First Spring – Powell Butte

Or is it Fool’s Spring? Time will tell, but five days of no rain makes me giddy. Five glorious days of cold at dawn but 60 by mid-day. First days of 60+ in Portland since November 4th! I arranged my week around getting out for a hike. I’d been dreaming of waterfalls lately, especially those powerful spring gushers along the Gorge, but then we saw that the winds were gusting up to 30 mph. We did that once and it was brutal, so we opted for Powell Butte.

My haircutter, a native, calls east Portland “The Numbers.” Numbered avenues run north-south starting at the Willamette river, and continue eastward into the triple digits. These are the neighborhoods that Portlanders tend not to go to because there’s not much out there that they can’t get “closer in.” That’s another nebulous term for neighborhoods nearer the city center, more desirable and expensive, hipper perhaps. There’s a lot of unspoken knowledge about various areas and neighborhoods. It’s like a wink and a nod. You know or you don’t.

The last time we went to Powell Butte was a year ago to the very day. (Thank you Google for tracking my every move.) It’s way out in the numbers, so we don’t go often, but it does give us a chance of a good view of the Cascades.

I realized, to my chagrin, that aside from my trip to California, and besides my paltry neighborhood walks, this was my second hike of the year. Unbelievable. I really fell into a winter hole, clinging to hibernation and rain aversion. But it’s spring, whether false or first, and it’s time to rearrange my furniture, move my bones, and get a grip. Astonishing even to me that I have been so sluggish.

The cold morning is tolerable when there’s blue sky available for the sipping, so me and my layers headed out. But not the usual drive to 167th Ave. That route takes you halfway up the Butte to a big parking lot, a visitor center, landscaped entryway, past two 50 million gallon reservoirs, and then a stroll up a gentle rise to the open meadows.

This time, like the locals we pretend to be, we drove only to 136th Ave. to the Raymond St. opening at the edge of the forest. We’d discovered a number of these neighborhood entry points on our last visit (with a sweet rock garden). From there we were immediately enveloped in a thick forest, and no people or asphalt. Pretty cool.

Surrounded by tall and mighty trees – Doug-fir, big-leaf maple, western hemlock, western red-cedar, red alder, hawthorn, (and of course sword fern) – the forest was alive with birdsong. We  couldn’t see them all, but heard them singing, spring spring spring! Yes yes yes, I nodded in agreement to a hairy woodpecker, Steller’s jay, red-breasted nuthatch, and our usual backyard birds, sparrows, towhees, chickadees, and juncos. The robins were the friendliest, hopping just ahead on the trail. The jay posed and groomed on a branch nearby.

We emerged from the forest onto the vast meadow at the butte’s peak. Hiking around the Summit Trail, we took in the only slightly hazy array of volcanoes – Mount St. Helens and Mt. Hood among others, all with plenty of snow. To our delight and awe, a kestrel hovered and flapped above the meadow, hunting for breakfast.

What a great morning. From the cloistered forest, to the view-filled open meadow, and back into the forest world; a little over 3 miles, some good uphill effort, well groomed pathways, and the world warmed up.

Perhaps my body prefers to celebrate Naw-Rúz, the Bahá’í new year, as I unfurl with the spring flowers, ready for what’s next, making big plans and promises. What came next was the Leach Botanical Garden, but that will be some words and photos for another day.

18 thoughts on “First Spring – Powell Butte

  1. I did not know about those “secret” entrances to Powell Butte. Probably not accessible though, right? the Butte is a fun place to explore, but I have nightmares about the last time we were there and I crashed my scooter. Need to get back on the horse one of these days!

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    • No, not accessible, narrow and root filled. But I don’t know about entrances into the forest from the meadow – it is nice to have that contrast. I wish you strength and courage for your next visit. Have you been to Leach Botanic garden? It’s small, and the main parts are accessible I think, though not all. Thanks for reading Terri.


  2. Yay you! I’ve been outrageously sluggish this winter. I’m not sure that’s new. I’m hoping to get to one of those volcanoes on Wednesday. If the weather holds up to its potential. I too can do cold if the sun is shining. I should be working on my garden, I finally ordered seeds. But I need a road trip.

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    • So much calls in the spring. Today I’m happy for the rain because it means I will not have to go out on my hands and knees to weed and prune. Buying seeds is a good first step, and I am having to hold back on planting flowers too early. I too look forward to our ONE day this week of better weather. Hmm where to go… thanks for being here Gretchen.

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  3. Oh, I love the early spring hikes. Cobwebs out of the head, a good stretch of the legs and a walk among giants. I’ve had the same experience lately of being blasted by birdsong but seeing very few. When I heard a yellow warbler yesterday I was giddy with excitement. I’m envious that you stepped into rhe forest. I love my walks along the estuary, but there is nothing like tall trees to set my mind right. Only a true PNWesterner would head for a Butte with views of the Cascades on a March morning. My body takes weeks to acclimate to what I ask of it during hiking season. Good for you getting a headstart. Lovely photos … spring is on the way. 

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    • “Cobwebs out of the head, a good stretch of the legs and a walk among giants.” Why did I not think of that line? It’s true, it’s a mind-setting dial that needs to be turned up in spring. Oh yeah, there’s a world out there. Thank you for your encouragement! And for reading, as always.

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    • You inspire, as always, dammit. I would rather whine. I did commit last week to returning to a walk in the woods a day (with a photo) for a month, starting tomorrow. And I have 24 (23 now) piles of branches to dispose of in the woodlot. I’ll blame the plague on being behind on the “shoulds.”

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      • I wish I had a wood lot out my door for walking in instead of my neighborhood, but I think I’d prefer that it was someone else’s wood lot that I could just enjoy. Whining and blaming are part of being human I suppose! Enjoy while you can and then March forth!

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        • I am lucky to have my woods. And the WTA has been at work this winter to make it less muddy, which is awesome. I often wish I had a neighborhood to walk in though. Grass is always greener . . . I’m glad to have both friends who are kindred and those who are inspirational. I think we need both. And others who make me feel good about what I do do! Good grief, I’m lucky. And in truth we are all all three, depending on the timing. If that makes sense at all.

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  4. You are so inspiring to me with all the hikes/nature gusto omg it’s impossible for me to think of you as sluggish!!! That said, I feel like I didn’t go outside for 3 months down here bc of rain/life. But all is assuaged when I read a Nancy post! It’s as though I’m right beside you on your journeys. THANK YOU for the ride xoxo love you

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