Normally, doing yoga in nature seems like a good idea—a good idea for a way to get covered with ants, burrs, dirt and dung. However, on the Three Capes Scenic Drive off of U.S. Highway 101, Pacific City sits on Cape Kiwanda. At the edge of the town (next to the Pelican Pub and Brewery, 33180 Cape Kiwanda Drive, pelicanbrewery.com) there are a few hundred yards of high, pastel-colored, coastal cliffs that afford breathtaking, water-on-three-sides views of a haystack rock. But for full glory, salute the sun: The soft, claylike cliffs are also nature's perfect yoga mat.(JS) 100-150 miles. Year round.
Rocky Butte is Portland's only natural outdoor climbing spot, but that's probably one more than most American cities have. Climbers can take on everything from straightforward sport climbing to technical bouldering. The abundantly bolted cliff offers easy routes (of up to 100 feet) for sport climbing and rappelling, while the retaining walls of the "fortress" towering above present bouldering opportunities of varying difficulty. But "this is definitely city climbing," says Joe Lala of Climb Max (2107 SE Division St.), so be on the lookout for broken glass and unsightly garbage. To reach Rocky Butte, take the Northeast 82nd Avenue exit off of I-84 and drive east on Northeast Fremont Street. Take a right to the Portland Bible College, and climbing should be on your left. (AC) 0-25 miles. Year round.
Footnote: Tim Olson has published a great guide to climbing called Portland Rock Climbs (Wild Horse Adventures, 2001). It is an invaluable guide for climbing in the Portland area.
Beacon Rock, Columbia River Gorge
How climbers can ignore this 800-foot monolith is beyond us. Maybe they're intimidated. It's big, steep and hard. No gimmes here. The rock is clean, south-facing columnar basalt. With the breeze and the river, it's a great place to climb. The approach is a little different—there's substantial poison oak in the area, so keep an eye out. For more information and directions to Beacon Rock State Park, go to www.parks.wa.gov. (KL) 50-100 miles. Summer and fall (Note: closed in early summer to protect nesting falcons).
Columbia Hills State Park
Summer days of 100 degrees-plus can make climbing at Horsethief Butte a little more than brutal, but in the spring and fall this state park—formerly known as Horsethief Lake State Park—is a real favorite. Located at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge, the area was formed by great floods. Rock washed away, leaving a singular basalt spine. Long but not tall, most routes can be top-roped. The rocks offer every level of climbing, from easy fifth-class routes for the beginner to finger-popping 5.12 sport climbs for the more adept. There is no current guidebook, so talk to a trustworthy-looking climber wandering around the base for tips. For more information and directions to Columbia Hills State Park, go to parks.wa.gov. (KL) 75-150 miles. Year round.
Smith Rocks State Park
An international climbing mecca, Smith Rocks offers climbing for all levels. While most of the routes of note are more difficult and fall into the sport-climbing genre, there is rock here for everyone. If you get the rainy-day blues, pack it up and head for the east side of the Cascades, well into the rain shadow, where your mood will melt in the sun. Pick south-facing routes in the morning to warm up; as it gets hot, move around to the shade. Warm. Dry. Ahhh. To get hip to this rock check out smithrock.com, and for camping information go to oregonstateparks.org/park_51.php. For supplies nearby, try Redpoint Climbers' Supply (goclimbing.com/redpoint) in Terrebonne. (KL) 75-150 miles. All year.
Summiting a volcanic peak is a gas. There is nothing like standing on a relatively small piece of ground with everything dropping off around you. That said, in the climb itself lies joy. Don't just step out of your car and plan on going up until you get to the top. Find someone with experience and time to show you the ropes. Learn before you tie in and start for the top. Join the Mazamas (www.mazamas.org), or take a climbing class.
If you're just curious, go to www.vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes, a vast database on volcanoes all over the world. Forming one arc of the "Ring of Fire," our Cascade Range figures prominently on the site, which offers photos, physical data and current "activity." This great site is an example of your tax dollars well spent.
South Sister Mountain
If you're interested in notching summits in your belt, start with Central Oregon's pretty little South Sister. Tallest of the Three Sisters range, South Sister bosses around her Middle Sister and North Sister. Unless you have experience with snow climbing, wait until summer and make the hike—and it is a hike. At 10,358 feet, the summit will leave you gasping for breath, and gasping at the view. (KL) 75-150 miles. Summer.
This is our mountain. All 11,239 feet of it. When it can be seen from town, life is good. While the standard south side route—which leaves from the world-famous Timberline Lodge—is called the Dog Route ('cause you can do it with your dog), in some circles this is a serious climb. You can die. People do, regularly. Then again, Mount Hood is the most climbed major peak in the world after Mount Fuji in Japan. There are days when it looks like the world is climbing with you; other days, your partners' will be the only faces you see. Not a mountain to be dismissed as easy, but not a mountain to unreasonably fear. (KL)
25-50 miles. Year round.
Mount St. Helens
There are two Mount St. Helenses: The old 9,677-footer is gone, the top 1,313 feet of it scattered between Yakima and Missoula. You're too late to summit that one. The new truncated 8,364-footer, however, is still worth the tromp. While the mountain has been closed due to the recent "activity" in the crater, rumor says summit permits will be available this year. If so, take the shot. If it's early in the year, take your skis. The drop off the rim falls in a consistent pitch to the trees. (KL) 50-75 miles. Closed for now, but who knows?
When you drive into Trout Lake, you feel like you can just step out of the car and head up the nearby slope to the summit. But it's over 10 miles to the trail head. In bulk, Mount Adams is roughly the same size as Mount Rainier, but Adams is shorter, at 12,276 feet. Again, if it's early in the season, take your skis. And again, go with experienced folks. (KL) 75-150 miles. Year round, weather dependent.
At 14,410 feet, this Big Kahuna is not a jaunt for the timid. This is a real climb, with steep slopes and crevasses, calling for care and skill to make the summit. As with any climb, it is getting down that often causes the most problems. There are a couple of guide services: Rainier Mountaineering Inc. (rmiguides.com) is the most well-known, offering the combination of teaching and guided trips up the mountain. The guides at RMI, as a group, are among the most professionally accomplished climbers in the world—it's likely the RMI guides have summited Everest more times than any other group. (KL) 75-150 miles. Year round, weather dependent.
