Sunday, March 20, 2016


Over the past month or so, I’ve become slightly (okay, very) obsessed with finding waterfalls. Adding fuel to this obsession was the discovery of a waterfall database listing hundreds of waterfalls in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Fortunately, at least I think so, many of them are located within an hour of home. The way the database is arranged, it’s possible to find several waterfalls within a radius of less than 10 miles of each other. Yesterday, I took my list with directions from both Google maps and the database and headed out. First on the list was Camp Benson Falls. For this one, I parked on a dirt side road and made my way uphill (naturally) to a clearing where huge power lines towered overhead. The directions said to follow the end of this power line “road” where it intersected with Summit Creek. And, a brief half mile from my car, there it was. 
Camp Benson Falls
Heading to Lindsey Creek Falls

The instructions also said it was possible to make one’s way down to the base of the falls “but be careful, it’s very steep so use both hands.” It wasn’t the steep part that bothered me, it was the thorny blackberry bushes. I had to make do with scouting out along the top of the valley and taking a shot from less than 1/8 of the way down. 
Then it was on to Summit Creek Falls. The instructions for this one sounded easy enough: “bushwhack upstream for 500 feet.” Sounds simple, except that since the time these directions were written, there have been a few obstacles added in the way of fallen trees, rock slides, etc. It wasn’t that bad, but during that 500 feet I had to cross the creek several times and crawl across a log to get a clear shot. It was slightly easier going back since I knew what to expect. By this time though, I was thinking I probably wouldn’t want to stop at the grocery store on my way home. I had various muddy spots on my pants and I won't go into what my shoes looked like, and did I mention the twigs in my hair?

Summit Creek Falls
Then it was on to Lindsey Creek Falls. This one was tougher. From the trip reports I found online the next day, there used to be fairly easy access along the creek back to the falls, but after a big winter storm, the going become much rougher with downed trees and scrub making a boot path into an obstacle course. On the bright side, I didn’t have to worry about any people getting in the way of my shot and could take my time.

Next, I tried to find Harrison Falls. Unfortunately, there is construction going on on this section of the highway and the pullout where I was to park is currently a parking lot for all kinds of earthmoving equipment. I tried finding it by hiking down Lindsey Creek, but I’ll just say that after encountering lots of branches covered by some kind of passion vine and moss, not to mention another kind of thorny plant, it made for slow going, scratched arms, and I decided to save that one for another day. 

Lindsey Creek Falls
The next falls on the list were all located off the Mt. Defiance trail a few miles up the road at StarvationCreek State Park. Don’t worry, nobody starved here. It was named this after a train was stopped by snow drifts and the passengers had to dig their way out. No doubt there were several overly dramatic passengers on board who came up with the name. Starvation Creek Falls is quite civilized, with a trail leading right up to and no bushwhacking involved. Next, it was down the Mt. Defiance trail to Cabin Creek Falls, also fairly tame, and then to Hole in the Wall Falls. The name for this falls came about when in 1938 Warren Creek was diverted so as not to wash out the Columbia River Highway. If you look closely, you can see how the falls appears to come out of a cave.  

The "path" up Lindsey Creek
Unknowingly, I had saved the best for last. Lancaster Falls is found about 1/3 of a mile along the trail. From below, it looks like your run of the mill falls, but, with a bit of effort, the real show can be found above. There’s a scramble path going up and around the east side of the falls, and I was happy to see when I reached my destination that it was worth all the effort. It was rather humorous though when I descended practically at the feet of a rather surprised looking couple meandering along the trail. Apparently they aren’t accustomed to random hikers scrambling down hillsides and saying hello. I had one more falls on my list, but by this time my hands and knees (not to mention my posterior where I slipped and fell on a rock) were talking to me and I decided to come back. I figured the other falls will still be there in a week or so.

Starvation Creek Falls

Cabin Creek Falls
Lancaster Falls

Hole in the Wall Falls

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Bell Creek Loop, the Groundhog Day of Hiking

During the last few hikes on the Larch Mountain trail, I've passed signs for the Bell Creek Loop hike. The name is somewhat misleading in that it is not a real loop but is really a dog bone with the trail heading straight in, making a large loop, and returning to the original starting point. I suppose "Bell Creek Dog Bone" doesn't have the same ring to it. The total distance is approximately 15 miles.

I should have known when I started out and my iPod Shuffle wasn't working correctly that things were not going to end well. Never contemplate a hike without an abundance of Scottish fiddle music handy. However, being intent on exploring a new trail, I ignored the subtle warning and pressed on. The hike begins at the Oneonta trailhead, trail #424, but can also be accessed from trail #400, which is where I began.

