Categories
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.
IMG_7700

From the trailhead we immediately turned right on the Keil Trail, one of the trails we had not been on before.
IMG_7701

IMG_7705

The trail ended in under a quarter mile at the Dogwood Trail where we turned left.
IMG_7706

We followed this trail downhill for a little over half a mile to a junction with the Wildwood Trail.
IMG_7708

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.

IMG_7715

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.
IMG_7718

IMG_7722

IMG_7727

We stayed straight on the Wildwood Trail ignoring all side trails for 2.5 miles to the stone ruins along Balch Creek.
IMG_7731

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.

IMG_7764

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

IMG_7769

IMG_7779

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.
IMG_7786

IMG_7805

IMG_7808

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.
IMG_7812

IMG_7813

IMG_7815

A network of trails loop around the sanctuary.
IMG_7818

We began our tour here by walking past the Wildlife Care Center where we think we witnessed an escape attempt.
IMG_7816

Aristophanes, a common raven and long time resident at the sanctuary, was being visited by another pair of ravens with questionable intent :).
IMG_7820

IMG_7819

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.
IMG_7823

IMG_7825

IMG_7827

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.

IMG_7854

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.
IMG_7857

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.
IMG_7861

IMG_7863

IMG_7864

IMG_7869

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.
IMG_7873

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.
IMG_7886

We then made our way back to the Macleay Park Trailhead and the Wildwood Trail which we followed across NW Cornell Road.
IMG_7889

IMG_7890

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.
IMG_7905

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.
IMG_7907

IMG_7908

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.
IMG_7910

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

IMG_7925

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.

IMG_7934

Deprived of a mountain view we headed back to the Wildwood Trail where we put our microspikes back on and headed downhill.
IMG_7942

With the spikes on we had no issues reaching the junction with the Upper Macleay Trail where we turned left.
IMG_7943

The spikes stayed on until we had descended to Macleay Park and Heather re-donned hers again to descend to the Witch’s Castle.
IMG_7945

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.

IMG_7968

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.
IMG_7982

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.
IMG_7984

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

Forest Park Loop (Leif Erikson, Wild Cherry, Wildwood and Nature Trails) – 10/24/2020

With Heather’s foot still a little sore from her fall at Abbott Butte we wanted to find a hike that wasn’t too strenuous for her to test it out on. An 8.8 mile loop in Portland’s Forest Park fit the bill, especially since there would be several shorter loop options available in case her foot didn’t respond well. The loop we had chosen is the longer of two options given by Sullivan for the Balch Creek hike in his “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” guidebook (hike #4 in the 4th & 5th editions). The shorter loop option involves Balch Creek itself while the longer 8.8 mile loop never comes near the creek. For this hike we parked at the end of NW Thurman St. at the gated Leif Erikson Drive.
IMG_7967

In August 2020 Portland Parks and Recreation began a pilot program of one-way loops in an attempt to reduced visitor interaction and possibly help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Parts of our loop were included in one of the one-way pilots.
IMG_7971.

We followed the paved Leif Erikson Drive for .3 miles to the Wild Cherry Trail (near a set of outhouses).
IMG_7973

IMG_7977

We turned up the dirt Wild Cherry Trail (following the one-way signs) and quickly encountered people coming down the wrong way (so much for the signs). The Wild Cherry Trail gained about 400′ as it climbed to a junction with the Wildwood Trail in .6 miles.
IMG_7983

IMG_7986Switchback along the Wild Cherry Trail.

We turned right onto the Wildwood Trail at the junction and remained on it when the Wild Cherry Trail continued uphill to the left a few yards later.
IMG_7989

IMG_7992

This was our fourth hike involving the 30.2 mile Wildwood Trail having hiked portions of it on our Washington Park (post), Maple Trail (post), and Northern Forest Park (post) outings.
IMG_7993

After .6 miles on the Wildwood Trail we arrived at a 4-way junction with the Dogwood Trail, part of the 2.75 mile one-way loop.
IMG_8001

Heather’s foot was doing well so we continued on the Wildwood Trail. In another .6 miles we arrived at parking area along NW 53rd.
IMG_8004

IMG_8006

IMG_8011This was the first slug we recall seeing of this color.

IMG_8014Interpretive sign at the NW 53rd parking area.

In another .3 miles we ignored the Alder Trail on the right (another option to shorten the loop) continuing on the Wildwood Trail.
IMG_8020

IMG_8018

IMG_8016

The next loop option came almost 2 miles from the Alder Trail when the Wildwood Trail crossed Firelane 1. There were some nice clumps of mushrooms along this stretch. There was also a damaged bridge near the middle of this section which there were several warnings posted for.
IMG_8024

IMG_8030

IMG_8032

IMG_8035

IMG_8037The bridge damage was not an issue.

IMG_8038Another bunch of musrhooms.

IMG_8046

Approximately a half mile before reaching Firelane 1 we passed the Morak Trail on the left (a 100 yard connector to Firelane 1 that is not shown on all maps).
IMG_8047

IMG_8050Firelane 1 junction.

With Heather still going strong we stuck to the Wildwood Trail arriving at the Nature Trail in another half mile.
IMG_8054

IMG_8055

We turned right and when the trail split a tenth of a mile later we stayed left (the right hand fork would have taken us to Firelane 1).
IMG_8056The fork, left was downhill right up.

The Nature Trail followed Rockingchair Creek downhill to Leif Erikson Drive in just over a quarter mile where we turned right back toward our car.
IMG_8056

IMG_8067

IMG_8064

IMG_8068

IMG_8073

IMG_8075

It had been busy when we had started our hike with the parking already nearly full but things had picked up even more since then. Even with it being busy there were moments where no one else was present along the 3.5 miles back to NW Thurman Street.
IMG_8076

IMG_8078Firelane 1

IMG_8081Somewhere along Leif Erikson there was supposed to be a view of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood along the way but the clouds never burned off like the forecast had called for.

IMG_8083

IMG_8091The Alder Trail at Leif Erikson Dr.

IMG_8093An orange one-way marker along Leif Erikson Drive between the Dogwood and Wild Cherry Trail junctions.

For the most part people appeared to be doing a pretty good job of covering their faces and maintaining social distancing (at least better than following the one-way trail designations). It was another enjoyable hike in Forest Park and an encouraging outing for Heather’s foot. At some point we plan on returning to see Balch Creek and explore more of the park. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Forest Park 10/24/2020