A Wonderful Winter

by Beth Royston

I wrote a post previously on my favorite autumn activities (see: An Aspirational Autumn). I thought I’d continue the series by logging some of my favorite winter activities! It’s definitely been more of a secluded winter with the pandemic, but I’ve been pleased to find out that I can still carry out some of my plans. So without further ado, here are some of my best recommendations to carry you through these chilly months.

Check out the Portland Winter Light Festival!

Held every year in early February, the Winter Light Festival is a glorious assembly of light displays and art. It’s usually spread out through different locations in the city. This year, the Festival took the form of separate installations around the city. I unfortunately didn’t make it out to see the art this year, but I’ve gone in the past, and I absolutely recommend it! Check out their website linked here.

See Zoo Lights!

If you love going to the zoo, check it out in a new fashion with Zoo Lights! Held around the holiday season, this event at the Oregon Zoo takes place in the evening. While most of the animals are asleep, you can see brilliant and cute light displays, and the infamous tunnel of lights which is a worthy photo-op. They have many food carts still open, so you can still get a warm beverage and a snack. I definitely recommend checking it out at least once.

Venture out into the snow!

I was beyond thrilled to have snow this year on Valentine’s Day weekend. If you also enjoy the snow, I definitely recommend making the most of it! You can have a snowball fight, build a snowman, or simply take a lovely winter walk. My fiancee and I walked to our local park, found a hill, and tossed ourselves down it on our stomachs like penguins since we didn’t have sleds. It was so much fun, but be careful if you’re out in the snow not to slip! If you don’t have any good footwear, you can purchase snap-on treads for your shoes that will vastly increase your traction in the ice. 

Try taking a trip to the coast/sea lion caves

You may not find this enjoyable if you dislike winter weather, but if you don’t mind it, take a trip to the Oregon coast. During the off season, the beaches are pretty vacant, and hotel rates tend to be lower. My partner and I went in December, and we absolutely loved how quiet it was. The scenery at the beach was still gorgeous. Neither of us are huge sunning-yourself beach people anyway, so we didn’t mind at all. Also, consider heading down south to Florence to visit the sea lion caves, which are the largest sea caves in North America! Unfortunately, they closed this year due to the pandemic, but it’s a bucket list item of mine to go. The best time to go is during the winter, when the sea lions huddle inside the cave to stay warm.

However you spend your winter, I hope it’s safe, warm, and fun! 

Portland area winter hikes. Part 1

11050714_10153261569423675_1855416915072077955_n-3 By Josh McCarroll

One of the many things that make hiking in the forest such a beautiful experience is the knowledge that it is far older than us and the perception that it will be around long after we die. This perceived permanence always allows us the space to appreciate Oregon’s forests some other day. However, any of them could burn away by next summer.

I was born and raised in Oregon but since I started school I have used it as an excuse to be less adventurous. In light of the Eagle Creek and subsequent fires, I have made an effort to explore more and appreciate the beauty Oregon has to offer before it disappears.  

This post is the first in a series of three winter hikes. Many hikes become inaccessible or too dangerous in the winter time, so I will focus on hikes that are not only safely accessible and trekkable, but still beautiful during the cold months.  

Macleay Park

On a snowy Tuesday morning, I opted to go on a hike that requires no driving for Portlanders or park fees whatsoever, and I found Macleay Park.

From campus you can take the NS streetcar line to the NW 23rd and Marshall stop. From there you can make your way through a cute neighborhood by foot until you reach NW Upshur Street. The west end of this street dead ends at the park. After walking under the Balch Gulch Bridge, you will find the entrance to the trail, which has very clear instructions on possible routes depending on how deep into Forest Park you want to explore.

The great part about this hike is you can easily add it to the beginning or end of a busy day with not much preparation or planning. The trail is wide, easy to walk and is in excellent condition. I was able to hike the entire 2-mile loop comfortably in everyday tennis shoes. Same goes for the 6-mile loop: no hiking poles or fancy boots needed.

The small 2-mile loop brings you back to the top of the historic Balch Gulch bridge which is the route I enjoyed on my quick excursion before class. One of the things I found lovely about this hike was the structures. The beauty of this hike doesn’t necessarily rely on the lush greenery that comes about it in summer. The Lower Macleay trail runs along Balch Creek, and hikers encounter several wood bridges across the creek before they reach the Stone House.

The Stone House, known by some as the witch’s castle, is about fifteen minutes in. It is the point where the Lower Macleay trail intersects Forest Park’s Wildwood trail.

This trail is popular for Portlanders that want to get out of the city for a quick escape. However, this may make it a bit crowded on weekends. I would recommend visiting it on a weekday before the locals from the surrounding neighborhood get off work. I only encountered a handful of hikers during my visit on a Tuesday morning.