After a week of snow falling each night and melting away in the day, I looked forward to getting outside in warmer weather. Today the weather reached the mid 40s F in the valley, with white puffy and not stormy clouds overhead, and streamed glimpses of sunshine through my window. I thought, Today – today I am going to see what new growth is springing up with this change in the weather.
For whatever reason, Bald Peak State Park popped in my head as a place to go. As a small State Park in Yamhill county tucked in among family farms in the Chehalem hills, it does not offer much in the way of hiking, but on clear days it offers a beautiful view of Willamette Valley looking west out toward Hillsboro. On those clear days the Pacific Northwest’s volcanoes: Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, along with Mt. Rainier can be sighted from here. This was not one of those days.
Sure, I realized it was a cloudy day when I left for the park, but I thought the rise in elevation might put these clouds in a different perspective; and it sure did. What I did not anticipate, nor did I even notice, as I drove up the mountain was the decline in temperate. By the time I reached the park, elevation 1,629 feet, the temperature had dropped by 11 degrees F, down to 35. The wind had also picked up as my little car climbed the mountain, giving that wind chill that gets the cold right down the jacket and past the shirt collar. Snow was all over the ground, while gray storm clouds hovered right above the treetops. Water sporadically rained down in a combination of snow melting from the Douglas fir limbs brought down by the wind and sprinkles from the clouds.
Despite the chill, I decided to walk around. To get a better view, I took a side path down the hillside. I had not walked more than five minutes before I slipped and landed hard in the ice-crusted mud. While I would not go straight to treacherous or unpleasant, my 15-minute meander through the woods was more than enough! Despite being cloud covered, the view was worth trek.
I chuckled to myself as I coasted down the mountain to warmer territory below. Of course it would be colder up the mountain! You know you would have enjoyed it more if you had been better prepared, I chided myself. But I enjoyed it any way!
When you and your sister both have an early summer Monday off, you have to go do something. But what? It was a weekday and a workday, notorious for being a day popular attractions are minimally populated. Opportunities abounded. We thought about going to Horsethief Lake in Washington, but decided that it was too far away for the day’s adventure. We considered going shopping at Washington Square mall, but I didn’t have anything I needed to buy. We contemplated the beach, but decided instead to go hiking around Champoeg State Park, just outside of St. Paul, OR.
The area now known as Champoeg (pronounced: sham-poo-ee) Park was once known as tchnampuick and inhabited by the Tualatin Kalapuya tribe until the early 1800s when French-Canadians from the Hudson’s Bay Company retired here.
After stopping in at the Visitor’s Center, buying the $5 parking pass, looking around at the free exhibits and meandering through the 1860’s-style kitchen garden, we drove to the east side of the Park. There we wandered around the Riverside day use area and along the easy Pavilion Trail.
Champoeg Park Pavilion and Monument Plaza is where farmers and trappers voted for a Provisional Government in Oregon on May 2, 1843 at a “meeting of the ‘inhabitants of the Willamette settlements’.” This vote formed “the first American government on the Pacific coast.” Later, in 1900 the land was purchased by the State for a public park, and to commemorate the vote the State erected a monument here.
With the breezes through the evergreens, sunlight penetrating the clearing like a monument spotlight and happy boater laugher floating off the river, just sitting on benches made for a relaxing summer afternoon. The back history told me I was not alone in enjoying this spot. This location has hosted many happy moments. Back in the day, Champoeg was called the “Plymouth Rock of the Pacific Coast,” and every May 2nd citizens would gather to celebrate. The Pioneer Memorial Building was built in 1918 and the attached covered area was added in 1920, providing a place for these annual celebration gatherings.
With the park open year round this is a great place to come and enjoy!