The next big peak south from Mount Hood, Jefferson is a "little" summit, at 10,495 feet. Great view. One with "exposure" and the feeling you are on the very tippy-top of the world. Believe it: You are. The peak is a bit removed from the road, so it's best to plan a couple days or more for the trip. (KL) 50-75 miles. Year round, weather dependent.
Footnote: For the Washington summits, the bible is still Cascade Alpine Guide: Climbing and High Routes, Vols. 1-3 (Mountaineers Books, $29.95-$34.95). Written by Fred Beckey, a man with more first ascents than seems humanly possible, these books are a virtual ridge-by-ridge, couloir-by-couloir guide. Vol. 1 covers the Columbia River to Stevens Pass; Vol. 2 covers Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass; Vol. 3 covers Rainy Pass to the Fraser River.
Once every couple of years, the deep freeze clobbers the Columbia River Gorge and the waterfalls become a vertical playground for the hard-core. But climbing ice is different from climbing rock. It's colder. And you make your way up with "tools." An ice hammer (or short ice ax) in each hand and crampons (those classic spiky things that go on boots) driven into the ice provide purchase. Natural ice forms into a remarkably plastic sheet, and once you become accustomed to standing on pencil-like points off the end of your boots, balanced by the tools in your hands, it's a ton of fun. Really. Tim Olson's Portland Rock Climbs (see Rocky Butte, page 10) has an extensive section on the Gorge ice. If it's cold for a couple of days, blowing east, head on out: The ice is white. Rope up at the bottom and whack away 'til you get to the top. (KL) 50-75 miles. Winter, but infrequent at best.
About an hour and a half from Portland, Bagby Hot Springs is a popular day trip. But what soakers don't realize is that the trail through majestic old growth doesn't end at the overpopulated campsites just beyond the pools. Forest Service Trail No. 544 traverses the 34,000-plus acres that is Bull of the Woods Wilderness. Heading up the Collowash River, the 12-mile trail, which intersects other trails and ends at Elk Lake, takes the hiker across wide, rushing creeks into a dense and diverse people-free forest. This is where you get naked in the woods. Remember, it's wilderness. Take a map, and check trail conditions (Estacada Ranger Station, 503-630-6861). (To trail head: From Estacada, take Highway 224 to Forest Service Road 46, 46 to 63, and 63 to 70.) (TVF) 50-75 miles. Year round.
Are you get tired of tromping the same trails and wondering "Hey, what's that tree?" Take a hike with an expert. Costs range from free to inexpensive, and most hikes are led by local volunteers who are eager to share their knowledge of Oregon's history and plant and animal life. Visit trailadvocate.org for monthly trips led by trail conservation gurus on some rarely traveled paths in Clackamas County. Check out the Portland Parks outdoor-recreation site (portlandparks.org) for a listing of guided hikes from Forest Park afternoon trips to three-day alpine excursions to Anthony Lakes. (JW) 25-50 miles. Year round.
Crampon, shcrampon. Summit a peak without all the gear at the highest point in Northwest Oregon, Saddle Mountain. A steady but comfortable trail switchbacks 2.5 miles and 1,600 feet through stands of birch and spruce forest offering wide views of the coastal range. Trees give way to meadow as you near the top, and spring and summer yield an embarrassment of wildflowers, including wood violets, bleeding hearts, candy flower and lily-of-the-valley. The craggy summit affords glorious views of the coast and our own ring of fire: mounts St. Helens, Adams, Hood and Rainier and, on a clear day, the Olympic Range. This hike makes a great day trip all by itself, or you can super-size your adventure by camping at the trailhead (first come, first served) or enjoy an ante-climactic jaunt to the coast, a scant 15 miles away. Take Highway 26 west 63 miles. Turn right at the Saddle Mountain recreational area sign and follow the signs for the parking area. (TC) 50-75 miles. Spring-fall.
If well-known Multnomah Falls is a jewel, then Silver Falls State Park is an entire tiara. The Trail of Ten Falls winds past, you guessed it, 10 waterfalls, each a dazzling display of postcard perfection. Hearty hikers will want to cover the full 8.7 miles of rainforest trail, while the occasional stroller may prefer shorter hikes to South Falls and North Falls. At these two points, the trail takes you behind the falls affording an uncommon sight: the backside of water! Want to make a weekend of it? The park also offers camping, cabins and dozens of miles of horseback riding trails. See oregonstateparks.org for directions. (TC) 50-75 miles. Year round.
Neahkahnie Mountain and Oswald West State Park
You've seen them on the coast: signs featuring a stick figure climbing for his life under the crest of a crashing tidal wave. Tsunamis are a real threat to Pacific Rimmers; fortunately tsunamiphobes can gambol in the surf of Oswald West State Park secure in the knowledge that the shortest path to safety lies right behind them: Neahkahnie Mountain. Should the big one come, surfers and sunbathers should form an orderly exodus up the Oregon Coast Trail. It will deliver them through switchbacks through Sitka spruce, salal, sword fern and grassy mountainside to the safety of Neahkahnie summit. Tsunami or not, hiking the 3.8 miles and 1,600 feet to the top is definitely worth the commanding views of the Pacific Ocean and Nehalem Bay. If you're a glutton for punishment, you can top off your descent from the summit with a hike of 2.5 miles along the OCT north to Cape Falcon, or 9 miles to Arch Cape. Nice work, Cape crusader. Take Highway 26 west 73 miles to Highway 101. Take 101 south for 12 miles and look for the signs for Oswald West State Park. Park and follow the trail toward Neahkahnie Mountain. (TC) 75-150 miles. Year round.
