Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ape Gave

Oh Ape Cave. I've been here so many times, but I still want to go back every couple years. There's nothing wrong with that, I say. I think it's the challenge, which makes me think that doing something more challenging might be a good thing. Maybe it's time to try climbing a small mountain (maybe nearby Mt. St. Helens) or . . . I can't think of anything else that's challenging that I'd be willing to do. I'll think about it.

Today was wet. Very wet. I'm no cave-ologist, but it seems that the wetter it is outside, the wetter it is inside. It would make sense, that water has to soak into something. It wasn't wet throughout the cave, though, mostly just near the entrances and other close to the surface areas. The parking lot was about 2/3 full when we got there and overflowing when we left, but it never seemed packed in the cave. It seemed busier than other times I've been there (keep in mind that it's essentially the same temperature in the cave year round, so you could certainly do it in the middle of winter if you can get your car through the snow.), but it never was annoyingly busy. This was especially true in the upper half of the cave. Crowds seem to naturally spread out throughout the cave, and given that this one is one of the longer ones out there, it's not hard for this to happen.

The lower cave is mandatory for one of my visits. There's nothing special about it, but I have a feeling I'd feel like I just didn't do it justice if I didn't do the whole thing. It's a relatively simple walk out and back. It is made more difficult by small amounts of rock scrambling and a very uneven floor, but once you do the upper cave, you won't think the lower was a challenge at all. I call them the upper and lower cave, but really it's just up from the middle entrance and down from the middle entrance as it's all one big cave with a hole in the middle. The upper cave is certainly more challenging. It requires climbing over large rock falls, squeezing through tight spaces, crouching low to get through, watching your head in a few spots and the ever-ominous "6 foot rock wall". I do believe, however, that the rock wall had a new foot hole added to it this time that wasn't there before. Over time, it's seemed like the wall was getting smoother and smoother from so many people climbing up it trying to grab on to whatever they could (and likely breaking off some of what they grabbed). While I prefer that things remain natural, I don't think this seemingly new addition is out of line. It was getting nearly impossible and certainly . . . as I said . . . ominous. There was a line at the wall this time of backed up people trying to figure out how they'd get up, but it is nothing but entertaining watching them try. I was a little nervous as always, but glad I didn't let it conquer me as once I got to the top, I saw 10-12 year old girls that had made the same climb. If they can do it, I can do it, right? I'm certainly not THAT old yet!

If you have no problem hiking more difficult above ground trails, you should certainly visit the lower cave at least once. If you like a bit more of a challenge, give the upper cave a try. It's certainly worth the wet, cold trip.

Here are the specifics:
Fee: Northwest Forest Pass required (National Parks pass accepted. I believe the current fee for a one day pass is $5)
Pets: Prohibited
Facilities: Restrooms at trailhead, picnicking, viewpoints nearby
Attractions: Cave, trail, native plants, views, Mt. St. Helens nearby (volcanic monument)
Round Trip Hike: 3 miles in cave (includes out and back for lower cave and through upper cave), 1 1/2 mile return trail
Hiking Difficulty (out of 5): 5
Camping: No
Season: Year round (I believe), check road conditions
Coordinates: 46.108086, -122.211877
Governmental Agency Land: US Forest Service - Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Nearest town: Cougar, Washington (11 miles)
Nearest 10,000+ city: Vancouver, Washington (58 miles)
County: Skamania, Washington
My rating (out of 6): 5 for beauty, 3 for crowds, 5 for play availability, 5 for surroundings - 5 average
More Information: Ape Caves

My Current Location: Portland International Airport - Portland, OR

Cave Marker:Cave upper entrance/exit:
Meat ball:

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Portland "4T"

Trail, tram, trolley and train. Really, it's not 4T, it's TATSCMAX. That's not as clever though, is it? In case you're wondering, that's Trail, Aerial Tram, Street Car, MAX. In our case, we started with MAX. I'm getting too picky here, aren't I?

Anyway, we started at the Galleria stop and got on MAX. We rode it to Washington Park and let the adventure begin! Gag. Anyway, up the elevator and we headed toward the zoo. The signs were easy to find (all saying "4T"). It heads down to Hwy 26 and over the freeway. The oddest part of the loop is probably that the trail head is halfway down the on ramp. Whatever works, I guess. As expected, the trail heads up up up to Council Crest. I knew it was going to be uphill since it claims to go to the highest point in Portland. Overall, not too hard of a hike. It was nice to have Council Crest at a little past midway in the hike, especially since it was a beautiful day. It was nice to have a break and look around the park.

