.
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There was quite a bit of information present in interactive displays. There was also a wolf spider with a sense of irony hanging out on one of the signs.
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After checking out the exhibit we returned to the Water Garden Trails and followed them to the Vern Adkinson Bridge.
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We crossed the bridge then promptly cross Quarry Road and headed uphill on the Jette Trail.
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The Jette Trail climbed uphill passing the Cedar Trail (We decided to save the Incense Cedar Exhibit for another visit.) and some memorials.
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IMG_0419Cedar Trail to the left.

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We detoured left 100′ on the Buford Trail to check out the interactive Oak Woodlands Exhibit.
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This was a really neat exhibit and would be great for kids. After playing around with the exhibit we continued on the Lower Plateau Trail.
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We paused briefly to locate the source of the sound of knocking on a nearby tree. It was a partially visible pileated woodpecker.
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IMG_0437Mount Pisgah from the Lower Plateau Trail.

We turned left when we reached a post for the Zig Zag Trail which did just that as it headed downhill.
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This trail brought us down near the pavillion. They were setting up for a wedding there so we stayed right on the Creek Trails which led through a picnic area to the arboretum entrance near our car.
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The route had worked out well coming in at 10.5 miles and taking just over 4 hours and 45 minutes leaving us nearly an hour to change and drive the 15 minutes to the restaurant in Eugene. The route also managed to incorporate at least part of each trail numbered 1-7 albeit only very briefly on Trail 6. (We ran walked up this trail during the Frozen Trail Fest so we’d seen enough of that one.)

With the numerous trails and loop options available the Mount Pisgah area offers a lot of options and the exhibits in the arboretum make it a good place to bring the kiddos. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mount Pisgah

Three Hikes on Sauvie Island

Our latest outing was a three stop trip to Sauvie Island in the Columbia River. After purchasing our $10/day parking permit online from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife we headed for our fist stop at the Wapato State Greenway.
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Here a short loop trail passes around Virginia Lake and along the Multnomah Channel.
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We set off on the entrance trail which quickly split (not shown on the map). We veered left on a mowed path through some grass.
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Our plan had been to visit the viewing platform first thing but this left fork was not the true entrance trail and we wound up joining the loop trail a tenth of a mile south of the side trail to the platform.
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We turned left onto the loop trail deciding to visit the platform near the end of our hike instead.
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We passed a view of Virginia Lake and arrived at a viewing blind after a tenth of a mile.
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Other than the occasional red-winged blackbird sighting we didn’t see anything from the blind on this morning. We continued on the loop ignoring a spur trail to Hadley’s Landing Dock just before arriving at the Multnomah Channel.
Multnomah Channel

The trail passed through woods with occasional openings to grassy meadows. There were a few woodland flowers here and there but the most interesting thing was the wildlife. We saw a lot of birds and couple of shy rabbits. Most of the birds were busy foraging in the bushes or flitting from tree to tree so we didn’t have a lot of luck with pictures. We did appreciate the many songs they were singing as they made their morning rounds.
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IMG_6569Black-headed grosbeak

We also spotted what we at first identified as a pair of deer under a large oak.
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As we watched them disappear into the brush we kept noticing more deer and ended up counting five of them.

After passing the picnic shelter we turned right down the side trial to the viewing platfrom.
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We had more luck with the wildlife from this viewpoint spotting a couple of different types of ducks, a great blue heron, and a pied-billed grebes.

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IMG_6595Mallards with a great blue heron in the distance.

