Tips for enjoyable fall walks and hikes

Alton Baker Park has many beautiful spots to take a fall walk, with paved paths along the river, fall leaves, and more.

If there’s one person who knows hiking in Lane County, it’s William Sullivan.

He’s written five books covering all of the hikes in Oregon, as well as 16 other books including adventure memoirs, novels, mysteries and short stories.

“The thing I like about fall is the fall color and huckleberries,” Sullivan says. “For huckleberries the trick is to go to the high Cascades to places where the forest has been cut back by fire or windstorms or clear cuts. The huckleberries only develop fruit if they get sun, so you see huckleberry bushes in the deep woods all over the high Cascades but there’s no fruit.”

In fall, Sullivan suggests a visit to Waldo Lake. In summer, the mosquitos make that lake incredibly uncomfortable. To enjoy fall color, walk along a river.

“What turns color are the vine maple trees,” he says. “Other trees have color, too, but only the vine maples turn bright red and they grow mostly along the mountain rivers. For that, the McKenzie River Trail is a good choice.”

Now here’s a weird one: “The Magic Sidewalk” (that’s what my friends and I call it). I maybe shouldn’t tell you about it, but it is a sidewalk in west Eugene (near Churchill High School) built by a neighborhood association/developer. It runs off-road from near the corner of Brittany Street and Windsor Circle East, almost all the way up to the top of the ridge at Wintercreek Drive. It’s funky, steep in places, and I have no idea why it’s there, but I love it.

— Tom Powers, Campbell Community Center

Eastgate Woodlands, a triangle of green along the Willamette River at the eastern-most end of the Whilamut Natural Area of Alton Baker Park, is an urban greenway connecting the communities of Eugene and Springfield. Serving as a natural area and recreational corridor, there are plentiful opportunities for walking, bicycling, jogging, boating, and nature appreciation.

Two trails to explore include the Riverside Trail that winds along the Willamette River’s edge through willow, red alder and cottonwood trees, and the Woodlands Trail that travels through a shady forest canopy of tall bigleaf maple along the canoe canal.

Along both trails thrives a rich understory of native shrubs, including snowberry, hazelnut, osoberry and our state flower, Oregon grape.

Eastgate Woodlands/E. Alton Baker Park is located on the west side of Springfield.

— Bill Kunerth, Willamalane Park and Recreation

Waterfall trails in general are a good choice for fall color. Proxy Falls is a two-mile loop. At the falls, when the water pools, it sinks through porous lava into the ground. While there are few large trees on this trail, Sullivan says there are numerous vine maples and a lot of good color.

He also recommends Brice Creek, Spirit Falls, Moon Falls, Pinard Falls and the Goodman Creek trail, where there’s also a little waterfall and nice fall color.

The beach is a nice place in the fall as well, and it tends to be less crowded because the kids are back in school.

RVs and campers can go up and down the coast with ease. If you go in the fall, consider a hike to a lighthouse, like Heceta Head near Florence.

One of Sullivan’s book, “Oregon Favorites: Trails and Tales,” organizes sights around the state by season. “It’s a collection of the outdoor columns I’ve been writing for the newspapers in Eugene and Salem arranged by month, so for every month of the year I recommend appropriate things to do in that season,” he says.

Sullivan’s guide books for hikes are easy to read and nicely organized.

“The easy hikes are always less than seven miles total and never more than 1,000 feet of elevation gain,” he says. “The elevation gain is critical because if you huff after climbing a few flights of stairs then even 300 feet of elevation gain is going to seem like a lot, and 1,000 is just going to be murderous.”

Perhaps you want to be a bit more sporting about your walks. If that’s the case, check out the Eugene-Springfield Mossbacks Volkssport Club.

Volkssports (meaning “folks sports” or “popular sports”) originated in Germany and is now an international movement. These sports are exercises that contribute to physical fitness and are also fun, like organized walking, swimming, bicycling, roller skating, and cross-country skiing. The club is open to all ages and families.

Non-competitive walks are the most popular form of organized volkssports. Here in Eugene-Springfield, walking events are organized for certain places and days. Participants show up at the start time and walk a planned route, generally a 10K.

“But people are welcome to walk as much or as little as they want,” says Sally Ross, 81, a club member for 30 years. “If you want to keep records there are books that you can put a stamp in each time you do an event. We recommend people walk with someone else but if you want to go by yourself you can. You can stop and take pictures, go into a shop that looks interesting to you as you walk by it and even stop and eat if you want to.”

Mossbacks plans regular outings with an advertised starting point.

These sanctioned walks take place in Bandon, Cottage Grove, Eugene, Springfield, Winchester Bay and Charles-ton. The club also goes on road trips. Visit the website for more information.

The club provides community service in the form of trail cleanup on Willamalane Park and Recreation District trails in Springfield and trails in Dorris Ranch.

For Volkssport members who like to travel, the website of the American Volkssport Association lists national events and clubs all over the country.

“Walking is the best way to see places and get off the beaten path,” says Ross, a fourth-generation Oregonian. “By walking you’re exploring different small communities and nature and lots of varied spots that you can go to that you probably wouldn’t see otherwise.”

Ross volkswalks on average at least once a week, and she participates in other walks that might be from three to six miles, sometimes more. In order to be prepared for all that walking, Ross says necessities are having good walking shoes and being dressed for the weather.

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