The hike then went down to what I believe to be the Marquam Nature Park. I was hoping that it would be downhill all the way to OHSU, but it just went down to go back up. Again, not too bad though. Aside from a short part of the trail that went up to Council Crest, it was all on an actual train and stayed off the city streets. There is an "urban" option that would likely have been less up and down between Council Crest and OHSU, but this was probably more scenic.

The trail wasn't the highlight of the trip, however. The views were the highlight. The pictures posted below leave out most of the view from Council Crest because I plan on going up there on a perfectly clear nice day and taking pictures and posting about that park itself. The best views from this trip were probably from OHSU. There is a large deck with views of the city and mountains near the tram. It's a small park all on its own. The tram should have been the highlight, but it wasn't very exciting. It went down, we got off. The views from the tram weren't even any better than the views from the top. Maybe on a clear day they'd be better, but nothing spectacular.

From there, we took the streetcar back into down and got some food. All in all, a good way to start our monthly summer hikes.

Here are the specifics:
Fee: TriMet all zone pass - $2.30 currently. If you go around the loop clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, the fare becomes $8.30 (The tram is $4 going up, free going down. One TriMet all zone pass is $2.30 and lasts only two hours on the MAX, but all day on the streetcar.)
Pets: Prohibited
Facilities: Restrooms at certain locations, picnicking
Attractions: Trail, wildlife/bird watching, native plants, views
Round Trip Hike: 3.95 miles (one-way, but public transit covers loop back)
Hiking Difficulty (out of 5): 3
Camping: No
Season: Year round
Coordinates: 45.510623,-122.717328 - Brochure suggests starting at Washington Park, so that's what these coordinates are.
Governmental Agency Land: Metro, City of Portland, OHSU
Nearest town: Portland, Oregon (2.5 miles from downtown)
Nearest 10,000+ city: Portland, Oregon
County: Multnomah, Oregon
My rating (out of 6): 6 for beauty, 3 for crowds, 5 for play availability, 5 for surroundings - 5 average
More Information: Portland 4T

My Current Location: Home - Portland, Oregon

Trailhead on Highway 26:
Trees at Council Crest:
Trilliums on trail:
Aerial tram:
View from tram:

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Bonnie Lure State Recreation Area

There's not going to be much to say about Bonnie Lure as there isn't much to it. After "touring" Oregon City, we headed out toward Estacada to try and find this state recreation area (it's not a state park and I'll explain why later). I didn't go with specific directions in hand, only the knowledge that it was out Highway 224, north of Estacada. I figured that it's a state park and they're always so well marked, why have good directions? Well, it's not a state park. It's an undeveloped state recreation area. After driving well past the turnoff and nearly hitting Estacada, we looked it up in the navigation. That brought us back down 224 where we turned off and drove right past the park in a loop that brought us back to Estacada. We looked it up on the state's website and drove back to where the navigation first told us. We drove by slowly this time and realized there was just a sign at the parking lot that would never stick out to you unless you knew it was there.

It may have been the slight frustration in getting there, it may have been the lack of contact with nature since way before tax season, but the creek was very serene. The water pushed up against the pillar of the bridge taking Dowty Road over Eagle Creek in a very . . . reassuring way. After reading what the Oregon State Park website had to say about this place (just now), I realized that we probably didn't see everything that Bonnie Lure had to offer. Even with this new knowledge, however, I feel pretty comfortable in saying that there isn't much to the recreation area but nature. It's a beautiful place to go fishing, sit by the creek or go on a short walk, but it's a recreation area and not a fully developed state park. If I were ever in the area again, I'd definitely want to stop by. It's pretty. It may be busy and unattractive on warm summer days (it just looks like one of those places), but on this nice but a bit drizzly of a spring day it was quite perfect.

Here are the specifics:
Fee: None
Pets: Allowed
Facilities: None
Attractions: Trail, wildlife/bird watching, native plants, fishing, swimming
Waterway: Eagle Creek & Clackamas River
Round Trip Hike: Roadside - unsure of trail length
Hiking Difficulty (out of 5): N/A
Camping: No
Season: Year round
Coordinates: 45.350722 -122.37655
Governmental Agency Land: Oregon State Parks & Recreation
Nearest town: Eagle Creek, Oregon (1.3 miles)
Nearest 10,000+ city: I'll probably have to give it to Damascus, Oregon on this one (8.6 miles - Damascus is just under 10,000 in 2009, but Sandy will be there eventually and is closer. Clackamas, Oregon City, Gladstone are all pretty equally distant)
County: Clackamas , Oregon
My rating (out of 6): 5 for beauty, 4 for crowds, 3 for play availability, 5 for surroundings - 4.5 average
More Information: Oregon State Parks - Bonnie Lure State Recreation Area

My Current Location: Home - Portland, Oregon

Art? on the bridge:
Eagle Creek:
Eagle Creek under the bridge: