trails through 200 acres of conifer forest, revitalized oak savanna, and even a remnant of native prairie habitat.
Interpretive signs placed along the trails help you get the most out of your nature walk by telling about native plants and animals you may encounter (rubber boas, coyotes, and pileated woodpeckers are just a few of the animals that utilize the habitat provided by the park). Signs also relate the history of the oak savanna habitat and how the native peoples used fire to maintain it. When regular burning no
longer happened, the faster-growing Douglas firs began to crowd out the oaks.
|An example of girdling|
In 2005, Metro began an effort to restore some of the oak woodlands using a method called girdling - where a ring of bark is removed from around the trunks of unwanted trees, causing the trees to die. The trees are then left in place as wildlife habitat.
The day I chose to take my first hike in the park...
|Main parking lot with restrooms and picnic area|
I parked at the main entrance, off of SE Mather Road, and began by hiking up the switchbacks of the Mather Road Trail to where it meets the Park Loop Trail. Turning right (east) onto the Park Loop Trail, the incline was more gentle than on the switchbacks. Then I turned onto the Summit Trail where it became steeper again.
I saw a great example of some type of fungus on a decaying log. (I'm not up on my fungi species, so if anyone can identify it, please do.)
From the summit, there's a nice partial view toward Happy Valley to the southeast. As near as I can tell, the elevation gain from the parking lot to the summit is approximately 380 feet.
Coming down the west side along the Summit Trail and the West Ridge Trail, the forest is once again more open, with fir trees towering over the trail. Then the West Ridge Trail comes in to the Oak savanna restoration area, and there's a little boardwalk that encourages you to stay on the trail (and probably keeps your feet dry when this more level area becomes a bit boggy).
My little loop was then complete, but I really only covered about a third of the available trail system. Even though you're never farther than about a mile from I-205, sections of the park are very quiet and seem much more remote. What a great place to escape to, especially for those of us that don't live very close to Forest Park.