IMG_6608Cinnamon teal and a mallard

IMG_6604Pied-billed grebe

We had never heard of a pied-billed grebe and were wondering what it was. Then we took the time to read the interpretive sign at the platform.
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After leaving the platform we headed back to the car. Along the way we spotted another new bird to us. A Black-throated Gray Warbler. She was hopping around on the trail gathering something for a nest it appeared so the photos are a bit blurry.
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Our second stop was at Oak Island,technically a peninsula. It is part of the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area and only open to hikers from April 16 through the end of September.
From the parking area a mowed path leads past a large signboard for .3 miles to the start of a loop.
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The rabbits were a little less shy here.
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We had a few cattle cross our path prior to reaching the start of the loop as well.
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We actually missed the start of the loop which was marked by a post with a hiker symbol on it.
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We stayed straight on the obvious track past this sign as the path leading right was so faint we hadn’t noticed it. Continuing in this clockwise direction the trail leads through open grass with Steelman Lake to the west.
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A number of great blue herons could be seen flying over the water and along the lakes shore we spotted a pair of white pelicans and a family of Canada geese.
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The distinctive call of red-winged blackbirds was prevalent.
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After passing through a gate the grass grew taller and the trail began to turn away from Steelman Lake. Here there were many butterflies and a few blooming camas.
Nature Trial at Oak IslandLooking back at the gate.

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Just before turning south near Sturgeon Lake a .1 mile spur path to the left led to the narrows, a narrow channel connecting Steelman and Sturgeon Lakes.
IMG_6661Looking toward Steelman Lake from the Narrows.

IMG_6662The Narrows. Another lake, Mud Lake, is on the other side of the trees.

As we were returning to the loop we spotted a pretty yellow warbler and a wood duck.
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Shortly after rejoining the loop Heather spotted a path down to a small beach along Sturgeon Lake where both Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams were visible but due to the lighting very hard to make out.
IMG_6671Mt. Adams (it is really there)

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We had been similarly unsuccessful at getting a picture of Mt. Hood earlier from the Narrows. We finished up the loop and returned to our car ready to head to our final stop at the Warrior Point Trailhead. A coyote raced across the road near the parking are for the clothing optional Collin’s Beach. We’re not sure what it had been up to but it looked like it thought it was being chased. We had some fun imagining it had tried to run off with someones clothes.

After that excitement we parked at the trailhead and before setting off walked down the the sandy beach along the Columbia River.
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As we began hiking a bald eagle flew overhead.
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The trail had occasional views of the River as well as Mt. St. Helens which was now a little easier to make out.
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IMG_6699Mt. St. Helens and an Osprey nest.

Our visit to the Island had already been on of the most diverse for birds and the Warrior Rock Lighthouse Trail just added to this. After the bald eagle and osprey we spotted a pair of American goldfinches.
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These were followed by a Bullock’s Oriole and a yellow throated warbler.
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The trail itself varied as it spent some time in the woods, some along the river, and other passing through tall grass.
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Considering the combination of grass, nearby water, and warm sunshine it seemed like the perfect conditions for snakes but we only spotted one.
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After three miles we arrived at a sandy beach near the Warrior Rock Lighthouse

IMG_6753Mt. St. Helens again.

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After a short rest on the beach we continued north on the sand to an old concrete gun mount.
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This is where things got a little interesting. Our guidebook said to turn inland here on a small access road to a T-shaped junction. The map accompanying the description on Oregonhikers.org appeared to show the track continuing north from this point along the river. We couldn’t see any sign of the small access road so we continued north along the beach until it was no longer possible. We faced the choice of backtracking or following a faint path inland to try and connect to an old road bed that would take us to Warrior Point. We headed inland.
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There was a faint path, we’re guessing it was more of a game trail than anything but it wouldn’t have been too hard to follow except for all the blackberry bushes. We managed to push through what turned out to only be a tenth of a mile to arrive at the grassy road bed.
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A brief detour right led us to a viewpoint at Warrior Point of the town of St. Helens.
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IMG_67671905 Columbia County Courthouse

We followed the old road bed back from Warrior Point for a half mile where it met the Warrior Point Trail near the beach at the lighthouse.
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We had only seen a handful of other hikers all day but on the way back to the car (it was only now a little after 11am) we passed a number of people heading toward the lighthouse. We were once again thankful to have gotten an early start.

Our distances for the day were 2.6 miles at Wapato Greenway, 3.3 miles at Oak Island, and 7.3 miles at Warrior Point for a total of 13.2. It had been a great day for wildlife and another enjoyable set of hikes in the Portland area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Sauvie Island Hikes

Camassia Natural Area, Mary S. Young Park, and Tryon Creek State Natural Area

We continue to be impressed by the number and variety of urban hikes in the Portland-metro area. On our most recent outing we visited three more areas near West Linn and Lake Oswego.

