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Hiking

Forest Park – Stone House and Pittock Mansion – 01/01/2022

Weather permitting we like to get our January hike in on New Years Day. A series of Winter storms had passed over the Willamette Valley starting Christmas night but while temperatures had remained cold the precipitation had ceased and the forecast for New Years Day was for another dry day with a potential for sunny skies. The only issue presented by the forecast were the temperatures which promised to be in the low 20’s for our morning start. We had our sights set on Forest Park in Portland as it didn’t require us driving over any mountain passes and allowed us to sleep in a bit since it is only an hours drive from Salem. This would be our fourth hike in the park but our first time starting from an upper trailhead in the Tualatin Mountains. One of our goals was to visit the stone ruins, sometimes referred to as the Witch’s Castle, along Balch Creek which was one of two options for Sullivan’s Balch Creek featured hike. We had chosen to do his longer option in 2020 (post) which we used to check that featured hike off our to-do list but we wanted to tie up the loose end.

We decided to begin our hike at the NW 53rd Trailhead in order to add some distance and to check out some of the trails that we had not hiked on in 2020. While the snow had left the valley floor at 800′ some still remained and the 21 degree temperature had frozen everything.
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From the trailhead we immediately turned right on the Keil Trail, one of the trails we had not been on before.
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The trail ended in under a quarter mile at the Dogwood Trail where we turned left.
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We followed this trail downhill for a little over half a mile to a junction with the Wildwood Trail.
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IMG_7710A bank of clouds was sitting directly over Portland but we could see the edge in the distance. We hopped that the clouds would either burn off or move along.

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We turned right on the Wildwood Trail. The next 0.6 miles to a junction with the Wild Cherry Trail was a section of trail that we had been on in 2020.
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We stayed straight on the Wildwood Trail ignoring all side trails for 2.5 miles to the stone ruins along Balch Creek.
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IMG_7732Junction with the Birch Trail.

IMG_7740A wren busy pecking at a log.

IMG_7746Junction with the Aspen Trail. As we descended we left most of the snow, and the icy conditions, behind.

IMG_7758Holman Lane Junction.

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IMG_7767Balch Creek and the Lower Macleay Trail (Currently closed due to construction.)

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IMG_7783Icicles over Balch Creek.

We continued beyond the Witch’s Castle another half a mile to the Macleay Park Trailhead crossing Balch Creek and climbing up a rather slick hill along the way.
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IMG_7809Going uphill before it got really slick.

IMG_7811Wilwood Trail at Macleay Park Trailhead.

We left the Wildwood Trail at the trailhead turning right past some picnic tables and taking a path along NW Cornell Road to the Portland Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary.
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A network of trails loop around the sanctuary.
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We began our tour here by walking past the Wildlife Care Center where we think we witnessed an escape attempt.
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Aristophanes, a common raven and long time resident at the sanctuary, was being visited by another pair of ravens with questionable intent :).
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IMG_7817We took this raven to be the “lookout”.

Beyond the ravens the trail descended to Balch Creek where we took the short Creek Trail to a turnaround at a bench before returning to the Jay Trail.
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IMG_7831Bench at the end of the Creek Trail.

We left the Jay Trail by taking a right on the Woodpecker Trail keeping right at junctions to meet up with the other end of the Jay Trail which we then returned on making a 0.7 mile loop.
IMG_7833Pond along the Jay Trail,

IMG_7834Junction with the Woodpecker Trail.

IMG_7840Big Douglas fir.

IMG_7851I continue to struggle to get a clear photo of a varied thrush.

IMG_7853Jay Trail junction with the Wren Trail.

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IMG_7856Nearing the pond from the other side.

After completing this short loop we crossed NW Cornell Road and headed up the Al Miller Founders Trail.
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The Founders Trail climbed up into increasingly snowy forest before traversing around a hillside to a junction with the North and South Collins Trails in 0.6 miles.
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IMG_7871Stairs up to the trail junction.

The South Collins Trial offered a slightly shorter loop but we turned left on the North Collins Trail which climbed a little more before winding downhill and rejoining the South Collins Trail near NW Cornell Road.
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IMG_7880Baseball sized jelly fungus, the largest we’ve seen.

