Jackson Creek Trail
Distance: 2 miles
Walk duration: 45-50 minutes
Travel time to trailhead: 35 minutes
Elevation change: The trail starts at 1221 ft, and drops down to 839 ft. as it crosses Gilkison Road.
This trail is the linch-pin that connects the closer-in trails located on curved swath of hill sides from Burlington, past Cornelius Pass Road and Logie trail to Rocky Point Road, with the enormous forest range that begins to spread out in all directions above Scappoose. From here on the predominant feature of the land is uninterrupted forests, with occasional homes nestled in the verdant carpet that extends across the rest of NW Oregon.
2.77 miles up Rocky Point Road from US 30 is the entrance to the Jackson Creek Trail. It is .45 miles below the intersection of Rocky Point Road and Skyline Boulevard.
Rocky Point Road is a very windy road, but near the top is passes through two clear cut areas. The first clear cut area is reached after a particularly tortuous set of twisting curves. The second clear cut that we pass through is another 1/4 miles beyond this point. At this clear cut you emerge into the clear cut and immediately see a blue gate on your right. Another gate is visible just beyond it on the left. At this point you’re entering a left bending curve with a young forest growing on either side of the road. At the very edge of the clear cut on your right is a private driveway heading directly north. Immediately beyond that in the curve of the road is another “blue gated” forest trail heading directly north. This is the trailhead. There’s plenty of room to park your car near the gate.
Beyond the gate the trail heads due north, heading gently down the slope for 1/10th of a mile, before bending leftwards and continuing on in a northwesterly direction. At this point you will pass a less used side trail that climbs the hill to your left. This is a short spur road that dead-ends further along the slope.
Keep a sharp eye open along the verge of the forest as you continue, as I have occasionally found chantrelles along this part of the trail.
Log Cabin: Continuing in a generally northwesterly direction for a half mile (from the gate) you eventually enter a cleared area at an elevation of 1125 ft. At the north end of this clearing you will find a ruined log cabin set amongst the trees. The cabin bears a plaque to commemorate Bob Johnston who evidently built and cared for this idyllic cabin, which belonged to came Boy Scout Troop 221. Local folklore has it that the place was subsequently used by a drifter. Neighbors eventually chased the drifter out after nearby residences experienced increased pilferage, but during the unwelcome resident’s departure the cabin mysteriously burned down.
Tucked into the woods nearby is the remains of the log cabin outhouse which still stands as a mute testament to the beauty and endurance of log cabin construction.
Descent to Gilkison Rd:
After examining the remains of this once beautiful cabin, and wondering whether the obvious evidence of reconstruction means that it will someday be rebuilt (I have no answers to this), we turn back to the road and proceed downhill. The road now takes a series of bends, with a short spur leading out to a clear cut area .1 mile below the cabin. But we will stay on the main road as it curves back around and passes below a clear cut slope. This is an area much frequented by deer, elk and even cougars. Here is an example of a cougar foot print found on this stretch of the road. Keep in mind that I have never actually spotted a cougar in all my hundreds of solo walks, and there has never been a recorded cougar attack in Oregon. So there is no need to be afraid.
As we continue down the trail through the aforementioned “S” bend, we emerge at the base of a small clear cut hillside. The path runs along the bottom of this slope and appears to disappear into the bushes at the far end. But just continue on past the shrubs and young trees that partially block the path and you will emerge at a ‘T” in the path. The right hand option turns uphill, and a slightly less distinct left hand path descends the hillside. The upper path traverses the hillside for a while before getting lost amongst the private tracks belonging to a residence to the east of Jackson Creek.
The “T” intersection is about .3 miles below the cabin at an elevation of 1000 feet, and we want to take the lower road and descend parallel to Jackson Creek, which you can hear coursing through the underbrush on your right. The initial portion of the trail is partially obstructed by overhanging branches and shrubs, but gradually the trail turns northward while dropping to 940 feet in elevation. About .2 miles down the trail flattens out and crosses a seeping water source that creates a lush area of vegetation, and in the winter creates a muddy spot to cross. After about 300 feet of relatively flat ground the trail once again dips as the trail turns to NNW. All along this trail you will encounter brush and fallen alders obscuring the trail, but just continue to press onwards and you will be rewarded as the path reasserts itself turning in a westerly direction. Another 300 ft onwards the trail turns back to its original NNW direction and begins dropping from 900 feet in elevation to 840 feet in elevation as it emerges at the green gate on Gilkison Rd.
This concludes the first part of the hike. The second half of the trail is located on private property owned by the Vedanta Society, a Buddhist religious organization whose main temple is located on SE 55th Avenue on the western slopes of Mt. Tabor in Portland.
In 1936 the Vedanta Society of Portland purchased 120 acres of newly harvested hillside in the Tualatin range to house their future retreat. Surprising as this early entry of Hinduism into the fabric of Scappoose is, it is all the more noteworthy because it occurred during the hardest years of the Great Depression and was organized by a relatively minor chapter of the Ramakrishna Order, established in the US by Sri Vivekananda exactly 100 years prior. Oregon in those days was not a very “diverse” community and acceptance by the locals was hard to achieve. Indeed contemporaneous efforts to establish an Hindu center in Lake Oswego failed due to local antipathy. Coming less than a decade after introduction of residential electrification in Scappoose, this early debut of Hinduism in Scappoose all the more astonishing.
Nonetheless, the group managed to scrape together the payment and secured a beautiful ridge-top property thatincluded a log cabin, a tool house and a small shed. In 1954 the Society replaced the original buildings and completed an octagonal temple topped by a gold dome in a clearing set above the property. This rustic temple became the first Hindu Temple in the Northwest.
But even here on the remote forested slopes of the Tualatin Range, the serenity of divine purpose was to be challenged. Multnomah County it appears objected to granting the Society tax exempt status for the 120 tract, and would only grant an exemption for solitary acre upon which the temple stood. Transcendence not being a particularly practical response to this secular challenge, the Society took umbrage and sued the county! As a consequence the Vedanta Society agreed to seed the property with temples and shrines to reinforce its essential spiritual purpose, lest the tax collector fail to note the intrinsic spirituality of these hallowed groves. In 1974 the first wooden shrines were constructed to the Sri Ramakrishna (the founder of the Order) and the Holy Mother. The following year shrines to commemorate the Buddha, Christ and Ramakrishna’s disciple Swami Vivekananda were added. An Islamic Shrine followed in 1976, and finally in 1977 the American Indian Shrine was built on a slope overlooking Sauvie’s Island and the site of the first known native American settlement in this area.While this is private property, the Society allows respectful visitors to enter and wander amongst the shrines. Terrance Hohner, a disciple of the Society has been repairing the buildings after a period of neglect took a toll upon them. Some of the paths that connect the shrines and the meditation points have reverted to nature, and in some cases the temples have fallen altogether. But current efforts seem to be slowly restoring any of the shrines to their original states.
Entering the Retreat:
Follow Gilkison Road to its end. On your left is the road that leads up to the Vedanta Society. Straight ahead is a forest road with a chain across it and flanked by “No Trespassing signs. To your right is a private driveway. Proceed up the forest road with the chain and “No Trespassing signs. The disciples have assured me that the signs are to encourage a humble (if not reverent) attitude amongst those that enter, and to the extent that there has never (knock on wood) been problems with littering or vandalism, the tactic seems to have worked.
Walking up this path, you soon enter into an older forest. These trees were last logged prior to the acquisition of the property, so in 2008 the trees are approximately 75 years old – or nearly twice the commercial cutting cycle. Close examination shows that this area was probably partially logged in the late 1800’s and then again in the early 30’s. So the current stand is technical 3rd growth. Of particular not are the giant old stumps from the original logging that exhibit the slits alongside the stump that originally held the springboards upon which the loggers stood to wield their two handled saws – often called “misery whips” in the lumberjack jargon of that day. Usually it would take them all day to cut a single tree using these handheld saws!
These forests, due to their older age are beginning to reflect the typical old growth multi-story ecological zones, with vine maple and smaller trees comprising the middle story while ferns, old nurse logs and forest bogs comprising the lowest level. This forest is a reasonable facsimile of how a commercially logged site can eventually be returned to a semi-natural state, albeit after almost 80 years, or roughlt double the normal commercial cutting cycle.
As you enter the forested portion of this path you enter into an area with lot’s of woodland plants worth noting. on the outside verge of the road as it veers gently to the left you will note Baneberry, and False Solomon’s Seal, amongst the large bunches of Sword Ferns and Oregon Grape. On the floor of the road you can find lots of Wild Ginger and carpets of shamrock-like Wood Sorrel, locally referred to as Oregon Oxalis. In the bogs visible on the forest floor below the road, are skunk cabbage and camas lilies – a favorite staple of the local Indians in days gone by.
In this area I’ve spotted the following edible mushrooms: Deer Mushrooms, Honey Mushrooms, Chanterelles and the Lobster Mushroom.
