Category Archives: OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

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

Camping Solo and Overcoming Fear

In 2019, I spent Labor Day weekend embarking on a solo camping trip adventure. I did not expect the wild ride that ensued. I wrote a short story in the memoir class I took this spring, and thought I’d share. This is the beginning of a wonderful transformation in myself…enjoy!
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It is no secret that I love and long for alone time. I decided early in the summer I would squeeze in a solo camping trip at some point. It checked all the boxes – affordable, time in nature, and much needed solitude.

However, the entire summer flew by with every week accounted for, so when Labor Day weekend arrived, I knew it was now or never before the weather turned. With zero plan (which is unlike me as a Virgo), I haphazardly packed my things. I didn’t have a campground reservation, which is nearly a requirement these days, I just knew I wanted to explore the Mt. Adams wilderness area.

Equipped with my hiking book and Washington state campground book, I assumed I’d figure it out, and all would fall into place. I loaded the car with my belongings and my 12-year-old Australian Shepherd Jasmine, and drove to the town of Trout Lake in Washington state, about 90 minutes from my home.

I stopped at the Ranger Station on the outskirts of town to ask about permits, maps, directions, and advice on a campground; in which I got a flat toned, “Good luck, it’s Labor Day weekend, and it’s already Saturday.”

I lost cell service leaving Trout Lake town limits, and that’s when the first thought of worry for the weekend crept into my mind. My car didn’t come with a spare tire, and I didn’t have a tire repair kit, as it was used the previous summer when I got a flat, and never replaced. With each mile I drove deeper into the woods, this worry became a little more prominent. No spare, and no cell service seemed like a bad combination.

I decided to drive the loop at the first campground I passed to see if there were any available sites. Much to my surprise, there were four or five. I figured, if all else failed, I would just come back to this campground for the night, but it wasn’t really the vibe I was looking for, so I continued my journey to find that perfect spot.

I spent the next four hours exploring several campgrounds and found zero availability. My patience was disappearing as quickly as my light. A woman I chatted with at one of the campgrounds told me about a large spot near a bridge down the road that was still available earlier in the day. As I drove back down the main forest service road, I spied the spot and pulled over to investigate.

It was a huge area with a dry creek bed nearby, plenty of forest for Jasmine to run around, and a well-built fire ring. The spot was clearly used as a free campsite by many. I was excited about the prospect of not being bothered by anyone. This would be the ultimate alone time opportunity, and it wouldn’t cost me a penny!

However, there was a little part of me that was nervous I would get scared as soon as it got dark. I was in the middle of nowhere, with no cell service…a woman all alone in a site visible from the road.

For the next 15 minutes, I went back and forth, trying to decide what to do. Finally, I let a coin decide my fate. Heads I would stay, tails I would go down the road to the campground that had sites earlier in the day. The flip revealed heads; clearly the universe wanted me to stay. I looked at it as an opportunity to be brave. Plus, there were no guarantees the few spots I saw earlier in the day at the first campground were even available anymore.

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It took me about 30 minutes to set up camp, all while thinking, is this the right choice? I just couldn’t shake the scared feeling that was creeping in. Jasmine wanted in the tent as soon as it was set up. This made me even more nervous. Why did she want in the tent? What was she scared of? Did my dog sense danger that I couldn’t see or smell?

Darkness fell quickly, as it does in the middle of the woods, and with it, all the bravery I thought I had. Even after I had a fire going, the thought, maybe I should just pack up and go, crossed my mind at least a dozen times. I kept fighting it, telling myself to be brave, there was nothing to fear.

I made dinner, poured myself a glass of red wine, and did some journal writing next to the fire. With some Pinot in me, I began to relax a little until I heard a ruckus in my cooking area. I flashed a light in the direction of my makeshift kitchen and saw a mouse skitter across the camp stove. It was time to pack things into the car.

After stashing everything in the vehicle, I sat by the fire for another glass of wine and more journal writing. I still wondered if I should stay or pack up and get out of there. I found it necessary to tell myself over and over just be brave.

Half-way through the glass of wine I took a sip, and felt something foreign in my mouth, and a sharp bite on my lip. I looked down with my headlamp to see ants on the lid of my wine tumbler, and realized one of them had just bitten me!