IMG_7881Descending to the South Collins Trail.

IMG_7883More ice formations.

This was a 1.5 mile “almost loop” which required a 500′ road walk to return to the Founders Trail and the Wildlife Sanctuary.
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We then made our way back to the Macleay Park Trailhead and the Wildwood Trail which we followed across NW Cornell Road.
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Due to tunnel construction the road was closed just beyond the trailhead so we didn’t have to worry about traffic as we crossed. On the other side of the road we continued on the Wildwood Trail but soon found ourselves facing the slickest section of trail we’d encountered yet. Luckily we had brought our Kathoola micro spikes which we put on in order to get down the little hill.
IMG_7892We planned on returning via the Upper Macleay Trail.

IMG_7893Heather descending the slick section with a trail runner behind that had attempted to get up the hill but was turning back.

The trail runner had come up the Cumberland Trail which she said had been fine but above that trail things got slick fast.
IMG_7904Cumberland Trail junction.

The Wildwood Trail turned uphill at a junction with the Macleay Trail which is where things started to get really interesting.
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Other than the one hill where we’d put on our spikes there had always been enough clear trail to find descent footing but now the trails were pretty much ice.
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We held off putting the spikes back on though until the three way junction with the Upper Macleay Trail. We watched another trail runner slip and slide as they carefully made their way downhill and decided it was time to put the spikes back on.
IMG_7909The trail runner in blue.

With the spikes on we were able to confidently walk uphill, marching past a number of folks struggling to come down. We saw a few falls but luckily we didn’t see anyone get injured which was a real possibility. Besides us we only came across 4 other hikers with some sort of traction devices for their shoes.
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IMG_7914Heather coming up behind me.

IMG_7916Arriving at the Pittock Mansion parking lot.

We had visited the mansion in 2018 (post) having come up from the other side on the Wildwood Trail and had hoped that this time we might get a view but alas the cloud cover had not moved on.
IMG_7919Pittock Mansion

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IMG_7926A line of blue sky beyond the cloud cover.

IMG_7930Portland from Pittock Mansion.

IMG_7932Snowy foothills in the sunlight beyond the Columbia River.

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Deprived of a mountain view we headed back to the Wildwood Trail where we put our microspikes back on and headed downhill.
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With the spikes on we had no issues reaching the junction with the Upper Macleay Trail where we turned left.
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The spikes stayed on until we had descended to Macleay Park and Heather re-donned hers again to descend to the Witch’s Castle.
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IMG_7947Entering the Macleay Park Trailhead.

IMG_7953One last look at the Witch’s Castle.

When we reached Holman Lane we turned left and headed uphill. We followed Holman Lane just over three quarters of a mile to NW 53 Dr. where we turned right walking a short distance along the road to the Birch Trailhead. Here we picked up the Birch Trail which descended a quarter mile back to the Wildwood Trail. Going back this way not only let us experience a new trail but it cut a half mile off the distance to the Wildwood/Birch Trail junction.
IMG_7956Holman Lane started out snow and ice free.

IMG_7960Back to the snow and ice higher up.

IMG_7964NW 53rd Drive

IMG_7965Birch Trailhead

IMG_7966The microspikes went back on before descending the Birch Trail and stayed on for the remainder of the hike.

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IMG_7969Sparrow foraging on the Birch Trail.

IMG_7971Back to the Wildwood Trail.

We turned left on the Wildwood Trail for 0.4 to the Wild Cherry Trail where we again turned uphill. This was another new section of trail for us and it was an additional three quarters of a mile shorter than returning via the Wildwood Trail.
IMG_7974Wild Cherry Trail junction.

20220101_141903Little snowman near the junction.

IMG_7979Is that a bit of blue in the sky finally?

IMG_7978Snowy mushrooms

The Wild Cherry Trail ended at the Dogwood Trail where we turned right for a short distance before reaching its junction with the Keil Trail.
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IMG_7983A break in the clouds provided some blue sky above the Keil/Dogwood Trail junction.

