A Walk in the Forest

When the morning mist

Lifts its dewy blanket from

Wildwood beds of fairy bells and trillium,

It is myself I see more clearly.

leaf

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Taking the high road above Multnomah Falls

IMG_2242I love the wonderful trail above Multnomah Falls. The 11 steep switchbacks are paved and usually quite busy, but since a boulder fell on the Benson Bridge in January, the regular trail is closed, and many visitors don’t look for other options to the overlook.

On some maps the Ak-Wanee Trail is 1.8 miles, on others it is .9. To take it to the overlook you have to go past Multnomah Falls Lodge to the first little parking lot. I think there is room for about 5 cars. Then you  have to seek out the trail by walking a few yards to the right down the road. It's kind of hidden.

On some maps the Ak-Wanee Trail is 1.8 miles, on others it is .9. To take it to the overlook you have to go past Multnomah Falls Lodge to the first little parking lot. I think there is room for about 5 cars. Then you have to seek out the trail by walking a few yards to the right down the road. It’s kind of hidden.

Luckily, the Ak-Wanee Trail(No. 400) is still fit to travel, albeit you have to climb over three landslides that can look intimidating – at least to me. (Will I reawaken them and end by riding down the cliffs in an angry soup of massive slate stone, upturned tree roots and orange mud? I walk gingerly and take up the trail on the other side.)

This shot was taken at the second of 11 steep, but paved switchbacks to the falls overlook.

This shot was taken at the second of 11 steep, but paved switchbacks to the falls overlook.

Once you get past the overlook, the trail becomes a paradise of marvels. Swift waterfalls and deep clear pools, fern covered overhanging cliffs, streams to amble over, thick, mossy timbers that reach to the sky, intriguing winding paths make it a joy to explore…even though the drizzle persists and runs into my eyes and off my “ski-lift” nose.

Here you’ll find the Weisendanger and Ecola falls. You veer right at Trail #420 for 1.2 miles, then right onto Trail #419 ad #420 to #442 past Fairy Falls and Lemmon’s Viewpoint and Wahkeena Falls as you make your way back down the Columbia River Gorge.

Those switchbacks always leave me winded, but I never tire of the trail to Weisendager and Ecola falls.

Those switchbacks always leave me winded, but I never tire of the trail to Weisendager and Ecola falls.

I don’t want to turn. I want to go farther…up to Larch Mountain, but that is another 5 miles one way. A particularly deep and wide patch of snow turns me around at this point. As I do, the rain makes a bigger splash and when I hit the switchbacks the Columbia River is completely obscured by a low hanging cloud or thick mist.  I’ll be back in two weeks, starting out earlier, carrying extra provisions (a chocolate almond butter sandwich, perhaps?) and a determination to advance toward my goal.

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Portland’s hidden stairways secreted in NW hillside

IMG_1419There is something about a stairway that fascinates. It pulls at me and urges me up, up, up to explore the mysteries that lie at the top – or at the bottom, for that matter. I find them difficult or impossible to resist. That is the way of it for the many hidden stairways that lie carved into the hills of northwest Portland.IMG_1411

Author Laura O. Foster wrote that there are 196 public stairways in Portland. She, like I, prefer the little secreted gems that tell stories of Portland’s past. Foster says some used to serve as main thoroughfares before streets were laid. In her “The Portland Stairs Book” she runs through a number of the tales she has uncovered during her research. But for me, I find several stairways within walking distance of my northwest-side apartment – and go to get a first-hand experience.

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Many of the staircases are snug up against houses – like this one!

Some of the stairways linking the winding streets of the neighborhood are broad, but many more are narrow, steep and moss-covered. You have to look hard to find them – or look on a map and plan the route. Sometimes you can see them as pale gray lines, shortcuts connecting looping streets.  Foster calls them “instant ziplines.” But many are unnoted.
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On another day I discovered several on the way up to, through, and into the hills west of Washington Park on my way to Hoyt Arboretum. One was just a little stairwell, leading zig-zag to a small green field enclosed by dense shrubbery. I crossed the tiny public park to find the connecting stairway to the next street level. And so it goes: bit by bit, little steep shortcuts through the hillside.

