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Hiking Oregon Portland Trip report Willamette Valley

Three Hikes on Sauvie Island

Our latest outing was a three stop trip to Sauvie Island in the Columbia River. After purchasing our $10/day parking permit online from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife we headed for our fist stop at the Wapato State Greenway.
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Here a short loop trail passes around Virginia Lake and along the Multnomah Channel.
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We set off on the entrance trail which quickly split (not shown on the map). We veered left on a mowed path through some grass.
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Our plan had been to visit the viewing platform first thing but this left fork was not the true entrance trail and we wound up joining the loop trail a tenth of a mile south of the side trail to the platform.
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We turned left onto the loop trail deciding to visit the platform near the end of our hike instead.
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We passed a view of Virginia Lake and arrived at a viewing blind after a tenth of a mile.
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Other than the occasional red-winged blackbird sighting we didn’t see anything from the blind on this morning. We continued on the loop ignoring a spur trail to Hadley’s Landing Dock just before arriving at the Multnomah Channel.
Multnomah Channel

The trail passed through woods with occasional openings to grassy meadows. There were a few woodland flowers here and there but the most interesting thing was the wildlife. We saw a lot of birds and couple of shy rabbits. Most of the birds were busy foraging in the bushes or flitting from tree to tree so we didn’t have a lot of luck with pictures. We did appreciate the many songs they were singing as they made their morning rounds.
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IMG_6569Black-headed grosbeak

We also spotted what we at first identified as a pair of deer under a large oak.
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As we watched them disappear into the brush we kept noticing more deer and ended up counting five of them.

After passing the picnic shelter we turned right down the side trial to the viewing platfrom.
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We had more luck with the wildlife from this viewpoint spotting a couple of different types of ducks, a great blue heron, and a pied-billed grebes.

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IMG_6595Mallards with a great blue heron in the distance.

IMG_6608Cinnamon teal and a mallard

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We had never heard of a pied-billed grebe and were wondering what it was. Then we took the time to read the interpretive sign at the platform.
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After leaving the platform we headed back to the car. Along the way we spotted another new bird to us. A Black-throated Gray Warbler. She was hopping around on the trail gathering something for a nest it appeared so the photos are a bit blurry.
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Our second stop was at Oak Island,technically a peninsula. It is part of the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area and only open to hikers from April 16 through the end of September.
From the parking area a mowed path leads past a large signboard for .3 miles to the start of a loop.
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The rabbits were a little less shy here.
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We had a few cattle cross our path prior to reaching the start of the loop as well.
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We actually missed the start of the loop which was marked by a post with a hiker symbol on it.
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We stayed straight on the obvious track past this sign as the path leading right was so faint we hadn’t noticed it. Continuing in this clockwise direction the trail leads through open grass with Steelman Lake to the west.
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A number of great blue herons could be seen flying over the water and along the lakes shore we spotted a pair of white pelicans and a family of Canada geese.
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The distinctive call of red-winged blackbirds was prevalent.
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After passing through a gate the grass grew taller and the trail began to turn away from Steelman Lake. Here there were many butterflies and a few blooming camas.
Nature Trial at Oak IslandLooking back at the gate.

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Just before turning south near Sturgeon Lake a .1 mile spur path to the left led to the narrows, a narrow channel connecting Steelman and Sturgeon Lakes.
IMG_6661Looking toward Steelman Lake from the Narrows.

IMG_6662The Narrows. Another lake, Mud Lake, is on the other side of the trees.

As we were returning to the loop we spotted a pretty yellow warbler and a wood duck.
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Shortly after rejoining the loop Heather spotted a path down to a small beach along Sturgeon Lake where both Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams were visible but due to the lighting very hard to make out.
IMG_6671Mt. Adams (it is really there)

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We had been similarly unsuccessful at getting a picture of Mt. Hood earlier from the Narrows. We finished up the loop and returned to our car ready to head to our final stop at the Warrior Point Trailhead. A coyote raced across the road near the parking are for the clothing optional Collin’s Beach. We’re not sure what it had been up to but it looked like it thought it was being chased. We had some fun imagining it had tried to run off with someones clothes.

After that excitement we parked at the trailhead and before setting off walked down the the sandy beach along the Columbia River.
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As we began hiking a bald eagle flew overhead.
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The trail had occasional views of the River as well as Mt. St. Helens which was now a little easier to make out.
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IMG_6699Mt. St. Helens and an Osprey nest.

Our visit to the Island had already been on of the most diverse for birds and the Warrior Rock Lighthouse Trail just added to this. After the bald eagle and osprey we spotted a pair of American goldfinches.
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These were followed by a Bullock’s Oriole and a yellow throated warbler.
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The trail itself varied as it spent some time in the woods, some along the river, and other passing through tall grass.
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Considering the combination of grass, nearby water, and warm sunshine it seemed like the perfect conditions for snakes but we only spotted one.
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After three miles we arrived at a sandy beach near the Warrior Rock Lighthouse

IMG_6753Mt. St. Helens again.

