Return to Wilkes Creek: 3 Feb 2021

I’ve been making a mental list of places I like but haven’t ridden to in awhile. Sometimes it helps to have a goal for a bike ramble vs. “Just get out thar and follow the winde”. After 20 years in Portland, there’s a lot or places I want to bike to again. But it’s better when they are far enough but not super far. Within ten miles is the sweet spot: it makes a nice twenty mile ride, something I can even do on a winter afternoon.

And by the time the winter afternoon of Wednesday February 3rd rolled around, I sure as hell needed a bike ride. The previous four days were pretty hectic and hellish: I ended up shipping out almost 300 parcels of material to participants of a virtual conference. I somehow fooled myself going into the project, expecting it to take one afternoon. Nope. I was mentally and physically burnt by Tuesday night. I needed a ramble to recharge the batteries. But where to ramble to?

I had just gotten back the photos from the Olympus Pen EES-2. Since the camera worked, I wanted to bring it in to the shop for a Clean, Lube, Adjust, but riding into deep SW didn’t appeal to me, at least right now. So I skipped that option. (Good thing I did, as later on Wednesday I was informed that my Minolta SRT-101 was ready to pick up. So I headed over on Thursday to pick up and drop off, killing two birds with one stone.) Instead, I decided to Head East, and head towards the farther reaches of the Columbia Slough. I hadn’t been to the Wilkes Creek Natural Area since my Slough Country Ramble a year ago. No better time than now! I pulled out my Bantam Rambleneur and hit the road.

One advantage to being a “Later Afternoon Cyclist” vs. an “Early Morning Cyclist” is the weather can be better here in the afternoon, especially in winter. The morning was pretty grey, but the afternoon had copious helpings of sun. I brought along the Dacora Digna camera since it’d work well in good light. (I also took my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s, loaded with black and white.) I headed straight for Wilkes Creek, well, at least as straight as I can manage.

Wilkes Creek was free of people, save one lone walker I saw during my first minute there. It’s an obscure park on the edge of town, so there’s not much of a need to worry about people. I rode my bike across the bridge and up the hill, where Wilkes Creek burbles out of the ground. Wilkes Creek is the only uncovered stream within the City of Portland that flows north into the Columbia Slough (which is theoretically a side-channel of the Columbia River.*) Despite the sounds of nearby I-84, it was pretty peaceful. This is the kind of place I loved to explore when I was growing up in Connecticut, sort of “wild” places just outside of suburbia.

I had originally planned on having my lunch at Wilkes Park downstream, as it has picnic tables. But it’s one of those outer Portland parks where people sit in their cars beside it and smoke pot, which doesn’t do anything for ambiance. Here at the headwaters, I had the place to myself. I found a spot at the top of the hill, under a cedar and overlooking the creek. The forest floor litter was a comfy place to sit (my butt pad protecting me from dampness), so I pulled out my sandwich and had lunch to myself. It was wonderful.

From Wilkes Creek, I headed the short distance down to the Columbia Slough, where I picked up the trail that heads to the canoe launch. I also took a pause at the unofficial overlook above the wetlands at Big Four Corners, where I spotted a Great Blue Heron hunting. With daylight fading, I rode back home, passing by Luuwit View Park and Gateway Green. My odometer read 20 miles when I was done, a good little ride.

For photos from this ramble, see the dynamic flickr album below. Or, click here.

The Bantam by Wilkes Creek. 3 Feb 2021

*It used to be open on both ends, with free flow into the main body of the Columbia River. But after years of extensive diking and “flood control”, the Slough doesn’t even connect to the Columbia anymore. Its “source” is now Blue Lake and the mouth is in the Willamette River, just about a half-mile upstream of the confluence with the Columbia.)

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