Willamette Valley Soaring club
Instead of spending Saturday on the golf course, try floating above it. The Willamette Valley Soaring Club, a nonprofit group of gliding devotees, will take you on a ride: A small plane tows you (plus certified glider) to about 3,000 feet and then releases you. The most exhilarating/nausea-inducing part might be the bouncy ascent, where 80 mph feels like all hell has broken loose (but in a good way); once you're elevated, practice steering or relax and enjoy unobstructed mountain views before gliding back to solid ground. For more info, go to www.wvsc.org or call 647-0913. (JC) 0-25 miles. Wednesdays and weekends, April-October.
What do those traffic-dodging messengers do on their days off? Dodge mallets. Every Sunday at 2 pm on the tennis courts at Northeast's Alberta Park (at 19th Avenue and Killingsworth Street), a sport long thought to be aristocratic and fancy is reinvented by a group of hard-core cyclists known as axles of evil. The regulars bring a set of single-speed beater bikes that take PVC mallets to the spokes as the riders take them to the chest (both illegal but common). You can't touch the ground, but you can hold onto the fence as you're getting knocked over by a competitor. It's a fun sport to watch, and anyone who's up to the challenge is welcome to join. (JS) 0-25 miles. Year round.
Throw your bike on TriMet bus No. 31 bound for Estacada. After the two-mile uphill on Highway 224 just out of town, ride 24 gentle miles up the Clackamas River, lined with mossy basalt cliffs and laughing conifers, to the stretch's best riverside sleeping spot, a mile off the road, Alder Flat campground. Rest well. Forest Service Road 57, just past Alder Flat, is a summer cyclist's paradise, a mostly paved through-road to Highway 26, with multiple options: Harriet Lake (7 miles), Hideaway Lake (15 miles) or the more populated Timothy Lake (15 miles). Hard-core pedalers looking for a vista? Take Forest Service Road 58, 10 miles up to High Rock (elevation 4,000 feet). But check with the Estacada Ranger Station (503-630-6861) to see if the snow has melted. Warning: F.S. Road 57 is closed a couple of miles up from Highway 224. The Forest Service says anyone on the few miles of road between the roadblock and the highway is at their own risk. (TVF) 50-75 miles. Year round.
A tight, muddy corner gets the best of your pedaling legs and you plunge face-first into a pile of mud. A line of racers piles up, trying to avoid your sorry catastrophe, some of them plowing into and onto your bruised body. It's 40 degrees and raining, and you have another hill to climb, bike hoisted on your shoulder, before you can go around the course another five or six times and, most likely, finish in the bottom 10. If that sounds fun, cyclocross is for you. An off-road race that mixes beefed-up road bikes with impossible terrain, cyclocross is one of the fastest-growing sports in Portland. And strangely, it's considered the most welcoming of the cycling disciplines for beginners. This year's Cross Crusade, the largest local series, begins Oct. 1, with races almost every Sunday through the third weekend in November. The wise newbie will hit Erik Tonkin's cyclocross clinics at the Alpenrose Dairy starting in September. For more information, check out crosscrusade.com. (AV) 0-25 miles. Fall-winter.
With its undulating topography and sprawling vistas, Portland boasts superb night bike-riding opportunities. And like most everything in the city, there's a group and a website devoted to this particular brand of nocturnal wandering. The Midnight Mystery Ride (www.yeabikes.net/midnight) convenes the second Friday of each month. Riders gather at a bar at 11 pm for pre-ride drinks. At midnight, they take to their mounts and set off into the night for points unknown. See, each trip's ultimate destination is a secret (hence, "Mystery"). And because previous destinations have ranged from Broughton Beach to Kelley Point Park, MMR organizer Ayleen Crotty says riders should come prepared for anything. (AC) 0-25 miles. Year round.
PUMP You UP
If you ride anything with two wheels and knobby tires, you've probably tasted (literally) the trails Portland has to offer: on the west side, Forest Park's fire lanes and Leif Erikson Drive; on the east side, Powell Butte; and farther afield, the single-tracks of Scappoose and Molalla. Not bad for the urbs, but do you ever wish there were more rides, or better? It doesn't happen by accident. Portland United Mountain Pedalers (PUMP) not only brings dirtbags together for group rides and trail maintenance, it's pushing a public freeriding park in Portland. Go to pumpclub.org to find out more. (IG) 0-25 miles. Year round.
Bike to Fish, Fish to Bike
A popular ERA-era feminist slogan declared, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Well, woman or man, sometimes to fish you need a bicycle.
In 1909, competing railroad barons James Hill and E.H. Harriman picked opposite sides of the Deschutes River and started building railroads to open up Central Oregon. On the west, Harriman built faster. Hill dropped out. Today, Hill's old railway bed creates the perfect access to the roadless lower Deschutes. Hop on your bike. Toss in plenty of water, and watch out for the occasional rattlesnake. The fishing is great, the scenery undisturbed, the people scarce. On the full moon, fish until the sun sets. Listen to the sound of the river and night falling in the desert while you pull the edge off a great day. The canyon remains warm well into the evening. With the moon breaking the edge of the rim rock, saddle up and head downriver to your car parked at the mouth. For more details, check out www.oregonstateparks.org/images/pdf/deschutes_brochure.pdf. (KL) 50-100 miles. Year round.
Ski bowl thrill-rides
In the summer, Mount Hood Ski Bowl becomes an adrenaline junkie headquarters. If it touches the edge, they have it. Take their version of mountain biking. It's all downhill here. Tired of the lung-searing uphill chugs? Easy—ride the lift up. And from the top, let it rip on 40 miles of downhill trails. Rip it up. Use your brakes—or not.
Bikes got you bored? Try bungee jumping. Dropping 100 feet for fun—nothing like it. Not enough? How 'bout the Rapid Riser Reverse Bungee, or the 500-foot zip line. The Dual Alpine Slide is relatively tame, but the Indy Carts are another matter. And for real thrills, you've got mini-golf. The smorgasbord is there; you just belly up to the dish you want. Or get a pass for the day and leave satiated. (KL) 50-75 miles. Summer.
