Exploring the Portland Metro’s (and a little beyond) Natural Areas – Enjoying the Pockets of Nature in Your Own BackYard!

Adventure #6 – Hiking The Gorge – Oregon Side

Columbia Gorge

Gorge View-View From the Top-

                                                                                                                                                                          Gorge- Flower 2A year-long Portland area adventure series can’t be complete without at least one Columbia Gorge entry. My partner and I hiked Angel’s Rest a few weeks ago (before the heatwave) with the dogs, and it was the perfect time of year – the wildflowers were in abundance!

This hike is a popular one, located just 25 miles east of Portland off I-84. Take exit 28 to the historic Columbia River Highway 30. The trail (No.415) parking area is on the right just up the road a quarter mile.

Gorge TreeDogs & River- Gorge

Unlike a lot of the waterfall hikes in the Gorge area, there isn’t much water along this one, so bring some extra for the pooches, they will be thirsty when you get to the top! The only water you will encounter along the way (shown above) is Coopey Creek, 0.7 miles from the trailhead. You will see a glimpse of Coopey Falls (hidden behind the tree above) just before you hit the creek.

Gorge Trees

Traveling along switchbacks (you climb 1,500 feet), you will see remnants of a 1991 fire that swept through the area.Gorge Hut


You will also get to see a little stone hut (not sure how or why it’s there, but it’s cool) that is sure to bring smiles to the youngsters in your group and the adults that get excited about things like me. 

Gorge view 2

The views we were awarded with after making the 2.2 mile trek up the hill were breathtaking. Every direction you turn is an amazing landscape with the Columbia river below, Washington State across the river and the Gorge in both directions. Pack a lunch and a camera, as you will want to enjoy the scenery for awhile!


With a high point of 1,640 feet – this was a rewarding hike both in beauty, and exercise. The book I use for the Columbia Gorge area hikes: “Day Hike Columbia Gorge, the best trails you can hike in a day”  by Seabury Blair Jr. (2011 edition) – mentions a campground another .5 miles up a trail from the “top” for hikers that want to avoid the “vertigo cliff” feel. We didn’t go on to see this camp, but it’s an option and apparently a little creek runs through it, a bonus for thirsty dogs and tired hot feet!

Gorge cliff

If you are interested in my adventure series posts – visit the CATEGORY, also, here are a few of my favorites so far:  Sauvie Island, Cross-Country Skiing, and Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.

Gorge- Flower & DogGorge-flower


Adventure #5 – Exploring Powell Butte (Waaaaay East Portland)

P.B. Inca-3

As dog owners, we are always trying to find new pockets of nature to explore that are dog friendly. (i.e.- We won’t bother others if we let them off leash, and we aren’t in danger of getting in trouble.)

As an eco-concious person however, I also want to ensure the area isn’t sensitive to disturbance, or undergone recent restorations. (We want those little seedling to survive.)                                                      

                   – Inca Pearl- our “climber” dog-

Powell Butte is a fantastic oasis for both human and canine. We visited on a Sunday, and surprisingly had the area to ourselves, (my favorite). A fair warning however, the few people we did encounter were all friendly, but their dogs were not. It was the strangest thing, of all 4-5 groups we met along the way, everyone had at least one dog, and every person told us their dogs were mean.  Hmmm…(not really a big deal, just interesting).

P.B-woods 1

The area is a forested wonderland, complete with wild Trillium flowers, and those tasty cute Fiddlehead ferns. We saw a good variety of birds, slugs, and mushrooms as well. It’s so fun  hiking with my daughter, she always notice things that I pass right over.    

P.B. Shrooms 5

I think the best way to explore Powell Butte is to go without much of a destination in mind. There are several places to access the butte (parking lots in many directions) and trails seem to wind all over. At 611 acres, it’s a small enough area, I can’t imagine ever getting really lost. There is the butte of course, where the summit offers nice views of the mountains if you go on a clear day (we did not). Johnson Creek meanders on the hill, and the area is a beautiful combination of wetland, forested slopes of Western Red-Cedar, and open meadows.

P.B. Valley 2

                                       – Meadow on top of Powell Butte-

“As an extinct cinder cone volcano, Powell Butte rises near the headwaters of Johnson Creek- an urban creek with remnant populations of native salmon and steelhead.”    Source

If you aren’t one to enjoy the “wandering” exploration- here is a link to an actual hike. 

And if you aren’t into the “dog” thing, this area is equipped for hiking, horseback riding, and biking as well!

Want to learn more about the area, get involved, maybe even volunteer? Friends of Powell Butte Nature Park provides all the above. 