You can probably find these special vertical footpaths notched into all the hills around the city – and maybe in your city, as well. In the southwest quadrant  between Goose Hollow/PSU campus and OHSU they climb into neighborhoods of tall, multi-leveled Victorian and contemporary-styled homes perched along the narrow streets cliffs. Some are concrete, some wooden, some metal…all fascinating – and quite helpful, really. Thigh-burners for the most part.

I love the ones that run directly next to beautifully landscaped yards. One provided convenient built-in benches every 50 or so steps – I think there were about 150 steps altogether. IMG_1447

When I get to the top, I find a wonderful, quiet neighborhood with stately homes. Children just arriving home from school are walking their dogs and making meetup plans with friends as they run down the street. What must it be like to live here looking out over the city of Portland? I can only imagine before I direct my steps back down the next secret stairway.IMG_1421

Crossing the Willamette: A bridge…not too far!

IMG_1359There are 11 bridges over the Willamette River in Portland. From where I live in the northwest quadrant, I can walk through downtown and across a number of them. They are wonderfully picturesque with wide, clearly demarcated lanes that provide safety for bikers, joggers and pokey walkers – like me! IMG_1390

One drizzly day – and most days are at least partially drizzly in Portland – I ventured 9 miles RT east across the Willamette River to Tabor Bread in the Hawthorne District.

The route to the bakery cafe took me across Hawthorne Bridge and on by a multitude of second-hand mid-century modern furniture shops, trendy clothing stores, restaurants, bars and such that dot the popular Hawthorne ave.

Come on - Really?!! Mead tasting this way -->

Come on – Really?!! Mead tasting this way –>

I just can’t figure out the allure of mid-century mod-podge. But, perhaps it’s because I lived through it. I think I’ve had enough of laminated turquoise and yellow countertops and plastic dinnerware and sharp-cornered sofas. But, it was fascinating to see so much of it – and to watch others enjoying it. IMG_1381

Once I arrived at Tabor Bread I discarded my black, damp raincoat and brown wool muffler and settled in to a veggie frittata sandwich with goat fromage blanc and kalamata olives on white wheat batard, a cup of carmelized cabbage soup – and, of course, a cup of black tea – Bombay Breakfast, to be exact. It was lovely. A meal, a slice of quiche, savory bread pudding, chocolate ganache cake or chocolate brioche is a delightful reward for making a stop at Tabor Breads. IMG_0775

Sated, and turning toward home, I decided to head north a few blocks and then back west down SE Belmont and the Morrison Bridge. I stopped in at the Tao of Tea where I purchased a small tin of Pu-er Tuocha, then browsed a wonderful little dress shop called Simply Vintage at SE 36th. But when I arrived at the bridge, I noted that the sidewalk ended abruptly at the Trimet bus stop.

I was trying to determine an alternate route, when a panhandler standing nearby offered some “no-charge” assistance. He told me there were two options. One would take me down a stairway and directly into an area where the homeless often defecated. Not a good place for a woman to go alone, he stressed. He advised me to take another route down the street to my immediate left, under the shadowy IMG_1373overpass. (According to him, people park some very nice cars down there, so it must be pretty safe, right? I questioned that as soon as I arrived.) Next, I would cross the street where I would find a nice wide sidewalk leading up a circular ramp and across the Morrison Bridge.

That bit of advice – so freely given – was greatly appreciated. I was back across the bridge, back across downtown Portland, and ALMOST back in my cozy 4th-floor apartment when I discovered the elevator was down for routine maintenance. Such is life, you know?IMG_1347

Twin waterfalls, Pool of Winds at end of Hamilton Mtn hike

IMG_0417It was a cold and very blustery afternoon when I directed my Mazda to the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge for a short hike at Beacon Rock State Park. The tall Douglas firs were twitching and crackling loudly but I was determined to take a 3-mile diversion to view the twin Hardy and Rodney falls. IMG_0471(The previous week I had attempted the last stretch of a Mt. Hood trail to Tamanawas Falls, but the icy sloping stretches deterred me from my destination. I will need to purchase some YakTrax if I’m to try that again in winter.)

