I decided to try Strawberry Island for a bit of a different experience. I felt like trekking a more historical part of the NW (not that the old growth hikes I’ve done so far aren’t ‘historical’). I was intrigued to trek out to a place once inhabited by Indian communities, a place once rich in a culture unlike our own. This place was Strawberry Island, just across the Columbia River Gorge in Washington.
There are a few different trails you can take on this island leading you out a few different directions, but they will all loop back to the trailhead. That said, you can go as long or as short as you’d like on this trek. Andrew and I decided to do the full 2.8 mile loop (according to my trailbook. Some websites say the full loop is approx. 4 miles, but my book seems a bit trustier). We went counterclockwise, starting off by taking the trail immediately to our left.
The best way I can describe Strawberry Island is ‘Medieval U.K.’. Traversing this land makes you feel like you’re walking through timeless territory, and at any moment a man on horseback can come riding past you in 15th century Scottish garb. The last time I’ve been through open grassy land like this was when I was in Ireland. It was refreshing to know there is still relatively untouched land like this that isn’t in a forest, because this island would be prime for vacation homes otherwise. The only notion that you are walking this island in modern say 21st century are the partially cleared (possibly mowed) footpaths, and wooden benches places along river gorge viewpoints.
So what exactly will you see on this trek? Lots of tall grasses and open space. A good deal of bunnies (adorable bunnies galore! One of which I caught with my camera whilst it was hiding in a bush). Lots of blackberry and strawberry bushes, though it was a bit early in the season and none that we could see were in full bloom yet. Many mountain tops and buttes close in the distance. Also, once you get pretty far into the trail, you will hear a full chorus of blackbirds calling to each other. And they’re pretty easy to spot as they constantly fly from one tree to the other to hang out with their little blackbird friends.
I also found this entire place (the island, the trail) the be incredibly peaceful. More peaceful than almost any other place I’ve trekked to date. Perhaps it was due to the fact that it was pouring rain for most of our trek that we only encountered one couple (birdwatchers, who asked us if we were also birdwatchers, a very sweet older couple), but the lack of people and the wide open, grassy, mountains in the distance, bird-paradise space just felt so calm and peaceful. In total, we spent an hour hiking. If the skies didn’t open up to pour its rain down heavily on us, we could have easily lingered longer on this lovely little island.
This trek was approx. 50 minutes from my apartment. To get there, take I-84 E to exit 44, the Cascade Locks exit. You’ll cross the Columbia River Gorge at the Bridge of the Gods (which is a pretty kick ass bridge name) and pay a $1 toll. Take a left on Rt 14 and go about 2 miles. Turn left on to the Dam Access Road. Take an immediate right and then a quick left signed for the Fort Cascades Historical Site. Drive all the way down to the baseball fields, and park in the lot right behind it. Straight ahead you will see signage indicating the trailhead. Don’t do what we did at first which was go left of a totem pole down a little path. It led to a stagnant puddle.
You literally just want to go straight ahead to the signage and be on your way. It wasn’t rocket science, but this is why I’m in the arts.
Treks down: 7, Treks to Go: 45