That added half a mile to the trip, which seemed a mere triviality at the time but was something I would regret later.

This trail immediately ascends above the old Columbia River Highway and intersects with trail 424, which heads south as it leads to Triple Falls. The picture above shows the repair to the trail after a landslide last fall.

Even at this early hour there were people at the Triple Falls viewpoint. I wasted a few minutes in setting up the tripod and then decided there was no clear shot and continued on. The trail crosses the creek soon after the viewpoint and continues to wind its way upward. Finally, after a fair bit of climbing, the junction with the Bell Creek Loop was in sight. It is recommended to ford the creek in the summer months. I can imagine that after months of winter rains, it would not be a pleasant crossing before May or June. Getting across was actually quite simple, but finding the trail on the other side took a few moments. Of course, it went up. There was a junction marked by a log painted pink at one end that I had seen described by one hiker's online report as the marker for a shortcut trail. I am reasonably certain I saw the beginning of the shortcut trail earlier on, but I have no intention of discovering if I'm right for some time.

The trail continued it's climb up the mountain, and at times the trail was more of a miniature stream flowing down. There was what I will label a false summit about 3/4 of the way up. It was a clump of trees growing on an outcropping of rock, complete with a comfortable stone on which to sit back and look at the beautiful creation below. Then it was time to press on, with the trail passing under a towering mass of moss-covered rocks. There was no real view at what I think was the top, but rather just a large open area surrounded by trees. The trail changed to a dry creek bed, very rocky and requiring eyes on the ground to ensure no twisted ankles. Then it changed to marshy clumps and finally back to a normal trail; just as it ended at a fallen tree. After a bit of searching I found Robert Frosts' original model for the road less travelled and continued on. Things were going pretty well at this point and I successfully navigated the next trail junction. But my luck was about to run out. At the junction of trail 424 and the Larch Mountain trail I failed to see that there was an arrow pointing both straight and to the right for trail 424, and I also did not look at my printed instructions that said to turn right. I only remembered the bit that said to stay on trail 424. And so the trail continued up, causing several outbursts along the lines of "this is insane!" But there were some beautiful rhododendrons to see along the way; something I have not seen on previous hikes.

Finally, it was obvious the trail was ending. But instead of being at the junction I was expecting, I was at the break in the guardrail along Larch Mountain Road leading to the trail that takes hikers down to Multnomah Falls (after a quick seven miles or so). There was a couple ahead of me and I lamented that I knew where I was but it was not where I wanted to be. I sadly dragged myself to the beginning of the Larch Mountain trail and started down. My main complaint with this route is that it joins with the Multnomah Falls trail and thus is often packed with casual hikers in flip-flops. Then I remembered that the Franklin Ridge trail intersects with the Larch Mountain trail and decided I would explore that option as it would lead east to the Oneonta Gorge trail and my car.

After what seemed an eternity of going down rocky trails, I came to the Franklin Ridge trail and happily turned right, sure that my problems would be over in an hour or so. Hopes were dashed when the trail came to a Y with an ancient sign that at one time bore the words "Franklin Ridge" etched in it. I reasoned that going straight would continue to take me east and, since the other way was south, I should continue straight. Logic does not always enter into navigation. As I made my way down the steep trail, I sincerely hoped I was going the right way and would not have to go back up. The trail ended and there was no sign of any continuation to the Oneonta Gorge trail. Instead, I found myself at a lodge. Two teenage boys were sitting near a viewpoint and they told me this was the Nesika Lodge, which I had never heard of, and that it was possible the woman inside had a map and could point me in the right direction. I knocked on the door and a short, cheerful woman invited me in. She got out a handful of maps but did not have one with the right trails on it. She then drew a rough map on a sheet of paper and told me exactly where I needed to go. At this point I was quite annoyed at myself and I hope she knows how grateful I was for her help and was not frightened by my wild-eyed look of despair at the thought of returning up that hill. Back I went for what seemed an interminable time. I was on the verge of turning back to the Larch Mountain trail when two hikers came along from the other direction. They had come from the trail junction I was seeking and assured me it was "only" about another half mile. Meanwhile, I took the picture above at a viewpoint that I would otherwise have missed.

