It is a seriously gorgeous day in Portland.
I feared these might be over with the arrival of Autumn, but things are wild and sunny around here for the next week. And this made today the perfect day to hike somewhere with a view.
Or so I thought.
Apparently a beautifully clear sky in the city doesn’t necessarily mean a beautifully clear sky near the mountains.
I was really pumped about hiking the Marquam Trail to Council Crest Park, which supposedly has views of Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Adams on a clear day. Unfortunately, the mountain sky didn’t clear up in time for me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Today I conquered a fear and drove our car through Portland (okay, it was only like 3 miles, but you’d be amazed how many times you can miss your turn in 3 miles, even when using the GPS). I hate driving of any sort, but driving through Portland makes me 1000% more nervous because of the zillions of people who live here and are always driving. It’s always rush hour. And it’s terrifying.
But one of the lovely things about living here (which will hopefully overshadow the traffic issues), is that you can drive (or walk) a short distance in any direction and eventually hit the woods (or water). This city has done a pretty impressive job of incorporating areas where you can get a small dose of nature without being too far from civilization.
I hiked the Marquam Trail to Council Crest Park, which was a hike very reminiscent of the Ridgeline Trail back in Eugene. The dirt path is a pretty gentle uphill grade for 1.7 miles, wandering through the backyards of some impressively large homes, and crossing over a few neighborhood streets. It wasn’t exactly the wilderness, since I could see houses and hear lawn mowers and cars through most of the hike, but it was nice. The trail was shaded until I got to Council Crest Park, so it would make a nice warm-weather hike, or even a lovely late Autumn hike once those leaves finally change.
I didn’t encounter a soul for the first mile and a half, so I did get my fair share of solitude, but as I approached Council Crest Park, it got a bit more crowded. I expect everyone at the park was also hoping for a view of some mountains on this lovely morning. The mountains are lost in the haze right above the city in the photo below. Even without the mountains, there’s a good view of the city, which I spent a long time staring at, trying to determine where we live. My conclusion? After a week and a half of living here, I have no idea.
There’s a pretty cool giant compass in the center of the park, with an inscription around it telling the story of Council Crest. Basically, in the late 1800s, a group of ministers took a 2-hour wagon ride up to the top and assumed that Native Americans must have held council there, so they named it “Council Crest.” (It’s much more eloquent when you read it as you walk in a circle around the compass.) There are also four plaques with the names of the mountains you can see, their elevations, distance from Portland, and native names. As a girl who wishes everything in the world had an identification label, I was pretty pleased.
Of course, as I was leaving I could barely see a mountain trying to peek through the haze. And as I drove home through southwest Portland, I could see Mt. Hood clearly in the distance. So I suppose the lesson we should take from this is that going to Council Crest Park on a clear afternoon, rather than a clear morning, is your best bet for seeing mountains. I suppose the haze has to burn off a bit. Plus, if I’ve learned anything from my two years in Oregon, a gray, cloudy morning can turn into a brilliantly sunny and clear afternoon. It’s so confusing.
The good news is, if you aren’t a hiker, you can drive to Council Crest Park. But if you want to take the same 3.4-mile (round-trip) hike I did, head to the trailhead at Marquam Nature Park (at the intersection of SW Marquam Street and SW Sam Jackson Park Road). There’s a parking lot there with free 2-hour parking. I hiked up and back in about 35 minutes, each way, so if you don’t piddle around too much on the trail, you should be able to enjoy a nice long break at the top before your parking limit ends.