Monday, May 14, 2007

Gale's Creek: A Sunday Walk in the Woods

Approximately 32 miles outside of Portland is a small town called Gales Creek. Named after an Oregon Pioneer who was a well-known trapper and settler, Gales Creek is a tiny town situated on a little creek. After a recent episode of Lost, Gales Creek is also a potential birthplace for super-Other-villian Ben Linus. It was also the inspiration for a Sunday, Mother's Day hike in the Tillamook Forest.

Earlier this week, C and I decided that a Sunday hike was in order. After the most recent episode of Lost, C--with TV on the brain--was flipping through his copy of W. Sullivan's hikes on the Oregon Coast, and found an easy day hike in the Tillamook Forest. Topping out at around 6 miles round trip, our hike was a pleasant ramble along scenic Gales Creek.

The hike begins just off of Highway 6 at the Gales Creek Campgound. The campground is located at the 35 mile marker--to the right of the highway if you're headed toward the coast. The campground requests that you pay a small day-use fee.

We started off on the Gales Creek Trail, and set off into the green, lush forest. The trees were a decent mix of evergreen (fir, primarily), maple, and alder. Located in an area that underwent the amazing Tillamook Burn back in the 1930's, the forest surrounding the trail is young and full of interesting wildflowers and ferns. Unlike a number of the other forests I've hiked through in the area (and perhaps this is due to the microclimate of the location, rather than the burn?), the plant diversity in the understory is composed of leafy deciduous plants rather than the hardy, woody evergreen types (such as salal, huckleberry, etc). Sword ferns, however, flourish along the length of the creek. This time of year (May) found the trail thick with wildflowers: pinks, whites, yellows, purples.... My favorites were the Bleeding Hearts, and the little yellow pansies. We saw wild strawberries (in bloom, not yet in fruit), blown trilliums, salmon berries, Devil's club, and many other excellent representations of Oregon's wild flora.

The trail was a fairly easy grade along the entire length that we hiked. The steepest, hilliest part was the initial mile or two which was comprised of several rolling ups and downs, swinging around bends in the creek and hills in the canyon. The trail was shady and quiet, though, and we only crossed paths with two or three other groups even though it was a beautiful, sunny Sunday. After the T-junction (at .8 miles) the trail rapidly leveled out and made for an easy, relatively flat, and exceptionally plesant walk along the creek.

We hiked out around three miles, lunched at a bridge crossing Gales Creek, and then turned back for home. We got back to the car just as the sun was dissapearing behind the ridgeline. In the end, our hike was around 6 miles round trip, filled up a nice Sunday afternoon, and made for a great day trip out of Forest Grove. I would certainly hike it again (I'd like to see it in the fall), and would recommend it to others looking for a good hike that's within an hour and a half of Portland.

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