Klickitat Rail Trail

April 3, 2011.

18 mi | 900′ ele. gain | 6 hours

Sue and I met up at the Swale Canyon trail head for an as-long-as-we-felt-like-it hike of the Klickitat Rail Trail. This mostly flat, well-graded trail is built out of an old rail bed. In places, its history is quite apparent. It was a beautiful spring day with mostly clear skies and I was looking forward to a nice walk with a good friend.

The start of the hike passed through stark, wide open hills. Rocks lined the riverside. And what was that? A marmot? Fat little rodents popped up their heads from their rocky surroundings. I was surprised to see marmots here! I always think of them as alpine creatures.

Patches of green and bursts of color came from occasional early blooms. But the landscape was predominantly gray and brown. As we walked further down the canyon, we found piles of bleached bones. A vertebra. A jawbone. A pelvis. I couldn’t identify the animals but it was interesting to feel the bones and imagine the other critters that were living (and dying) along this trail.

At the far end of our hike we started to pass by old junker cars and other trash. It became less pleasant and we didn’t want to be out here all day anyways. After about 9 miles of walking we decided to turn back.

With the sun high in the sky and most of the walk behind us I took the time to observe the remnants of the old railway. We crossed the river on old rail trestles. There were piles of rusty, iron nails on the sides of the river. I wondered what it would have been like to ride a train through this landscape. Or what those trains were carrying. It’s easy to get lost in thought when you’re out on a long day hike.

This would be a great hike in the peak spring wildflower bloom, but would be terribly hot in the peak of summer. It’s quiet, relatively easy to access and travels through a unique landscape that offers a break from the dense, rainy forest surrounding Portland. I’m glad we made it out here today.

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