Klickitat Trail
~6.5 miles, elevation gain: negligible

railroad art
Reluctant to admit it, but not all hikes are winners.

So yes, technically speaking, it is spring. At this point though, I'm starting to feel the sun never got that particular message. It has been record-setting nasty, wet, gray, cold and more-than-average-dreary March in Portland. The thermometer finally tickled 60 degrees on the 31st and hasn't touched it again since. Prior to that, the month had been nothing but rain, rain, and oh yes, you guessed it, rain. Yesterday it even snowed/hailed, albeit briefly, in the valley. At this point, I imagine even the flowers are sick of rain, evinced by how they have only begun to show themselves recently. Probably scared they’ll get washed right off of their stalks.

I have to plead insanity. Insanity is the only semi-logical explanation for loading the Subee on Saturday with gear and tossing both Andy and the dogs in to go hiking. Of course it was threatening rain in Portland. It poured a Noah’s Ark worth of animals the entire route of I-84 through the gorge to Hood River. But I needed a de-stircrazyifying hiking fix and damnit, I was going to get one.

So, starving for sun and looking for an unpopulated hike, I chose the Swale Canyon section of the Klickitat trail beyond Lyle, Washington. The Klickitat Trail is a recently completed Rails-to-Trails endeavor, passing through a mix of private and public land on the Washington side of the gorge. The landscape is distinctly different from the western gorge: drier, but just as uniquely beautiful as the more lush areas of the gorge closer to Portland.

A couple of first impressions upon getting out of the car:

1) It was sunny. Evidently the Noah’s Ark of rain hadn’t followed us this far east.
2) Unpopulated hike? Check. We were in the middle of freaking nowhere.
3) Wind. Lots and lots of wind. The kind of wind where a good enough gust can knock even a burly descent of Norwegian women over.
4) It was too early for wildflowers, but the rolling landscape all around was lovely shades of orange, yellow and brilliant, spring green.

Swale Creek off the Klickitat trail

And a fifth observation would occur later: while it was too early for wildflowers, it certainly was not too early for ticks. Damn, damn and double damn.

Truthfully, not much of the trail bears reminiscence. It is not the kind of trail I would normally pick, or even normally enjoy. The Klickitat trail is a long, extremely well-graded, old rail corridor; it basically feels like a road walk. The views are wide and open until you drop (ever so slightly) into its Swale Canyon, which is not without a certain charm. There are cute, whistling marmots, birds of prey, strange railroad art, and the rushing Swale Creek to keep you company all day along this remote route. Would I take Andy back? Mmmmm, nope. His verdict (and not without merit): boring walk, especially when we have literally hundreds of much more beautiful trails to conquer. Would I take the dogs back? HELL NO. Over the course of six plus miles, we brushed well over thirty (yes, 30+) ticks off Rocky's legs and underbelly, and pulled out at least three which had managed to take root. Yech.

birds of prey...

and she's about the right size for snack...

Final judgement: ticks are gross. They bring out the primordial heebie jeebies in our nature, not to mention they kind of take the fun out of a good leg stretcher.

For future self-reference, I think the Klickitat trail is more suited to biking than hiking. As a former railroad corridor, the grade is perfect for a long bike outing but a bit boring for hiking. That said though, I believe this trail definitely has its place and now that I have visited it, I think it would make a fantastic and lonely winter trek. Still, for me, I think our Pacific Northwest springtime, even in the rain, is more beautifully enjoyed elsewhere.