We started our day in West Linn at the Camassia Natural Area just before 7am. Our hike started from the trailhead at the end of Walnut Street.

Camassia Natural Area

A few feet from the trailhead is a signboard and the start of a loop.

Camassia Natural Area Trailhead

Camassia Natural Area Map

We picked up a guide brochure and started the loop by heading left (clockwise).

Camassia Natural Area

The woodlands here were full of white flowers including trillium, giant fawn lilies, and giant white wakerobin.

Trilium

Giant fawn lilies

Giant white wakerobin

We detoured to the right briefly at a “Pond” sign which led down to a very muddy wet area.

Camassia Natural Area

Pond at Camassia Natural Area

Continuing on the loop the next brief detour was to the left at a pointer for Wilderness Park.

Camassia Natural Area

We followed this path a short distance to a small wildflower meadow full of giant blue-eyed mary and rosy plectritis.

Giant blue-eyed mary

Plectritis

As we were returning to the loop trail Heather spotted an animal moving in a meadow below. As we headed toward the meadow on the trail we were excited to find out what was roaming the meadow. As it turned out our first wildlife encounter of the day was a domestic cat.

Camassia Natural Area

Cat at Camassia Natural Area

We were still a week or two early for the bulk of the flowers, especially the camas, but again this meadow had a nice showing of the plectritis and blue-eyed mary.

Camassia Natural Area

Camas and plectritis

One of the few open camas blossoms.

Plectritis

The trail passed through the meadow and into an open oak woodland where we detoured to the right to an overlook of a large pond.

Camassia Natural Area

Pond in Camassia Natural Area

At a “High School” pointer in another meadow we left the loop trail again.

Camassia Natural Area

This path led past some nice flower displays to a marshy wetland.

Wildflowers in Camassia Natural Area

Plectritis and giant blue-eyed mary

Bog in Camassia Natural Area

The Oregonhiker field guide mentions that this wetland is “one the best areas in the northwest to see Great Camas“. We were too early to see much in the way of camas but we did spot a lone stalk blooming near the far end of the wetland.

Giant camas

On our way back to the loop trail we spotted a hairy woodpecker working on finding its breakfast.

Hairy woodpecker

The loop trail descended a set up steps and soon entered a rockier meadow with more flowers including some Oregon saxifrage which was still unfolding.

Camassia Natural Area

Camassia Natural Area

Wildflowers in Camassia Natural Area

The trail then led to a viewpoint atop a cliff next to some madrones.

Madrones in Camassia Natural Area

Camassia Natural Area

More wildflowers followed before the trail reentered the woods.

Giant blue-eyed mary

Plectritis meadow

Camassia Natural Area

We passed a point for the Bridge Trail which headed downhill toward the high school parking lot and came to a viewpoint of Mt. Hood. Well what would have been a view of Mt. Hood on a clearer day anyway.

Camassia Natural Area

Looking toward Mt. Hood on a cloudy morning

One final patch of camas awaited before we completed our mile loop here.

Camas

For our next stop we headed north on Highway 43 (Willamete Dr.) to Mary S. Young Park. A joint effort between the city of West Linn and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department the park sits on the bank of the Willamette River and offers many activities. We began our hike from the trailhead at the parking lot at the end of the park entrance road.

Mary S. Young Park Trailhead

There were no brochures available with maps so we took a photo of a map off a signboard near the parking lot which turned out to be extremely helpful due to a serious lack of signage along the trails. We set off on the paved Riverside Loop Trail near the northern end of the parking lot. After a few feet we veered left on a wide unpaved path between picnic tables.
Mary S. Young Park

The woods here were filled with large trillium flowers of varying color.

Trillium

Trillium

Trillium

After crossing over the Trillium Trail we turned right at a T-shaped junction on the Turkey Creek Trail. This trail led downhill to Turkey Creek.

Turkey Creek Trail

Turkey Creek Trail

Turkey Creek Trail

After about a quarter mile the Turkey Creek Trail ended at the paved Riverside Loop Trail where we turned left. We stayed right at a fork and headed downhill to the Cedar Island Trail.