Where It’s At:   SE 162nd & Powell Blvd, Portland, OR 97230 

I’m still looking for Portland metro area suggestions I should go explore.      Please comment below!

P.B. Trail 7P.B. Trailheads 6

Need a reminder on why I’m doing this Adventure series? Visit my first post that explains my year-long quest for finding hidden treasures in my own backyard. 

Here are a couple favorite posts in the series:                                                     Adventure #2: Snow, Soul Healing Fun, with a Story of Planned Obsolescence              Adventure #4: Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

Adventure #4 – Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden & Lessons in Avian Health

Rodie new

Although I enjoy my natural “wild” areas, I also really love city parks. Stumbling upon Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden was such a treat for me in a day that was packed with appointments and informational interviews. I had two hours between items on my calendar, when I typed “city park” into my trusty smart phone, and noticed I was only two miles from this lush sanctuary. So, I decided to check it out!

Rodie #4

To make the occasion extra awesome, I happened to be there on a Wednesday- Free admittance on Tuesdays and Wednesdays!                                                                                                                    

The Price Scoop:

Between March 1st and Labor Day, there is an admission charge of $4.00         Free Admission for children 12 and under and members of the American Rhododendron Society

The Hours Scoop:

Open from Dawn to Dusk daily

Rodie #2

I will let the photos tell the story – this place is absolutely gorgeous. Located in the Eastmoreland neighborhood (SE Portland), the garden is home to 2000+ species of Rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and related plants, covering approximately five acres.

Rodi #9

The rhododendrons are in bloom fr0m earlyMarch through the middle of June. The peak bloom period coincides with Mother’s Day in May.  – Source

In addition to the plant life, the park has so many birds! My heart was singing as I kept spotting new species-and you don’t need binoculars to get a great view. Several species of waterfowl make their home here, including Wood Ducks, American Wigeons, Buffleheads, American Coots, Pied-Billed Grebes, and of course Mallards and Canada Goose (among others).



Rodie #3

The garden does a fairly good job reminding visitors:


I have so many childhood memories of feeding birds in the park (albeit great memories), but I come from a generation where that was normal practice. It doesn’t take too much thought to realize that bread (especially white bread most people purchase for the park feedings), is not food for wildlife. In fact, it can make animals very sick. A sign in the park reads as follows:

“Nature has provided wildlife with both the physical means and the instinctive behavior needed for survival. Naturally occurring food sources provide a healthy diet for wildlife…Bread and food scraps are poor sources of protein for wildlife. Feeding leftover foods also discourages natural foraging habits, degrades water quality, and favors a relatively limited number of species.”

Want to learn more about artificially feeding birds? This is a great article written by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Rodie #6

Crystal Springs Lake (shown above), at nearly 8-acres, was created by a small dam installed as part of the Eastmoreland Golf Course (bordering the garden) in 1917. Crystal Springs creek and lake are fed by the largest system of springs in the Portland-Vancouver region – 13 springs supply approximately 6,000 gallons of water per minute throughout the year.

Rodie Lake

If one is looking for a beautiful wedding spot, this place delivers. It won’t be a unique idea however, a lot of weddings take place here June-September. There is a beautiful open field in the far end of the garden (the geese like it as well).

Rodie #5

The original owner of the property, William S. Ladd, served two terms as the mayor of Portland in the 1800s – he called it Crystal Springs Farm. The oldest rhododendron in the current garden was planted prior to 1917.  Source


LOCATION                                    SE 28th and Woodstock                                                                                            Located between Reed College and the Eastmoreland Golf Course

If you are interested in making a day-long adventure in the SE Portland neighborhoods, you can also incorporate Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, only a mile or so from Crystal Springs. Visit my last post for more info on the refuge.

For an online brochure of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, click HERE.

For a map of the Garden, click HERE.

For additional info, click HERE.

A Few More Photos For Your Enjoyment!





Adventure #2: Snow, Soul Healing Fun, with a Story of Planned Obsolescence

Me - Snow

In my year-long journey to explore areas closer to home, my second adventure included a beautiful warm sunny day on Mt. Hood. Growing up in Bend Oregon, I had plenty of experiences on and arounMt. Bachelor, but I’ve  explored the Mt. Hood area very little. I grew up cross-country skiing, and honestly didn’t care for it much when I was a child (I was always so cold), but as an adult, I have grown to really love it. It’s such a pleasant way to enjoy the wilderness and snow in the winter season, and get a great workout. Cross-Country skiing is far more affordable than the alternative down-hill options, so it’s perfect for those of us that want to get outdoors, but are on a tighter budget.

