A pre-Christmas Ramble down Johnson Creek way, 23 December 2020

It’s pretty boilerplate, as far as rambles go: I head down to my post office, then south towards Johnson Creek, then east. Boilerplate, but good. And come Wednesday December 23rd, much needed. December was decently wet, at least the two weeks in the middle of the month. This Wednesday was dry and sunny, so I pulled out the Bantam Rambleneur and loaded it with “ramble essentials”:

  • A butt pad, because of course
  • A radio, because it’s fun
  • Coffeeneuring/Coffee Outside kit
  • Sketchbook, in case I got inspired
  • Cameras:

The first big stop was Johnson Creek Park in Sellwood, a not-well known park where Johnson and Crystal Springs meet. Johnson Creek was pretty swollen, Crystal Springs less so. (Crystal Springs is a much shorter creek with a small watershed vs. 25 mile long Johnson Creek.) There’s picnic tables in the peninsula between the two creeks, so I set up my Coffee Outside station, making some pour-over and using the Trangia 27 Stormcooker. The 27 is a bit overkill for a small coffee outside, true. But it was supposed to be breezy, and it’s the best stove for that (hence its name.) The breeze was light, though, and I enjoyed the burrito I got from nearby La Serinita.

Daylight was getting scarce. I headed east on the Springwater Corridor bike path with parallels Johnson Creek. The next stop was a two-fer: There’s a small man-made “island” in the creek just west of SE 45th. Back in the 1930’s the Works Progress Administration did extensive work on Johnson Creek, as it was prone to flooding. They did the things they thought were good back then: straighten the creek, wall in the sides. Over the past couple decades the city and other agencies have been undoing the “improving”, getting ride of the stone walls, reintroducing meanders, wetlands, and floodplains. But the “cut off” of a meander remains here, a small channel that creates the island. On the island is a few houses. There’s a nice stone wall and a dam/waterfall where the cutoff re-enters the main creek. It’s pretty picturesque and I usually pause here when I can.

And Errol Creek enters Johnson Creek just north of the cut-off, one of the four remaining free-flowing creeks on the east side of Portland. (The fourth is Wilkes Creek, which flows into Columbia Slough.)* On the east side of 45th is the headwaters of Errol Creek, a series of wetlands in a depression. It’s even more obscure than Johnson Creek Park, even though it’s not far off of the Springwater Corridor. There’s one unpaved path that runs through the park. I always cruise through it, even if it means hoofing up a hill on foot.

Atop the wetlands between 45th and 52nd is a pocket of the Errol Heights neighborhood that feels divorced from the rest of the city. Here all of the streets are unpaved! Portland has a lot of unpaved roads for a city its size (60 miles worth, about 3% of all streets), but it’s rare to find an intersection of two unpaved streets. Here, there are several!

Also to be found in this pocket neighborhood: peacocks! I have seen peacocks (and peahen) around the city on previous rambles, but here is a certified flock** of them! I ran into them here before, and I wondered if I’d see them again. Well, I saw them. Fifteen, to be exact! I believe the neighborhood feeds them.

It was dark, so I cruised home. A good 20 mile ramble that recharged my batteries.

A swollen Johnson Creek serves as the backdrop. Bantam Rambleneur at Johnson Creek Park, 23 Dec 2020

*Editor’s Note, 19 Jan 2021: Okay, four streams is a bit inaccurate. There’s the creek on Powell Butte, Knapp Falls/Creek, Veterans Creek, plus some other small, unnamed creeks on the southern edge of the city (east of I-205) that flow northward from Mount Scott into Johnson Creek. Also, the topo map shows a small creek just east of Wilkes Creek. Time for more exploring…

**No, not exactly certified. And a group of peacocks/peahen is called an “ostentation” or a “muster”.

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