Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Mt. Talbert Nature Park, Clackamas, Oregon: June 17, 2011 (Updated October 2, 2012)

Ferns & Trees.  Mt. Talbert Nature Park, Clackamas, Oregon.  June 17, 2011.

UPDATE: October 2, 2012

Not that I have returned there, just that I didn’t write much in the first place and this walk (not so much a hike) has become something of a benchmark…  Though not, necessarily, in a good way.

First, let me say, the fact that this park exists is awesome.  We need these sorts of green spaces and too many of our buttes are covered with houses, not trees or meadows. 

Let me also say, this butte and its trails must be awesome for those who live near by.  We hit our stretch of the Springwater Trail at least once a week, most weeks.  Dog walks, transportation, just getting outside…  We have several such places within walking distance or a quick drive, including Powell Butte. If Talbert was this close, I am sure I would spend a lot of time on it.

However, as a destination…  Well, I am pretty spoiled living right down the road from Powell Butte, which is, quite simply, spectacular. 

Since taking this hike a little over a year ago, Mt. Talbert has become the standard of dull, viewless walks through humdrum second or even third growth woods.  As I am putting together some new posts on some other hikes, walks, and parks this fall, I realized that, before I start referencing Talbert, perhaps I should revise this old post to reflect what I am writing about these days.

So, in June 2011 my son and I made a quick loop over the Summit Trail from the Mather Road Entrance.  It was pleasant and close to home.  Being the middle of the summer, there were no views, though some may be visible through the trees in the winter. 

Actually, I remember thinking that this would be a much better winter hike than a summer hike, not only because of the faint possibility of a view or two, but mostly because it is close enough to home that I could sneak a decent little walk in before the early sunset shuts my preferred trails down and it, obviously, will not be buried under feet of snow 99.99999% of the winter.

In the summer, this is about the best I can say for it…  It was fun as a little hill climbing workout but, by June, I was in decent enough shape that I was barely winded by the time we reached the 750 foot summit, though for my son it was pretty tiring (see the photos in the original post below).  I tend to have a collecting streak in me, so getting to the top was worth an afternoon and exploring a new park was fun.  As I told my son, at the very least, it was worth it so we can say, “Been to the top of that one.”

But, bottom line…  All things considered, I’d rather be on Powell Butte.  There is nothing terrible about the walk up Talbert.  Just nothing terribly exciting, either.  Perhaps I am spoiled. 

I grew up spending my winter afternoons and summer days wandering through second growth woods just like these up near Seattle.  At least the woods of my youth were filled with little hidden lakes and other secret spots of interest (interesting, at least, to a pre-teen boy).  There may be some great secret spots on Talbert, but we didn’t find them on the first trip and my interests have, alas, probably grown more jaded over the years.

One of the problems (what a problem!) of living in the northwest is that we are very spoiled.  It takes me about ten minutes longer to drive to the Gorge than it does for me to drive to Talbert.  And far less time to drive to Powell Butte.

But, I will say this to wrap up…  The meadows on Powell are spectacular, but they aren’t natural.  They are an artificial environment.  Rocky Butte and Mt. Tabor?  They are not wild places, ur…  Well, they ain’t wild in the environmental sense.  At least we have one butte in the area that is relatively untouched, at least for the last 100 years or so, and that will remain undeveloped for the future. 

On Talbert, we are not talking about a pocket of a park surrounded by a desert of housing developments, or graded meadows and abandoned orchards, we are talking about an entire butte slowly reverting to its natural state, as it was for ages before this area was developed.  And that is very cool.  While it might not make for the most interesting of walks or hikes, the Park itself is a real treasure.

Especially considering how Powell Butte is currently being torn up by the water bureau and how most of Jenne Butte’s summit looks doomed to development as soon as the housing crisis resolves itself, having an entire butte that will remain untouched forever (hopefully) is a real win for Metro and for all of us who appreciate such things..

So forgive me if I am a little hard on the place, I really do appreciate Mount Talbert.  I am glad it is there and I am sure that I will spend some more time on it this winter.  But, for the most part, it is like a museum piece.  It comforts me to know that it is there, safe and preserved, but if I am looking for fun times and exciting adventures, I’ll probably head elsewhere…

A Cave?

Just one final note…  Glancing through the comments on one of the articles below, I discovered that there may be a cave on Talbert.  Now that is a secret cool spot that I am not too jaded to get excited about. 