The last of these is not really a mushroom but is actually a parasitic mold that grows on the Lactarius and Russula families of mushrooms transforming them into bright orange-reddish mushroom “zombies”. Where the gills of the host would have been, the parasitic deformation now sports a hard bumpy surface. These mushroom have a firm almost fibrous quality to them making them excellent edible mushrooms as long as the host itself was not poisonous. Therefore it is important to understand which of the Lactarius and Russula family members are indeed considered poisonous. In the Russula family the Red Russula Emetica is the only dangerous Russulla in our region. Amongst the Lactarius family, we need to watch out for a few noxious relatives, including the Red Milky Cap (Lactarius Rufus), the viscid yellow Pitted Milky Cap (Lactarious Scrobiculatus var. canadensis), and the Pale-Capped Violet-Latex Lactarius (Lactarius pallescens var. pallescens). If you can find edible varieties of the Russula or Lactarius family growing nearby, it is likely that the Lobster mushroom has absorbed one of them, but if you should find Red Russulas growing nearby I would avoid picking the Lobster Mushroom. I typically recommend that novice mushroom hunters stick to the few edible and delicious varieties that they can easily identify, such as the ubiquitous Chanterelles, Morels, and Pine Mushroom (Matsutake) and avoid the rest.
I have also spotted the following non-edible mushrooms in this area: the Clitocybe Inversa, one of the most common “fairy-ring “ mushrooms found int he Northwest. Also present is the Turnip-bulbed Inocybe, the Common Paxillus and the Dark Centered Hebeloma, which is similar to the Clitocybe but darker and its gills stop short of reaching the stem. Another striking, but inedible mushroom that you may encounter in these woods is the bracket fungus, Fomes Pinicula. Bracket fungus are often found attached to a wound on the side of a tree. These fungi attack the tree’s heart wood producing a soft, spongy decay of the wood at the tree’s core.
One tenth of a mile up this path/road it heads in a westerly direction and merges with another forest track coming from a southerly direction and heading north west along the ridge line. The intersection with this road allows for an immediate junction if you proceed straight, or another junction further northwards if you choose to bear right and merge as the two roads join to proceed northwards. Either path is acceptable. s from the retreat itself. Another tenth of a mile and you’ve reached the intersection marked with a small sign that says “shrines” pointing to the NNE trail. Follow this road .2 miles and you will have reached the American Indian shrine. Approaching this shrine from above all you can see is the back of the eagle’s wings, and a short trail leads down to where you can duck under the wing and emerge in front of the shrine.Of all the shrines the American Indian Shrine stands out as the most remarkable of these unique wooden edifices. Built to resemble a gigantic crouched eagle, the temple spans almost 50 feet from wing tip to wing tip. Built into a stand of Douglas Firs and rising 30 feet into the air, the Haida style eagle’s head looms over the structure peering down into the valley as if to belittle the progress of men.
For many years the temple was consecrated annually by a Nez Perce shaman, named Buffalo Heart. Traveling from Easter Oregon he would come to reassert the presence of the Native American spirit in a world long since bereft of native content. But amongst the gentle influences of the Hindus, even Buffalo heart was said to have relented and buried his wounds. One comes away from this unique shrine both awed by the quiet majesty of the forests surrounding the temple, but also cowed by the spiritual intensity emanating from the eternal vigilance of the eagle’s penetrating eyes. It is an awesome and magical place.
After you have completed you appreciation of this shrine it’s time to make the completecircuit of the currently viewable shrines. Return up to the forest track above the Native American Spirit shrine and continue on down the trail and you will come across three more shrines, including the towering shrine to Sri Vivekananda, the Islamic Shrine and another that is currently undergoing restoration.
Walk back up the trail, past the Native American Spirit shrine until you reach the intersection with the main forest track and the sign directing you down the path you’ve just explored. Now take the other branch that leads northwards.
If we were to continue another half mile up this road and then bend westwards we would be entering the valley formed by Raymond Creek. Across this Creek private forest lands begin and from there on the hillside is almost entirely made up of silviculture – mostly owned by Longview Fiber. This route would be the logical connection for a continuous trail to the coast
For the purposes of this hike just follow the road about 100 feet. There you will find another path on the left hand side of the track inviting you to visit shrines in that direction. This lovely little path will wind its way along a low wooded ridge line passing 4 further shrines along the way. Eventually it will pass the earliest shrine built to commemorate Rama Krishna the founder of the Order. Immediately thereafter the path will debauch on the North-South forest road that intersected with the side trail we used to enter the property. Upon reaching this forest road, just beyond the Rama Krishna shrine, you will see that it is possible to continue on straight (heading SE) and rejoin our “entry path”. Retrace your steps back on the old road that flanks the knoll on whose summit the temple is situated. A few minutes walking will return you to the end of Gilkison Road. And retracing your steps up the trail to Rocky Point Road will complete the journey.