Swan Creek Hiking & Salmon Spawning

One of my favorite phone calls of 2014 was one from my nephew, Andrew. I was just getting down from the mountains and had a message on my phone, “Hi, Aunty Beth. I was wondering if you could come over so we can go hiking.” I called him back and reminded him that I live in Colorado which is far away so I couldn’t come over today. He was very understanding and matter of factly said, “Okay, then we’ll go hiking next time you’re here, right?”

Andrew and I almost had conflicting travel schedules and only overlapped in Tacoma for one day so I was sure to follow up on my promise and get him outside. Andrew’s hiking requirements go as follows: “We get in the Jeep, drive to the woods, and hike.” (I found this out when I tried to convince four year old Drew that a walk in the neighborhood counted as a hike… he was not impressed.) Luckily for me, my mom lives near an awesome green space: Swan Creek Park.

I’ve taken Andrew hiking here several times now and he loves it. Its big enough and the woods are dense enough that it really feels like hiking even if you are a 5 minute drive from downtown Tacoma. This time, when we got out of the car, there were signs announcing that the annual salmon run was happening. I was skeptical about there being much to see until we made it to the creek—the smell of dead fish was unmistakable.

Andrew was totally fascinated with the dead fish (“Aunty Beth, all of their eyes are gone!!”) and almost as excited with the few live fish still working their way upstream. I mentally changed gears: I was pretty sure we weren’t going to actually go hiking that day but instead would spend the whole time watching the fish and learning about them.

Much to my surprise, after wandering back and forth in the same area of the creek, Andrew was still interested in going for a hike. As a matter of fact, after hearing that he’d already walked a mile according to the GPS on my phone, he declared he was going to hike five miles.

The trail was just muddy enough to be exciting but the sun was shining—an absolutely perfect day to be out in nature.

I’m so excited that he’s getting older. Even after learning about the salmon, he was still excited to learn about ferns and how they can help soothe stinging nettles.

We learned that this is called lichen:

We saw big stumps that showed evidence of springboard logging and talked about that. We even learned the importance of silly selfies:

We didn’t make it five miles but to my surprise, we did three miles—no crying, no whining, and all fun.

Andrew even had so much fun that he was sure to tell his brother Junior that next time he just has to come hiking with Aunty Beth.

Lolo Pass & Hood River

We headed north for a weekend to hang out with Jason & Anna up in Hood River (and also to play in the snow and drink some yummy beer!). We stopped briefly in Sandy and had what were some pretty disappointing doughnuts before heading up the area where Jason’s been building some mountain bike trails for IMBA.

We helped out with the trail building for about a half hour or so before setting off on our next adventure–crossing Lolo Pass. The snow was perfect for this adventure! I’d never been snow wheeling before and I had a blast–well, I think seeing the bear tracks was actually my favorite part but it all works. It was a pretty nice day, considering it was November, and Mt. Hood even came out of the clouds for a couple minutes! On our way out towards Hood River we made a brief detour up to Lost Lake it was just us and a couple of snowmobiles and lots and lots of snow.

Back down in Hood River we went to a British style pub that advertised having “hundreds of beers.” Most were beers we’d had in bottles and we settled on an IPA of some sort to share. Then we headed down the Full Sail to have a couple pints–the Vesuvius IPA and Wassail. Vesuvius got a big thumbs down but Wassail was a good as ever.

After that we met up with Jason and Anna at the condo they’re subletting until the purchase of their house is final. After a little bit of relaxation we attempted to go to Double Mountain Brewing for dinner but it was packed so we headed up the hill for some sushi! (Forrest was a good sport all around.) After a lovely dinner we headed back down to Double Mountain for pints (Forrest and I consumed a Fa la la la la and the IRA…alll yummmmmyyyyy).

The next day on our way home we checked out the salmon hatchery and sturgeon viewing area near Bonneville Dam. We also checked out the Oregon side of the Bonneville Dam visitors center. After that we headed to Eagle Creek to finally see all the waterfalls we’d heard about. I got more than a little distracted though by the salmon running upstream. I pretty much stood on the side of the creek in awe, completely oblivious to the smell of rotting fish.

After a bit, we finally decided to get hiking. We didn’t go too far, just the 2.1 miles up to Punchbowl Falls. It was beautiful though and definitely somewhere worth coming back to sometime.

On the way home we learned a couple of things: The North Face does not sell technical climbing equipment or shoes, the Woodburn Outlets have Christmas style traffic at 4pm on a Sunday in November, and that I can lead Forrest right to a place but if I even almost over shoot the destination it doesn’t count.

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.