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MacLeay Park Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ben and Jeremy hike along a trail in Portland's MacLeay Park June 7, 2008.

Late yesterday afternoon, my buddy Ben called me up and said he and Jeremy were going for a hike in Forest Park, did I want to come? I wasn't really up to anything, so I said sure.

It was a cool, grey day, but not raining. Ben picked me and Jere
my up, and drove us about a mile to a trail head for the Lower MacLeay trail at about 29th and Upshur Street.

(MacLeay Park is one section of the 5,100-acre Forest Park in Northwest Portland.)

In spite of its proximity to my apartment, I'd never been to that part of the park. As you hike along Balch Creek you can hardly even tell you're in the city.

The creek is named for Danford Balch, the original settler in the area. Balch, who would become the first person in Portland to be tried and hanged (for the murder of his son-in-law), acquired the 640 acre spread through a Donation Land Claim in 1850. His story reads like something out of Shakespeare—read it here.

The Stone House sits along the Lower MacLeay trail about three-quarters of a mile up Balch Creek. It is often, incorrectly, thought to be the remnants of the Balch family homestead. In fact, it was a public restroom built in the Great Depression but eventually abandoned due to excessive vandalism.

Shortly after we passed the Stone House the trail started climbing steeply. Suddenly we came to a small clearing right next to Cornell Rd., with a trail map and a parking lot. Since we had plenty of energy and daylight left, we decided to press on toward Pittock Mansion.

We crossed the road and found the continuation of the trail, which climbed even more steeply than before. We kept following the trail until it suddenly dumped us out on NW MacLeay Blvd.: way up in the West Hills, but not where we'd expected to be. We must have missed an intersection at some point. Oh well. We headed back down another loop that took us back to Cornell Rd., then back down to Balch Creek and the car.

Balch Creek is one of two year-round streams in Forest Park. It has a native population of trout.