Mary S. Young Park

We veered left onto the muddy Cedar Island Trail even though we knew that the recent heavy rains had swollen the Willamette enough that access to Cedar Island itself would be cut off.

Willamette River

Riverside Loop Trail

Rabbit hopping into the brush on the left side of the Cedar Island Trail

Looking at Cedar Island

Cedar Island

After taking a look at Cedar Island we turned around staying right at junctions to pass around a sewer pump station on the Beaver Trail. At the far end of the station we turned left through a fence and dropped back down to the Riverside Loop Trail.
Fringecup and a couple of bleeding heart were blooming in this area.

Fringecup

Bleeding heart

We headed uphill on the Riverside Loop Trail retracing earlier steps to the junction with the Turkey Creek Trail. We passed that trail and continued uphill on the paved path for approximately 500′ where we veered left to a viewpoint bench overlooking the Willamette.

Mary S. Young Park

Willamette River

This 0.1mi path looped back to the Riverside Loop Trail which we followed uphill past a picnic shelter.

Mary S. Young Park

The path continued to the southern end of the parking lot where we had started. Here we veered left onto the unpaved Heron Creek Loop Trail.

Heron Creek Loop Trail

We followed this trail as it passed the parks ball fields and some busy squirrels.

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Squirrel

At the far end of the fields we spotted only the second pointer we had seen along the trails where we stayed on the Heron Creek Loop Trail as it headed back into the woods.

Heron Creek Loop Trail

Heron Creek Loop Trail

Back in the woods we spotted a pair of woodpeckers in the same area. One appeared to be a hairy woodpecker while the other was a red-breasted sapsucker.

Hairy Woodpecker

Red-breasted sapsucker

Using the picture of the map on Heather’s phone we stuck to the Heron Creek Loop by staying left at junctions and crossing over both the Trillium Trail and the park entrance road. We stayed right at the next junction opting not to take the short Eagle Scout Loop Trail then stayed straight at a junction with the the Railroad Trail. Beyond that junction the Heron Creek Loop Trail soon began a descent to Heron Creek.

Heron Creek Loop Trail

Heron Creek Loop Trail

Heron Creek

After a second descent and climb past a tributary of the creek the trail leveled out again before arriving at the Turkey Creek Trail where we turned left, crossed Turkey Creek and arrived back at the junction where we had turned onto the Turkey Creek Trial earlier in the morning. We then retraced our earlier steps back to the parking area ending a 3 mile hike through the park.

We then headed for our final stop of the day in Lake Oswego at the Tryon Creek State Natural Area. There are several possible trailheads for the park we chose to start at the large parking area near the Nature Center. (Note the Nature Center and Jackson Shelter are currently closed due to construction but the restrooms are open. No reopening date has been set as of the day of this post.)

Tryon Creek State Natural Area

We stopped by the closed Nature Center to pick up a paper map and also consulted the map on a signboard to plot out our hike. The number of trails and multiple junctions allowed for numerous possibilities. We settled on a loop utilizing the North Horse Loop, Lewis & Clark, Middle Creek, Cedar, Red Fox, and Old Main Trails.

Map for Tryon Creek State Natural Area

From the Nature Center we followed a brick path right (north) to another map.

Tryon Creek State Natural Area

We stayed straight for a tenth of a mile passing the Maple Ridge Trail on the left just before a junction with the North Horse Loop.

Tryon Creek State Natural Area

This wide path led through a green forest with violets and trillium.

Tryon Creek State Natural Area

Violets and trillium

After .2 miles we stayed left ignoring the right hand route leading to a bicycle path and then quickly veered right when the North Horse Loop split creating two loop options.

North Horse Loop

This right hand path swung north another .4 miles to a junction with the Lewis and Clark Trail.

North Horse Loop

Lews and Clark Trail

We followed pointers for the Lewis and Clark Trail and Terry Riley Bridge. The trail descended along a hillside above East Fork Tryon Creek to the small suspension bridge which passed over a side stream.

Lewis and Clark Trail

Lewis and Clark Trail

Terry Riley Bridge

Terry Riley Bridge

On our way down we passed a stump hosting a pair of snails. We actually spotted quite a few in the park.