Fly-fishing was once considered the sport of kings, but with the advent of mass-produced bamboo rods and the introduction of fiberglass after World War II, everyone could toss a line. While cloaked in mystique and seemingly arcane techniques, the sport is relatively simple. Put a "bug" on the water and trick a fish to dine. Fish will feed only if the bug appears to be a kind they have tasted and like. The Northwest holds some of the finest fly-fishing water in the country, and our fair city sits within a short hop of world-class fabled waters. The following are just a few.
Right off the eastern edge of Portland's metropolitan growth area runs the fine, clear Sandy River. Amazing. There isn't another river of its pedigree in the country near such a populated area. Trout, steelhead and salmon all run in the Sandy at one time or another during the year. Stay away when the river's muddied and spend time wading as it drops. Head east on Interstate 84 to Troutdale and follow the river away upstream until you find an appropriate spot to drop a line. (KL) 0-50 miles. Open seasonally.
Mention the Deschutes and fly-fishers' eyes glaze over as they remember "that day on the river." Roughly 100 miles east of Portland on the edge of the Great Basin desert, the Deschutes is a marvel. Clear, cold water running through basalt rim rock and sagebrush. The river is chock-full of "redsides," a distinctive rainbow trout found only in that basin. No fishing from a "floating device" is allowed, putting 80 percent of the water out of most people's reach. The prime days are in late spring, when salmon fly hatch. The appearance of these large yellow bugs floating on the water seems to eliminate any hesitancy or discretion on the part of the fish. The bite is on. The Deschutes River empties into the Columbia close to the 100-mile marker on Interstate 84. Take the State Park exit; park; and head up the river on the old grade. (KL) 75-150 miles. Year round.
The Metolius is magic. From the source, where it flows fully formed out of a pool in a meadow, to the lower end of the canyon, where it enters Lake Billy Chinook, this is great water. The air carries the sweet smell of the surrounding Ponderosa pines. And the water! Clear. Cold. Even. No mud sullies this river. The downside is the fish. If fish could be considered "smart," with a brain the size of a small pea, these fish are geniuses. Brown, rainbow and the occasional bull trout all call the Metolius home. A good day is a few fish; a great day is one spent on the river. Leaving Sisters on U.S. Highway 20 to the west, about 10 miles out, look for the Metolius River junction leading north. It's just past Black Butte Ranch. (KL) 75-150 miles. Year round.
Fishing: What You Should Know Before You Go
The recent salmon season has proved to be a disappointment for many this year. But there is hope. There are trout, and they will be plentiful with a season in Oregon that lasts through October for streams, but goes yearlong on lakes. Sturgeon are still fair game in the region. May 27 marks the beginning of the summer steelhead season for Beaver Creek (Columbia County). Adipose fin-clipped steelhead are fair game until the end of the year. While May 27 is also opening day for adipose fin-clipped spring Chinook salmon, there are only 65 days in the season. An angling license for residents is $24.75 and an angling tag, valid for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and Pacific halibut, is $21.50. (EG)
Footnote: One of the favorite shops in P-town is Northwest Flyfishing Outfitters (10910 NE Halsey St., 252-1529). Steeped in the lore but not bound by the tradition, the good folks here have found the touch for dropping the fly in the Northwest. If you are heading down to the Metolius, check out the Camp Sherman Store (campshermanstore.com). With a shop "on the water," they know the hatch and the timing intimately.
Likewise, the Sportsman's Warehouse and Budweiser will be sponsoring the 24th annual Detroit Lake Fishing Derby. Friday through Sunday, May 19-21, the lake will be stocked with fish and swarming with people looking to hook the big one. The grand prize is a Smoker Craft fishing boat, and contestants may enter up until 2 pm on Sunday. The adult entry fee is $10, and the first 300 entrants receive free hats. Beer, fishing and free hats: Sounds like heaven. For more information, contact Detroit Lake Marina and Kane's Marina, 503-854-3636. 75-100 miles.
Blister-Worthy Local Runs Within the City Limits
(Favorite run of Torrey Lindbo, president of Team Red Lizard)
Lindbo's chosen path goes up through Washington Park's Rose Garden, onto the unnamed cedar trail behind the Japanese Gardens, hitting the Wildwood Trail, through Hoyt Arboretum, over the hill to the Pittock Mansion and back. He describes it as "a good hill workout" with "decent climbs" that's "definitely in the challenging realm"—it's a hard seven-to-10-mile loop that even he warns is "not for the faint of heart." And though he prefers the "sloppy slip and slide" of Forest Park in the wet season, he settles for this because of its great over-the-top-and-back options. See www.redlizardrunning.com for the group's weekly run schedule. (BVN) 0-25 miles. Year round.
Tryon Creek State Park: North Horse Loop
(Favorite run of Paula Harkin, co-owner of Portland Running Company)
Harkin's a hard person to keep up with, but she managed to talk us through her preferred route (seven miles) in Tryon Creek State Park, even cutting into her scheduled run time to do so. From the Nature Center, she shoots through any number of different trails (one being the Cedar Trail) to complete the North Horse Loop. Racing up the hill between the bridge and the road in "four minutes" is what she most looks forward to. Mostly this hillstomper enjoys the free excursion out of the city. Check out portlandrunningcompany.com for her weekly group runs. To get to Tryon Creek State Park: From I-5 South, take Exit 297 to Terwilliger Boulevard. (BVN) 0-25 miles. Year round.
(Favorite run of David Cook, president of the Oregon Road Runners Club)
Currently recuperating from ankle-reconstruction surgery, Cook hopes to be walking his five-to-six-mile route along the Eastbank Esplanade in four months. Seeing nature (sea otters, herons) as well as faces (Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, even Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan) up close is one reason he takes to this popular trail—the other being its proximity to his work place. Starting from Lloyd Center, he usually strides south past OMSI and onto the Springwater Corridor for a few miles and then loops back. An easy route, but the director of races topping 100K says it's a worthwhile one. Visit orrc.net for details on upcoming races. (BVN) 0-25 miles. Year round.
