My biggest concern about not replacing my minivan and going the summer car-free was thinking that we’d be stuck in town all summer and miss out on outdoor adventures. It was a silly fear really, when you consider that not having a car means that you are outside all of the time. We have plenty of places fairly close in that we haven’t taken advantage of in a while. I just needed to shift my thinking about what locations constitute a satisfying trip. We just have to be able to get there.
One of those places is Spencer’s Butte, which is part of the Ridgeline Trail System. The LTD bus runs within about a mile from the Fox Hollow trailhead. The fare is $8.75 for my family to ride, which is rather ridiculous, if you ask me. Adults are $3.50, youth are $1.75, and kids 5 and under are free. We intended to get a full day of hiking out of the trip at that expense. Walking up the hill from the bus stop, parts of the road have less shoulder than is comfortable through some tight curves, but it wasn’t all that bad. The parking lot for the trailhead is on the left side of the road, but the trail to the butte is across the road, on the right, just before you come to the parking lot.
It’s an 1100 feet elevation gain over the 2 miles to the summit this way, which is pretty steep. The last bit up to the summit is a scramble over large rocks. It’s a heavily used trail that is well groomed, at least until you get to the boulders, where the path scatters out into many options. As we neared the top it started to sprinkle, which wasn’t unwelcome to us, as we were pretty hot. Most of the people who were at the summit started coming down because of the rain. The view is incredible, overlooking the entire city and surrounding areas in a 360-degree panorama. Because of the clouds, we didn’t have the usual view of the major mountains in the distance. We saw a few large birds of prey circling around the tree tops, but I couldn’t make out which kinds. While eating our picnic lunch, squirrels came from all around, trying to sneak off with some nuts and chunks of dried fruit from our trail mix. One of the brazen little guys even tried to crawl inside my youngest daughter’s backpack!
We were hoping to extend our trek and wanted to walk more than just to the summit and back. We decided to take the trail the other way down, to the Spencer’s Butte Park trailhead. It’s kind of like a bunch of converging bunny trails, though, and we ended up coming down the same way we went up. After the descent, the trail splits, and we were able to go around the base of the butte to the park. We took a restroom stop, checked out the map, and realized that we needed to walk back much of the way we had just come. There is another fork in the trail, further along, where we turned off toward the Willamette Street trailhead. The Douglas Fir canopy and fern cover started to become oak savanna. We were rubbing elbows with poison oak all day, but at this point it started becoming a thick russet brush. “Kids, don’t touch the leaves!”
After the 52nd & Willamette trailhead, the trail continues on the west side of Willamette street for a while before it starts to ascend again and wind away from the road, heading toward Blanton ridge, and continuing along the Ridgeline Trail. This is about where the sidewalk picks up on Willamette street, heading back into town. We walked for a bit over a mile before coming to a bus stop. Everyone laughed as the bus continued winding around the hills to the same stop where we had gotten off earlier in the day.
After all of our backtracking, we had covered about 7.5 miles on the trail itself. Add to that the mile each way from the bus to the trail, and the mile each way from the bus stop to the house. We walked a good 11.5 miles, with considerable elevation gain. I was very surprised at my 4-year-old little boy for keeping up, not whining or seeming tired out until the very end of the day. I usually end up packing him part of the way out, but he walked it all on his own two feel!
P.S. I have read that Dawn dish detergent is just as effective as Tecnu for preventing poison oak, post exposure. The powerful surfactants in the dish soap break down the oils from the poison oak that cause the allergic reaction and resulting rash. We don’t use Dawn much because it’s too harsh for our sensitive skin, but we keep a bottle around for this purpose. When we got home we started the washer and threw in all of our clothes and my boy’s backpack, which he had drug along as he scooted over the rocks. Then, we filed through the showers, washing with Dawn from head to toe, twice. So far, so good with this method.