Snails on a stump

Snail

Beyond the suspension bridge .2 miles we rejoined the equestrian trail and crossed over Tryon Creek on High Bridge.

High Bridge

Tryon Creek

The trail split on the far side of High Bridge where we opted to go left on the hiker only Middle Creek Trail.

Tryon Creek State Natural Area

We followed this path for .2 miles across a boardwalk and along Tryon Creek to another trail junction.

Middle Creek Trail

Middle Creek Trail

At this junction we left the Middle Creek Trail crossing over the West Horse Loop and headed up the Cedar Trail.

Cedar Trail

We followed the Cedar Trail through the woods, crossing the West Horse Loop again at the .2 mile mark, then crossing Park Creek on Bunk Bridge, passing a small pond and finally crossing Paget Creek on another bridge before arriving at the Red Fox Trail a mile from the start of the Cedar Trail.

Cedar Trail

Park Creek from Bunk Bridge

Bunk Bridge

looking back at Bunk Bridge

Pond in Tryon Creek State Natural Area

Cedar Trail

Bridge over Paget Creek

Tryon Creek State Natural Area

Red Fox Trail junction.

We turned left onto the Red Fox Trail and in just over a tenth of a mile crossed Tryon Creek on Red Fox Bridge.

Red Fox Bridge

Red Fox Brdige

Tryon Creek

The trail made a brief but steep climb up to a three way junction with the Big Fir and Old Main Trail. We opted for the slightly shorter (but less crowded) Old Main Trail and turned right for .3 miles back to the Nature Center. Our route came in at 3.5 miles.

Although there were a lot of people in the park it never really felt all that crowded which was nice. There are still some trails left too so a return trip may be in order sometime in the future when the Nature Center is back open.

In all we covered 7.5 miles between the three stops and saw quite a few different flowers and a decent amount of wildlife. It had been another nice set of urban hikes. As much as we are looking forward to getting back up into the mountains once the snow melts we’re finding that these types of hikes have a lot to offer. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Camassia Natural Area, Mary S. Young Park, and Tryon Creek

Tualatin HIlls Nature Park, Tualatin River NWR, and Willamette Mission State Park

For our March outing we decided to stick relatively close to home and visit three nearby hikeable areas. Our first stop, and furthest from Salem at just under an hour away, was at the Tualatin Hills Nature Park in Beaverton.

We started from the large parking lot at the Tualatin Hills Nature Center on SW Millikan Way.
Tualatin Hills Nature Center

The Nature Center is currently open from 8:30am-5pm M-F and 9am-5pm Sat. & Sun. while the park itself is open everyday from dawn to dusk. We arrived at dawn and set off on the paved Vine Maple Trail between the Nature Center and restrooms.
Vine Maple Trail

We quickly turned right onto the signed Oak Trail which was also paved.
Oak Trail

In a third of a mile we detoured briefly at a sign for the Tadpole Ponds.
Tadpole Pond

Although we didn’t see any tadpoles, or other wildlife here, the sounds of birds had not stopped all morning so we knew there were plenty of animals around. We returned to the Oak Trail which passed by Cattail Marsh on the second of three boardwalks.
Oak Trail

Cattail Marsh

Beyond the marsh we soon came to the third boardwalk which crossed over Cedar Mill Creek.
Boardwalk and viewing platforms along the Oak Trail

Cedar Mill Creek

One of the many birds that we’d been listening to was kind enough to pose for a moment as we stood on the boardwalk.
Sparrow

On the far side of the boardwalk was a trail junction where the Oak Trail veered right to the Merlo Rd/158th Ave Max light rail station. To the left was the Old Wagon Trail, a dirt path closed to bikes.
Old Wagon Trail

We followed this trail through a forest that was starting to show signs of Spring for a third of a mile to a junction with the Mink Path.
Old Wagon Trail

Blossoms along the Old Wagon Trail

Old Wagon Trail

Old Wagon Trail junction with the Mink PathTrail pointer at the Mink Path junction. We appreciated the fact that all of the junctions were signed and those signs were easy to read but placed in such a way that they were unobtrusive.

