Winter in Portland
January 21, 2013, by Michele Gila
It’s January and though the days are getting longer, it’s still dark at 5pm and this week, very cold. For some, staying indoors where it’s warm and hospitable is essential but some of us hear the call of the wild and head out to explore. With a few essentials to keep you warm and protected, there is quite a lot to do in Portland in January.
Well, ok, Mt. Hood is not actually in Portland. But those of us who live here, that Mountain can define “Home”, much the same as the Golden Gate Bridge stands for San Francisco. You see it, and you know exactly where you are. This weekend we took advantage of the sunny weather and headed up to Government Camp for three days of snow-filled fun. I’d say most folks who head to the Mountain in winter go for skiing and snowboarding. I chose snowshoes and did not regret it. The snow was perfect and the trail from our cabin was so close I didn’t have to drive to a sno-park or pay a fee. Hours of enjoyment and near solitude along the Camp Creek and Alpine trails. Government Camp has a pretty good trail system for snowshoe and cross country ski enthusiasts and if you plan your day well, you can snowshoe right to the Ice Axe to enjoy Mt. Hood Brewing Company’s Hogsback Oatmeal Stout.
There is winter fun to be had without driving through the ice and snow and traffic you encounter heading to Mt. Hood, and for that we head to North Portland to Smith & Bybee Lakes. A wetlands nature reserve between the Columbia Slough and the Columbia River, Metro manages this 2000 acre jewel. With a designated boat launch, it’s one of my favorite spots to bring my canoe. In winter you will find a few dedicated people enjoying the trails, but mostly it’s an afternoon of bird watching, outdoor exercise, and the serene winter landscape. If you’re lucky, you might even encounter beaver or river otter. In places on the lake you can see glimpses of downtown Portland; it’s that close. If you don’t have a canoe, there are plenty of walking trails, wildlife viewing platforms and a paved bike trail. Go explore!
Still not convinced winter in Portland can be enjoyable, not just endured? How about keeping it simple right at home with backyard bird watching? The past few years I have been working to encourage the local birds to call my yard Home. I’ve had some great successes, partly thanks to the Audubon Society of Portland and Columbia Land Trust’s Backyard Habitat Certification Program. The $25 fee to enroll just might be the best $25 you’ve ever spent. I have spent countless hours observing the hundreds of birds who visit my feeders throughout the year. This year I decided to add a hummingbird feeder and spent 2 days with the camera on a tripod, waiting for the Anna’s Hummingbirds to find it. What an exciting moment when I peeked through the window and spotted the male sampling the fresh made nectar. There are lots of birds who stay here all winter and as the season begins to change, more of the migratory birds will be stopping by for food and a bath. A bag of bird seed is a small investment for what is truly one of the most pleasurable pastimes around.