(Favorite run of Aaron Woods, Niketown Running Club leader-specialist)
"Run it out of yourself" is how Woods describes the Terwilliger Trail's benefits. The "it" in this case being stress—something universal to city life. Just like the Niketown club runs, Woods also frequents this here five-mile route, hitting Terwilliger, pumping past OHSU and taking a sharp left-hand turn up the hill. Roughly 300 yards past the bathrooms and water fountains is the first turnaround. Sometimes, for the extra two miles, he charges past the Charthouse Restaurant. His canny hillside reasoning is that you can "put your body on cruise control." Grab a handheld map at Niketown (925 SW 6th Ave.) to go on your own, or dig deep into the nikerunning.com site to learn about local runs. (BVN) 0-25 miles. Club runs 6 pm Monday and Friday, year round.
Forest Park: Maple Trail Loop
(Favorite run of Sean Coster, Fit Right Northwest co-founder)
Trail lovers who loathe kneeing the paved streets of downtown may be on track with Coster's favorite spot to run. He frequents this fast, single track because it's one of the "few trails that doesn't just go up and down the hillside" and for its variety of Northwest trees (sadly, and quickly, being overtaken by ivy). He starts the seven-to-eight-mile route from the intersection of Northwest Leif Erikson Drive and Saltzman Road; it's a simple matter of choosing left or right. Visit fitrightnw.com to learn about joining Fit Right NW's running group, as it laps up Forest or Tom McCall Waterfront parks. (BVN)
0-25 miles. Group meets 6 pm Thursdays and 8 am Saturdays.
Tualatin Hills Nature Park (In the Suburbs)
It's the Washington Park of Suburbia. For city dwellers, this park's 222 acres are well worth the MAX fare into the gentrified land of Nike. Tualatin Hills' southwestern half has by far the better running trails, especially if your knees prefer dirt, bark mulch and pines to pavement (as mine sorely do). I enjoy mixing the flat, quick turns and labyrinth of narrow pathways (oncoming traffic is an unavoidable nuisance) through both West and Big Fir Woods with South Wood's simple Ponderosa Loop Trail. What the area lacks in trail mileage (a mere five!), it makes up for in wildlife (last time out I ran up on three fawns grazing). (BVN) 0-25 miles. 15655 SW Millikan Blvd., Beaverton. Year round.
Borrow, rent or buy a basic GPS unit (less than $100) and tap into this growing populist phenomenon of treasure hunting for the satellite age. Caches are usually hidden waterproof containers that are listed online by their GPS locator codes. Just pick one and go find it. It's deceptively simple and amazingly addictive. Legend has it that the first cache ever was planted in Estacada's McIver State Park, and there are literally hundreds in the Portland area. The local site pdxgeocaching.com sorts cache hikes into those offering epic views, family fun, puzzle solving and rugged approaches. (JW) 0-UNLIMITED miles. Year round.
Portland is a city of skiing fools. Depending on whom you talk to, we generate between 2.5 million and 3 million skier days out of Portland. And roughly half those days are spent on Mount Hood and Mount Bachelor. The snowpack at Mount Hood Meadows and Timberline came back with a vengeance this year, beating most areas—but after 500 inches, who's counting? All that matters is the last 24 hours. The rest is cake.
This nearby mountain stands at the center of Portland skiing. It hosts five ski areas: Mount Hood Meadows, Timberline, Mount Hood Ski Bowl, Ski Summit and Cooper Spur. Season passes finally dropped to a reasonable price a couple years ago. For those skiing only a few days, punch cards are the way to go. The Ski Bowl card can net skiing for less than $10 a pop. The Bowl's snow is sometimes iffy, but when it's on, the top of the Bowl is equal to anything around. Mount Hood Meadows remains the gorilla on the mountain, with the most lifts, the highest served terrain and the most services. Pretty simple. Then there's Timberline, with the grand old lady, the national historic treasure Timberline Lodge, as a base. Boasting the longest season in North America, Timberline is busiest in July and August, thanks to the sun-defying Palmer snowfield. (KL) 50-75 miles. Year round.
Everything outside the ski-area boundary ropes is backcountry skiing. That's a lot of mountain. Many areas of Mount Hood are exceptional, very safe backcountry areas. However, much of the mountain is an avalanche zone, so take an avi course, carry transceivers, and travel in groups of two or more. Plan for self-rescue, because being buried for more than four minutes reduces your chances of live recovery by 90 percent. After an hour, the chances are virtually nil. Before leaving, always check the weather forecast and the avi conditions at nwac.noaa.gov. It's not insurance, but it is an indication of what might be expected. (KL) 50-150 miles. Winter to late spring.
Believe it or not, there is a reason elementary school phys. ed. classes focus on kickball: It's easy and fun to play. Baseball's cinchy cousin has achieved massive popularity in Portland through Northwest Kickball, a co-ed adult league that registered 32 teams last summer. Neighborhood pickup games, like a Saturday afternoon group in Alberta Park, are springing up all over the place. These games can be cliquish, but if you create a challenger team from your 'hood you can make some new friends. Visit pdxkickball.com to register an individual ($20), or a team ($450). Judging from team names like Two Drink Minimum and Drunken Ducks, you'd better bring beer money, too. (JS) 0-25 miles. Year round.
If you have a passion for vanquishing foes and a little imagination, you might want to give boffing a try. Members of Lewis & Clark College's Gaming Society host combat—waged with PVC pipe covered in foam and duct tape—every Tuesday from 3 to 5 pm on the LC campus (0615 SW Palatine Hill Road, during fall and spring sessions only). Anyone's welcome, and no one gets hurt (head and groin shots are barred). At LC you can boff sans role-playing, but for those of you dying to wear costumes and speak in accents while defending your honor with foam, check out amtgard.com for information about geekier boffing chapters in various Portland 'burbs. (JS) 0-25 miles. Year round.