This leads me to worry about having an allergic reaction. What would happen if I got sick, a weird rash, or I stopped breathing! I have no idea what this ant bite will do to me!

I decide it’s time for bed. I was trying to stall as long as possible since I had a sneaking suspicion it would be a long night in the tent, but I was ready to be done with this day, and I was hoping sleep would take over quickly, despite my every nerve being tense with a cloud of fear.

I had a couple things to put away for the night, and when I opened the car door, I saw a mouse run across the back seat. I released an audible “ugh.” I wasn’t going to tackle the mouse problem in the dark, but managed to ensure all the food was sealed tight so it wouldn’t be feasting all night.

I got settled into the tent while the fear inside of me festered at an even greater capacity. By this time, I had several dozen scenarios floating around in my head, all reasons I should be really scared. I knew there were bear and cougar in the woods. What if one was hungry and happened to stroll through my camp? I was thankful for the small sledgehammer I decided to grab out of the car, and held it for comfort.

What’s more frightening than large animals, is other people. The hair-raising scenes in every horror movie I’ve seen crossed my mind. Even worse, were the super strange murders in the news. Those stories are real true crimes that actually happened.  

I thought about the serial killer driving by. He probably saw me set up camp and knows I’m alone. Then I started thinking about zombies, ghosts, rabid raccoons and…the big one, you know, the earthquake that could happen any day. There were so many things to fear, it was unbearable.

The logical side of me recognized all these scenarios were highly unlikely, so I told myself to calm down, breathe, try to relax, and enjoy the quiet time I was longing for. I knew the odds were greater that I would die in a car crash the next day, than be harmed by anything in the night, but I couldn’t shake the idea that…things do happen! Really messed up things. I know, because I follow the news, and I listen to murder mystery podcasts. I could be the next headline, all because I decided to camp in the middle of nowhere all by myself!
I was miserable, and I was definitely NOT having fun.

Even as midnight approached, I kept thinking, should I just pack up and go? But then I remember the mouse in my car. There was no way I could pack up and go, because the mouse would probably run up my leg when I drove away, and I’d get in that car accident that is actually statistically plausible. Additionally, there was no way I could go sleep in my car knowing there was a mouse in there. My options were limited, which created elevated fear.

Jasmine seemed scared too, which didn’t help matters. I didn’t know if she was nervous because I was so scared and she was feeding off my energy, or if she was nervous because she sensed danger (dogs know things), or if her nervousness was a figment of my wild imagination that was clearly in overdrive this particular night.

I knew there was no way in hell I was falling asleep anytime soon, so I read. With adrenaline pumping through my entire being, I read for a couple hours, every so often hearing noises outside, and the occasional car driving by, so the fear barometer never eased up.

The book I had was my saving grace as it offered a distraction for me to finally fall asleep at some point around 2:00 a.m. with my glasses still on and the book on my face.

I woke with a start at 3:00 a.m. to hear footsteps outside. My heart was racing, and my panic was now at a 10. The noise was unidentifiable. It could have been deer, elk, bear, a person…or it could have been my sleeping bag rubbing up against my tent in such a way that it sounded like footsteps, or Jasmine moving around to find a new comfortable spot. No one will ever know, but I got some more reading in, because I was wide awake until nearly 4:30 a.m., at which point I was merely counting down the minutes until the sun would save me. I knew everything would be okay, and my overwhelming fear would go away once it was light outside.

I did finally fall back to sleep and got a couple more hours of rest before waking up to sunlight at 6:30 a.m. I couldn’t have been happier. Jasmine was perky too; ready to get out of the tent and explore her surroundings. Thank god that night was over!

I made breakfast quickly, and got my gear into the car with no sign of the mouse. I was anxious to get out of there.

All loaded up in my Kia Niro, I pushed the engine button only to see the “battery dead” icon in the dashboard. First shock, and then anger swept over me as I yelled, “You have to be kidding me!” Trying to remain calm, I took a couple deep breaths while looking for the owner’s manual in the glove box, telling myself, everything will be okay. Of course, the manual wasn’t in the car.

The previous night I blew up my air mattress with the car plug-in, and I must have left the car partially on, draining the battery through the night. The car is a hybrid, so I knew jumper cables wouldn’t work.

