The new year brings with it a lot of baggage, expectations to do more, feel better, and try harder. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the noise in a place where hardly anyone can find you. Such places are guaranteed in the deep Oregon wilderness if you’ve the means to get there, but down in the quaint town of Carlton, just 33 miles south of Portland, the unassuming trails at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey bring solitude and quietness.
The trails—about four miles in total, including the 3.5-mile Guadalupe Loop with several smaller trails in between—are maintained by the Trappist monks who reside at the monastery, which has been in the Willamette Valley since 1955, though its beginnings trace back to 1948 in New Mexico. As such, what you’ll find here are trails that are not particularly challenging—adventure-seekers might prefer something a little more rough-around-the-edges. Rather, the Trappist Abbey trails feel as though they’re designed with contemplation in mind. That’s not to say there’s no challenge at all. Some sections of the Guadalupe Loop see steep elevation climbs (only about 770 feet or so), and the trails this time of year are muddy and slippery.
At the northeastern section of the loop, about a mile and a half from the trailhead if you head north from the welcome postage, there’s a viewpoint that overlooks the valley. On clear days you can see rolling vineyards and farmlands, with Mt Hood peeking its head over the landscape. On not-so-clear days, there’s a fallen log just beyond an archway of firs where you can sit and watch the mist sweep through the land.
Just south of the viewpoint, there’s a shrine dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe (Mary, in the Catholic faith), where others have left flowers, prayer beads, crosses, and other items of affection. Some have scribbled words of remembrance or prayers onto bricks and rocks.
Continue south to the St. Juan Diego Pass and zigzag back down the loop, from the St. Juan Diego Trail to Hermit’s Trail (stop here for another amazing viewpoint) to the Monk’s Trail. Or you could opt to complete the Guadalupe Loop. Either way, be mindful of your footing and be careful not to slip.
There isn’t an abundance of wildlife here, but keep an eye out for squirrels, deer, woodpeckers, and more. (Upon arriving at the trailhead, at a nearby pond, I watched a pelican stride over the waters and fly away, flapping its enormous black wings in the wind.) The entire trail system takes about one-and-a-half to three hours, and you could be alone for that entire time, though it’s possible that you might see one of the monks meandering about. If you do end up crossing paths and your greeting gets no response, don’t be discouraged: some of these monks have taken a vow of silence.
Some ground rules before venturing out: Dogs and other pets are not allowed, be aware of the “No Hiking Beyond This Point” postage around the trails (they are readily marked), and no hunting or fishing. There’s also an unspoken no-cell-phones rule. No one is policing you, but try to keep that cell phone in the car. Twitter will be there when you get back.
Post-hike, sip some wine at the nearby 82-acre Abbey Road Farm. If you’re looking for more of a meal, about eight miles south in McMinnville is Wildwood Café, a delightful country diner decked out with vintage signs on the walls and kitchen utensils hanging from the ceiling. Food’s pretty good, too. Try the Wildwood French toast, topped with their house-made granola.
Drive time: about an hour from downtown Portland // Distance: 4 miles // Difficulty: Easy
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