Before Rain Adventuring: The Springwater-Elk Rock Island-Powell Butte Ride, Thursday October 11, 2012

We’ve had a very beautiful summer into fall in these parts. Since the beginning of July we haven’t seen any rain. (Well, I exaggerate. I believe it drizzled twice in this three month span.) Early October has been great, as it has remained sunny with high temps around 70F/21C, though the nights have gotten cooler. And as much as I love the sun, I know that three months of dry in these parts is a bit too much. (See all the fires that have been happening in eastern Washington and Oregon.) We can definitely use the rain. And as a certified Oregonian, it’s just weird to go without rain for so long.

But a weather system bringing the first good rain of the season moved in over the weekend. I saw that weather forecast earlier in the week and knew I needed to enjoy the dry and sunny weather one last time. I needed…a bike ride.

Yes, I pretty much ride a bike every day in my around town jaunts. But we’re talking maybe five miles tops on an average basis. I wanted to get some miles in, as it’s been awhile since I’ve taken a bike ride for the bike ride’s sake.

But where to? And with what bike? The latter seemed pretty obvious: the Raleigh M40. I haven’t done a long ride on this bike, so I needed to test its abilities and its comfort level. Since the bike was still somewhat unproven, I’d go for an easy, obvious route: The Springwater Corridor from near my house in inner SE to maybe as far as Gresham. This way I had plenty of “bail out” opportunities along the way, and could always take the MAX home.

Thursday October 11th was the day. Besides meeting someone who bought my kickstand in the am,* I had no outstanding obligations this day, no work. Oh, sure, there’s plenty on my plate, but nothing that needed to be done on Thursday. And this would be the last day of sun before the storm front. Perfect.

Oregon White Oak (Garry Oak)
Pacific Madrone (Arbutus)
Madrona berries

I left the house after noon. The morning fog had burned off, and while the skies were a bit hazy, it was a beautiful 66F/19C out. I hit the Springwater and enjoyed its riverside, golden grass glory. Some of the trees had started changing, and I figured that there will be more color after the rains start. Checking out the level of the Willamette, I noted how low it was. Low enough that walking to Elk Rock Island would be a breeze.

Elk Rock Island is an outcropping of basaltic rock in the Willamette formed by volcanic activity, located outside Milwaukie, a suburb south of Portland. Much of the year Elk Rock Island is just that, but during the dry season when the river is low, it’s connected to the mainland. I love Elk Rock Island but haven’t been to it in a few years. (One of the times I’ve been to it is in June for a picnic, but the river level hadn’t dropped enough yet, meaning wading through river water a couple feet deep.) What better time than now? Oh sure, this would be a deviation from the main route, but so what? I’m not much for sticking to a hard-and-straight route when exploration was to be had!

Elk Rock Island was cool and I spent maybe a half-hour there, checking things out. There’s a rumor that this guy was there right before me, but the only folks I spotted loitering on the island looked to be teenagers. (Heck, if I was still in high school and lived in Milwuakie, I’d probably go down here every day.)

After a pause in Milwaukie, I got back on the Springwater, heading east. I scuttled the idea for getting as far as Gresham due to dwindling daylight.** But where to stop? I got a burrito at Cartlandia at SE 82 and the Springwater and decided to stick it out to at least Powell Butte. While I’ve passed Powell Butte many a time on the Springwater, I haven’t been to the top in a few years. Will this be the day of hitting up places I haven’t been to in awhile? Yes, it will.

I got to Powell Butte just before sunset. Powell Butte is one of the area’s cinder cones, remnants of small volcanoes (the Boring Lava Field) that were active thousands upon thousands of years ago. While Mount Tabor is the most well known (and highest) of the four that are within the city limits (Rocky Butte and Kelly Butte are the other two), Powell Butte is probably larger in area, and is more rustic and “natural” than Tabor. It was a steep climb to the top, but on the summit I was greeted to a flat, grassy expanse that afforded great views of the area. And I wasn’t alone; there were a bunch of people up there enjoying the last sunset of “summer”.

I hung out for a little bit, then descended the Butte via the paved entrance road. They are constructing big water tanks for our water supply, and due to the mess I couldn’t get to the trail I wanted to use. So I needed to use un-peaceful Powell Blvd. for about a mile until I could get on less trafficked side streets. The new Cygolite Metro 300 lit the way on the dark streets towards home. I arrived home tired but satisfied, a good little 30 mile ride under the belt.

The Raleigh M40 worked well. While a little small, it was comfortable the whole way. The major issue with the bike is the drivetrain, as it wasn’t switching or staying in gear as smooth as it should. Might have to overhaul the drivetrain sooner than later.

For more photos, check out the photo set for this trip on flickr.

*Hope you like it, Joe!
**Yes, I brought good lights with me, but I didn’t want to ride much after dark.

2 thoughts on “Before Rain Adventuring: The Springwater-Elk Rock Island-Powell Butte Ride, Thursday October 11, 2012

Add yours

  1. Now THAT sounds like a good day riding to my ear! Cool pics too,I right click/saved the one of the M40 alongside the tree and the one with the bridge in the backdrop 🙂

  2. i (heart) elk rock island. and powell butte is my home base! but i've never ridden a bike to the top, though sometimes i cut through on the blacktail deer trail to get to ellis.

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