Powell Butte, 11-15-12

For the last sunny day we’ll be getting for a while, I decided to head out to Powell Butte. While a lot of my favorite hiking spots are way out in the middle of nowhere, Powell Butte is much closer in, a quick drive to Gresham. It’s the first place I saw a wild coyote in Oregon, my favorite outdoor running locale, and has one of my very favorite red cedar stands in the area. I’m trying to get myself back into condition after last month’s illness, and while I’m still comparatively slow and lacking in stamina, Powell Butte was just what I needed.

It was tougher to get settled in as there’s ongoing construction of a new water reservoir there, so there were trucks and backhoes and workers shouting and the like. But once I got over the crest of the butte and down into the woods, things quieted out a lot. That’s one of the challenges of urban wild places–if your aim is to get away from the noise and busy-ness of the city, you may find it follows you in spite of your efforts. Still, if the Savannah sparrows and the woolly-booger caterpillars can hack it day after day, I can deal with a little extra chaos in exchange for getting to wander this beautiful–if ever-changing–place.

Did I mention these were BIG leaf maples?

Like so many of the large hills in the Portland area, Powell Butte is an extinct cinder-cone volcano; it has a broad, flat top and the sides gently slope, so it’s not that challenging as far as hikes go, but it is a lovely one with a lot of local history. It still has an old orchard from when it was farmland. Supposedly the trees that remain are over 100 years old; sadly one of them had blown over in a recent storm. The rolling grasslands turn into a beautiful forest of old Western red cedar, big leaf maple, and Douglas fir, with nettles and mushrooms as part of the undergrowth. For being so close to houses–you can see them through the trees on the western edge, especially this time of year–it’s one of my favorite quiet spots. Striding across the grasslands makes me feel like an adventurer, but the forested area brings me into walking meditation.

I got there fairly late in the afternoon and had plans for the evening so I couldn’t stay as long as I might have liked, but I did get my wilderness fix for a bit. And I even got a poem out of it! Enjoy:

The trails are a muddy tangle;
Gallantly the maples lay lay down their cloaks,
Perhaps a little too well! The golden-brown patchwork
Covers us all.
Indignant mushrooms brush off the kind gesture
And get back to the business of growing:
Little round ghosts in the gloom.
I came to see the forest in its tattered Autumn best,
But I see the sun slung low
Across the land, and I must go.
But I will return (I promise),
I will return.

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