Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon
~5 miles, ~100 feet elevation gain

The last day of spring and the first day of summer. It's one of the first, really warm (for Portland) days of the year. I was supposed to be out of town this week, but plans didn't align quite right, so I ended up on a 'stay-cation' during the break between spring and summer quarters. It's turned out for the best as I have gotten an enormous amount accomplished this week and some quiet time to reflect upon things I have neglected- I have felt very much like being alone this week and simplifying the mental chaos in my life.

what old dogs do

With the mercury poised to hit eighty degrees, I was looking for a cool hike with plentiful water that was also short on mileage- at ten years old, my loyal boxer boy and trail companion, Rocky, is starting to show his age. I haven't visited the Old (Lower) Salmon River trail in many, many years, but it's always a beautiful choice, especially midweek or off-season. The trail is very quiet, the silence broken only by the sound of the rushing mountain creek nearby, and it's also a flat stroll on soft earth through ancient, mossy, forest. Although I would have preferred more mileage, I knew Rocky needed to get out as much as I did- I've been leaving him at home more often lately in concern for his feet and overall health (he still bounces around like a jumping bean whenever I get out the hiking gear though).

On this afternoon the trail was a verdant explosion of dynamic light ranges, a contrast of deepest shadows and brightest sunlight filtering through the canopy. There is a feel to old growth forest: the ground has a spongy, hollow quality to the loam, ferns and oxalis dominant the understory, and moss is everywhere.

Old Salmon River trail

I took my time on the walk, letting Rocky sniff and cavort, meander and wade, the walk as much for him as myself. I played with some macro photography and felt calmness settle over me, as the woods always blanket me in both forgetfulness and repose.

many, many idyllic places like this one along the trail

I had no idea this guy was even there until I looked through my macro lens

The Melt Off

Top Spur to the Timberline Trail
Mount Hood Wilderness, Oregon
~5 miles, ~1000 feet elevation gain

One of my most cherished, but brief, periods in the high alpine occurs just as the snow is melting off. The sleepy world suddenly wakes up, and it's game on for anything and everything before the snows encroach again. It's a time characterized by temperamental trails littered with blowdown, strewn with mud, seasonal streams run rampant, and new growth bursts forth underfoot. The woods are colonized first by avalanche lilies before, higher up, lupine, indian paintbrush, and beargrass bloom.  

At this time last year, I was butting my head up against numerous hike fails due to late season storms that had buried the high country; as such, our usual summer stomping grounds remained inaccessible until, in someplaces, mid-August. So when I suddenly just arrived at the Top Spur trailhead yesterday without having to drive over any patches of snow, I had a giddy little moment.

At 6100 feet, situated above Mount Hood's Timberline Trail, lies McNeil Point and its stone CCC shelter. The views are outstanding: the Sandy Glacier fall line, the headwaters of the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River, waterfalls, and, to the south, Yocum Ridge beckons.
Heading up from Top Spur to connect with the Timberline Trail is actually one of my least favorite approaches to the high country in the Mount Hood Wilderness. It. Is. Boring. Sparse, dry, forest walking. On days like this, it can also be surprising muggy and windless. The walking gets more interesting as you break out on to the ridge, dispersed with small beargrass meadows before entering the trees again. 

route-finding in the boring woods

 At about 2.5 miles from the TH, the world suddenly opens up. 

The original idea was to head up to the shelter, using the raw climber's trail etched into the hillside to climb the remaining half mile (and 800 feet) to play with our snowshoes on the deep, lingering snowfields higher up. Almost immediately out of the gate, however, Andy wasn't feeling well- overly tired and with odd, intermittent nausea. We made it to the viewpoint, reevaluated, then decided to call it a day. I could see the McNeil shelter high up, my snowshoes still strapped to my pack and whining to be used. I sat in the sun for a long while, my heart denying the decision to return home, my gaze longingly pinned on the vistas above us. 

I feel- no, I take that back, have been- pinned to a computer and books and clinicals and illness this quarter with no respite. I need to hit the reset button. Although I haven't gotten my fill of the backcountry yet, inside, I am doing a serious, serious happy dance.

I just got the green light for the mountains again. 

Sauvie Island Ramble

Sauvie Island (Portland, Oregon)
~27 miles

*Whew.* I passed my finals. (And to those of you who would scoff, yes, there was doubt).

Most of my classmates would agree, it was the quarter from hell. There was just Not. Enough. Time. To think that until last week I hadn't been hiking since April 1st flabbergasts me. With finals done, the rest of this week has been about pulling together the loose ends of my life I've neglected over the last ninety days. With obligations and chores finally, finally finished, I woke on Friday morning in something of a daze of what to do? After putzing about, still somewhat stupefied from my week, I called a friend last minute for a bike ride. 

Deliriously. Happy. To. Be. Done. With. Finals.