According to the Development Master Plan from 2000:

Long time neighbors of Mt. Talbert have described a natural cave located in the northwest quadrant of the study area. This natural feature is currently on private property and has not been explored by NCPRD staff or the consultant team. It has been described as a small cavern (inundated with poison oak) no more than 100 feet long with limited headroom. Caves are often associated with early Native American shelters and have been found to have archeological significance. This cave may also be used by bats. If this feature is to become part of the publicly owned park, a thorough analysis and record will be required. Until a comprehensive study is completed, any disturbance to this area should be avoided. (39)

A large chunk of land in the northwest quadrant was added to the park after the report was written.  However, I am not sure if this is where the cave was rumored to be or not.  Also, I have not been able to find any other references to this cave, so perhaps, it was just a rumor…  Or is it waiting to be rediscovered?

I wrote recently that, wandering through the lava flows and buttes in Newberry National Volcanic Monument, I couldn’t help but to get the feeling that the landscape looked a lot like what my neighborhood might have looked like at one point in the distant past.  Towards the end of the Lava Cast Forest trail, I found myself looking across a small valley that reminded me of home, with a small butte across from me that looked remarkably like Grant Butte in Gresham, surrounded not by flat wetlands, but by a flat, geologically recent lava flow.

Out on that lava flow, I started wondering what hidden volcanic features we might have in our area, including lava tubes.  While any evidence of lava is long buried around here, our volcanoes preceding the Missoula floods by a fair bit, it still doesn’t mean that there might not be some lava tubes buried deep down beneath our feet.

A little research and I found that one tube has been discovered associated with the Boring Field, under St. Vincent’s Hospital and the Catlin Gabel School on the west side of the West Hills, of all places (Rubble: More fun with Boring Lava & the Catlin Gabel Lava Tube System in West Portland). 

This is an ancient tube and no surviving caves have been discovered.  The tube was discovered during the construction of the hospital, and it was filled with rubble.  Further research turned up five collapse depressions and no access to any possible surviving caves.

Still, if there is one, might not there be another around here some place?  I actually have my suspicions about some curious depressions I’ve seen on my end of town, but further research is required…  Again, this would be an old, collapsed tube like the Catlin Gabel tube, but it would be cool, nevertheless.  It’s something I plan on looking into more this winter.

Of course, the cave described here might not be a lava tube.  Heck, it might not even exist at all, or any more...

Links & References

Mount Talbert - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Mount Talbert is an volcanic cinder cone in Clackamas County, Oregon. It is part of the Boring Lava Field,[3] a zone of ancient volcanic activity in the area around Portland. Its summit rises to an elevation of 740+ feet (226+ m).

The butte remains undeveloped and is the location of a nature park of the same name which is managed by North Clackamas Parks and Recreation. The park has several interlinked hiking trails, along which there are several interpretive signs about the area's natural resources.

Metro: Mount Talbert Nature Park:

The largest undeveloped butte in Northern Clackamas County, Mount Talbert rises as a forested green sentinel overlooking the web of development that surrounds it and the busy I-205 and Sunnyside Road interchange.

Stretching from Portland’s Rocky Butte southward to the Clackamas River, a group of extinct volcanoes and lava domes lend unique geographic character to the region’s east side, providing important wildlife habitat and panoramic vistas. Mount Talbert is the largest of these undeveloped buttes in northern Clackamas County.

The nature park includes the top of the former lava dome as well as the west facing slopes visible to the tens of thousands of people that travel I-205 every day or shop at the Clackamas Town Center. The park offers miles of new hiking trails, information about the cultural and natural resources found there and greater access to nature close to home.

Mount Talbert from Sunnyside Road Hike - Hiking in Portland, Oregon and Washington:

This area was logged in the early years of the 20th century, but has been relatively unspoiled since then. The forest has matured into an open stand of Douglas-firs. The understory is dominated by sword ferns and trilliums are common in the spring.

The Park Loop Trail once circled the mountain, but somehow part of it was built on private land and it's been closed.

… you'll enter an area of oak forest. Crews have recently logged the fir trees in this area to create a oak forest ecosystem. Things are still pretty chaotic looking, but hopefully nature will soon heal the landscape. Look for Oaks Toothwort and Stream Violets here. In the evening a small herd of tiny blacktail deer can often be found grazing here.