This picture was taken while I was making my way to the Oneonta junction. I figured I might as well take advantage of being where I didn't want to be. Besides that, I found some orange  peel on the ground and for some reason felt reassured to know that other humans had been there in the past six months. Once I found the right trail, I realized I had been on it before and thus was really going the right way. Unfortunately, it was another four miles or so and as I got closer to Triple Falls the trail was rockier and required more diligence to those of us who are prone to twisting ankles. Finally, I came to what I had labeled in my mind as "that bloody bridge" (too much British television), and then to Triple Falls. I came to the junction with trail 400 and was heartily wishing I had parked here instead of the half mile farther west. But once I was on the lovely asphalt, it was much smoother sailing. My heart skipped a beat when I arrived at the parking area and didn't see my car. As I got closer, its red spoiler could be seen peeking over the white car next to it. I refrained from bursting into song and instead said a hearty "Praise the Lord," tottered to the car and fell in. It's times like these I wish I had an automatic transmission, but suffice it to say I made it home and thoroughly enjoyed a shower and dinner, not to mention that I had shattered any previous mileage records I may have set before. The only thing is, I have no desire to try to break this one any time soon.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cape Falcon - Oregon Coast

After living in Oregon for almost nine years, I've finally had several opportunities in the last few months to explore what is less than 80 miles from my doorstep. A friend at church also loves to hike so, after arranging a shuttle to drop us off and pick us up at the end, we started off on the Cape Falcon to Neahkahnie Mountain leg of the Oregon Coast Trail. We started by revisiting Hug Point, since the last time we were there it was fogged in.

Back in the day, horse-drawn carriages and later, automobiles, used the beach as a road. Hug Point, shown above, was one of the trickier spots to get past because of the tide. Even without the ocean to contend with, the rocky terrain would take some skillful driving - for either a car or horse.

Next, it was on to the trailhead. The Oregon Coast Trail travels along the beach from Cannon Beach to Arch Cape, then along a gravel road, under Highway 101 and to one of several suspension bridge crossings of the day. Slippery bridge crossings, I might add.

From there it was into the woods with only momentary glimpses of the ocean. The trail descends back to the highway, and picks up about 50 yards south on the other side. If it hadn't been for a small blue and white sign on a post, we would still be looking for it. Here, patches of fog wafted in and out, changing the tone of the forest from the Shire to Fangorn. 

It didn't help that the friend that was with me had encountered a bear and her cubs a number of years back. Fortunately, the only wildlife we encountered were salamanders and slugs. After a while, we began to wonder if perhaps we had both misread the instructions. Supposedly at 2.75 miles there there was an unmarked spur trail leading down to a lookout from jutting rock over the ocean. We kept our eyes open but only came across this "viewpoint" (one that would have been greatly enhanced by one well aimed blow of an ax).
At the time I thought that was all I was going to see of the coastline so took this shot as a sort of consolation prize. As we continued on, and on, the terrain changed from green to burned and stark and then back to green. Perhaps there was a fire through here at one time and this part of the forest represents the boundaries of it. Either way, the scenery changed a number of times and kept things interesting.
Finally, we came to what appeared to be a trail to a viewpoint. We realized later that this was the trail we'd been looking for and that we'd both added up the mileage for the hike incorrectly. Instead of 6.75 total miles, it was more like 9.5-10. Oops. It took a little scrambling, but I felt like getting up early on a Saturday was well worth it.

This was the way back up. To any relatives out there reading this, it's not as bad as it looks. From here it was on to Oswald West State Park and then to Highway 101 to the base of Neahkahnie Mountain. The original plan had been to go on to Cape Lookout in Tillamook, but given the misjudging of mileage, it was too late to start on another five mile hike. Guess that means we'll just have to go back to the Coast. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sauvie Island, The Continuation

I titled this post "The Continuation" because I never seem to get tired of going to the island; there's always something new to explore. Apparently though, even as often as I've been out to Sauvie Island, it is still possible to miss a turn on the way there and almost end up in downtown Portland. That happened to me not long after I moved here, and I've never quite recovered from almost leading the Rose Parade in my bright red Eclipse. But I finally made it, and parked in one of several designated parking areas along the narrow, windy road. I had planned on walking about 10 miles. That's a little shorter than usual but occasionally one of my feet decides to get grumpy and I have to listen to it whine a bit. I passed these barns on the way to the meadow. There are scads of old barns on the island, all with their own stories to tell.
After about an hour, I came to the turnoff and headed back to a slightly more remote area. The only living thing that's usually back here is an occasional picnicker or herd of cows. There are shooting competitions that go on, but they usually take place later in the summer. This time the cow herd was joined by an egret or two, a couple of squawking blue herons (and boy do they make a revolting sound), and a bald eagle. The eagle was especially beautiful as he glided in a circle overhead, as if riding an invisible carousel of wind.

There are numerous lakes on this part of the island, especially this time of year when we're still in the rainy season. The clouds and trees reflecting in the water made for a great dining atmosphere. Even my Cliff bar tasted fancier. I doubt whether any famous downtown restaurants had ambience like this. 