Ten miles north of Portland, sitting smack-dab in the middle of where the Willamette River, the Columbia River and the Multnomah Channel meet, lies Sauvie Island. At 26,000 acres, it is one of the largest river islands in the United States, and Portlanders love what has become a cherished recreational area. Sauvie boasts a plethora of U-pick farms (it's STRAWBERRY SEASON!), hikes, wildlife sanctuaries, waterways, and beaches (one of them for nudies). 

Although I've been on Sauvie a number of times (kayaking, fruit and veggie foraging and buttock hunting on the nude beach), I've never biked around the island. And anytime you find yourself on the island, you are sure to be greeted by little, colorful jersey parades pedaling the rolling, agricultural landscape. It's absolutely charming. Time to try it out.

Mount Saint Helens from Reeder Road

Marut met me in the little parking lot just off where the Sauvie Bridge spits you out onto the island proper. It was hot. I layered in sun block, then hopped over to the one port-a-potty in the lot (apparently reserved for TriMet bus drivers only) and somehow convinced Mr. Nice Bus Driver to let me use it. There are plenty of public honeypots along the island, but I suffer from hamster bladder syndrome, and this couldn't wait.

Business taken care of, we headed north on Sauvie Island Drive and connected with Reeder Road, ultimately headed towards the northeast end of the island, then retracing our path back to complete the loop via Gillihan Road. The afternoon passed in miles spent admiring rolling farmland, and watching the herons and ospreys contrast sharply with the giant barges making their lumbering way across the Columbia. 

bike picnic on the beach

Oh. And RULES OF THE ROAD: stay single file. Or you might get pulled over by a sheriff like Marut did for yakking at me too much while enjoying the day. [GRIN].

One Clam

Trying our skills at clam digging on the Oregon coast.

One clam. And lots of fun trying to outwit the little suckers from above. In the end, we ended up returning our one caught, wee razor to the sand (alive) since I simply could not justify eating a single clam, just because it happened that we only caught one. 

But next time, I'm making chowder.

lived to see another day


Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington
~5 miles, ~500 feet elevation change

A meandering trail, a stroll, really, high above the banks of the Lewis River, occasionally touching down to greet the river's edge where water plunges over falls. Not a spectacular hike, but rather lovely and calm and oh so good to be outside, exploring an area I haven't visited before. The forty-some-odd elk scattered along the road's edges on the drive home didn't hurt either.

Five days until finals. 

Upper Lewis Falls


I love planning trips. My wonderful husband, Andy, gets a giant kick out of teasing me that I enjoy the process of planning more than the actual trip (which might be just a tiny, itty bit true). We love to move, to see, to do, to visit, to explore. It's something of a ritual of ours to make a point to get out of town at least every three months on tiny vacays, and we usually try to take a big road haul of a vacation once a year. In February of last year, that big trip was Yellowstone, and I was fortunate enough to revisit my beloved España a couple of months later. Fall is our favorite season, and in September 2009 we drove fourteen hours from Portland to Alberta, Canada to visit Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks. We spent a week backpacking in Olympic National Park in 2008. Five years ago (2007 if you're counting), Andy proposed to me on the last day of a ten day driving tour of Alaska. And scattered in between and before those years were random ski and hiking trips to Powder Mountain in Utah and Grand Targhee in Wyoming. 

Jackson Lake, Grand Teton NP (photo courtesy of Andrew J. Park)
2009 Targhee ski car (what my car looks like all winter)

Among our most memorable incidents include a torturous, 35-45 mph crawl back from Arches National Park to Eden, Utah, courtesy of a freak snow storm [insert unexpected blizzard here]. 

Watching Andy ski/soar into the parking lot at Pow Mow, just barely missing another person's car on his way to greeting pavement (<= this was NOT a planned stunt/event). According to the shuttle bus guy, happens every year there. So, park your car accordingly. 

Bighorn rams grazing not ten feet away on Wilcox Pass in Jasper. 

(photo courtesy of Andrew J. Park)

A twenty-six inch powder dump and cat skiing at Pow Mow. Wasatch powder is simply epic

skiing the sugar at Pow Mow (photo by AJP)

Yellowstone & Spain belong in categories to themselves. 

The Denali wildlife, the gold and red of the tundra in fall, the wide-open vast expanse that is Alaska.  

The Alaska Range from Polychrome Pass, Denali NP (photo courtesy of Andrew J. Park)

Denali griz

The sheer, unique beauty of the temperate rainforest in the Olympics, and the bones of old growth giants bleached and raw on its wilderness coastline. 

giant cedar near Pyrites Creek, Olympic NP (photo by AJP)

the trail to Enchanted Valley

Hole-in-the-Wall at low tide

Hiking the Continental Divide in Banff's Sunshine Meadows

Rockpile Lake in Sunshine Meadows

I noticed the other day that I've been biking more lately (meaning training for Reach the Beach sucked down my available hiking/blow off school homework hours), and I haven't been on the trail since April Fool's. It's been a hell quarter; I want to believe I've made it over the hump of this fifteen month program, but I'm not so sure that is actually true. So, it makes sense, that withdrawal for setting out away from Portland, for any sense of exploration, for the wild world, is rearing its ugly head.

One week until finals.