Washougal River Greenway & Lacamas Creek Loop Hike

Hike Distance: 7.7 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 1865.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 817 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 240126 feet

So I’ll start at the end of this hike and then go back to highlight this area.  A fantastic day but on the last 1/10 mile my left SI joint felt like it had been stabbed.  In fact, every step was excruciating pain, and I didn’t know how long it would take to get back to the car.  I tried stretching, but to no avail.  I thought about taking Aleve, but this pain was at such a high level that I didn’t think it would work.  I even considered taking some Hydrocodone, that I carry for emergencies, but I can’t drive after taking it.  Besides, there was almost no pain when I wasn’t moving.  I ended up just suffering through the sharp pain, every step, and made it back to the car.

After getting home I quickly called my Orthopedist, Dr. Chesnutt, at OHSU medical center in Portland.  To say he’s a fantastic doctor is an understatement.  He’s been helping me make it through many issues over the past 5-7 years and has been a critical part of me being able to continuously pursue my goal.  In fact, he has just been invited to be part of the medical team that supports the Portland Trail Blazers Basketball Team!

I must have been lucky as I got an appointment the following day.  Jumping ahead, it turns out I have aggravated my SI joint, and ligaments, and in turn have also agitated my hip ligaments and tendons.  He gave me a cortisone shot to calm down the SI back area and told me to take a couple days off.  The good news is that my x-ray shows minimal arthritis in my SI joint and none in my hip.  It turns out this is again an overuse injury and I need to get some PT to stretch out several muscle groups.  Dr. Chessnutt is optomistic that this will blow over and I can get back to a normal routine.

The main reason I bring up this story is for those that are working with their own sports injuries.  I have actually had an SI problem for about 7-8 years, and felt it come on slowly as I kept increasing my mileage.  There have been some flare-ups but never of this magnitude.  I started having pain on every step about a week ago and thought I could work through it, as I’ve done before, but instead the pain went to the next level.  I should have listened to my body and started taking the steps to reduce my activity level before it came to this!  This isn’t the first, or last time, that medical issues have gone to the next level because of my excessive hiking.  Listening to my body, and pain, is getting even more important as I grow older.  My recovery time seems to be getting longer and longer as time goes by! 😦

My next steps are to actively pursue physical therapy for my back, and continue it daily, forever!  The stretching and strength exercises, from the PT, are the most important part of the long term plan as it should prevent irritation of this area!!!  I have also been advised to apply heat before a hike (for a pre-warm up) and use cold packs to keep the inflammation down.  I was also told that Lidocaine patches can work wonders for the pain, but is no substitute for prevention.  My wife uses Lidocaine patches for her spinal degenerative arthritis, and they’re amazing per her feedback!  I’m also going to take tylenol and Aleve (NSAIDS) as needed to reduce pain and swelling.  I don’t recommend taking NSAIDS more than needed as they can cause stomach issues (and I have already been told by my Gastroenteroligist to limit them).


Moving forward with today’s hike.  The Washougal River Greenway Trail is a appox. 2.2 mile out and back hike.  As you can see from my mileage there are quite a few side trails available for exploration.  This greenway is located close to the Columbia River Gorge but this area isn’t seen during the hike.  There is a tremendous amount of variety in this hike as you will pass through some lowlands, go over the Washougal River on a huge steel bridge, walk past several large ponds and then finish at one side of a very large field (that has trails throughout it).

I parked in an area on the south side of Lacamas Creek Park and had to walk along a couple roads to get to the Greenway.  I chose to park here because I wanted to hike into Lacamas Creek Park and see the Lower Falls!  Once I got to the Washougal Greenway TH I turned onto it and quickly went across a concrete boardwalk through some lowlands.  I have seen this boardwalk covered completely by water, during the rainy season, and had to abort this hike.  However, this time of year doesn’t typically have this issue. 🙂

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I should note that there are a tremendous number of side trails located at every turn for the entire length of this trail.  I actually hiked almost six miles for this 2.2 mile out-and-back hike!  Moving on past the boardwalk I turn and climb up a ramp that leads to a very large steel bridge that spans the Washougal River.  I couldn’t find the actual bridge length but estimate it to be 200 feet long, and it is 37 feet high.  The bridge looks large enough to hold a semi!

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Heading down the ramp of the bridge you will get views of the Washougal River and then pass by several large ponds.  There were plenty of birds here and I understand it’s a great place for bird watching, at the right time of year.  The lighting today was so nice, and I got a few reflections of the sun off the water.  That said, it was mostly a high cloud day but with a few breaks.

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Once past the ponds the remainder of the greenway opens up into a grassy area that has footpaths through it.  There were many people walking dogs in this area.  There are power lines  suspended over this large field but that didn’t bother me.  I quickly came to a parking area on this other side of the greenway, and noticed people walking on a trail on the other side of the Washougal River.  It turns out there is an area there to walk along the northern side of the river, but no way to get there on foot (without walking through a neighborhood, and over a bridge).

I explored almost all the side trails while on the greenway, and there are so many of them.  I suspect most people wouldn’t want to go in all the areas I explored, but it’s still a fantastic place to walk, and I highly recommend it!  I finally turned around and backtracked on the road, past my parking area, and into Lacamas Creek Park.

I walked about 1/2 mile in and crossed Lacamas Creek, on another nice bridge, and headed to my favorite spot to take pictures and videos of the Lower Falls.  I stayed here a while and just enjoyed the breathtaking view.   I wanted to upload a video of this falls but I guess my plan needs to be upgraded.  Well, maybe some other time as I would like to start including videos eventually.

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I then headed out on a small loop and back over the Lacamas Creek bridge and back to my car.  It’s on this section that my story began. 😦  I had such a wonderful time and won’t let my last 1/10 mile spoil it.  This whole area is a gem and well worth visiting.  Maybe some day you’ll all get a chance to see these beautiful places?  Happy trails. 🙂