Tag Archives: parks

Exploring the Willamette Valley: Cascades Gateway Park

Cascades 6I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but ever since Nanowrimo my daily walk has disappeared. Talk about unhealthy! I’ve kept up on Tai Chi class twice a week but that’s not the same sort of exercise, even if it’s good for me. The trouble with winter in Oregon is it’s cold, rainy, and dark, and mostly makes me want to curl up on the couch with hot chocolate or tea, not go out walking. I’ve been unable to talk myself into my usual route at Minto-Brown Island, and so to get myself finally moving, I went this morning to Cascades Gateway Park instead. It has the virtue of being just down the road from my husband’s work, so it’s right there when dropping him off.

That’s about Cascades Gateway’s only virtue unless you count it having a fancy name. The park is a slice of marsh right next to the freeway that probably isn’t usable for anything else. It has a small river (for Oregon) and a pond. The picnic area is nice enough, if you want to listen to the freeway right next to you with only a concrete barrier between you and it. The park isn’t really set up for walking either, the only thing it’s really set up for is fishing. And it must either actually be a great place to fish or its the only place around here to fish, because even at 9 am on a cold foggy January morning there was half a dozen people out there fishing along the pond and more people showing up. When I’ve walked during the summer there’s a ton of people fishing.Cascades 2

The trails, if you can call them that, are either a few going off from the picnic area into the swampy bushes that dead end at various fishing spots along the river, or you can circle the lake. Neither are ideal. The ones at the picnic area are overgrown, so you’ll get wet bushes in your face and mud all over your shoes in the winter and spider webs and mosquito in the summer. That and you’ll have to double back after it dead ends. Usually I opt for the lake.

It’s a short circuit, twenty minutes if you take it slow, but despite being muddy, the lake itself is nice enough. It’s at least a slice of nature instead of walking right next to cars on a sidewalk. The trail is well defined in some places with even a little foot bridge, but then in others completely disappears, like when the park turns into a disc golf course. You just have to pick your way across it until the trail picks up again at the other end. There’s also a section where you either have to walk through the gravel parking lot or across some grass that belongs to all the ducks and geese, which is sort of a toss up which is better.

Cascades 4Despite all that, it’s not a bad walk. I’m making it sound terrible, but it really isn’t. The fresh air and the trees are nice. Right now flocks of Canadian geese are wintering there, which are sort of interesting to see up close, and the fishermen are always very friendly. The convenience of talking myself into getting there means I actually did it. The fog this morning made the park look almost magical, adding some mystery and making the freeway barrier less noticeable (although the noise of the cars was still quite loud). Still, I found some nice shots of nature if I was careful about how I took them.

And best of all, I got an incredible view of this big guy. I’ve never seen a heron so close before. That was enough to cheer me up and get my morning off to a great start. Maybe tomorrow I’ll actually manage to get myself to Minto or Waterfront for a more vigorous (and drier) walk.

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Exploring the Willamette Valley: Minto-Brown Island Park

Minto 3I have neglected walking for the last couple of months. It’s been on my list of things to get better about (along with a cleaner kitchen) and this week I finally dragged myself out first thing Monday morning to explore a new park. Ironically, then the blog post didn’t end up happening until today, but hey, I’m walking again.

I went to explore Minto-Brown Island Park, located in south Salem off of River Road. The park is the largest one I know of in the Salem area, although I haven’t been in years. Despite the name, Minto is not actually an island, something that I’ve always rolled my eyes about. However, upon arriving there, I found a sign patiently explaining it’s called that because it used to be an island, or actually two islands, one named Minto and one named Brown after the people who settled them. Over the years, less rainfall and the shifting river-bed has meant that neither are true islands anymore, although in a large flood they might end up underwater. Originally used for farmland, the land is now  a wild-life refuge.Minto 4

I had vague memories of Minto last time I lived in Salem, but it’d be so long I wasn’t sure what to expect. Apparently this time of year, the park tends to be misty in the mornings. Both Monday and Tuesday had it covered in thick mists that obscured the view across the open fields, but this did nothing to diminish the walk. Instead it felt a bit like entering a fantasy world. The larger size of the park meant I could finally take a walk that really felt I was out in nature, even if it lacked the stunning beauty of the gorge. I had a fabulous time.

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Much of the Willamette Valley is rather swampy, and Minto is no exception. With streams, ponds, and rather boggy areas, I quickly found this time of year at least, to stay to the paved paths. Fortunately Minto has plenty of long paved hikes even if there’s more unpaved ones. I only walked a fraction of the paved section. The mist though made for some pretty effects with the light and while popular enough for hiking and running (I saw several people) it isn’t nearly as crowded as Riverfront.

The land seemed to alternate between fields and trees planted in rows, but whatever environmental restoration they’ve been working on, it seems to be working. I saw several hawks and even a bald eagle. Hopefully I will continue to see interesting  wildlife as I continue, although I hope not too interesting (there was a cougar sighting warning sign on the entrance bulletin board, but that’s normal for just about everywhere in rural Oregon). It was wonderful to be out in nature properly without having to drive very far.Minto 5

On thing that amused me though, was the mist and my unfamiliarity with the park meant I misread the sign on Monday and got a bi t lost as the trails are rather long and cross each other multiple times without clear signage, but  I didn’t mind since I knew I could always turn around, and managed to find my way around a loop to the parking lot with only a small amount of backtracking. I’ve had better success reading the sign the last two days, and I’m looking forward to trying some of the other loops. The park has so many different loops and it will be a long time before I’ve exhausted all the trails.Minto 6