Meanwhile, two males of the bovine population had started a tug of war of sorts. It's a good thing they had been dehorned because otherwise things could have gotten messy. One of the bystanders took a particular interest in me. I just kept walking and didn't make eye contact, other than to quote one of my favorite Bob Hope lines, "Just look upon me as a vegetarian."

I had looked on Google maps and could see a footbridge of sorts crossing a narrow channel of water and leading to another part of the island. My goal was to find it and then see what there was to explore on the other side. Alas, it turned out that the image on Google was taken in the summer when the water had receded a bit. Having no desire to go wading, I took a picture of the bridge and the surrounding area and headed back. I do think it was worth the walk.

The bridge is behind the fallen log.

It really is this pretty on the island, almost like one of Burt's chalk drawings from Mary Poppins. Come to think of it, I think my waiter was a penguin. Oh, remember that 10 miles I had planned? It turned into something closer to 13 or 14. That always happens, one trail leads to another and before long, the mileage budget is blown. Oh well, it's still quite an economical way to spend a Saturday.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Coyote Wall (aka If You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It)

Last year I was discussing the merits of Dog Mountain and how much fun it is to hike and see the wildflowers when a friend asked if I'd ever been to Coyote Wall. Of course the first thing that came to mind was a vision of Wile E. Coyote with a never-ending supply of Acme gadgets lurking behind a bush. I had not heard of Coyote Wall, but figured any place with a name like that had to be worth a visit. The only problem with hikes that are known for their wildflowers in the spring, is spring itself. The weather is about as predictable as a butterfly as it flits from bush to bush and equally annoying for photographer types who run along behing trying to figure out just which bush it will flit to next. After a lot of careful analysis (that means looking at about five different weather sites and trying to guess which was the most accurate), I decided to just head east and hope and pray for the best. 

 The wall itself is easily recognizable. It's a giant spine of rock jutting out of the ground and sweeping back to the north before curving west. I'm not sure where the name Coyote Wall came from, but there was no resemblance to Wile E. whatsoever. The trailhead was easy to locate since it is an old abondoned highway strewn with sizeable boulders, which probably explains the reason for the abondonment, but it was the next step that was a bit tricky. I had my guidebook with me and it even gave the GPS coordinates for the location of the break in the fence that led to the trail, but it was the bit about taking the faint trail to the left that gave me pause. Everywhere I looked there were faint trails, both to the left and in every other conceivable direction. Because this area is a popular spot for mountain bikers, over the years they have created all kinds of trails and paths across the landscape. 

Once I found the correct "faint trail the left," and that took some doing, I was on my way along the rim and up the hill. There is a certain wild beauty about the place. The wind rushes down the mountain and  flows through the grasses with a certain tide-like sweep. It rather resembled pictures I've seen of the moors in England, with the slight variation of a pine tree here and there. 
The trail gives way to rock along the rim of Coyote Wall and then picks back up near a fence about half-way up the hill. The trail splits, one path leads east and the other straight up. I went up for a while to get a better view of some wildflowers and then headed back down and to the east. 
One of the odd things about this hike was that while I was never lost, I never really knew where I was either. I figured if I knew how to get back to the car then I must not be lost. After a while, the scenery changed from wild rocks and flowing grasses to lupines and red dirt. 
This trail ran along reasonably enough until it split three ways. To be extra helpful, there was a sign saying what uses were allowed on the trails. I chose the middle one because it best fit the description in one of the suggested hikes I had found online. Apparently one four-wheel track looks much like another because when this particular trail ran out, it had a No Trespassing sign in front of it. Someone needs to tell the folks who put the "this trail is open to the public" signs up that such is not the case. I retraced my steps and took the trail to the right. This turned out to be the way I wanted to go but hadn't known it since I wasn't really lost but didn't know where I was going. After crossing a creek and winding upwards, this valley came into view.
Even though spring weather is unpredictable, the lighting can be fantastic, and the valley seemed to glow right before my eyes. I continued on this way to another trail that ended at Catherine Creek, which was where I had intended to land in the first place. The moral of the story for this hike is that there are many ways to get there, even if "there" is a bit nebulous.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tulips, Tulips, Tulips

After living in the Portland area for eight years, I decided it was high time to visit the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn. Each year the tulip festival is held from the end of March to the beginning of May. There are daily activities and huge fields of tulips to wander in. 

