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SE Portland to the Columbia River Gorge

Posted by on August 28, 2014

Columbia River Gorge from Angel’s Rest

Portland, Oregon, AKA the City of Roses, is a mecca for those who love being active in any type of weather; as the home of some of the most beautiful, plentiful, largest and smallest parks in the nation, PDX provides many welcome places for one to enjoy running, bicycling, or equestrian activities away from the constant din of bustling traffic. Mount Tabor Park, an extinct volcano and source of 3 drinking water reservoirs, is a perfect example of a park near my house with lots of trails to explore, a playground, and many family-oriented events throughout the summer. But while there are many trees here and the trails are well groomed , this is just a simulated forest in the middle of an urban sprawl. If a little more remoteness is desired, however, one need not travel very far to encounter some more wild and rugged environments.


City/ Road Walking

I had been to the Gorge before to see Multnomah Falls, but was told by numerous people that the aptly named “Angels Rest” was a much more scenic spot and that I had to go there as soon as I got the chance. So when I got a couple consecutive days off work, I didn’t hesitate to pack my bag and set off early the following morning. I had no plan of how far I would go, but I at least wanted to make it to Angels Rest. In total, I actually completed about 40 miles of hiking over a day and a half.


The first section of walking was on the Northernmost 6.5 miles of the I-205 multi-use path


While it is primarily used for bicycling, many people walk and run for short distances, but doing the long straight stretches like this one seem to go on forever.

 Where the I-205 multi-use path ends, the Marine Drive bike path intersects it heading East/West, paralleling the mighty Columbia River. At this point in late August, many people can still be seen floating, boating, and basking alongside, on, or in the water.


There are many dockhouses like this one that would make for a sweet summer relaxation spot for those with the capital to rent one for a summer.


The wind from the river was a great relief from the relentless sun. It cooled me down tremendously, but didn’t stop me from getting sunburn on my forearms and calves.


Where the Sandy River flows into the Columbia, the community of Troutdale welcomes visitors to the Gorge with its quaint little artisanal shops and homestyle restaurants.

I made sure to stop at Glenn Otto Community Park for a quick lunch on the banks of the Sandy River, but didn’t think to get a picture of it unfortunately.


Beyond Troutdale, I wound back and forth and up the whole time into the high hills and mountains that loom over the Gorge while walking along the Historic Columbia River Highway.


I saw this dude painting a wonderful mural on the side of a general store in Corbett, and laughed out loud at how quintessentially Portland this man is, as a non-conventional artist that rode his bike to work and paints in his clip-in shoes.

 That night, I found an elusive spot deep in the woods and set up camp cowboy style- just my sleeping pad and sleeping bag, no need for a tent tonight. I had covered roughly 25 miles that day, and although my feet were a little sore, my legs felt great. When I woke up the following morning, and stumbled back onto the road out of the woods, this is the view I witnessed. I was slightly distracted by my thirst, however. I only one or two sips left from the 2.5 liters I packed yesterday morning, and probably could’ve used more than that. I pushed forward to what I hoped would be hydration salvation at the Vista House.


From here, I could see the Vista House on the next ridge

 No dice- the Vista House has no water. As I continued Eastward on the Historic Columbia River Highway, I serendipitously stumbled on a water fountain and public restroom facility at a state park along the road by following an unmarked path that dropped down the hillside. What a stroke of luck!


The new vantage point looking up the river was even more breathtaking than the last


The first waterfall I came across was Latourell Falls in Guy Talbot State Park, which is described as a “Gift to the Gorge”, because it was part of a series of generous land donations by private owners to the State of Oregon.


The lower falls can be seen through the trees from the road



At 249 feet tall, Latourell Falls is famous for the way it flows straight down from the overhanging rock rather than tumbling down. And while the stream of water may be relatively thin, it is still very powerful and quite loud when echoing around the natural amphitheater than surrounds it.


The road was a little sketchy at times, but there wasn’t much traffic that early in the morning, which allowed me to focus more on the scenery and less on being squashed like a bug by a passing vehicle.



Trail Walking


As I looked across to the Washington side of the river, I tried to determine how high I was above the water, only to find that I still had a long way to climb before I reached the top.