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After a short rest on the beach we continued north on the sand to an old concrete gun mount.
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This is where things got a little interesting. Our guidebook said to turn inland here on a small access road to a T-shaped junction. The map accompanying the description on Oregonhikers.org appeared to show the track continuing north from this point along the river. We couldn’t see any sign of the small access road so we continued north along the beach until it was no longer possible. We faced the choice of backtracking or following a faint path inland to try and connect to an old road bed that would take us to Warrior Point. We headed inland.
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There was a faint path, we’re guessing it was more of a game trail than anything but it wouldn’t have been too hard to follow except for all the blackberry bushes. We managed to push through what turned out to only be a tenth of a mile to arrive at the grassy road bed.
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A brief detour right led us to a viewpoint at Warrior Point of the town of St. Helens.
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IMG_67671905 Columbia County Courthouse

We followed the old road bed back from Warrior Point for a half mile where it met the Warrior Point Trail near the beach at the lighthouse.
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We had only seen a handful of other hikers all day but on the way back to the car (it was only now a little after 11am) we passed a number of people heading toward the lighthouse. We were once again thankful to have gotten an early start.

Our distances for the day were 2.6 miles at Wapato Greenway, 3.3 miles at Oak Island, and 7.3 miles at Warrior Point for a total of 13.2. It had been a great day for wildlife and another enjoyable set of hikes in the Portland area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Sauvie Island Hikes

Categories
Central Oregon Hiking John Day Oregon Trip report

Cottonwood Canyon State Park

We spent Memorial Day Weekend in Bend and on Saturday morning drove up to Cottonwood Canyon State Park along the John Day River. To get there from Bend we drove north on Highway 97 to Wasco then turned onto Highway 206 for 15 miles to the park entrance.

Just after turning onto the entrance road we forked right on a short gravel road to a parking area near the river. The Hard Stone Trail began here.
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This nearly level 1.5 mile path follows the river upstream to Big Eddy, a lazy whirlpool at a bend in the river. The park has very few trees which allows for some wide open views but it also means a real lack of shade. Considering it was already in the low 60’s as we set off on the Hard Stone Trail at 7:30 we knew we were in for a hot hike.
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We spent our time enjoying the views of the canyon cliffs and scanning the sagebrush for flowers and animals including rattle snakes which are seen with some regularity along the John Day. We didn’t see any snakes but we saw a few other critters and a nice variety of flowers.
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The trail, which followed an old road bed, officially ended at Big Eddy which was where we turned back, but the road continues on.

After returning to our car we drove further into the park following signs for the Pinnacles Trail parking area. We set off following signs for the trail. After a short walk through a camping area the path led to a gate with a signboard and trail register.
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A nearby walnut tree offered some cool shade.
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The Pinnacles Trail follows another old road bed along the river downstream a total of 4.3 miles. IMG_0728

The cliffs along the trail were captivating. It was hard not to turn off the trail just to see how far one could get up some of the gullies and side canyons.
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A short distance from the gate the cliffs crowded the trail.
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The cliffs hung over the trail and were home to countless American Cliff Swallows which sped to and from their nests as we passed underneath.
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Just under a mile and half along the trail brought us to a neat old walnut tree where we spotted a colorful lazuli bunting.
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A trail near the tree provides river access and another trail led slightly uphill away from the tree. The sign named this the D & H Trail and indicated that it returned to the Pinnacles Trail further downstream. We decided we’d take it on the return trip after realizing (after way too long a time) that those were our initials, D & H.

As we continued on we passed part of an old fence where we spotted an aptly named western fence lizard.
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We spotted many of the same types of flowers we’d seen along the Hard Stone Trail and a few we hadn’t including some sweet smelling mock orange.
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The Pinnacles Trail is named after some rock outcrops across the river near the 3 mile mark.
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Beyond the Pinnacles the trail bent to the left passing through an open area full of sagebrush before rounding a rocky ridge-end.
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The ridge bowed away from the trail.
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We had talked early about the possibility of spotting larger animals on the hillsides and imagined that most of them would be sticking the the brush filled gullies we had seen along the way. As we were scanning the cliffs below the ridge I spotted what might have been an animal or possibly another rock (I have a real knack for spotting rocks and tree trunks).
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Making use of the camera’s 30x optical zoom allowed me to confirm that is was indeed an animal, in fact it was several animals.
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Going from the optical to the digital zoom gave us a closer look (but grainier picture) of the first big horn sheep we’d spotted on a hike.
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Sure enough they were hanging out in the shaded vegetation. Then we noticed a few more of the sheep passing below the first group. They seemed to be grazing on balsamroot leaves.
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The official trail continued to a narrow area between the cliffs and river.
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A use path continued on but we didn’t see any reason to continue. It was well into the 80’s and we’d seen plenty of great sights already. The sheep had disappeared when we passed back by where we’d seen them but Heather spotted something that was almost as surprising to see as they had been, a mushroom.
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We forked onto the D & H Trail when we reached its eastern end.
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The trail led through the sagebrush just far enough uphill that we were able to avoid what had been a fairly active area for mosquitoes before dropping back down to the Pinnacles Trail by the walnut tree.
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One final sighting of note was a pair of Bullock’s Orioles which we had not seen before.
Bullock's Oriole

The one thing we didn’t see were any snakes which Heather was more than thankful for. I on the other hand was a little disappointed. I have no desire to be close to a rattle snake but at the same time I wouldn’t mind seeing one at a nice safe distance.

It was a great hike despite the warm temperatures but they were a good reminder of why summer may not be the best time for a visit to the park. Winter can also bring strong winds and freezing temperatures, so Spring or Fall probably are the best.

Hiking isn’t the only activity the park has to offer either. Rafting, fishing, mountain bike riding, and horseback riding opportunities exist as well. Whatever your reason for visiting it’s well worth the trip. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Cottonwood Canyon