Bomb Mount Tabor
It's like a harsh and terrifying wind, that sound. Here they come, screaming out of the trees like Furies on wheeled planks, and they're gone just as fast. Each Wednesday brings a pilgrimage of sorts to Mount Tabor Park. That day the main park road is barred to vehicles, so the Eastside Rollers (www.eastsidelongboards.com/rollers.html) lug longboards up this extinct volcano to take advantage of smooth, steep pavement and a refreshing lack of two-ton steel slabs hurtling around the bend. It's a trek to the top, yeah, but the ride down! Starting from the massive statue of Harvey W. Scott, a former Oregonian editor, at the peak, it's a good five-to-10-minute cruise past panoramic vistas and towering evergreens down to Southeast 60th Avenue. "It's one of the best places to longboard in Portland," says Robin McGuirk, leader of the Rollers. (AC) 0-25 miles. Year round.
Maryhill Street Luge
The soap-box racer for grownups, street luge sleds are usually homemade from plywood, two-by-fours, and skateboard and roller skate parts. Sometimes it's tough to find a place around town to plummet down a hill at 45 mph without running into traffic. For this reason, the hardest-core lugers visit Maryhill Loops Road in the Columbia Gorge. Refurbished by the adjacent Maryhill Museum of Art (35 Maryhill Museum Drive, Goldendale, Wash.) the road affords a clear view of the entirely hilly loop from any point, so the occasional passing motorist can be spotted with plenty of notice. This is also a perfect place for high-intensity longboarding. (JS) 75-150 miles. Year round.
Wicked Urban Adventure Race
In its celebration of excess, the Wicked Urban Adventure Race is the casino buffet of outdoor competition. Like that obscene American gastronomical tradition, the WUAR asks, "Why have one, when you can have it all?" Also, both will probably make you puke. At least six grueling disciplines will make up this six-to-12-hour "adventure race," including rappelling, kayaking and orienteering. The race starts at Tom McCall Waterfront Park and wends through the city from there. With the Rose Festival in full swing, plenty of spectators will be present to cheer on (insane?) teams of competitors. Check out wickedar.com for participation fees and information. But hurry, registration closes May 28. (AC) 0-25 miles. June 4. Registration $75-$120.
Never mind boards and blades. Parkour (free running), featured in ads for Nike and in an obnoxious Madonna video, allows you to propel yourself through the sky, off ledges and up walls by the strength of your legs. Pioneered by Frenchman Sebastien Foucan and emphasizing fitness and agility, parkour invites practitioners (known as traceurs) to leap, roll and snake through concrete jungles like the bastard spawn of Spiderman and Jackie Chan. With its layered architecture, ledges, gaps and fences, Portland is perfect for high-flying (and dangerous) fun without the expense of equipment. Velosophy, Portland's parkour group, is open to newbies; check out its website, www.velosophy.us. Look for traceurs all over town, in ledge- and wall-intensive areas such as Washington Park and Portland Community College. Beginners should start at low altitudes. A fountain-to-fountain run along downtown's west riverbank parks provides distance and gaps without death-defying leaps. (APK) 0-25 miles. Year round.
The Green Truss
Just to the east of Portland, the tributaries of the Columbia River Gorge hold some of the finest whitewater drops in the country. With consistent water off the surrounding mountains, there are very few weeks the water drops to un-runable. The upper portion of the White Salmon River is referred to as the "Green Truss" section after a bridge spanning the river. This is the water you see in the kayaking movies. Dodging boulders in fast white water. Drops into pools. The occasional waterfall falling 15, sometimes 30 feet or more. Big Brother drop at 35 feet is about as serious as most mortals willingly seek. Without getting wet, check it out at www.oregonkayaking.net/rivers/greentruss/greentruss.html. (KL) 75-150 miles. After the first fall rains to late summer.
Like the Green Truss, the Spirit Falls section on the Little White Salmon generates movie quality drops, big whitewater rapids and the classic 33 foot Spirit Falls. The gradient per mile is more than the Green Truss. The drops are closer together and seem to come at you relentlessly. Just to render the site in an appropriate context, the webmaster of OregonKayaking.net mentions breaking his back at Spirit Falls in 2001. This is serious water. (www.oregonkayaking.net/creeks/littlewhite/littlewhite.html) (KL) 75-150 miles. After the first fall rains to late summer.
The Klickitat River
For those wanting a day of getting wet without wondering about the life-and-death choices, left or right over the falls, there is the Klickitat River. Easily as much fun as the Deschutes without the maddening masses, the Klickitat mixes short class-3 rapids with quick-moving flat water. On the edge of the oak ecosystem, the wildlife is thick with everything from deer to panthers. (KL) 75-150 miles. After the first fall rains to late summer.
Footnote: All you want to know and a ton you don't want to know is on www.oregonkayaking.net. Of all the extreme sport sites, this must be the most complete and comprehensive. Still shots and narrative descriptions for each river section. Honest appraisals of the runs. No sandbagging. Real-time water flows. It's a great site for anyone, from fun-seekers who just want to get wet to thrill-seekers looking for the biggest free drop in the Northwest.
Columbia Gorge Outrigger Races
It is little known that the first non-native settlers in the Columbia River Gorge were Sandwich Islanders. Released from their contract with the Astoria Company, they moved inland bringing their words and customs. While little remains of their stay (Kanaka Creek, Owyhee River), once a year outrigger canoes gather in Stevenson, Wash., to celebrate the Hawaiian culture and to race their brains out on the river. Teams come from Hawaii, British Columbia, Southern California and who knows where else. It's the biggest gathering of canoes on the West Coast each year. There are long courses; short courses; six-man, two-man and solo canoes; men's and women's. It's an outrigger paddle-fest. If you ever wanted to get on the water in an outrigger, this is the weekend—and you'll have the help and encouragement of the best on the coast. For more information, check out www.bendoutrigger.org/gor/index.php, or call JD Davies at Waterwalker, 509-427-2201. (KL) 50-75 miles. July 15-16.
