Sunday, September 7, 2008
When I've been away from the woods for too long I get grouchy and hard to live with. My wife, ever anxious for my well-being, watches for withdrawal symptoms and sends me off on some adventure when they appear. (Her own self-interest may play a part as well, but I haven't figured all that out yet...)
Newly transplanted to Oregon, I knew I was surrounded by gorgeous forests with endless hiking trails, but I didn't know where to start. I miss climbing Mt. Timpanogos with my family in Utah, and wanted to find some rugged Cascade trails with that same high-mountain feeling. Some of my best childhood memories are from the times my dad took my brother and me (when we were just six or seven years old) on long hikes high up the mountain.
Luckily I grabbed this awesome 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon book just before it was "that time of the month" for me again. But the childhood hiking memories got to me, and I decided to postpone the gung-ho all-day climbing expedition and take my family on a hike we could all enjoy. The first hike in the Clackamas Foothills section is a short walk through the forest to Butte Creek Falls. We choose that one after breakfast yesterday, loaded everybody in the car, and headed off on our adventure. (If only it was that simple! Each time we get the whole gang ready for a trip, I remember why it's been so long since we last did it!)
Even from the trailhead parking area you can see this place is paradise. The kids and I played in the woods while my wife nursed the baby. The forest floor is covered with Oxalis, which looks like giant three-leaf clover. Huge ferns sprout up everywhere, all shaded by the towering conifers overhead.
A short way down the trail we found a chair (the kids called it a throne) someone had carved out of a stump with a chainsaw. Naturally everyone had to sit in it and be king or queen for a moment.
The kids were fascinated with every little thing along the trail. (So was their dad, but he couldn't get a word in edgewise.) We saw this awesome "weeping rock" lookalike.
Just before the viewpoint for the Lower Falls (which ended up being by far the higher of the two, but no matter), we saw a gigantic old log with very tall trees growing right out of it. Earlier the kids had noticed a log with little Oxalis plants growing out of the top, but 100ft trees growing out of one was almost too much to believe!
The falls are best viewed from a narrow spot with a steep drop-off on both sides. I don't think we'll be taking young kids to that spot again. But the falls were amazing.
We ate our picnic lunch in quiet spot on the way to the Upper Falls. I stood quietly while the baby slept happily in the child carrier on my back. The woods were breathtaking beyond belief. Everybody has a place where they truly belong, and Oregon is my place. I don't think I'll ever get enough of this wilderness.