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August 15th, 2001 Ted Katauskas | Outdoors
 

The Lighthouse

     
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On a recent Saturday morning, I set out on the Warrior Rock Lighthouse Trail with an immensely pregnant wife and a blackberry-ravenous 2-year-old boy. According to my guidebook, the three-mile stretch of grassy roadbed at the northernmost tip of Sauvie Island would parallel "one of the loveliest beaches in our region" and end at "a charming outpost from civilization" it recommended as "an enticing locale for a picnic lunch."

Only problem was, in our haste to get underway, I had neglected to make, much less pack, any sandwiches. Already hungry, I nevertheless was impatient to stand atop the craggy rocks where, in 1792, an advance party from George Vancouver's Columbia River expedition encountered 150 somewhat peeved Chinook warriors. Helen was understandably less enthusiastic about hiking six miles on an empty (beachball-sized) stomach just to commune with a bunch of huffy ghosts; 10 days shy of her due date, she reserved the right to end our imminently expanding family's sojourn at any moment.

Willam was in this strictly for the blackberries, which presented themselves in a prickly haystack-sized tangle just a few steps beyond the beachside trailhead. If it hadn't been for the cows, our trip most likely would've ended right there. But Willam stopped stuffing his purple-ringed mouth long enough to point a purple finger at a herd of Holsteins napping in the shadows of a stately oak on the other side of a wire fence some 50 yards up the trail.

"Kee-yows!"

So we followed the road past the kee-yows and into a forest of black cottonwoods. The freshly mown lighthouse keeper's road was blanketed with downy white, hemmed on both sides by an impenetrable wall of blackberry brambles. Most vines were either pink with blossoms or heavy with unripe berries in all their hues, from green to purple to indigo. Here and there, where the sun punched through the forest canopy, lurked countless specimens of the most perfectly ripe blackberries I have ever tasted.

Within an hour, Willam began refusing berries from the pail presented by his mother, content simply to witness the wonders of the forest: the red-tailed hawk soaring silently overhead, the curious kar-r-r-r-o-o-o of the sandhill cranes, unseen, strutting beyond the brambles. Then as abruptly as it had begun, the road ended at a protected cove, a deserted oval beach beside a coal-black shoal, crowned with a stubby little whitewashed concrete lighthouse. While Helen rested in the sand, holding her belly, I skinny-dipped in the cove with my son, splashing in the wakes of passing barges. We would've stayed all afternoon in that very special place, had I remembered to pack a lunch. And if Helen had not started feeling like maybe it was time. As in, time.

Turned out it wasn't. But as we hurried back to the car, I decided that "Sauvie" would make a lovely name for a girl.


To get to the Warrior Rock Lighthouse trailhead, head northwest on Northwest Sauvie Island Road for 2.5 miles after exiting the Sauvie Island Bridge, then turn right onto Northwest Reeder Road. Once Reeder Road turns to dirt, follow it for another 2.3 miles to the trailhead parking lot. One-day parking permits ($3.50) can be purchased at the Cracker Barrel Grocery, on the left side of Sauvie Island Road, just off the bridge.



For an excellent guide to this and other wild places on Sauvie Island and around the Portland area, reserve a copy of Wild in the City (M.J. Cody and Michael Houck, editors) at your local branch library. Better yet, just buy a copy ($21.95 at the Oregon Historical Society and at Powell's). It's that good.
 
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