A West Hills Hike, 6 Nov 2017

Y’know, it’s not always about the bike. I do like to walk and use public transit. When I founded this “league”, oh, thirteen years ago, it was supposed to be both for cycling and walking. But y’know, bikes are cool and folks like to look at bicycle pictures. So that wins out nine times out of ten. (Also, I bike commute.) But sometimes it’s fun to go on a long walk.

And that’s what happened on Monday November 6th. I was jonesing for something resembling a hike, esp. since the last time I did one was during my Indian Heaven backpacking trip in August. Three months ago! Time to remedy that.

One of the great things about living in Portland is the access to hiking. We don’t even have to leave town to go on some great hikes! While there are a few spots on the east side that are good (like Mount Tabor and Powell Butte), the bulk of the good hikes happen along the West Hills. This small mountain range forms a spine dividing Portland from its westside suburbs, and while there is plenty of development around, there is also scads of natural areas, like Forest Park, the largest urban forest in the US (so they say.) And trails! The Wildwood Trail itself is thirty miles long…and all within city limits! What other city can you find that type of trail?

I chose to start my West Hills adventure via Macleay Park entrance. This parklet (part of Forest Park) can be accessed via NW 23rd Avenue. To get there, I used the city bus and the Portland Streetcar, no car needed. One of the reasons why I like using this entrance is that the trail (Macleay) follows Balch Creek as it climbs into the hills. Balch Creek is one of the most significant creeks coming out of the West Hills, and it reminds me of the brooks I used to explore in my youth back in Connecticut. This trail “tops off” by the Portland Audubon Society, which has its own park/sanctuary (open to the public) plus an animal rehabilitation facility (hello, raven!) and a gift shop. I always stop by here. This time I managed to score a couple used books, including one of those “guide to birds” books for only $2!

From here, it was more up via the Wildwood Trail to get to Pittock Mansion. This is where I really tested my legs. And the grounds of Pittock Mansion (now a city park) has one of the greatest views in Portland. The start of the day had low leaden clouds, but by the time I reached Pittock the clearing had started. (Though I couldn’t see Mt Hood.) I ate my lunch here. It was in the upper 40’s F (about 9C), but I got cold when I sat down so I needed to layer back up.

It was more Wildwood Trail to the next destination, Hoyt Arboretum in Washington Park. Hoyt is the yin to the yang of Columbia Children’s Arboretum, which I visited the day before. Hoyt is hilly, well maintained, well marked, and popular. Columbia is flat, poorly maintained, not that well marked (but better than it has been), and obscure. At Hoyt you’ll find a staffed visitor center/gift shop, bathrooms with sinks and flush toilets, and a covered picnic area. Columbia features no visitor center, a porta potty with a spigot somewhere over there, and a falling-apart uncovered picnic area. I’m not dissing Columbia, but it’s like night and day. Anyways, I did a circuit, passing through the redwoods like I always do.

It was about four PM when I wrapped up my Hoyt Arboretum exploration. I could go further, hit up Council Crest, but I was getting tired and there was only another hour of daylight. I could hop on the MAX from here, but I still had more energy. So I decided to descend down from here via foot. I used trails and city streets, and passed through the famous International Test Rose Gardens. By this point, the clouds had cleared enough to get a good view of Mount Hood. Score! I kept on heading further down until I hit the Goose Hollow Inn, run by the family of my favorite ex Portland mayor. I got a Reuben and a couple beers, a suitable end to my adventure, then hopped on the bus home.

I just scraped the surface of hiking in the West Hills. I’ll be back again, sure enough, but hopefully sooner than later…

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