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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2007/07/29
by John Zinkand

Oregon Hiking: Music for the Soul

Music, music, music! Thats all anyone ever talks about on this site. This band, that jam, this venue, that festival. Jeez! Well, theres more to life than just music. Ok, Ill admit not a heck of a lot more, but theres more for sure. One of my passions besides live music is backpacking and hiking in the Northwest. I live in the Northwest, so this is most convenient. We have so much natural beauty here and all within a short drive of our fair city of Portland. Theres the Gorge with its sheer cliffs, waterfalls, and strong winds which make it famous for its windsurfers and kite boarders. The Cascade mountain range including several snow capped volcanoes like Mt Hood, Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, and Mt Jefferson is only a short drive away. Also, a sprawling wine country known for delicious Pinot Noirs and a beautiful yet rugged coastline are relatively close by. And this is just the greater Portland area.
There are also the Steen Mountains in eastern Oregon, Mt Bachelor and Crater Lake in central Oregon, the mighty Deschutes River running north to south through the middle of the state, and many other natural wonders. Basically, Oregon is a nature lovers wonderland. So if you find yourself in Oregon for a concert, festival, or some other activity, it would be a crime not to get out to one of the many beautiful hiking spots available within close proximity of Portland.
Let me first steer your attention to a little hike in the Columbia River Gorge that is only about 35 minutes from the city, Angels Rest:

This hike is great because it is so close to the city, yet still provides an incredible view at the top. The trail head is in the middle of the Gorge, a major tourist attraction, so this trail can be crowded. I usually like to hike this one in the off season when its not as crowded, but one can still get a bit of solitude by arriving nice and early before the lot fills up. The hike is a 4.4 mile roundtrip that takes one up to the top of a viewpoint after gaining 1500 feet in elevation. There is plenty of beauty along the way with large trees, waterfalls, wildflowers and boulders. The higher you get on the trail, the more views of the Gorge spread out below you that come into view. As you get near the top, you can see the stands of burnt trees where a wildfire ravaged this area years ago. Once at the top, there is a large rocky outcropping that one can explore and take in views from all angles. There are little rocky nooks and crannies that are perfect for enjoying the view, having a snack, or whatever other activity might be enjoyable in such a serene spot.
For the more fit hiker, I suggest trying Silver Star Mountain in southern Washington. While in the state of Washington, this hike is only an hours drive from Portland. This hike is a 9.7 mile loop with an elevation gain of 2400 feet, so its pretty intense. But with a harder hike comes a better payoff in excellent views:

The hike starts on a rural gravel road and parking area that is never really that full. This hike is more out of the way than Angels Rest and much more difficult, so it doesnt attract the same crowds. Its also a loop hike, which is nice since you will not see the exact same scenery going out and back. The trail is steep and rocky in many places and can be quite intense. But if one can push through the pain and fatigue, they are rewarded with wildflower coated meadows, vast mountain views including Mt Hood, St Helens, and Mt Adams, and even the site of Native American Indian pits. These pits are large holes atop the summit dug into a huge rocky swath commonly thought to be vision quest sites for young Native American boys coming of age and testing their meddle. The hike itself is probably enough to test most peoples meddle, but the views at the top of this one are worth every effort.

One last hike Ill mention is in the Coast Mountain Range and is only about 12 miles from the actual coast line. This is a more difficult hike, but not quite as tough as Silver Star Mountain. Its a 5.5 mile roundtrip out and back with an elevation gain of about 1600 feet. So although this hike is no breeze, its a little more accessible as a challenging hike for the beginner. The hike is less than an hour drive from Portland and is well marked with a sign leading to the trailhead right off Rt. 26. After the turn off, drive on a narrow, curvy, bumpy road to the trailhead. This hike is usually pretty crowded as it is located on the tourist corridor to the coast, but the views from the top are worth dealing with any amount of crowds:

The hike is a pretty intense slog up the hill. The time moves along pretty quickly, however, as the hike takes one through very different zones. From the cool woods to the rocky outcroppings near the top, the hike is varied and sprinkled with a bevy of lovely wildflowers. It can get a bit sketchy near the top, especially on a windy day as the trail becomes steep, loose, and rocky. The final scramble is pretty intense, but once at the top the view is out of this world. There is the view of the nearby hill which serves as the other hitch in the saddle. Also, on a clear day one can see all the way up to Mt Rainier in Washington and all the way out to the Pacific Ocean. After taking on the hike, a short drive to Cannon Beach is in order to snack on some fresh Dungeness crab or smoked mussels. Yum!

