Weber’s Canyon Opens Hidden Delights for Neighborhood Hikers

Tigard resident Ron Weber stands alongside a recently cleared fallen tree. Weber relies on human-powered hand tools for the bulk of his work. Michael Antonelli/Tigard Life
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The hidden gem affectionately dubbed “Weber’s Canyon” by neighbors who know this beautiful, not-so-secret little trail isn’t your average retirement project.

On the owl, Sophia, Weber says, “She just sits up there and watches me work all the time.”

But then again, its namesake trailblazing architect is not your average retiree.

At 75, Ron Weber has spent almost two years carving about a mile and a half of wide, clear hiking trails that wind through the thick tangle of woods between Southwest Ascension Drive and Southwest Creekshire Drive, climbing steeply up the hillside in some places and following a creek in others.

“It’s just so beautiful in there,” he said. “The trail is absolutely stunning because you walk in there, and you don’t know what to expect. You look up, and it has this magnificent canopy.”

But accessing that beauty – and opening it for others to enjoy – was no easy feat. 

The former electrician and mountain climber has logged about 300 hours of hacking, whacking, sawing, and clipping his way foot-by-foot through dense tangles of brambles, holly, and ferns using a menagerie of hand tools.

“It was just millions and millions of ferns,” he said.

Weber, who says he needed something to keep him occupied after a lifetime of mountain climbing faded into the rearview, started searching for an old logging trail on a neighbor’s tip.

The steep sloping acreage his trail now traverses had once been logged and was home to sheep and goats before the forest reclaimed it. Weber spent nearly two years looking, but the alleged path never materialized.

So, he got to work carving his own. It took multiple attempts to get in, but “finally I found just sort of a little crack, and I just started cutting down bushes. I didn’t cut any big trees because I didn’t want to do that.”

He did about 95 percent of the work solo without the aid of chainsaws or other power tools. 

Along the way, he was befriended by a Spotted Owl he calls Sophia, who hung out in the canopy high above while he worked, following him for several months.

Though Sophia isn’t the only wildlife he’s encountered, finding her was his favorite surprise.

Initially, he noticed what he thought was a knot in the wood high up on a tree above him. When he returned to look for the “knot,” it had moved to another tree, and then it did something startling: the knot took flight.

“Whoosh, right over my head,” he said. “Just massive. I didn’t realize how wide (the wingspan of) those things are.”

Sophia was good company, but not his only companion. 

In places where the woods were too much for one man, he enlisted two of his teenage “grandkids,” who are actually the children of dear friends. He and his wife of 51 years, the love of his life, Lydia, have two grown sons and no biological grandkids.

Weber grew up in the woods, exploring trails now part of Washington Park’s Hoyt Arboretum and playing in enclosures that would later house elephants, monkeys, and giraffes while the Oregon Zoo was under construction.

His boyhood home was blocks from the sprawling park, and its acres of forest were his playground. 

At age five, Weber started hiking on the 30-mile Wildwood Trail that runs the length of Washington and Forest Parks. Seventy years later, he still loves walking it. In his 20s, Weber began mountain climbing on Mt. Hood. He’s summited Oregon’s highest peak more than 30 times and climbed others as far afield as Kenya.

Never a guy who could be content in front of a screen for long, Weber said the challenge of making Weber’s Canyon – often at a pace of a few feet a day – kept him coming back. 

“I’ve been on the move for 75 years,” he said. “I’ve always looked for things to do. This one will keep me (busy) until probably I can’t do anymore.”

With the initial work – two main trails and several smaller offshoots – now largely complete, the task going forward is keeping them well-groomed.

Weber says he’ll gladly accept help with raking and clipping to keep the trails in shape, but mostly, he just wants more people to experience the canyon.

“I just want people to enjoy it,” he said. “I wanted to do something that the community could use.”

Getting to Weber’s Canyon:

Weber says to access his trails:

From the corner of Southwest Fern Street and Southwest Ascension Drive, follow SW Ascension to its terminus near the top of Bull Mountain, and turn right onto Southwest Mistletoe Street. The trail can be accessed from the open grassy field beneath the power lines.

“Walk along the grass downhill about one hundred feet on a small dirt path, and you will see an opening on your right. Warning: It is not for the faint of heart. Built on several steep acres, the path splits onto another trail that leads down into a small creek, and both trails join together at the end of SW Creekshire Drive. The trails are dog-friendly, but the area around the creek isn’t during the winter.” 

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