We turned left on the Keil Trail retracing our steps from the morning to the NW 53rd Trailhead.
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IMG_7988Woodpecker that wasn’t a bit concerned about my presence.

IMG_7993The Subaru waiting for us at the trailhead.

According to the GPS this was a 13 mile hike with around 2500′ of elevation gain.

Portland Audubon trails in orange.

Aside from not getting the views we’d hoped for this was a wonderful way to kick off the new year. There was good scenery, historical structures and a good deal of wildlife (even if most of it wouldn’t stay still long enough for photos). We hope everyone had a great holiday season and here is to a great 2022. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Forest Park – Stone House and Pittock Mansion

Categories
Hiking Oregon Portland Trip report Willamette Valley

Washington Park & Council Crest

As we continue to work our way through the featured hikes in William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes guidebooks we occasionally come to some that call for a little creativity on our part. Often times this is due to the overall distance being short enough that we would likely break our self imposed rule of not spending more time driving than hiking on day trips. One of our solutions for these hikes is to combine them with other nearby hikes. On Mother’s Day weekend that is what we did with the Washington Park and Council Crest hikes described in Sullivan’s “100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” book.

The handy thing about these hikes was that we could start them from the same location, Portland’s Washington Park. The location also gave us a good opportunity to visit the Oregon Zoo for the first time in many years. The zoo was open from 9:30-4:00 so figured we’d have enough time for a tour after our hikes given our typical early start. Our Son joined us for this outing and promptly fell back asleep in the car as we drove up Interstate 5 to Portland.

We arrived at Washington Park just before 6am and parked north of the Max Station near the entrance to the Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial. Our plan was to head north loosely following Sullivan’s suggested Washington Park route to Pittock Mansion then return and head south to Council Crest and back then visit the zoo.

We began our hike at a sign for the Hoyt Arboretum Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
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After reviewing a large signboard map we passed through the memorial.
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I mentioned we loosely followed Sullivan’s route for two reasons. First we were going to do his described loop in the opposite direction in order to cross busy Burnside Road earlier in the morning when we hoped there would be less traffic to dodge. The second reason was that there were far more trail junctions than we had expected and we took a couple of “alternate” routes early on. A connector trail from the end of the memorial led to the Wildwood Trail where we turned left. At the next junction we turned right onto the Maple Trail instead of staying on the Wildwood Trail as our guidebook suggested. Luckily we realized our mistake fairly quickly as we compared the map from the book to the GPS and turned left on another connector trail that led us back up to the Wildwood Trail at SW Knights Blvd.
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We turned left onto the Wildwood Trail.
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After about a tenth of a mile we came to another junction. Here we turned right and once again left the Wildwood Trail. We quickly climbed to a crossing of SW Fairview Blvd where we found a sign for the Hemlock Trail.
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We followed the Hemlock Trail north but turned off of it to the right onto the Fir Trail. The guidebook would have had us continue further on the Hemlock Trail and then turn onto the Creek Trail but we were frankly a bit confused by the number of junctions and were doing our best to match up the GPS track to the path drawn on the map. After a short stint on the Fir Trail we decided it was heading the wrong direction so we turned left onto the Redwood Trail which got us headed back in the correct direction at least. We knew there should be a creek on our left and after crossing SW Fischer Lane it was evident that this was the case. We figured as long as we kept it close by we were at least headed in the right direction. A tenth of a mile from Fischer Lane we finally noticed a trails sign for the Creek Trail.
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To be fair there had been a good presence of trial signs throughout but there had been so many options that it was overwhelming our not fully awake brains. We followed the pointer down to the Creek Trail where we turned right. We passed a neat display of roots from a tree on the hillside and then below the Redwood Observation Deck before reaching the end of the Creek Trail at another junction with the Wildwood Trail.
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We turned left onto the Wildwood Trail following a pointer for the Pittock Mansion.
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From Johnson Creek the Wildwood Trail climbed for just over a quarter mile to W Burnside Road. Burnside is a busy street so it was time for our mad dash. Luckily at 6:40am on Saturday there wasn’t much traffic. I scampered across then two cars stopped for Heather & Dominique.
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There are plans to build a pedestrian bridge over the road as soon as 2019 which seems like a great idea.