Needless to say, Lewis and Clark must have been stunned when seeing the gigantic vertical cliffs that to this day shadow the edges of the rivers banks. When I saw the Sierra Nevada for the first time when walking across america, I had a strange mix of emotions: part of me was thrilled that I had made it so far and knew that I was so close to achieving my goal, and part of me was anxious about the undoubtedly gnarly terrain I was about to encounter and my utter lack of experience. I can imagine Lewis and Clark, or at least some of their crew must have been feeling the same thing while travelling along the Columbia.




The wildlife was abundant, although it could not always been seen or photographed because the forest is so dense. This European Black Slug was slowly making their way across a wooden foot bridge.


This white morning glory stands out distinctly among the dark shades of green in the forests of northern Oregon.


I saw this Cormorant dive underwater for food for roughly 1 whole minute. These birds have been recently under threat by the Fish and Wildlife Service because of their effect on the steadily increasing numbers of wild salmon that were almost driven to extinction by hydroelectric dams in the late 80’s and early 90’s.


Moss is ubiquitous in these forests, growing on nearly everything.


An osprey flies high over the water, scanning its surface for a vulnerable fish to make an easy meal of.



 Trail Conditions


And as mentioned, the forest is very dense in most places, so while some trails are very well maintained…


Others not so much…


And some not at all… Yes this is a trail, rather an old forest service road that is no longer in use. It was barely distinguishable at times, but every 100 feet or so there would be a patch of clear trail. That would reassure me enough to reenter the thick brush again with some confidence in my direction.

After a steep and very hot climb to Angel’s Rest, I had finally made it and the view was spectacular.

I sat far above the edge of the cliff and looked back and forth over the river, listening to it’s low rumble. Or maybe that was just the interstate highway buzzing by underneath me. As they flow side by side, I wondered which would outlast the other. From Angel’s rest I hiked deeper into the hills, passing Devil’s Rest and getting a little lost on the aforementioned fire trail, then looped around to the Wahkeena Trail#420 and went back to the road past Multnomah Falls. I stuck my thumb out at the parking lot and I got a ride within 5 minutes- the dude brought me into the city without deviating from his route and I went home from there.





A little about some new gear I’ve picked up recently. With a gift card I received from The North Face for being July’s Employee of the Month, I got a new pack and have finally gotten an opportunity to test it out thoroughly. So far, I had been using it as a daily commuter bag for when I ride into work, and it worked wonderfully when carrying just a bike lock, a salad in a tupperware container, and a fresh pair of clothes, but how would it hold up when I tried hauling enough gear for an overnight? Not surprisingly, it worked very well.

North Face Summit Series Verto 26 Pack


The bag is über light at 11 ounces, and it folds up into itself for convenient storage when not being used. The 100D cargo chute nylon is tough enough to handle navigating through thick brush and the compression loops are convenient when attaching stuff to the outside of the bag, i.e. tent poles, clothes bag, solar panel.


The straps didn’t work very well to distribute weight when carrying extra food and water, and the hip belt and chest strap are very slim and hardly supportive. Wish the shoulder straps had load lifters.


I also got some North Face Trail running shoes at the end of our Summer Sale. Since I moved to Portland with only the hiking gear I had on my back, it was nice to finally have some lightweight running shoes to wear instead of the heavier boots all the time. I had seen many people hiking on the PCT with ultralight trail runners and I was curious about how they would feel when moving quickly and with a lighter pack.

North Face Ultra Trail


Highly breathable and lightweight. I can literally feel the air moving through the Ultra Airmesh, and the Vibram outsole gives me tremendous grip on small loose rocks, flat wet rock, and even when shimmying across fallen trees. Flashdry works well to keep my feet dry and they are very comfortable to wear. I had no blisters from this hike, even in the heat.


At the end of the day, the bottoms of my feet were sore and bruised. The outsole gives great traction, but is not very thick and I could feel every little rock under my foot. Many people like that “close to the ground” feel when hiking quickly, but I find that I can move just as quickly in my boots with much more comfort. When you start running, that’s where the lightweight shoes really come in handy, but even at a quick 3.5 mph walk, I’d still prefer the boots every time.

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