I headed toward Mount Hood Meadows, a ski resort for those of you looking to snowboard or ski quickly down-hill. There are several snow parks in the area for snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing. I went with basically zero plan, and winged it quite successfully. (Note: these snow parks do require parking passes. They can be purchased nearly anywhere heading up the mountain.) It had snowed  1-2 feet the day before, so the area was simply gorgeous with fresh snow. Although it was a beautiful day, I went during the middle of the week, so very few people were out. I’m sort of selfish with my outdoor time. Unless I’m spending the day with friends or family, I enjoy being alone when I’m in the woods, nothing pleases me more, to be the only one out there. This proved handy when I had to take half my clothes off along the trail later, as I was way over dressed for such a warm day. (However, I obviously encourage folks to let someone know where you are going, and when to expect you home.)


I first went to Bennet Snow Park. Since it was my first time, I talked to a couple people I saw in the parking lot for insight into the area. (Okay, having people around has its advantages haha.) With all the fresh snow, there wasn’t a lot of tracks down yet, and since it was my first time out on skis in more than three years, I thought it would be good to stick to the main trail.


So I geared up in my snow pants (bib style purchased at Goodwill for $7.00), and my late grandmother’s skis, boots, and poles she purchased in the 1980’s. Good thing retro is so cool in the Portland area, or I may have looked silly. I have a thing about avoiding upgrading or replacing items until absolutely necessary, especially when the equipment you have works perfectly well. (See my post on Planned Obsolescence.)

I will admit, I was a little cranky heading up to the mountain. We all have our off days, and I was just letting things get to me. The stress of looking for work and continual rejection can be  heavy at times. However, as soon as I took that first swish in the snow, all my anxieties, negativities, and grumpiness melted. There is nothing more healing than getting into that crisp fresh air. It was exactly what my mind, body and soul needed!

Sun:Snow Pic

I traveled the trail as it traversed a cliff heading into the woods with a very slow incline rising to a hill with a sweeping view of Mt. Hood and the valley below. It was a relatively short distance, so I decided to make my way to another snow park nearby. I randomly picked the White River Canyon snow park only a mile or so down the road back towards Government Camp.

I was greeted with several families sledding on the hills near the parking lot. The lot itself was much larger than Bennet, indicating its popularity. And I can attest, this was honestly one of the most beautiful scenes I had ever skied in. The trail traveled along a canyon with a running creek below and the mountain right in from of you. There was a wonderful expanse of vision along the trail (nice juxtaposition from the thick woods I was in minutes prior).


I didn’t have a lot of time, so I traveled up the trail for a mile and half, and then made my way back to the parking lot. I didn’t notice I was going up hill on the way in, so to my surprise I glided all the way down (with a few falls here and there. I don’t like to go too fast, and I’m sure I was tired by this point haha).

It was a fabulous experience. I really encourage folks to try an outdoor activity that you haven’t experienced, or use gear that has been gathering dust for years- shake out those cobwebs and give it a try again. It’s one of the most rejuvenating experiences for us. Also, it’s easy and fairly low in cost to rent gear if you would like to give it a go. A friend of mine recently lent me his snowshoes, so perhaps that will be my next adventure.

Please share some of your favorite winter spots below!


Adventure #3- Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge & Historic Sellwood

IMG_0072-Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge – View from Trail Platform-

I didn’t travel too far from home with this month’s outdoor adventure. Living in Portland, we are so blessed with pockets of nature right in the city! I have good friends that live in the Sellwood neighborhood in SE Portland, not far from the entrances to Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. This is an area I’ve recently grown quite fond of. We go running or hiking on the trails, and there is a great bike path that connects to the Willamette River bike route. It’s easy to make loops in the area, crossing any one of the many Portland bridges. On this particular day, I hiked a dirt path that hugs the Sellwood cliffside and wanders along the wetlands. This area provides a great opportunity to see many species of birds, and is a peaceful, quiet portion of the refuge (no bikes on this trail).


“Oaks Bottom is a floodplain wetland located along the east bank of the Willamette River. Part of the park is built on a sanitation landfill consisting of 400,000 cubic feet of construction waste material layered with soil. The City of Portland acquired the landfill property from the Donald M. Drake Company at the beginning of 1969 to block its development as an industrial park. The area was believed, at the time, to be one of the few remaining marshland areas in Portland, and local residents were strongly opposed to its development as industrial property.”                                                                                                                          -Taken from the Portland Parks & Recreation Website


I entered the trail via the parking lot on Milwaukie Ave. (right off of  99 East toward Milwaukie and Oregon City). Heading into the wildlife refuge from here, it’s easy to make a loop going back up through Sellwood Park, and part of the Sellwood neighborhood. This way, you can see part of historic Portland, such as the Sellwood neighborhood pool. 