The Mink Path is a .1 mile connector between the Old Wagon Trail and Vine Maple Trail allowing for a shorter loop back to the Nature Center. We opted to stay on the Old Wagon Trail though and continued to the start of another boardwalk where we stopped so I could try and take a photo of a robin that was hopping around on the trail. As I was working on getting a picture Heather spotted a deer just a bit off the trail.
Deer along the Old Wagon Trail (there really is one out ther)Can you see the deer?

I thought she was seeing things but then I noticed it move.
Doe along the Old Wagon Trail (again it is there)How about now?

She turned and watched us as I attempted to get the camera to focus on her and not the branches in the foreground.
Doe in the Tualatin Hills Nature Park

Not far from the deer we spotted a squirrel trying to become one with a limb.
Squirrel

At a “Y” in the boardwalk we veered left keeping on the Old Wagon Trail until we reached a junction with the Vine Maple Trail a total of .4 miles beyond the Mink Path junction. We turned left onto the Vine Maple Trail and then took a right at a pointer for the Lily Pond.

A short path led down to the pond but before we had reached it a pair of wood ducks took flight and landed in a nearby tree.
Wood Ducks

As we were admiring the wood ducks a pileated woodpecker was busy with its breakfast.
Pileated woodpecker

We eventually made it down to the pond where a few ducks remained in the water including what appeared to be a pair of gadwalls.
Interpretive sign at the Lily Pond

Lily Pond

Gadwalls

There were also signs of beaver activity but we’ve yet to actually see one in the wild.
Beaver work

After visiting the pond we returned to the Vine Maple Trail which was now paved and followed it past its junction with the Mink Path and across Cedar Mill Creek.
Vine Maple Trail

Vine Maple Trail crossing Cedar Mill Creek

Shortly after crossing the creek we faced another choice. The Nature Center lay a third of a mile away via the Vine Maple Trail but more loop options were available by taking the Elliot Path.
Trail sign in the Tualatin Hills Nature Park

We took the .1 mile Elliot Path to a “T” shaped junction with the Big Fir Trail. Here again was a choice. Left headed back toward the Nature Center while right would take us to the Chickadee and Ash Loops and a short spur to Big Pond. We headed right and then turned left onto the spur to Big Pond.
Big Pond

Big Pond

There were plenty of ducks here as well. It appeared that most were mallards and green-winged teals.
Mallard and Green-winged teals

We returned to the Big Fir Trail and continued on crossing Beaverton Creek before arriving at a four way junction.
Beaverton CreekBeaverton Creek

More choices! The Big Fir Trail kept straight while the Chickadee Loop was to the right and the Ash Loop to the left. We began by heading right on the quarter mile Chickadee Loop which had a nice long section of boardwalk.
Chickadee Loop

After the quarter mile we were back at the Big Fir Trail where we turned right briefly before making a left onto the Ash Loop. The Ash Loop passed some wetlands where a pair of Canada Geese were enjoying the morning.
Wetlands along the Ash Loop

Canada geese

After .3 miles on the Ash Loop we found ourselves back at the four way junction where we turned right and recrossed Beaverton Creek and returned to the junction with the Elliot Path. Staying straight on the Big Fir Trail for just .05 miles we then turned right onto the .2 mile Trillium Loop. Oddly we didn’t see many of signs of trilliums along this short loop but we had seen several beginning to bloom along other trails. After completing the Trillium Loop we turned right again onto the Big Fir Trail for another .1 miles to the start of the half mile Ponderosa Loop.

We took the Ponderosa Loop where we spotted more trillium and our first wood violets of the year.
Trillium

Wood violet

At the end of the Ponderosa Loop we were once again turning right onto the Big Fir Trail. This time it was for less than a tenth of mile and then we were back at the Vine Maple Trail. Several spotted towhees and a couple of chickadees were foraging near this junction. The chickadees wouldn’t sit still but the towhees were a little more cooperative.
Spotted towhee

Spotted towhee

A right turn onto the Vine Maple Trail followed by another .2 miles of hiking brought us back to the parking lot at the Nature Center. The total distance for our hike with all the extra loops was still just 4.2 miles. When we had arrived we were only the second car but the lot was now full as it was just a bit after 9am. We had passed the first volunteer led tour as we were finishing up the along the Ponderosa Trail and another group was preparing to set off shortly.

