Another Knapp Falls Ramble, 20 February 2021

The Robin Hood by Johnson Creek off the Springwater Corridor. 20 Feb 2021. Olympus XA2/Kodak Ultramax 400

It was a week since the Winter Storm. After a week of being cooped up and mobility-limited, I was itching to get in a decent bike ride. The question was: What kind of bike ride could I do? The snow was still lingering around the house, even though the street was clear. But what would it be beyond that? When I did my errands loop ride on Wednesday, most of the side streets had a clear path in them with a bit of slushiness here and there. So I hoped that after a few more days of melt and no re-freezing things should be better.

And the weather for Saturday was turning out good: a mix of sun and clouds and a high of 52F/11C. It didn’t exactly feel like spring just yet (the day before felt a little more so, maybe due to mild moist breezes), but it was a stark contrast to the 27F/-3C and sleeting of a week previous. There were a couple passing showers, one so slight that I didn’t realize it was raining until I saw drops on puddles, the other had a couple minutes of actual light rain. It was a great day to go outside.

But where to go? I had a vague goal of hitting up Knapp Falls again. Last time I was out there on Thanksgiving the creek wasn’t super full, but I’ve seen reports since then that it was much more full. I also wanted to stop by the boringly named “Johnson Creek Property” off the Springwater Corridor between SE 72nd and 82nd. This “property” is part of the gradual restoration of Johnson Creek’s floodplain and natural meander. Here can be found a big open area where the creek has a series of rapids.

So I loaded up my Robin Hood path racer and hit the road after noon. I headed south from North Tabor, following the 50’s Bikeway Corridor. I paused at Creston Post Office to drop off some mail. I originally thought I’d beeline straight down SE 52nd to the Springwater, but instead, I decided to meander down to the Woodstock neighborhood via side streets. Woodstock has one of the best collections of unpaved roads in the city, and I wanted to check them out again. And the roads were all clear, even the dirt and gravel, so I didn’t have to worry about snow and slush. (Mud was another matter.)

After rambling on as many unpaved roads as I could, I finally found my way down to the Springwater. Johnson Creek was moving swiftly by the “Property”. I went down to its rocky banks and was amazed how much Johnson Creek felt like a “mountain” stream here, despite a) its source being far from the Cascades and b) the industry just on the other side. I high-balled east on the Springwater and detoured to Knapp Falls. The falls were definitely fuller, but some people hanging out by the top of the falls ruined the solitude of the moment.

I rambled a bit further east on the Springwater to finally found my solitude: Foster Floodplain. This is another flood reclamation on Johnson Creek, south of SE Foster Road and west of SE 111th Ave. Unlike “Johnson Creek Property”, which was always marginal land, here was an actual small neighborhood that was prone to flooding. The city gradually bought all the property so the land could just lay fallow. I feel a little sad about it, since this is where people used to live, but ultimately it was the right thing to do. There’s little evidence of the neighborhood, the only reminders are several rows of non-native trees like sequoias.*

There’s a single path that cuts through the Floodplain, as they discourage people from using other parts of the natural area. But I did pause off the path for a bit, right near Johnson Creek. I was amazed at how natural everything looked, especially since the urban/suburban neighborhood wasn’t that long ago. I looked at the swollen creek, red twig dogwood lining the banks. I heard many birds. It was all very peaceful, despite the distant hum of I-205 and not-so-distance rattle of busy SE Foster. It’s not wilderness, but it’ll do for now. I’m glad that there are many spots like this in a city of two-thirds of a million people, and while out of the way, it’s not so out of the way.

Daylight was getting scarce, so after a pause by Leach Botanical Garden, about a mile east, I headed home. It was a great little ramble, a total of 22 miles. It was much needed after a week of snow and ice.

The Robin Hood in a bucolic state. Foster Floodplain, 20 Feb 2021

*Non-native now, but the range of the sequoia spread up and down the West Coast before the Ice Age.

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