Panicking, I hailed down the first vehicle that passed by, a truck full of teenagers heading back to town. A couple of them looked under the hood of my car with me, and we all just shook our heads. We had no idea what to do. The kids were all so nice, and willing to help me. They began clearing out their backseat to provide room for me and my dog to ride into town with them where I could at least use my cell phone.

Right before I hopped into their truck, a memory flashed of the day I bought the car. I learned about a button you simply push to jump the battery! I ran to the car to check it out, explaining to my new friends as I went. Sure enough, there was a button, and it worked. I was ecstatic!

I said thank you, and goodbye to the teenagers that were prepared to rescue me, so thankful they didn’t have to. I let the car run for a few minutes, catching my breath, trying to find a calm place – the whole point of this weekend after all.

I decided to do the hike I had in mind when I chose this area to explore, otherwise the torturous night was for nothing. I drove to Little Huckleberry Mountain trail; a 5-mile round-trip hike with a 1,780 ft. elevation gain, according to my hiking book. The trailhead was only 20 minutes away, and I was filled with glee as I headed in that direction with camp fear in the rearview mirror.

As I pulled into the trailhead parking area, I saw no other cars. Normally this is a hiker’s dream; to have the trail all to herself, but today I’m feeling a little anxious about being the only one here, so far away, still no cell service…what if something happened? Of course, the previous night’s mind wanderings supplied plenty of scenarios for me to worry about.

Deciding to be brave once again, I gear up, grabbing my little backpack to discover the zipper was broken. Really, what else might go wrong?

I let Jazzy run the trail; she was finally a happy camper. Although I was worried about my car starting once I got back to it, and every other possible thing that could go askew, I enjoyed the beautiful hike. It was so nice to be in nature. With each passing mile, my stress and nervousness melted away little by little.

Until about half-way up the trail, I saw a giant paw print in the mud. I didn’t know what it belonged to, but I knew it was a big animal, cougar or bear. For the remainder of the hike up the mountain I sang, clapped and whistled, so not to startle any wildlife I might stumble upon. I felt the cougar stalking me, just waiting for a good time to pounce.

I made it all the way to the top with a sigh of relief; I was still alive! I got to enjoy the whole top of the mountain by myself, which is a rare treat for any hiking trail in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time all the fear of the past 12 hours truly rolled off my shoulders, and I was finally able to relax. Jasmine and I both had some water and snacks.

I wrote in my journal, reflected on the crazy night before, and wondered where all that fear came from, it was so unlike me. I had never been scared like that before in my life. I’m not typically a worrier, I don’t ever think of the “worse-case scenario.” I’m never scared of nature or being outdoors, typically it’s my happy place. Am I just getting older, and as humans age, we worry more?

I didn’t want to be scared to be alone, I’ve always loved being alone. I knew I would have been fine if I had chosen the campground. For some reason, having groups of people surrounding me would have provided the comfort I needed to feel safe. In my search to be “alone” I was finding that maybe I preferred having at least a few people around.

Part of my fear also came from wondering if I can’t be alone out in the wilderness. Maybe I don’t have the grit that it takes? Maybe I’ll be dependent on having people with me from now on, and that loss of independence frightened me. I’ve always wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. How could I possibly tackle such an endeavor if I can’t even handle being alone at night?

After an hour of enjoying the top of the mountain, I began the descent and started seeing people. By the time I got close to the car, Jasmine was back on leash because the crowds were out in full force. I was annoyed with all the people, missing the time I had the trail to myself. The irony was not lost on me.

Feeling rejuvenated from the hike, I decided to explore the surrounding area a bit. My car started without incident, and I went to nearby South Prairie which provided Jasmine a little relief.

I also hiked the short loop at the “Natural Bridges” site.

Now that I felt better, I wanted to check out another area on my wish list. There’s a small primitive campground at the base of Mt. Adams, perfect for a home base to do hikes in the area. I decided if there were camp spots available, I’d think about staying, if there weren’t, I’d consider it a sign to call it a weekend and head home.

I began my drive to Morrison Creek Campground. It was a bit of a trek on another dirt road, causing me to think again about that potential flat tire. However, the view of Mt. Adams was great as I drove, and I felt at ease when I pulled into the campground and saw other people.