One of the reasons we had chosen to start our day with this hike was that we knew the park would get busy as the morning progressed which isn’t a bad thing but we always prefer to avoid the crowds when possible. It really was a first rate park though so the popularity is warranted.

We left the nature park and headed for our next stop, the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. I’d found this hike in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide and decided to give it a try.

We parked at the Visitor Center along Highway 99W. The majority of hikeable paths in the refuge are closed from October 1st trough April 30th but the one mile River Trail and the very short Ridge Trail are open year round so we made those the target of this visit.
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Trailhead

We set off on the River Trail and immediately spotted a hummingbird perched atop a tree.
River Trail

Hummingbird

The trail led downhill between a pair of small ponds.
Tualatin River Natioal Wildlife Refuge

The trail passes through a restored oak savannah before arriving at an observation deck above the Tualatin River a half mile from the parking lot.
River Trail

Viewing Deck along the River Trail

Tualatin River

Beyond the deck the trail continues briefly though the restored savannah before entering a forest.
River Trail

The trail splits in the trees with the Ridge Trail leading left to a viewpoint and the River Trail continuing right to the Wetlands Observation Deck.
River Trail junction with the Ridgetop Trail

We stayed right visiting the observation deck first.
Wetlands observation deck

View from the Wetlands Observation Deck

There were a few geese and ducks visible in the distance and a few robins closer by.
Canada geese in the wetlands

Robin

We returned to the junction with the Ridge Trail and turned right onto it to climb to the viewpoint. The Visitor Center was visible across the refuge and a number of ducks and other birds could be seen in the water below. At least some of the ducks looked to be northern shovelers.
RIdgetop Trail

View from the Ridgetop Overlook

Northern Shovelers

We returned to the parking lot after an easy 2.1 mile hike. We plan on returning in the future when the other trails are open to explore more of the refuge and check out the Visitor Center.

We left the refuge and headed south toward our last stop of the day at Willamette Mission State Park.

The site of the former Willamette Mission the 1600 acre park offers a number of activities besides hiking. The mission was established in 1834 by Rev. Jason Lee and marked the first organized religious enterprise in Oregon.

We had originally intended on a 2.7 mile hike here as described by William L. Sullivan in his “100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” 3rd edition guidebook. Heather had put the book in her pack for the Tualatin Hills Nature Park hike as it was also featured in the guidebook. We hadn’t taken it back out of her pack so we weren’t exactly sure where we were supposed to park for the described hike so after paying the $5 day use fee at the entrance booth we immediately turned right into a parking area with a hiker symbol.

The lot serves as a trailhead for the Willamette Vision Education Trail, which was not where our book called for us to start but we were already parked so we decided to improvise.
Willamette Mission State Park Trailhead

We followed a bark path .1 miles to the start of a loop where we turned right.
Willamette Vision Educational Trail

Interpretive sign along the Willamette Vision Educational Trail

The trail followed a road bed for half a mile around a field before arriving at Mission Lake. Along the way we spotted a coyote that quickly disappeared back into the vegetation.
Mission Lake

A little over a mile from the trailhead we arrived at the nations largest black cottonwood.
Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Interpretive sign for the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

While we were admiring the tree an osprey landed in it and while we were watching the osprey we noticed a squirrel in the upper branches as well.
Osprey in the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Squirrel in the Willamette Mission Cottonwood

Osprey and a squirrel sharing the Willamette Mission CottonwoodThe osprey and the squirrel (upper right hand corner).

