Eric’s sister, Laura, came to visit us over the weekend from sunny southern California. So, naturally, her arrival in Portland was met with pouring rain, which we then insisted on hiking through. She was a total trooper, even when the temperature dropped 15 degrees and the rain soaked through our jackets.
The Salmonberry River Trail is in the coastal mountains, northwest of Portland, near the (very appropriately named) town of Timber, Oregon. To get there, we drove down a lot of gravel, pot-holed roads through a very rainy forest, carefully watching the odometer to make sure we were turning at the right intersections (obviously, we made some wrong turns and got very confused).
This trail is so interesting because it follows an abandoned railroad line. Apparently, a storm damaged the tracks in 2007, and they have never been repaired. The trail strolls along the tracks (sometimes next to them), crossing over bridges and through tunnels. It’s not your typical Oregon hike, but it is super interesting.
We ran into a few hunters (I’m going to call them hunters because they had orange hats and large guns, but who knows?) at the start of the hike who told us there used to be a little logging town here, but there’s nothing left now that the railroad is out of commission.
To paint a picture of this trail and our specific hiking experience, think of every murder scene in every TV show and movie you’ve ever seen. That was this place. Dark, abandoned, creepy, rainy. The kind of place where someone would dump a body. And to the super creepy guy who drove his car down the trail and was peeing by the equally creepy pond, we think you might be a killer. (Is it obvious that we watch too much television?)
For those of you who have never walked through an abandoned train tunnel before, it’s rather terrifying. We had flashlights and headlamps, but they did very little to illuminate the path, and absolutely nothing to keep my mind from wandering to the far reaches of what could be waiting for us in there. We made it out just fine, but I’ve confirmed that I hate the dark.
If memory serves me correctly, we crossed a couple portions of track where the hillside was steep enough to need a small bridge for the tracks (a few of which were quite high). I couldn’t tell you what any of the scenery looked like around those, as my entire being was focused on not falling through a hole (I may have an irrational fear of falling off bridges).
There are few scenes I enjoy more than good ol’ Pacific Northwest fog, so prepare yourself for a lot of photos of that. We just stood in this open area and watched the fog roll through for a while, making me wish we had brought some hot chocolate or warm cinnamon tea. So cozy.
We hiked around 2.3 miles in, just so we could walk across the Big Baldwin Trestle, which crosses (way, way, up) over Baldwin Creek. The rain was really coming down, and we were about an hour from sunset, so we turned back to the car. The trail continues on for several more miles (for a one-way total of 6.25 miles).
For directions and a really helpful map, check out this guide to the Upper Salmonberry River Trail. I imagine it’s a completely different experience on a sunny day, but if you aren’t afraid of things looking a little murdery, I’d recommend hiking it in some Oregon gloom.