In the same way snowboarding rejuvenated skiing—easier, jazzier and off the norm—kiteboarding changed windsurfing. Blending wakeboarding with huge airfoil kites, kiteboarding pulled the skate rats and board-heads off the mountain to the river for the summer. The principle is simple: With the right-sized kite, you dispense with the boat and skim across the water. A steerable kite is good. Air is good, but lots of air is even better. Most folks kite at one of two spots: the Sandbar in Hood River, Ore., or off East Beach, across the river in Stevenson, Wash. For many of the more experienced kiters, Stevenson is the preferred site. The winds are steadier than at Hood River, the river is wider, and best of all, there are fewer people (psst...no one carries the Hood River attitude across the river, either). For a taste of the scene, take in the Bridge of the Gods Kiteboarding Festival, Aug. 4-5, 2006 (www.dabridge.us). Drop in to compete yourself, or enjoy the show from the bluff with a fresh-grilled brat and a Walking Man beer. If you want to pick up some air on your own, try Hood River Water Play (hoodriverwaterplay.com) or Big Winds (www.bigwinds.com). Both will click you into a harness and you'll be flying in less time than it takes to figure out a tack from a jibe. (KL) 50-75 miles. Spring-fall.
To many, this is the revolution that brought the Gorge to the world's attention. Hood River ranks as one of the top summer windsurfing sites in the world. Blows most days. Blows hard. Taking off from the beach in Hood River is like jumping onto a black-diamond run your first day of skiing. If you have the chops, it's fine. Still, with a bit of local guidance, it can be a great place to learn. The town is full of experienced, patient teachers. Brian Schurton is the best bet (www.brianswindsurfing.com). He lives to windsurf. The ultimate bum, Brian made it big on the circuit and passes the love of the sport on to anyone who'll listen. Then there's Big Winds (www.bigwinds.com). Again, in it for the love of the sport. It's all good on the water. Take some lessons then turn it up at the Event Site right in town. Once you have a solid jibe, drop into the Hatchery or Swell City, just a little down river on the Washington side. When you have it down at the Hatch and Swell City, head up river to The Wall near Arlington, and that will set you in place. For the latest in Hood River information, Windance (www.windance.com) is the spot. A note: The site is thin on flash and deep on information—more of a library than a metroplex. For a peek at conditions at the Hatchery, check out www.hatchcam.com. (KL) 50-75 miles. Spring to fall.
East Winds in Stevenson
This draws out the hard core of the hard-core. The summer crowds leave with the end of the westerlies. In the winter, the winds blow east. Brutally east. Winds in the 40-, 50- and 60-mph range, with gusts even higher. Snow to the water. Water temp just above freezing. Rig small and hang on, you'll get the ride of your life. Check out the conditions on the Stevenson site (cityofstevenson.com). The webcams and weather are real-time, so you get the picture and the facts all at once. (KL) 50-75 miles. Spring-fall.
Those searching for the look and feel of drowning without the whole dying part should check out riverboarding. It involves grasping a small, buoyant board and hurling yourself head-first through churning rapids—basically, it's whitewater swimming. Adventure photographer and Vancouver grade-school teacher Mike Bidden tried riverboarding for the first time last year: "It was kind of like being flushed down a toilet," he says. "It was really scary." Riverboarders run most rivers that kayakers do, but an especially popular riverboarding spot is the Clackamas River near Estacada (take Interstate 205 south to the Oregon City/Estacada exit. Continue east through Estacada until reaching the Clackamas River). For more information on this nascent watersport, check out facelevel.com, a riverboarding website run by Portland locals. (AC) 25-50 miles. Spring-Summer.
Lake Oswego Community Rowing
Learning to sweep row or scull in $30,000 crafts can seem a bit intimidating to a newcomer, but there's a boatload of Olympic-caliber coaching to keep you afloat in the sea of terminology and skills acquired here. Classes are taught right on the Willamette to a diverse demographic of participants, ranging from 13 to 65 years in age and including students, pilots, CFOs, ambulance drivers and even writers. If you can handle early mornings, you'll not only avoid the heavier afternoon river traffic but witness the sunrise and local wildlife. Also taught are novice adult classes for the more experienced, junior rowing for teens, private lessons, and coxswain (steering coach) training. To Charlie S. Brown Water Sports Center: Take 43 South to Ram Big Horn Brewing Co., 320 Oswego Pointe Drive. On the parking lot's south side, follow the paved walkway (www.lorowing.org). (BVN) 0-25 miles. Mid-March through mid-November.
Here in town, several local clubs host races most nights of the week and on weekends, but the winds and currents in the relatively narrow confines of our local rivers are fluky at best. To really find the scene, go east on Interstate 84 to Cascade Locks. That's where you'll find the Columbia Gorge Racing Association which hosts regional, national and international championship one-design races. The Columbia River is wider here in the pool behind the Bonneville Dam, and the summer winds aren't quite as brutal as in Hood River. The waves are often substantial, and the competition is world-class—you'll learn more finishing last out here than in a season of racing in some city clubs. This year, for the first time, the CGRA will be running a Thursday Twilight Race Series (it began in May). Open to any one-design, five boats or more get their own start. Check out cgra.org for more information. (KL) 0-50 miles. Spring-fall.
The Big Wave off Lincoln City. This is the Real Deal, a wave that breaks only when it tops 25 feet. A Big Wave. This December saw the first pro contest on the reef: invitation-only and $20,000 in prize money. Rave reviews. A day of glassy, huge 25-to-30-foot tubes. While most big waves are not spectator-friendly, the Nelscott Reef lies just offshore south of Chinook Winds Casino. When the surf's up, bring the lawn chair, sit on the bluff and hoist a cold one to the few who ride the giants. For the current conditions webcam and a yellow light on the next contest, check out www.actionsportsnw.com. 50-75 miles. Winter swell.
The Normal Wave. Cape Kiwanda sets up perfect waves for the rest of us mortals. Just outside Pacific City, with the Pelican Brew Pub on one side of the parking lot, this is casual fine surfing. The waves are consistent. Head-high is common and comfortable. There are no real crowds to speak of. A little traffic from the dories coming in. For the most part, just a great surf spot, with a pub to match. Check out conditions at www.actionsportsnw.com; check out the beer at www.pelicanbrewery.com. (KL) 50-75 miles. Year round.