A short distance from the cottonwood the loop crossed the park entrance road. In order to do the hike that we had originally intended to do we turned right and walked along the shoulder of the road for a quarter of a mile to a boat launch and pet exercise area where we picked up the Mission Trail.
Mission Trail

The Mission Trail followed the bank of Mission Lake for .6 miles to the Mission View Site, an observation deck looking across the lake to the site of the former mission.
Mission Trail

Mission Site viewing platform

Marker for the Willamette Mission

The former Mission Site across Mission Lake

We continued on past the Mission Site for another quarter mile before arriving at a the end of the Mission Trail at a paved bike path. We turned right detouring a quarter mile off the loop to visit the Wheatland Ferry crossing on the Willamette River.
Wheatland Ferry

After watching the ferry cross once we headed back along the bike path and followed it along the Willamette River for almost a mile and a half before veering right onto an equestrian trail. Although the bike path paralleled the river there were no real views to speak of due to a strip of trees and vegetation between the path and the water.
Bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

Bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

We opted to follow the multi-use dirt path instead of the paved bike path since pavement seems to be a lot harder on the feet. Despite being a bit muddy in spots the equestrian trail did finally provide a nice view up and down the Willamette.
Equestrian trail in Willamette Mission State Park

Willamette River

Willamette River

Just prior to reaching the high water channel the equestrian trail came near to the bike path. Staying on the equestrian trail would have taken us to the start of a three mile loop with no opportunity to get back to our car so we hopped back onto the bike path here.
Equestrian trail and the bike path in Willamette Mission State Park

We then followed the bike path back to the park entrance road.
Willamette Mission State Park

On our way back to the car we did complete the Willamette Vision Education Trail loop but that final 1.4 mile segment was fairly uneventful. The trail loops around a field with views back toward the center of the park. By that time we were passing the 13 mile mark for the day (we had planned on doing 9.2) and I was more focused on my feet than taking pictures. Not only had we started at the wrong spot but the guidebook would have had us cut out some of the bike path and all of the equestrian trail. Instead of 2.7 miles for this stop we had flipped the numbers and done 7.2.

We enjoyed all three stops but the Tualatin Hills Nature Park was definitely our favorite. With that being said they all would be suitable for hikers of all ages and abilities and each offers something unique. We’re lucky to have so many options within an hour of Salem and there are many more that we have yet to visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Tualatin Hills NP, Tualatin River NWR, Willamette Mission SP

Forest Park – Wildwood Trail & Leif Erikson Drive Loop

Heather and I recently celebrated our 23rd anniversary with a morning hike in Portland’s Forest Park followed by dinner at Sisters Irish Bistro in Salem.

We started our hike at the Germantown Road Trailhead where the Wildwood Trail crosses the road.
Wildwood Trail at Germantown Road Trailhead

We chose this loop due to the presence of some low clouds. This section of trail didn’t offer the mountain views that some others do so we thought it was a good day for it. From the parking area we headed south on the Wildwood Trail which briefly climbed before leveling out on a hillside.
Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail

We followed the Wildwood Trail for a little over four and a quarter miles through the foggy forest. Junctions were well marked along the way with maps located at several of them.
Forest Park from the Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail junction with the Waterline TrailWaterline Trail junction

Wildwood Trail

Wildwood TrailMap at the Springville Road junction.

Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail

Wildwood Trail junction with the Ridge TrailRidge Trail junction

Wildwood Trail

We turned off of the Wildwood Trail at Fire Lane 7A which we followed downhill less than a quarter mile to a pointer for Leif Erikson Drive.
Wildwood Trail junction with Fire Lane 7A

Fire Lane 7A

Tie trail to Leif Erikson Dr.

A short path led fairly steeply down to the closed road where we turned left.
Leif Erikson Drive

Leif Erikson Drive

After one and a quarter mile on the road we came to the remains of an old building on the left.
Remains of an old building along Leif Erikson Drive

Remains of an old building along Leif Erikson Drive

A little over three miles after turning onto Leif Erikson Drive we arrived at another small parking lot along Germantown Road.
Leif Erikson Drive Trailhead along Germantown Road

Signboard for Leif Erikson Drive at Germantown Road

From this trailhead we followed the Cannon Trail uphill for a third of a mile back to the Germantown Road Trailhead and the Wildwood Trail.
Cannon Trail

Cannon Trail

Our loop was approximately 8.4 miles long with about 500′ of total elevation gain. It had been a good day for this particular hike and although we saw quite a few other people it never felt overly crowded. Shorter (or longer) loops could be done using the numerous other trails in the area.

Dinner at Sisters Irish Bistro was a perfect way to end our anniversary celebration, the food was excellent and so was the relaxing atmosphere. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Forest Park