Friday, July 25, 2008

SW ~ Washington Park Vicinity Tour

Date visited: July 23, 2008
Agency: Portland Parks and Recreation
Path Surface: Mostly dirt and gravel, hard packed in summer, but can be squishy in the rain, narrow in spots and occasional tree roots
Elevation gain/loss: Repeated elevation gain and loss of up to 150 feet.
Distance: As described, approximately 6 miles, but nearly endless wandering possible
Ratings: Setting ++++ Calorie-burning ++++
Directions: From Highway 26, take the Zoo exit and head uphill to park near the Forestry Center, or take Max and exit at the Zoo.

A grand tour of the Hoyt Arboretum, Washington Park and Rose Gardens areas of Portland could easily be an all day adventure, if you stop to explore the sights, or it can take as little as two hours if you just march through this route. WARNING: The area described contains many intersections and trails and some are unmarked. It would be easy to get lost. Go with a knowledgeable person or a map to avoid wandering around for hours in case of a wrong turn. Many of the trails are shown on this brochure, and a general area map helps as well.

Begin on the Marquam Trail that goes behind and up the hill from the World Forestry Center, passing by the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial on your right. Note that many of the trees are identified, as this area is part of the Hoyt Arboretum. In less than ½ mile, turn left on the Wildwood Trail, then take the 1st right at an unmarked intersection. Follow this and by keeping left, you climb on the Hemlock Trail to SW Fairview Blvd. This is the high point of your hike in terms of elevation, but the sights are just beginning. Descend on the Hemlock Trail (across the street) into a hemlock forest, and after another ½ mile, cross a wooden bridge, turn right on the Creek Trail and then veer left on the White Pine Trail. The thimbleberries were just starting to get ripe as we hiked by, and I took a little sample, which was a bit sour.

Switchback up the hill at an unmarked intersection, remaining on White Pine. Enjoy the woodsy birds like the spotted towhee, chickadee and Pacific-slope flycatcher that I heard through here. You might also see or hear a downy woodpecker. Continue downhill to cross Fischer Rd., turn right on Wildwood over the wooden bridge, then turn left, remaining on Wildwood. Banana slugs and ferns love the deep forest created by the giant sequoias here. At about two miles, note the small stand of ponderosa pine as you climb up to reach another road crossing. Stay on the Wildwood Trail as it switchbacks down, ignoring an unmarked intersection to the left. Stay with Wildwood as it crosses Upper and Lower Cascade St. and at about 2.6 miles, veer left at a sign for the Rose Garden. Again switchback down, then turn right when you reach the road that leads to the Japanese Garden. Pass to the left of the garden entrance down the stairs and down the path, noting the “name stones” along the left side of the path. At the parking lot, turn right, cross the street, cross between the tennis courts, down the stairs into the Rose Garden.

At this time of year, the Rose Garden is really past its prime, but for a real treat, stop by in June. For now, turn left on the main path (just past the kiosk), passing the amphitheater on your right, then right on the stone stairs downhill along the road to the Holocaust Memorial. As you are headed there, look to your right to spot the marked MAC Trail, which is your return trail. In addition to the memorial, many sights are worth a look if you wander this area at the “bottom” of the park, including a fountain that sometimes works, the “Coming of White Man” statue, the Lewis and Clark Memorial Loop and a pretty city view.

After wandering as much as you like, find the MAC Trail again, which is across the road south and slightly west of the Memorial. Follow this trail, which is marked along the way, and listen for squirrels, juncos and song sparrows. Continue climbing on this trail, which turns right past the Elephant House picnic shelter (near the playground), crosses a road and continues uphill.
After crossing the railroad tracks, veer right on a thinner trail, cross another road and continue uphill (are you getting the picture here?) Continue on the trail along side a road to a small gravel parking area and shortly after crossing this, veer left onto Wildwood Trail. Here today, we heard a wild ruckus of Stellar's Jays, who eventually flushed a Cooper's hawk that landed right over our heads, still being harassed by the jays. Follow the Wildwood Trail to a left on Walnut Trail, along a bank of salal with ripening berries, to a left on Maple Trail, in this much more open area of the arboretum, where you might hear a lesser goldfinch like we did. Follow Maple to a left on the Overlook Trail (which is paved). Follow it until you can see your car or the Max station.

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