Hike by the road more traveled makes a nice trip

By BEN MCCARTY

News staff writer

July 29, 2006

I spent last summer interning in Washington, D.C. While I was there, my internship group did a service project involving removing invasive weeds from a local watershed park.

Soon after beginning the project some of the interns, who probably had not seen vegetation outside of a tree in a sidewalk planter, began to complain. They only had one bar of cell phone reception and could no longer see the parking lot, which was about a half mile away.

The Starvation Creek Historic Columbia River Highway hike would be a perfect nature excursion for those interns.

Located just off I-84, Starvation Creek features two main trails, a 1 mile hike along the historic Columbia River Highway, from which you can still see and hear the interstate, and a 6-mile hike to Defiance Falls. Because I was still wearing my work dress clothes and loafers I took the Columbia River Highway hike and decided to leave Defiance Falls for another day.

The trailhead features a small loop that crosses a bridge over Starvation Creek and has plenty of big rocks for young ones to play on.

A little farther up the trail is Starvation Creek Falls picnic area, which features beautiful views of Starvation Falls and provides a good stop to snack before or after a hike.

I chose Starvation Creek for one of my first outings in the Gorge mainly because the name intrigued me. Why was it called Starvation Creek? I wondered if large groups of people or wild buffalo had starved to death, or if some horrible acts of cannibalism had occurred there.

Upon my arrival I found the whole story laid out for me on a sign by the picnic area. Much to my disappointment the tale included neither mass starvation nor cannibalism. I know the true (and much less exciting) story now, but you will have to find out the origins of the name for yourself at the trailhead. However I can tell you it involves a train, a pig, and a lot of snow.

The trail itself is fairly easy without much elevation gain at all. Roughly 85 percent of it is paved. I completed a down-and- back trip in roughly an hour at a leisurely pace.

As you walk along the trail, on one side you will see beautiful shaded forests, while on the other, no more than 50 yards away, traffic roars along I-84. However, looking across the freeway you can take in fantastic views of the Gorge. It’s the perfect hike for those who want to get away from civilization for a little while, but not too far away to deny an urge to check e-mail on your Blackberry.

At the other end of the mile-long trail is Viento State Park, making the trail a great way to get the Defiance Falls trail if you are camping at the park. The flat paved trail makes it perfect for kids on bikes, or to take along a dog (pet waste bags are available at the trailhead).

Overall the trail is a great way to get out for the afternoon if you are starting a tally of how many days are left until school starts, if your air conditioning bill is beginning to resemble the national debt of a major industrialized nation, or if you forgot to put on enough sunscreen while you were out on the water during the heat wave. For those of you in the latter category, I should probably mention that much of the trail is in the shade.

Getting there: To get to Starvation Creek State Park head west on I-84. Take exit 51 and re-enter the freeway going eastbound. Get off at Exit 54 for Starvation Creek State Park.

Notes: Restrooms are available at the trailhead. Leashed animals are allowed. The park has no fee.

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