From Burnside the trail climbed over 250′ in just over half a mile to NW Pittock Dr. A sign at the road indicated that a section of the Wildwood Trail beyond was closed due to an active landslide, but it was time for us to leave the trail here anyway.
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We turned right and followed the road uphill to the Pittock Mansion.
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We followed a flower lined path to the right past the Gate Lodge.
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The path continued beyond the gate house wrapping around the mansion to a viewpoint at the end of a lawn.
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The viewpoint overlooks the city of Portland and on a clear day (which this had been forecasted to be) the view would include Mt. Hood.
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The 16,000 square foot mansion was built in 1914 in the French Renaissance style.
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Self-guided and guided tours are available for the mansion but we were far too early for those and will have to save them for another visit.

A second viewpoint to the north looks across the Columbia River to what would have been, on a clear day, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams in Washington.
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After wandering through the grounds we returned the way we’d come. After another successful crossing of Burnside we arrived back at the junction with the Creek Trail. Here we left our earlier route and kept to the Wildwood Trail which climbed uphill away from the creek past a junction with the Redwood Trail.
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We stuck to the Wildwood Trail and quickly came to the Redwood Observation Deck.
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We continued on from the deck climbing to a ridge where we crossed SW Fairview Blvd (again) then descended to a signed junction for the Japanese Garden.
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This is another place we’ve yet to get to but will someday. We stayed right the junction remaining on the Wildwood Trail as it passed above the garden which we could see below.
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The Wildwood Trail wrapped around the hillside past a junction for the Mac Trail to the Rose Garden and then an archery range.
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A section of the trail near the archery range had recently been reopened after being realigned.
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We wound up leaving the Wildwood Trail shortly after passing the archery ranger when we took a left onto the Maple Trail then a right on the Walnut Trail and finally following the Ash Trail from a three way junction of the Maple, Walnut & Ash Trails back to Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
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After a brief stop at our car to grab a snack it was time to head to Council Crest so we returned to the memorial entrance where we turned left onto an unmarked path.
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This path quickly joined the Marquam Trail which we followed south behind the World Forestry Center.
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We were hoping the clouds would burn off as the morning progressed but one look toward Council Crest let us know that that was probably wishful thinking.
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The Marquam Trail descended to SW Canyon Rd where we once again had to dash across a road to a freeway bridge which followed over Highway 26. On the far side of the bridge we dashed across the highway on ramp then followed the shoulder downhill to a continuation of the trail.
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This was one of the strangest maneuvers that we could remember doing on a trail. From the on ramp the Marquam Trail climbed through a nice but noisy forest for a about .6 miles to SW Patton Road. Here the route followed the shoulder of the road right to an intersection. We followed the crosswalk stripes across SW Humphrey Blvd then left across Patton onto SW Talbot Rd.
IMG_3267 View back to the intersection from SW Talbot Rd

We followed the shoulder of Talbot Rd for approximately a tenth of a mile to another intersection.
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Here we crossed SW Fairmount Blvd and got back onto a proper trail.
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We stuck to the paved path as it wound around the hillside and up to Council Crest, the highest point in Portland at 1073′.
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Not only had the clouds not burned off, they were low enough that we were practically in them. On a clearer day the mountains from Mt. Rainier to Mt. Jefferson would have been visible but instead we had a nice view of a green water tower.
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The views from Council Crest would have to wait for another time. Not only was there no view but the moisture from the clouds made it a little chilly up there. We headed back returning to our car to change and grab our zoo tickets. The hike to Pittock Mansion and back had been just under 6 miles and the out-and-back to Council Crest 3.5 miles. The early start and a crisp pace had gotten us back to the car at 9:45am leaving us more than enough time to enjoy the zoo.
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We spent about 4 hours wandering around there which isn’t really a hike so I wont get into the details here but many of the animals were out and about and it wasn’t long before the clouds did in fact burn off. As we left the zoo a glance up at Council Crest said it would have been a different view up there in the afternoon.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: Pittock Mansion & Council Crest
Oregon Zoo