Wondering where all the wetsuits are? At www.OregonSurf.com, you can find pointers and webcam hits for the most state's most popular breaks, including Seaside Cove (best lefthander in North America, they say), Indian Beach in Ecola State Park (look out for the kayaks), and Short Sands in in Oswald West State Park north of Manzanita (ideal for beginners yet satisfying for the more advanced—on a bright summer day, the crowded inside break looks like seal feeding time at the aquarium). Do your part to keep the lineup friendly: If you're a newbie, memorize the Bill of Rights and Lefts in the site's Surfing 101 section. (IG) 50-150 miles. Year round.
Footnote: For the easy fix, to pick up some wax, to hold a board or to check out a wet suit, hit Gorge Performance (7400 SW Macadam Ave., 246-6646, www.gorgeperformance.com). They surf. They shape boards. And they're intimately clued in to all that's going on in the water.
First off, call it disc golf unless you don't mind the disdainful glares from the aficionados. This is a serious game with rules, leagues and a growing list of specialized equipment. There are driver discs for distance, short-game discs and "putters." All of this disc technology can get expensive, which is a solid indication of just how engrossing the game is once you try it. There are 18 courses within easy driving distance of Portland, check out odsa.com. Or pick up a guide at Next Adventure (426 SE Grand Ave.), along with a huge assortment of disc golf gear. The best news is that you can play Frisbee golf with the same Wham-O you take to the beach every year. And better yet, this weekend's Beaver State Fling is a regional qualifying tournament for the U.S. Disc Golf Championship. For more information on this cool event, visit beaverstatefling.com. (JW)
25 miles. Year round.
This self-refereed non-contact sport has echoes of soccer, basketball and football but swaps the ball for a plastic disc and the rough-and-tough aggression for a friendly spirit. It isn't hard to start playing ultimate in Portland; you won't need anything but a pair of cleats, a Discraft disc—both available at any sporting goods store—and a light and a dark T-shirt. Most casual pickup games in this city are co-ed and played throughout the year, all you need to do to play is show up. The south field at Jefferson High School is home to a nice beginner-friendly game (10:30 am Sundays), and you'll find a popular, more competitive game at Irving Park (4 pm Sundays), but go to portlandultimate.org/pickup.html for a complete list of pickup options and addresses. (LP) 0-25 miles. Year round.
There's something supremely satisfying about archery. Maybe it's all of that pulling—the tautness of the whole endeavor. Whatever it is, the bow and arrow has lately experienced a steep and permanent decline as a weapon of choice. So it's heartening to know that amid the roses at Washington Park you can find not one but two outdoor archery ranges for the aspiring yeoman. Bring your own bow (Archer's Afield, 11945 SW Pacific Highway sells complete setups for as low as $59). One range is on Southwest Kingston Drive between the rose garden and the zoo, while another, smaller range is on Southwest Fischer Lane in the Hoyt Arboretum. Think about this likely situation: You've been challenged to a duel. Your opponent has a machine gun or something. And you pull out a freaking longbow? Forget about it. (AC) 0-25 miles. Year round.
Less than two hours from Portland, in Tenino, Wash., you will find a sanctuary of wildlife. Founded in 1982 as a nonprofit, Wolf Haven International (3111 Offut Lake Rd., 800-448-9653) is a thriving community for wolves (and a handful of wolf dogs, coyotes and foxes) born into captivity. Bring your walking shoes, because in order to ensure the most wildlife-like atmosphere for the refugees, Wolf Haven comprises several enclosures that average a half-acre of land for each lone wolf or wolf pair. It currently houses one large pack of seven wolves in a three-acre enclosure. The kidney-shaped designs encourage continuous fluid movement, allowing the wolves to run at high speeds, as they would in their natural, unconstrained habitats. Prepare for an eyeful of the very rare Mexican gray wolves or red wolves, in addition to a slew of other wildlife species, including rabbit, deer, and a host of various types of birds, such as bald eagles, red-tail hawks and meadowlarks. Don't forget your binoculars. (EB) 100-150 miles. $6-$12. 10 am-4 pm daily, May-September.
OK, so you're not down with hiking, biking, rock-climbing or walking. We still got somethin' for you: The Northwest Trek Wildlife Park ($5-$12, 11610 Trek Dr. E, Eatonville, Wash., 360-832-6117). Yes, "trek" denotes action, but rest assured, a trusty tram is doing all the moving. So pitch those tootsies on the plastic chair in front of you and give your eyes and ears a workout through 435 acres of free-roaming North American animals representing over 30 species. Take a relaxing guided tour through forests, wetlands and meadows, spotting everything from bears and mountain goats to bobcats, cougars, lynx and even wolverines! (EB) 100-150 miles. Open 9:30 am-4 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am-5 pm Saturday-Sunday, April-June.
The cougar has made a great comeback in Oregon (and we're not talking about middle-aged divorcees at Starbucks). After coming close to being eradicated in the mid-'60s, the big cats are plentiful, with an estimated 5,100 in the state, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Could you think of a better way to celebrate our natural achievement than getting out there and taking one out? It's OK. The ODFW's draft plan establishes an ideal minimum cougar population of 3,000. The South Willamette Region has been designated as an extended cougar season area. The season spans until Dec.1, or until quotas for the hunt zone have been met. Of course, there are always rules. A valid hunting license and a current General Cougar Tag are necessities. These can be purchased until Sept. 29. Nevertheless, if you plan to go out for other game or fish, the most economical option is the Sports Pac ($130). The Sports Pac includes a licenses and/or tags for angling, deer, elk, bear, cougar, turkey and other fowl. (Bear, deer and elk tags are issued separately because of the different options available.) Hunters are allowed only one cougar, and it must be an adult. Besides being a sign of complete insensitivity, it is prohibited in Oregon to hunt spotted kittens or females with spotted kittens. It is also illegal and stupid to use dogs for the pursuit or taking of cougars. These cats can weigh more than 180 pounds and can take down cattle and horses. All cougars must be presented at an ODFW office within 10 days of the kill. Hunters must check in the hide and skull with proof of sex attached—if the kill is female, the hunter must submit the reproductive tract. Gross, yes. But a marinated cougar steak is luscious, gamy goodness. Contact the ODFW at 1-800-720-6339. (ELG) 0-50 miles. Summer-winter.