One of the best campsites was available, so I snagged it up, made myself lunch, drank a beer, and thought about what I should do. I had cell service (somewhat remarkably) which made me feel safe.

I didn’t want a repeat of the night before, so I spoke with my neighbor to see if she and her husband were planning on staying the night. They were, making me feel even more at ease. I decide I should be brave and go for it. I needed a good night to round out the weekend, and this campsite was beautiful. The creek ran right by with wildflowers all around, and Mt. Adams towered over the whole campground in such a majestic way, plus it was free!

Setting up camp was again quick and easy. I then found the last of the sunshine in the field that occupied the middle of the campground, and wrote in my journal for a while.

When I walked back to camp, I was puzzled by the sound of rushing water. I didn’t remember a creek going through that section of the campground. I arrived back at my site stunned to see the water flowing right through! Rushing water that was not there 30 minutes ago. It appeared out of nowhere as if someone on the mountain turned the faucet on. The group of people camped to the east of me, wandered over in amazement. We were all totally wowed.

I had to find a narrow spot to jump over the creek to get to my tent and picnic table. The natural phenomenon was cool, but… now I had a new thing to worry about. What if the water kept rising and reached my tent? Would I be able to sleep, or would I just be stressing all night about getting caught in a flood? I decide it’s too late to worry much about it now. Worst case scenario, I’d go sleep in the car with the mouse.

Jasmine was ready to get into the tent for the night around 6:30 p.m, but she didn’t seem worried this time. Feeling hunger, I got the camp stove out to heat up soup, but the stove would not work. Learning to take things in stride this weekend, I simply switched gears and made a fire to roast vegetables. I cut up beets, and zucchini and threw the pieces into some tin foil with butter, onion and garlic.

The sky was magical that night. It was clear with all the stars in full force, which also meant it was cold.

I made myself sleepy time tea, journaled for a little bit, and headed to bed. The water in the new creek had only risen a little, so I figured it was probably going to be okay.

I slept much better the second night, apart from being a little cold. When I woke up the next day, I was really happy I decided to camp a second night. This was the kind of alone relaxing time I was looking for. The magical stream that suddenly appeared the evening before was now totally gone.

The stove worked, so I made myself a giant spinach egg wrap for breakfast, and got ready to go on a hike I’ve had on my “to-do” list for many years.

I drove 2 miles to the very busy parking lot at the base of the mountain and headed out to Crofton Ridge on Mt. Adams via the Round-the-Mountain trail. Jasmine and I hiked 11 miles on an epic trail that circled the mountain. I never found the point where I was supposed to turn around (according to my hiking book), but it didn’t really matter as we had a great time.

Jasmine was like her old self chasing squirrels and going off trail like a mountain goat. She had been very timid for the previous few months after we lost our other dog earlier in the summer. It was a heart-wrenching thing for the whole family, and Jasmine was certainly affected. It was heart-warming to see her prance, and run, and appear so happy again; it made the whole crazy weekend worth it.

We crossed several creeks with views of the mountains the whole way. We were hot and tired by the time we got back to camp, and I soaked my feet in the cold creek.

I packed up camp and said farewell to my weekend adventure. Driving along the Columbia Gorge, the moon was bright over the hills; it was the perfect ending to a pretty epic day. I reflected on the weekend and all the fear I experienced. The possible flat tire that never happened, the scary animal encounters that never happened, the scary people encounters that never happened, the flood that never developed, the car battery that was resolved with a push of a button, and I never did see that mouse in my car again. Out of all those potential scary possibilities, the weekend turned out fantastic. I was safe every step of the way.

Maybe I can spend time in nature solo! Maybe I can hike the Pacific Crest Trail! I decided not to give up, I’d keep practicing my bravery.

The following week I told my father the story of the whole weekend, and he asked to see a picture of the animal track I saw on my Huckleberry Mountain hike. He confirmed it was a fresh bear track. He said it was probably a good thing I sang the rest of the way; you just never know…

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!

Gorge

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).

Bird#3

Bird#1

Rodie #3

The garden does a fairly good job reminding visitors:

DON’T FEED THE BIRDS!

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

Rodie#8

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!

Rodi#10

Rodi#11

Rodi#12

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.)

Trees-Snow

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.

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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!

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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).

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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).

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“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

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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. 

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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.