Sometimes the best way to get to know your community is on foot.That's exactly what 49-year-old Noland Hoshino was doing downtown Tuesday as he strolled along Main Street in Vancouver — his home of 13 years — stopping every few blocks in the light rain to point his camera at the historical buildings and public art pieces that caught his eye. He's seen it all before, but felt the urge that afternoon to do some sightseeing in his own town.
"There's a lot in our backyard I don't take advantage of or appreciate," he said.
The Columbian ventured into Clark County at the start of fall to find five local strolls that require minimal time investment or hiking skills, but reveal a bounty of wonders to explore: all in your own backyard.
— Stover E. Harger III
Walk like a Cougar: Washington State University Vancouver
Paths of every description crisscross the sloping campus of Washington State University Vancouver. If you feel like getting slightly (but never really) lost, while learning about local history, then the trail network on the 351-acre campus is worth exploring — especially when leaves are turning Cougar colors this season.
Gaggles of jogging moms push strollers along paved paths.Follow the loop uphill — climbing the west side of campus — and you're rewarded with a great view to the east from a viewing platform just below Northeast 30th Avenue. Gaze at the peaks of Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens as if you're up in the sky with them, which you sort of are.
On the other hand, head downhill from the center of campus, and it's easy to feel submerged in greenery and history. Veer off the pathways onto bark chip walking paths and the occasional boardwalk, meandering through open fields, around ponds and even across what's billed as a "butterfly meadow." Many of these beautiful spaces are packed with protected saplings that have been planted by Clark Public Utilities or WSUV. Keep your eyes out for zigzagging primitive trails that penetrate the woods shrouding Mill Creek.
Along the way, you'll find mostly faded-away trail maps and some newer interpretive kiosks that describe stream restoration efforts as well as the history of the land, much of which was the dairy farm of one Ethyl Kelty Brown "and husband" in the late 1800s; their son was John Robert Brown, and John's wife eventually became U.S. Sen. Maureen Brown Neuberger, who was the third woman senator in U.S. history.
According to WSUV, there are more than six miles of trails on campus. A downloadable Cougar Trails map — http://www.vancouver.wsu.edu/community/cougar-trails — shows them all.
— Scott Hewitt
Wild refuge in suburbia: Jorgenson Woods Neighborhood Park
Nestled right off 78th Street in West Hazel Dell, the Jorgenson Woods Neighborhood Park is the kind of place you would want to walk in the rain. The towering conifers shield walkers from most of the wet, leaving a soundtrack of drips and hisses. A few benches and picnic tables are nestled off the carefully crafted paths.
The 6-acre Jorgenson Woods is unusual in the parks and recreation catalogue, developed in 2007 with the surrounding community lobbying to keep the park wilder than its landscaped cousins. Uprooted trees have been left sideways and decomposing in a cultivated wildness, many toppled by a tornado that struck in 2008.
The park has three points of access, with the entrance at Northwest Third Avenue and 72nd Circle being the most visually interesting. A wall of green is parted by a wooden bridge,which leads further into the park.
The walking path guides to a more open area of ferns and a minimalist playground, with three swings, a large climbing boulder and a tiny merry-go-round. There is also a stone formation and sand pile that shoots out water when a button is pushed.
The second park entrance is next to the playground, which leads to a cul-de-sac at Northwest 72nd Circle and Anderson Avenue. Head to the end of the cul-de-sac and turn left on to Northwest Anderson. It's a nice walk through an older neighborhood that feels just as grown into the land as the woods.
Turn left on to Northwest 68th Street and take another left onto Northwest Third Avenue to head toward the park's other entrance at the end of Northwest 70th Street. You'll be greeted by the welcoming scent of sap and pine trees. This loop is about a half-mile.
— Ashley Swanson
Hidden overlook: Fisher Quarry trail
Scenic beauty isn't the first thing to come to mind when wandering near Fisher Quarry along 192nd Avenue in Camas, but on top of all that rock is a hidden gem.
