Just my opinion, but there is nothing worse than sweating in a rain shell. When the weather turns to rain, clouds block in the valley, and it’s not yet cold enough to snow, I love to take a long, slow, casual walk somewhere in the woods. I suggest you bring a thermos full of tea and some snacks, cozy clothes to change in to when you are finished, and leave the headphones at home. Talk to the birds, notice the trees, inspect mushroom colonies and take a minute to admire the lichens up close. Does that sound boring to you? Only boring if you can’t find anything to appreciate about being outside in the fresh air. Try it sometime.
Stub Stewart State Park
One of my favorite places to forage in autumn. These trails don’t provide a lot of solitude, but the majority of your fellow humans will be passing by on bikes, so their interruptions are very temporary and rarely require small talk. Pick any trailhead, ramble any which way you like. Make time to observe the locations of fruit trees and take notes for next year. You’re scouting future forage sites and you’re getting some forest medicine in at the same time, what more do you need from a rainy fall afternoon?
Deschutes River Trail
Sometimes the grey is just too much for me. Hop on over to the better side of the cascades, where even on a cloudy day the sky feels open and expansive. My favorite thing about this region of Oregon is the way you can feel your minuscule place in the arc of time and space out here. This landscape is timeless; our petty human problems are insignificant in the depths of a canyon carved by wind, water, and time.
You can start this hike at the Deschutes State Park along the confluence with the might Columbia River, or you can take the long way around to Mack’s Canyon and start your hike down there. Mack’s Canyon is by far the most scenic, but you’ll be scrambling in and out of small draws as you go, which can be somewhat athletic and also incredibly muddy, depending on the weather conditions. Still worth it though, in my opinion.
Wilson River Trail and Gales Creek
So many quiet places to be alone in the forest here. Obviously, I am partial to the Tillamook State Forest. Gales Creek is often described at simply “convenient”, an assessment, frankly, that hurts my feelings. Gales Creek is a spooky, quiet place of ancient beauty. A graveyard of the old, primeval forests that were logged, and then burned in the great fires. Gales Creek is a majestic, timeless place. It is much more than a convenient place to run. Come learn the secrets of its solitude.
The Wilson River Trail, likewise, is a journey unto itself as you traverse forested hillsides, wind along the bank, and take it all the sights and sounds of this beautiful coast range river as we trace its path to the sea. Don’t skip on the side trails, either. You never know which one will lead to the towering pinnacles or the forested grotto of your dreams, the perfect place to get a closer look at the river. Try them all; you’ll thank me later.
The 400 Trail and Historic Scenic Columbia River Highway
Ah, the old 400. I’m going to let you in on a secret: my favorite way to find solitude in the Columbia River gorge is to pick the most obscure, boring sounding, destination-less trails and make a day looping around view-less peaks and traversing power line roads. It may not be the fanciest destinations in the gorge, but the solitude more than makes up for it, in my opinion. Pick a section that has no destination, is hard to get to, or seems like it might be boring. Boring is good. Pro tip: Take every side trail. All of ‘em.
Much less solitude available on the HSCRH bike path, but just like the Stub Stewart trail, you’ll mostly see bikes and they’ll move through quickly, leaving you to enjoy the long, rambling walk above the freeway. Bring earplugs for this one, the interstate is too loud to enjoy forest sounds. Another favorite place to forage for currants, greens and various other berries, mushrooms and rosehips.