Willamette Mission State Park

January 8, 2016.

4.3 mi | 200′ ele. gain | 1:45 hr

I wanted to see a few things here: the Mission Ghost Structure for sure, plus the nation’s largest cottonwood. Like Minto Brown, this park had a slew of hiking loop trails with a number of different ways to link them up. I parked and made it up as I went along.

I also decided to do this hike barefoot. Why? It was freezing cold, there was water on the trails. I started out in boots, but in the very first puddle I walked through, my feet got soaked. So I decided to let them go. Plus, I think I had something wrong in the head. Cold training, I told myself. Yeah, cold training.

cottonwoodThe first point of interest was the big cottonwood tree. Yep, it was a big one, alright. Moving on. The trails got a little confusing on the other side of the park, headed towards the building frames. I mucked my way around until I found a spot on the river that offered a good view. They were incredibly eerie to see in the fog. The original Willamette Mission, part of one of the first community of settlers in the Willamette Valley, was destroyed by a flood in 1861. The wireframes standing today commemorate the old mission. I’m not sure why they decided to construct them the way they did, or if there’s any situation in which they don’t look creepy. Still, I couldn’t look away.

That is, until a beaver stole the show. Right in the river in front of me, I saw little waves on the still water. Then a little head. And body. I watched the beaver swim around in the river for several minutes, transfixed. It’s so rare that I actually get the chance to see wildlife (with the exception of a white deer butt bounding away quickly).

Oh yeah, my feet were wet and cold. Time to start moving again. The park was dark and gloomy but pretty nonetheless. As I walked as quick as I could in the mud I enjoyed seeing the filbert grove, deciduous tree skeletons, broken picnic tables and disc golf hole-things. Well, maybe not the last two. Is disc golf really even that popular? Why is this even a thing? Pondering these questions made the time fly by and before I even knew it I was back at the car.

Perhaps another visit is in order: in the spring, with flowers, sunshine and shoes.


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