The sidewalk heading south from the strip mall at the corner of 192nd and Southeast 41st Street is mostly a noisy affair, with traffic and rock-crunching sounds pinching the air.
But not far along is a mysterious-looking paved trail that winds up a rock cutwhere the noise fades — at least a bit — and a panoramic view opens up of Government Island and the winding Columbia River.The little-used park has no signs with its name, park rules or when it was built, although there is a commemorative Lewis & Clark markerthat talks about the expedition resting on Government Island in the fall of 1805.
It mentions that the explorers knew they were getting close to the Pacific at the time because they came across some native traders with European-made goods who spoke a few words of English.The park has several large rocks laid out across its main area that make nice sitting spots for a makeshift picnic.
The trail also has a few benches, a bike rack and a ramp into the park for wheelchair accessibility.The walk is fairly short, maybe a 10-minute stroll from the strip mall, and is moderately steep but not oppressively so. The park would make a nice end spot for a hike if the waterfront trail eventually connects to 192nd.As an added bonus, there's a host of blackberry bushes along the route and in surrounding neighborhoods, so if you bring a bag, you can pick yourself a snack on the way home.
— Sue Vorenberg
Serenity by Old Evergreen Highway: Jane Weber Evergreen Arboretum
Learn a bit about the history of Clark County and enjoy the serenity of the Jane Weber Evergreen Arboretum.
You'll be strolling in one of Vancouver's loveliest neighborhoods and be charmed by the rolling creek on the 8-acre property.
You'll see the Stanger House, the oldest privately built house in the county on its original location. John Stanger ran the sawmill for the Hudson's Bay Company, beginning in 1838. The house dates to 1867.
You do not need permission to go on the property. If he is there, caretaker Kelly Punteney will gladly give you a tour. He's a landscape designer who is responsible for helping create many trails and greenways in the area. He worked for 36 years for Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation.
Punteney hopes the property will become part of the park system. It already has been the site of numerous celebrations and commemorative tree plantings.
You'll see a profusion of heirloom tomatoes, corn and more in the historic garden.
For a moment of reflection, head to the rock bench at the northeast corner of the property, a tribute to the late Florence Wager. After a spell, follow Stanger Creek and wander south for majestic views of the mighty Columbia River. Go to the shore, and there is a dock where you can sit and watch the river flow, as Bob Dylan once advised. Better yet, bring a picnic basket and throw a blanket on the lawn.
The arboretum is at 9215 S.E. Evergreen Highway. Turn south at Image Road and you are welcome to drive through the gate and park in the grassy area to the east. You also can enjoy the beautiful homes in the area by strolling the side streets.
— Dave Kern
Not just for the birds: Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
As the high-arching bridge descends over the BNSF Railway tracks at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, the sounds of modernity give way to the gentle chirping of birds.
The refuge's Carty Unit trail, about a mile north of downtown Ridgefield off Main Avenue, offers acornucopia of birding opportunities — whether self-guided or with help from the Audubon Society. The Audubon Society offers guided family "bird walks" Saturdays starting at 10:30 a.m.
The two-mile route, winding its way past blackberry brambles and gnarled oak trees, is also home to the Cathlapotle Plankhouse. The Chinookan-style plankhouse greets visitors as they start the trail, near Gee Creek and Duck Lake, and is often open to visitors on Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 5.
The trail is open daily to visitors. It costs $3 per vehicle to enter the refuge. It only takes about an hour to finish the walk, but there's more to do at the refuge, including fishing and observing the multitude of wildlifethere.
Only checks and cash are accepted at the information office, located in a portable building in a parking lot. Dogs aren't allowed on the trail because the refuge considers them a danger to the wetland wildlife.
Be mindful: The trail weaves through tree-shaded area, but it can become rocky and narrow. When it's raining, it becomes slippery. The refuge recommends people strolling the path wear sturdy shoes and take precautions not to touch poison oak.
— Tyler Graf