The strong wind pushed me back during the initial 440-foot gain, and I have to say I was worried for the first half mile or so – worried that it would hurl a hefty tree branch crashing into my thick skull. The path up Hamilton Mountain was strewn with limbs and broken tree trunks, so I knew it was a definite possibility.

But about 3/4 mile in the trail took a turn in a different direction and things grew mild as I approached the sign directing me to the viewpoint overlooking the 90-ft Hardy Falls. IMG_0372I climbed under the timber rails of the platform to get a closer look. During this winter season much of the foliage had fallen away, but I think it would be even more spectacular during the summer and fall months.

Then, on up a wee bit further where the trail forked, I took the spur to the Pool of Winds. Here at the top of Hardy Creek the water is funneled through a hole in the cliff and plunges down 45 feet to a clear deep pool. I clicked off a couple of rainbowed and wet shots with my now-damp iPhone (Thank you, Otterbox.)

Pool of Winds

Pool of Winds

From there the white water cascades down Rodney Falls under a splendid log footbridge and rumbles over the smooth boulders of Hardy Creek. I love the footbridges and railed switchbacks along this portion of the trail. They remind me of a Tarzan movie.

I continued on the trail only about another half mile or so before time made me turn back again – but not before snapping off a few photos of the tall evergreens overlooking the grand Columbia River Gorge.

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Love locks on the Steel Bridge

IMG_9980Stretching my legs, I took about a 5-mile loop walk through downtown Portland. First stop: The Steel Bridge. This wonderful old structure

The loud rumblings of cars, buses and the MAX Light Rail failed to move the old Steel Bridge as it crossed the Willamette River carrying passengers in and out of downtown Portland. IMG_9942I walked below the noisemakers taking a 5-mile loop walk around downtown. No vibration. The lower level, that houses Amtrak rails, can be raised to allow for smaller vessels to pass without disrupting traffic along the upper deck. But the upper deck can also open for large ships and freighters.

IMG_0011As I crossed I noticed the “love locks” fastened to the walkway grating, put there by lovers who are supposed to throw the key into the river. Some say the tradition started in Serbia in the mid-20th century. Others say romantic ritual began in response to Frederico Moccia’s 1992 book – and film adaption – Three Meters Above the Sky – or “Tre metri sopra il cielo.”IMG_9952

The bridge, completed in 1912, is  still owned and maintained by Union Pacific and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the world’s only known working telescoping dual-lift truss bridge.

Portland celebrates it’s 14 bridges (or 17 if you toss in the rail-only crossings) with an annual PDX Bridge Festival. Pass me another beer, Betty!IMG_0031See more photos on Facebook.

A day near The Dalles: A winter hike to Tom McCall Point

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With only an afternoon to spend on a trail near The Dalles, I chose the Tom McCall Point hike beginning at the ImageRowena Overlook.

The views of the Columbia River and the Rowena Plateau were terrific, but winter is perhaps not the best season to explore this site. I understand 200 species of wildflowers bloom along the prairie-like slopes and rugged terrain from February through June. Look for deep purple grasswidows, prairie stars, glorious lupine and Indian paintbrush, along with bright yellow balsamroot and pink shooting stars.

On this January day, I did see a trace of something tiny and red underfoot. I was also delighted by the icy crystallized oak leaves that lie upon the frosted path.IMG_9711

At times the trail is steep and slippery, but heavy, deep-treaded soles scored the earth, churning up secure footholds in the drying mud.

This hike is only 3.6 miles RT with a 1000′ gain, but dogs are not permitted, and children should be kept very close as the trail sometimes weaves close to high cliffs. Besides, there are a lot of poison oaks… and ticks, apparently. I found that out AFTER I spent about 15 minutes reclining on the grassy summit. It’s not the season for the little guys…right?IMG_9689