The last week has been sunny and the temperature is inching higher; warm weather is so close we can taste it. Since we were in Portland from February-April 2016, we’re right at the three year window and it’s been fun comparing how different it’s been this time around.
Winter 2016 was very mild, but also very wet. The temperatures hovered around 50 (the average for PNW winters), and there were many gray and drizzly days (also average for PNW winters). Winter 2018 has been vastly different! The temperatures this go-round have been well below average with more 30-degree days than we’d care to count and a couple of snow days thrown in there. We didn’t see snow at all in 2016 unless we went into the mountains, so, needless to say, we were surprised.
Snowy runs in Forest Park
Muddy runs in Forest Park
Precipitation is another area that has surprised us this time. While 2016 was pretty gray and wet, 2019 has been…I don’t want to jinx it…sunny and dry. There have been days of rain, but more often than not the sun is shining. While the city has been dry, the mountains have been getting a lot of snow. We’ve seen snow much lower on Mt. Hood than in 2016 and all of the trails we’ve hiked have been covered in the white stuff. A big part of the reason we haven’t done much hiking this winter has been because of the cold as well as the snowy (and therefore sloppy) trail conditions.
Weather aside, we’re still really enjoying our time here. We’re not as gung-ho about seeing and doing all the things as we were in 2016, and have been taking our time settling into a routine. The food and beer are still top notch, though we do need to prioritize getting out more.
We’re really excited for the rest of spring and summer since we haven’t gotten to experience those yet. Big plans include: seeing the rose test garden in full bloom, getting to the National Forests, and spending some time on the coast.
Angels Rest trail is an easily-accessed trail in the Columbia River Gorge, an easy 30 miles from downtown Portland. The trail is a 4.3 mile, moderately trafficked out-and-back with gorgeous vistas culminating in a spectacular view from the top. It is a gradual climb of ~1400 feet and features a stream crossing and waterfall. Since it is right off the interstate it can get busy, so it’s best to go earlier in the day. In early February the trail was quite muddy at the bottom and snow covered at the top, so having proper hiking shoes was imperative. The Gorge experienced a fire in 2017 that shut down most of the trails on the Oregon side of the river; this trail (and many others) only recently opened in November 2018. There is still evidence of burn the higher up you get, but it doesn’t detract from the experience.
The Mirror Lake loop trail is located in Government Camp at the base of Mt. Hood. The trail is roughly 4 miles with only 650ft. of elevation gain – it’s a very easy and fun hike for all skill levels. We went in mid-March when the weather was sunny and in the low-60s. The trail was moderately trafficked, but I imagine there are a lot more people if you go in the summer. The trail is primarily used for snowshoeing during the winter months. We didn’t have snowshoes, but luckily the snow was hard packed and we didn’t experience any postholing. Once we got to the lake, the original intention was to continue on to the Tom, Dick, and Harry trail, but the snow was too deep and not hard-packed so we were in it up to our knees. One of the coolest things was the bridge crossings – the snow was so deep that we were walking at the top of the railings, a good 3+ feet above the trail! This is a great trail and easy way to get up close and personal to Mt. Hood without doing very strenuous climbing.
Top of Stassel Falls
Matt at Stassel Falls
Snickers at Shellburg Falls
Behind Shellburg Falls
We headed to Salem on a Sunday afternoon to hike the Shellburg and Stassel Falls loop. The trail is 6.5 miles and is on the easy side of moderate. The majority of the trail was on service roads with a couple of portions on single-track trail. The first mile or so is on a road through cow pastures. Once you enter the Santiam State Forest, about a mile and half in, you’ll be standing at the top of Stassel falls. The majority of people bypass the entire loop in favor of just seeing Shellburg Falls, but we opted to hike the entire trail. It was lightly trafficked the day we went and we didn’t see another person until we were on our way out (according to AllTrails this is not usually the case). The highlight of the hike was Shellburg Falls – a 100 ft. waterfall that you can walk behind. Snickers was a little scared to walk behind the water, but she loved running the muddy trails. If you’re in the area, Shellburg Falls is a great sight to see, but otherwise we weren’t too impressed with the trail. We do recommend stopping in Salem at either Salem Ale Works or Bine Valley for some beer after the hike.