Woodburn is about 35 minutes south of Portland so it's not like it's a long way to go, but the two main reasons I've never gone are the entry fee of $10 a car and the crowds. Those who know me know that I have made saving money into a game, as in "what's the cheapest way to do X." The fee for bicycles and motorcycles was five dollars and that seemed more reasonable. I hate finding a parking place in crowded lots, so I found a shopping area about six miles from the festival and decided to combine exercise and photography. After an argument with my GPS (I won), I found the shopping area, parked the car, and set off. One of the other reasons I decided to walk (besides having grown fond of the money in m pocket) is there are always things to see along the way that would be missed while driving.
There were several old barns and vineyards that caught my eye, and even some bison. Except for the cars whizzing by seemingly not paying attention to the scenery, it was a nice walk.
This was a sign at a local farm, one that I could easily appreciate!

There was a long line of cars making its way to the farm and it didn't take me long to realize I was glad I was walking because at some point all those cars were going to be driving back and the thought of it made me claustrophobic. I made my way to the parking lot and asked the woman directing traffic if there was another place I could pay to get in. The idea of wading through all the traffic to the entry booth didn't appeal to me much. The woman directed me to the gift shop and I made my way there and asked how much it would be to get in. The woman behind the counter was a bit stumped and asked someone else what they thought. Apparently, no one else has ever walked in (or if they have, they didn't make their presence known). After a few seconds of deliberation, the woman said not to worry about it. That sounded like a good deal to me so I made my way to the tulip fields. Not ever having been there, I had no idea what to expect.

The fields looked like an enormous banner painted on the ground. Next to the splashes of muliple colored blooms, followed row upon row of red, yellow, purple, and white. Joseph and his coat of many colors would have disappeared in the swirling rainbow.

Part of the fun was taking a picture without including someone's head or hand. It rather resembled a game Atari might have come up with, except instead of shooting the space ships, the object was to shoot between them. 

There's something addictive about beauty. No matter how many pictures I had, I just had to take one more. The result of course was numerous shots of almost exactly the same thing. At least pictures aren't high in calories.

After about an hour, which went by in a surprisingly short time, I headed back to where I had left my car. By now, the two miles from the farm to the main road was a solid mass of cars. The trend continued after I turned onto the state highway and the train of cars snaked its way back for at least another three miles. Four different people asked me if I knew what was going on or where the wreck was. My favorite car contained a happy looking octogenarian who waved at me as I walked by. She didn't seem to mind the wait as she took in the slowly moving scenery. Before long, I was back to one of the barns I had passed earlier.

Surprisingly, things sometimes look different on the return trip. There's probably something philosophical in that statement, but since a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words, I'll let it do the talking.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

To Clackamas and Back

For reasons I won't dwell on, my car was recently in need of some plastic surgery. It was nothing major, but suffice it to say I was without it for a week. My dad very graciously (and bravely) allowed me the use of his truck to drive to work and dance. I grew up driving a truck, but after driving a sporty little red car these past 12 years,  I felt like someone who had gone to being a row boat captain to piloting a barge. Needless to say, when the car was fixed I was very eager to get it back. The shop that did the work was in Clackamas, Oregon, just under 16 miles away. I had asked a friend to take me, but after seeing the forecast for sunny and 63 I decided since I was going to want to spend the entire day outside anyway, why not walk to Clackamas and pick it up? 

I headed out about 7:15 and was soon at the trail that goes under I-5 and leads to a series of steps that spits (figuratively speaking, of course) pedestrians out at the base of Macadam and SW Taylors Ferry.   What I've never understood is why the trail under the freeway has a bench half-way down the steps. It's not like there's a view to enjoy and it certainly isn't quiet. 

By the way, I'm writing this on an iPad and the formatting is a bit more of a challenge than on a computer, but I digress. The sun was just starting to show behind the various flowers, both on the ground and in the trees. It felt so good to be outside I almost wished the walk were longer, almost.

Oh look, it's letting me type right next to the picture. Progress! Much of the journey was along a busy street so there wasn't a lot to take pictures of, unless you count the group of people helping a motorcycle guy get his bike back in an upright position. There didn't appear to have been an accident, just a prone bike in the middle of the turn lane. The route I chose did not include taking I-205, so I exited on the street right before. It was much quieter and had more to look at than the license plates of the cars going past. It was also apparent that the two-legged  residents of the town (don't ask, I don't know what the text is doing over here) weren't the only ones enjoying the sunshine. I had about two seconds to snap the shot below. He certainly wasn't the only dog I saw with his nose hanging out of the window during the course of the day. I made it to the repair shop in a little over four hours and was very glad to see my car looking much improved over the week before. As much as I enjoyed the walk, I hope the next time my car has to go anywhere it doesn't necessitate more than an oil change.