July 22, 2008.
Easing back into hiking is challenging and rewarding. It is challenging to get excited to walk just a couple of miles, and to justify a long drive to do so. For this hike I decided to explore Rooster Rock State Park, only 22 miles east of Portland. Known for its nude beach and disc golf, I was unsure exactly what to expect. Little did I know what rewards would await me.
Fortunately I brought the directions printed from the Portland Hiker’s Field Guide, because the girl at the information station was not all that helpful. The park was huge, but it appeared to mostly serve picnickers and bathers. People didn’t really come here to “hike.” Brad and I wandered around, looking for the start of the route, and eventually came upon a trail leading into the woods on the right side of a yellow field. We followed the best looking path we could find among the loose aggregation of herd paths weaving through the trees. The forest was quiet and unspoiled; we had this walk completely to ourselves. Judging by the gargantuan parking lots at the entrance, solitude is rare here. Fortunately we were both able to go for this quick jaunt midweek, while most of the crowds were hard at work.
The trail gently meandered down towards the river, at a barely noticeable grade. We were surrounded by beautiful, lush ferns, wildflowers, shrubs and trees. We could hear the birds singing softly in the trees. As the forest thinned and we approached closer to the river, garter snakes slipped back into the safety of the trees from the exposed, sun-drenched trail. We only saw a few of them but we heard many more.
Soon the trail burst out onto a sandy bank with a view of the Columbia. We continued to walk along, admiring the pretty view of the river and appreciating the warm, forgiving sand underfoot. Upon reaching the part of the hike where the Field Guide author suggests turning back instead of completing the less scenic half of the loop, we took a snack break. We took turns listening to random 80’s songs on Brad’s cell phone, solving a medical mystery, and fumbling through the semi-aquatic vegetation in search of treasure. I blissfully enjoyed feeling the warm sun on my face and the freedom of being out on a trail. The weather helped; it was a crisp, clear afternoon.
After a thoroughly satisfying rest we turned back to the trail head. I scrambled up the sandbank to check out the rest of the loop before leaving. Sure enough, route 84 was right there and the path continued alongside it. No thanks. On our way back, we passed one hiker and emerged into the yellow field to see a few guys playing disc golf. Otherwise we had the place to ourselves.
Sometimes, timing is everything.