Having friends who like their jobs is always a good thing, and I am lucky to have a few friends who do. In this case, because my friend Daisy likes her job at Royal Ridges Retreat in Yacolt, Washington, she invited me and another friend for a trail ride on her day off. We saddled the horses and meandered over the hills, through the pastures and forests and enjoyed an overcast (but dry!) late November day. On a clear day they say Mount St. Helens is visible from the trail we followed. Despite the overcast weather, it felt good to be out and in the saddle.
Royal Ridges Retreat offers summer youth camps and riding lessons through the year. The Retreat’s camps include paintball camps, adventure camps and horsemanship camps.
After discovering and enjoying Gales Creek and the Campground during our hot spell here this summer, I decided to take my sister hiking there. I am a little delayed in posting about this adventure … we actually went back in September. This time, while the weather was still warm, it was considerably cooler than it was during my previous visit.
After parking in the day use area near Gales Creek, we chose the first hike we found a sign for. It turned out to be the Gales Creek Trail along the Low Divide Creek, a moderate hike just under 3 miles leading up to the Wilson River Highway/Highway 6 and the trailhead.
The narrow hard packed dirt trail led us up from the creek to another parking area just off the highway. For much of the trail we could either see or hear the creek and crossed a number of little bridges crossing streams flowing to the creek. They say that there is an old train trestle somewhere along the path. Though I was looking for it, I never saw it.The path is obviously a well-used one. While I wouldn’t say it was crowded, we did run into a couple of mountain bikers, two families with kids and a trio with their dogs. Everyone was polite and the bikers followed the trail rules and yielded to us hikers.
Once we reached the trailhead, we found a sign with a large map of the local trails there in the Tillamook Forest. I wanted to cross the highway and take a different trail that would curve and bring us back to the Gales Creek Camp from the other side of the creek. That trail was a little over 4 miles and my sister was not up for the additional distance, even as slight as a mile. I have to admit, there were places where the trail had been steep enough for me to question its “moderate” designation. As this turned out to be a destination hike, I was glad we had started out from the bottom of the trail; when we turned around and went back, it was all down hill! The dog trio sadly did the opposite, and when we met again on our respective returns, they were tired and puffing.
When we arrived back at the camping area we took advantage of the creek to wade and cool our hot feet. The camp was full and bustling, and we were not the only ones in the creek!
Me being the “hey – do you wanna ___?” one in my family I had another suggestion for my tired sister. Just a short distance, about 13 miles, down the highway from the Gales Creek Campground is the Tillamook Forest Center. Despite it being late in the day, while sitting on creek rocks I suggested we go check it out. My sister reluctantly agreed.
We arrived at 4:45, 15 minutes from closing. I know I say this often – I want to go back! There was fire lookout tower to climb, a free museum, a multi-sensory theater and more. I didn’t realize until stopping that the Tillamook forest is the largest state forest in Oregon and that as a temperate rainforest it receives over 120 inches of rain every year!
Tillamook Forest Center
5500 Wilson River Highway Tillamook, OR 97141 (near mile marker 22)
Tillamook State Forest Gales Creek Campground
18001 Rogers Rd. Glenwood, OR 97116 (Right off Wilson River Highway / Hwy 6)
After berry picking, I got on I-5 and headed home. The great thing about having a free day is the ability to be spontaneous. On a whim I decided to stop at the Mount Saint Helen’s visitor center, a five-mile detour east off I-5. When I got there, I found a wonderful view of the mountain over Silver Lake. Despite the light haze from distant forest fires, the view was beautiful. Since I had some time leeway, I decided to take the Silver Lake Wetland Haven Trail, an easy one mile loop, and stretch my legs. The sign promised: “This loop trail guides you through an intriguing marsh wetland, home to creatures galore within one single sheltered cove of Silver Lake.” The easy hard packed gravel was a walk in the park, very easy, with a super accessible view of the mountain. With interpretive signs and benches along the trail, it was a very informative walk as well.
It is amazing to think that the mountain blew its top in 1980, 37 years ago. The area is beautiful now. It is hard to imagine that the area was covered with ash for miles around, and the destruction wrecked on the people and land is appalling to think about. 57 people died that day. However, it is also an encouraging thing to keep in mind as forest fires currently rage through Oregon, Washington and along the entire West Coast. There is hope that the land can heal and the forage can grow back again after a major disaster.
Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center
Exit 49 off I-5
As this summer has been busy, this adventure is from a few weeks back, but it started months ago with some planning this past spring. When my friend took me on the rails to trails trail back in May she mentioned that the blackberries along the trail were amazing. Since I love the taste of fresh, sun warmed, wild blackberries, we planned a blackberry foraging adventure for when they got ripe, which ended up being about the middle of August.
This time on the trail, she took me to a different section, about mile post 1 1/5. We picked up the Willapa Hills Trail (I now know its name!) off Tune Road in Chehalis. Not walking too far, we crossed train tracks (which are currently in use) and found patches of blackberries full of wonderfully plump and sweet berries! It was a good thing we weren’t in competition because she beat me and picked at least double the berries I gathered! In my defense though, I spotted a plum tree nestled behind the berries. The purple fruit looked ripe and, if I could only get through the berry thorns, within arm’s reach. There in the farmlands of western Washington, we had a good time getting sweaty, scratched and eating delicious fruit.
When I got home, and with a little internet searching, I discovered that the Willapa Hills Trail starts in Chehalis and ends about 56 miles away west in South Bend at Highway 101 (the historic Coastal Highway connecting the West Coast from Los Angeles, CA to Port Angeles, WA). The trail is a mix of paved and gravel, but consistently easy the whole way. As I was told, it used to be a train track and is relatively flat the entire distance.
Btw – I blame White Collar TV show for my lack of a blog post in August. Thank you, my berry picking pal, for recommending! It’s hilarious!
That’s what it has been here in this part of Oregon lately.
Last week we saw temperatures of over 105 degrees Fahrenheit here in Washington County. On top of that we were seeing our air pollution levels rise from smoke coming down from the wild fires 350+ miles north in British Columbia. It made for a hot, muggy, hazy and rather bleak couple of days. While the heat wave and the hazy air are still here, it has cooled and cleared considerably.
Because this part of Oregon does not usually see such temperatures, many homes do not have air conditioning nor are people ready or accustomed to such elements. I have a friend who moved here from Texas a few years ago who was shocked to discover that many cars do not have air conditioning here in Oregon!
A small rustic campground about 15 miles from Banks and Highway 26, it is a no reservation and low amenity (it has trash pick up and out-houses, but no showers) campground. It is first come, first served, and once the 23 campsites are filled, they are filled. Our friends got lucky and got a site right on Gale’s Creek.
The creek isn’t very large, but in places people have dug out rocks and have hand built rock and log dams to make for small, but deeper “swimming” holes. My young friends (ages 6 & 7 ½) think they are the best!
As we sat on boulders in the creek, the younger kids swimming while the older kids threw rocks and Frisbees, we could see the haze above the cedars and pines. Thankfully the air in the forest, especially by the water, was cool and clear.
Late in the afternoon Tina and I again made our way into Portland. Just as we entered Multnomah County, we made our first stop – Cornell Farm and Cafe. Here we enjoyed hot drinks (despite the warmth of the day) among the pots of plants and flowers for sale. The chamomile and lavender tea pleased me and the Monk’s Coffee latte apparently pleased Tina just as well.
Refreshed, we proceeded into Portland. Tina and I never run out of things to talk about, which is good thing because traffic into Portland seemed especially backed up this particular weekday afternoon. After creeping along for several miles and getting to point where we joked about climbing the rocks and cliffs along the road during the long minutes we waited for our turn to creep up a few feet, we came upon the reason for decreased speed – a downed power line. The police were there with flares and soon after passing the spot, the flow of traffic picked right up.
Once in Portland, we hit a couple shops – the World Market and Zupan’s. Eating our Digestives from the World Market, we walked up Burnside Street a short distance and caught a couple shots of Mt. Hood. Yesterday we passed up all three of these things because our driver had been determined to go straight to Wailua Shave Ice.
Then we visited Powell’s just long enough to find the spot in the Pink room where we once ate Voodoo Doughnuts (also the second and last time I ate them because I dislike them, despite their fame). That last visit together to Powell’s, we figured happened seven years ago.
We also found the foreign language section. I became really excited when I found Enid Blyton books. Fond and slightly forgotten memories of reading her Famous Five and Secret Seven books (which most likely – but subconsciously – inspired our self-titled Fabulous Five moniker) came back immediately. Originally written and published in Great Britain, these particular books had been translated into German. Tina found a childhood favorite, a Dr. Seuss book, translated into a Middle Eastern language. The scripted font, so different from the alphabet we’re used to, and the right to left layout of the book made it seem like new book. After hanging out in Powell’s, we had one more stop to make.