IMG_0067-Sellwood Park-

IMG_0065-Historic Sellwood Pool-

Built in 1910, this pool was the first of it’s kind in Portland. It replaced a floating pool that was in the Willamette river when it became too polluted to use. When the pool was first built, girls used it one day, while the boys used it the next-ahhh, the good ol’ daysThe walk back through the park and neighborhood is beautiful with views of the city skyline, and the wildlife refuge below. If you are wanting to add some extra excitement to the day, Oaks Park Amusement park  is in this area, offering roller skating, amusement park rides, and miniature golf.

IMG_0070-View of Oaks Park Amusement Park, Portland City Skyline, and Wildlife Refuge-

Interested in making a day out of exploring the SE Portland area? I encourage you to visit Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden- only a mile or two from the refuge. Check out my post featuring this beautiful park!

Please share some of your favorite outdoor spots, I would love to check them out and feature them in my outdoor adventure series!


Adventure #1- Exploring Sauvie Island

My very favorite new sights and things to experience are natural areas. A visit to the woods, river, beach, anything that gets me outdoors! (I’m known to really love patios and rooftop bars/restaurants as well). So, it made perfect sense that my first outing on my year-long mission to explore something new every month, was a nearby trail that I’ve never hiked.

Warrior Rock Lighthouse Trail

Sauvi Island Beach

Mentioned in the Portland Monthly magazine, July 2012 issue, this hike is located on the northern tip of Sauvie Island. The trail travels along the Columbia river to a still-functioning lighthouse.  The trail begins at the end of Reeder Road, after the road turns to dirt and you drive for several miles. Don’t worry, it really is at the end, just keep driving!

Sauvie Island is made of part rural farmland. This is where the pumpkin patches are, corn mazes, and all those great “you-pick” farms for yummy fruits and veggies. The northern part of the island (where this hike is located), is a wildlife refuge. Interestingly, hunting is allowed in this area during certain months as well (seems counter-intuitive, but it’s how it is).

We went on a Friday, blessed with beautiful blue skies and sunshine (something to be savored these winter months in this area), and the whole hike nearly to ourselves. We had our two dogs, and although signs say to leash them, it was a great place to let them run (plenty of beach-like sandy shores along the river). And they never came close to any animals, or disturbed the area.

Sauvi Island 2The day was crisp, and the forrest smelled fabulous. We saw several bird species, my favorite probably being the white egret, they are so majestic.  The Columbia river is such a sight to behold, it’s massive size warrants awe no matter how many times you visit. The end of the hike is a wonderful rocky outlet where the lighthouse sits. Down another half mile we saw glimpses of a marina, and several buildings. We determined it must be the town of St. Helens, though I’m not certain.

I like seeing the large ships travel down the river, so I felt lucky that a ship traveled by as we sat taking in the scenery. I think the Columbia river is an interesting juxtaposition of industrialization and mother nature, I love it.

Sauvie Island 3

Total hike distance: Approximately 6 miles (3 miles one-way)


Enjoying My Immediate Surroundings- A Year of Exploration!

Andrew Rivkin Travel

I got bit by the travel bug when I was very young, and as my fellow travelers, adventurers and explorers can attest, I constantly crave new sights and experiences. I am nearly always up for going someplace new, always dreaming of my next big vacation, and I would love a career that provided me opportunities to visit new places and experience varying cultures.

I recently went on a hike in an area I had never been before (see Sauvie Island post). As I was walking, taking in the scenery and the beautiful sunny day, I realized I was just as excited to visit this area (not far from my home), as I was seeing a new spot on my recent vacation in Hawaii. This was such a powerful moment for me! I don’t have to travel thousands of miles to satisfy that itch to see something new.

I often think about the next town or city I would like to live in, moving around appeals to my sense of adventure. As of late, I’ve been longing for something new- thinking about attending graduate school in a different state, or accepting a job in another part of the country, but this is a time, for several reasons, that I need to hunker down a bit. So I’ve decided I will explore my own backyard to continue my sense of wonder, appreciation, and excitement for my current surroundings. This is obviously not going to satiate my desire to visit new countries and experience different languages, cultures etc., but I can always go on vacation!
Oregon Museums






So, I am making a concerted effort to explore new places in the Portland Metro area and surrounding geography. My goal: visit a new place once a month! I would love your suggestions! Please leave them in your comment section below.