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I tend to be one of those people who discover things after everyone else. Sometimes it's because I have this obstinate streak that doesn't want to follow the herd (I stubbornly resisted letting go of my vinyl until my last turntable literally coasted to a stop and never worked again, thus thrusting me into the digital age, and YES I realize vinyl is popular again, THANKS), but other times it's just because I either don't pay adequate attention or I feel I don't have time to bother learning about something new that I might appreciate. My wife is STILL after me to read the Dark Tower series (but that may be because she hasn't quite yet forgiven me for dragging her to Eyes Wide Shut and seeks to get even).

Last Sunday I wanted a good hike. I live in Milwaukie just a few feet beyond the boundary of the Portland city limit. It's a 30-minute drive to Forest Park, and I just didn't want to spend that much time in the car that afternoon. I had almost resigned myself to a neighborhood walk (which is not a bad thing!) when suddenly a speck of rust shifted and fell off a disused cognitive conduit, setting free a wisp of latent memory. Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge! Yeah, that place I've passed on the way to and from work countless times over the last fourteen years, the stretch of undeveloped land with both paved paths and rough trails, access to which is available not only from Southeast Milwaukie Avenue but also from The Springwater, that patch of not-urbia that, somehow, I never stopped to investigate!

I agree, silly of me, particularly since quite a few people over the years have mentioned Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge to me in glowing terms. So, since it was a rainy and cold afternoon, I donned my bibs and thicky shirt, water-proof hiking boots, my oilskin coat and wide-brimmed hat, and set out. I love hikes in the rain. Makes me feel rugged and all. Unfortunately, most of the time (including this day) my donning of the heavy rain paraphernalia serves as sort of a reverse rain dance and guarantees I'll be making my own gravy by the end. At least this time I didn't fall off the trail or drop the camera.

Since I was driving this time, I chose to park at the Milwaukie entrance. There were quite a few other automobiles there, yet I met only three human souls and one dog on the trails during my walk. Otherwise it felt as if I had the whole place to myself.

It has paved trails if you like a wide swath to share with bicycles and horses. Family-friendly for those with shorties and/or strollers too.

It also has winding, narrow root-and-rock-strewn trails for a more rustic experience. I spent most of my hike on one of these trails.

I was striding along, enjoying the quiet hiss of rain and the call of birds, when suddenly this edifice just appeared, looming overhead. It was like discovering an ancient ruin in a jungle.

This is the famous Portland Memorial Mausoleum, and I don't care if it has charming murals of our feathery/furry woodland friends painted on it, this is a damned spooky thing to find lurking in the mist hard beside a nature trail. Eerie. I love it. I'm going to see the inside of this place before the year is out, I swear I am.

This refuge used to be an illegal dump site. A lot of people have put a lot of time and effort to change that, and that effort is ongoing. You should go and see for yourselves. I have it in mind to visit at least once every season.

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Comment by Rob Creighton Garrison on March 4, 2012 at 11:57am

Thanks, Teri.  This site has a good overview of the trails through the refuge.  The paved path is wide enough to accommodate all modes of travel.   There is also a .pdf map of it here (third link down).  Hope you enjoy!

Comment by teri phillips on March 4, 2012 at 11:28am

Thanks to Rob and Angela for this gorgeous scenic. Being a nature lover and a person using a mobility scooter due to childhood polio and now unable to walk more than a a few yards, I use a three wheeled scooter to get out and enjoy natures many wonders. Such activity does wonders for my mental well being as well as pocket book, costing only of bus fare and snacks...it doesn't get any better than that!  I'm under the impression here that the trail is accessible by a motorized (or not) mobity devices... any pointers on the lay out of the trail? I'm about to look up bus/max routes and plan a day to take in this natural wonderland of plants and wildlife.... great post!  

Comment by Rob Creighton Garrison on March 3, 2012 at 4:56pm

Thanks, Angela.  Took a friend there today and she loved it too.

Comment by Angela Higgins on March 3, 2012 at 4:01pm

I love this area for biking especially.  One of my favorite birds is the Blue Heron and you often see them necking around in here.  These are so great photos, too, Rob- thanks for sharing them! 

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