Unable to go off to a foreign country, we thought visiting an embassy might be the next best thing. However, Portland doesn’t have any foreign embassies. A handful of foreign consulates reside here however. Through Google, we found the address for the Royal Norwegian Consult, but we didn’t know if it was an office or home address. After turning right too soon twice, driving by the building twice and accidentally running a red light, we finally found the building complex, one with a mix of business and residential units. As late in the evening as it was, the shops had closed for the day, and we still don’t know if we were creepy and wandering around the base of someone’s home or simply weird, walking by an office.
We stumbled on a lovely walk along the Willamette River though. The Cottonwood Bay Trail, as the name implies, has many Cottonwoods. Recently released fluffy seeds paved the trail white. After pausing to take in the River, we headed home.
I love traveling. I love finding new places, experiencing new tastes, sounds and sights, and learning new things. Generally I find these things are even better when I experience them with friends who appreciate the traveling experiences as well. Some of my best friends are those who see each day as an opportunity to explore – to go down new side streets, never fearing “getting lost”, to eat at new restaurants and find new favorite dishes, to stop to take a photo or to drive down a country back road, eager to see where it leads. Unless you are a hard-core solo traveler, I hope you have found a few travel friends as well!
One group of my friends in particular really enjoys traveling and exploring. The five of us jokingly refer to ourselves as “the Fabulous Five.” These are friends with whom I have shared in person many of the adventures I’ve shared here on this blog. Seattle, Columbia Hills State Park, and the Saint Paul Rodeo are just a few of the adventures we’ve taken together.
Well, the cookie crumbled and two of the Fabulous Five split off for the summer. One traveled up into Canada for a summer semester studying linguistics, while the other journeyed to the Czech Republic teaching English. Honestly, I’m a little jealous. The remaining three of us, balancing work and other responsibilities, are facing a summer of local adventuring. We determined we would enjoy it anyway.
We three decided and planned to “do something together“. We had ideas, but nothing set. Over a homemade lunch we tossed around ideas and finally decided to drive into Portland, try Wailua Shave Ice and visit Powell’s City of Books – something new and something old.
Wailua Shave Ice is located in a small pedestrian only mall, Union Way, across West Burnside Street from Powell’s City of Books bookstore. Among the handful of small neighboring shops, Wailua was definitely the most popular spot. We joined close to 20 people in line and tried to decide which delicious sounding shave ice to buy. Eventually I decided on the Almond Joy.
As we slowly shifted down the line, I got a bit bored, so leaving Anna as a delegate in line, Tina and I set out down the corridor and out the other end of the mall. We made our way around the block and across the street to Powell’s. I sure love that store! Living outside of Portland, I dread going in to the city, but I’ll go if we’re going to Powell’s. The huge bookstore with its warm charm, mixed shelves of new and used books, concrete split-level floors, color-coded rooms, coffee infused air and absolutely necessary information desk, always offers an enjoyable experience.
Planning on coming back after eating the shave ice, we made our way in one entrance, skipped through one level and up to another and out a different exit. We then made our way back to Wailua where we discovered our held place in line had not made as much of an advancement as we had hoped. Even so, everyone seemed in good spirits and the three of us speculated about the treat we would soon try.
Once we got to the counter and ordered, I saw why they call it “shave ice” and not simply “snow cones”. The light fine ice base reminded me of powder snow; it was not the pebbly ice of your typical snow cone. The drizzled full flavored coconut syrup left no question of its good quality; it was not the typical snow cone cheap sugary artificial color and flavor. It turned out to be one of those treats you can justify and feel good about indulging. The Nutella, toasted coconuts and almonds popped with the coconut ice and fully justified the $6.
By the time we got the shave ice, our paid time for parking was almost up. We decided to forgo Powell’s to instead stop at Scrap PDX. The shop, resembling a thrift store and a discount store merged into one, sells only goods geared for art projects. In a rather over whelming fashion, bins of yarn, cloth and sewing filled one corner, chests and drawers full of beads filled another, along with poster board, plastic of random shapes and colors, paints and all sorts of other things filling in the middle. It made me think of my aunt, an elementary school art teacher of 40 years, and her house. Materials to make all kinds of fun art projects along with half finished demos of the projects lie strewn all over her house. This store was like that. I could see this store as being a go-to spot to find random material you may need for this or that project, but then again, you might just want to go with an open mind…
With dinner and evening time constraints, about this time we headed home. However – we didn’t quite make to a few places, and Tina and I decided to extend the adventure to the next afternoon after work.