The hiking in Oregon truly is first rate. Its great exercise, great fun, and perfect for some meditation and solitude while reconnecting with nature. Of course, these three hikes only scratch the surface of thousands of miles of backpacking and hiking trails. If you are coming to Oregon and would like to find more hikes, I highly recommend any of the Northwest hiking books by Mr. William L. Sullivan. The man knows his Northwest hikes and his descriptions and directions are more accurate than any of the other books Ive used. So while taking in some tunes this summer to feed your head, dont forget to also get some exercise and feed your soul with some great hiking. Happy trails!


There are 2 comments associated with this post

Angel April 22, 2012, 01:13:15

That is a bit harsh, CCGinger dropping dead wieght ! It is easy to understand why you, Emily, have probably felt frustrated with this hike: unforeseen accidents like Kate breaking (or spranging) her big toe causing a 0 day, the storms and variations in weather affecting your daily plans, the personality changes, highs, and lows among all 3 of you, seeing the same faces every day, the monotony, the chores, and especially the filming for this documentary. The filming has slowed all of you up every day. It is something all 3 of you knew would be a hindrance and hassle throughout this trip. You knew that before you left Illinois. Another point to bring up is that neither Kate nor Brandon have your physical abilities. Their pace was probably too slow for you most of the trip. Emily, you are so lucky to have the build you have. Most people would kill to have your perfect figure, your strength, your beautiful, long blond hair! Okay, I’m getting carried away. But still, it’s true that you could have left Kate and Brandon in the dust and just moved on at your own pace months ago. They must know that too. But, this trip has been filled with much more than just the walking. All 3 of you need to remember that.So, finish the hike on your own but please be careful. Enjoy these last 10 days I’d rather see you 3 finish together, but if it’s not to be, I still wish you the best and still hope to see you at Mt. Katahdin on the 12th. Love from the ‘other’ mother

Deseray April 23, 2012, 22:38:39

AcademyWal-MartTargetK-MartREICabella’sBass ProShopCampmor.comReally toghuh, even toghuh there are plenty of designs and colors, you don’t usually pick gear this way, that is, based on looks. You want the item that meets your needs and fits your budget. Usually if you are hiking you want your items to be as lightweight as possible so your backpack isn’t too heavy. But the weather will always affect your major choices. In summer you need less clothing, less bulky sleeping gear, can use a lighter weight tent etc it all fits in a smaller pack. For a winter hike, your clothing absolutely must be suitable for the weather, no matter what, this is for safety. You need to stay warm but you don’t want to sweat. Dress in layers so you can add and shed pieces depending on your needs. You want 4 distinct layers: a thermal layer like long johns or under armor, a light layer like a long sleeve T-shirt, at least one warm layer like wool or fleece, and a waterproof layer like a rain jacket or poncho. Also avoid COTTON except for undies. Your layers described above must be synthetic (polyester), wool, or silk. If you get cotton wet in the cold, it will not keep you warm. Vests are handy because they keep your core warm which is your chest and abdominal area where all your organs are.For what it is worth Jansport makes pretty bookbags, and they are very durable. These would be suitable for a day hike but not backpacking.Kelty has bright colored sleeping bags, tents, and packs. This is real gear, and it is relatively affordable. It is on the lowbudget of the real deal.Slumberjack makes pretty sleeping bags. This is another low-end outfitter but they make camping gear as opposed to sleepover gear.Another piece with a lot of choices in pattern are travel hammocks. Look for parachute nylon. They are pretty reasonable price, and they ball up in your hand. You can hang them between two trees for a very restful nap or afternoon with a book.You can also express yourself with your water bottle. Try a Nalgene bottle, it is almost indestructible. They come in lots of colors.I suggest really that you borrow your tent and sleeping bags, etc. And spend your money on good boots and raingear, gloves, skiband and beanie hats.

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