A Clackamas River Outlook: Mount Talbert Nature Park:

An interesting and worthwhile ecological experiment is underway at the park involving the native Oregon white oak woodlands. This sun loving tree casts a very light shade beneficial to other plants. Douglas-fir seedlings are able to thrive in oak woodlands, but the fir grow 3 to 4 times higher than the oaks, and cast shade too deep for the oaks to tolerate. So in the natural forest succession the oaks will die out. It is thought that the Native American population in this area used fire to improve hunting and for other purposes, which kept the firs from growing, while the thick-barked oaks survived.

The experiment is to favor the oaks artificially by eliminating the competing firs, maples and shrubbery. About 19 acres of oak woodland has been treated in this way, out of 183 acres of parkland here. Firs and other trees in the selected areas have been girdled, topped or cut down, while allowed to continue thriving in the large areas with few or no oaks. This should result in a much more diverse ecology in the park and show us how different the tree cover types will be in terms of understory.

From the comments:

Andrew said...

I'm curious to know if anyone knows where the cave is:
"Longtime neighbors of Mt. Talbert have described a natural cave
located in the northwest quadrant...It has been described as a
small cavern (inundated with poison oak) no more that 100 feet
long with limited headroom." 

http://www.co.clackamas.or.us/ncprd/packets/mtb_report.pdf [See link to 2000 Master Plan below]

Bryon said...

Judging from the volcanic nature of Mount Talbert, and the description, this is likely to be a lava tube cave. These occur when a flow partially cools but the still-liquid inner portions manage to break out, leaving the hardened outer portion behind to form the walls of the cave. Another one exists in the West Hills of Beaverton and Portland, extending from Providence Hospital a good ways uphill. It was actually broken into during construction of the hospital. Evidently no opening exists but a talus slope known to only a few people 'breathes' with air from underground.  [See: More fun with Boring Lava & the Catlin Gabel Lava Tube System in West Portland]

I do not know the exact location of this privately-owned cave on Mount Talbert. The northwest side includes some very steep terrain.

2000 North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District Master Plan (PDF)

Mt. Talbert has been subject to the impacts of natural resource harvest.  Historic aerial photos dating from 1936 indicate that different sections of Mt Talbert have been clear-cut for timber over subsequent years into the 1950’s. [sic]  Nearly every face of Mt. Talbert has been cleared at one time or another.  Over time, the resulting second growth forest has reclaimed the dome with a diversity of native plant species.  Remarkably, there is very little evidence of exotic or invasive species taking root here. (25)

Long time neighbors of Mt. Talbert have described a natural cave located in the northwest quadrant of the study area.  This natural feature is currently on private property and has not been explored by NCPRD staff or the consultant team.  It has been described as a small cavern (inundated with poison oak) no more than 100 feet long with limited headroom.  Caves are often associated with early Native American shelters and have been found to have archeological significance.  This cave may also be used by bats.  If this feature is to become part of the publicly owned park, a thorough analysis and record will be required.  Until a comprehensive study is completed, any disturbance to this area should be avoided.


Clackamas County Mount Talbert Nature Park – Metro


Mount Talbert Summit Loop Hike - Hiking in Portland, Oregon and Washington:

Look for blacktail deer in this area near sunset.

Mount Talbert Nature Park | EveryTrail:

This short loop to the top of this extinct lava dome in Clackamas County is perfect for the whole family. The trail winds through beautiful forest and is filled with interpretive signs about the environment you are walking through and the flora and fauna you may see along the way.

February afternoon at Mount Talbert Nature Park in Clackamas |:

Lots of cool bug and fungi experiences, and we could hear scores of chorus frogs near the parking lot.

Muddy Boots Family Nature Club at Mount Talbert Nature Park |:

We saw a turkey vulture, heard a hawk screech, saw several banana slugs, and found some owl pellets…

Mount Talbert Nature Park | Things to do in Portland with children:

In much the same way as Forest Park, the gain in elevation is sadly not rewarded with a magnificent view. Just more trees.

Trail Map (PDF): http://library.oregonmetro.gov/files/talbert_map_web.pdf


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Original Post


From 2011-06 (Jun)

One quarter of the way up.

From 2011-06 (Jun)

Three quarters of the way up.

From 2011-06 (Jun)


From 2011-06 (Jun)

Mt. Talbert Nature Park, Clackamas Co., Oregon. June 17, 2011.


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