« Eulogy | Main | Saturday's Pensieve »

Summer walks
June 15, 2009

I started my summer walks as a way to get away from everything and just *think*. When I first moved to Portland, they were away to acquaint myself with my neighborhood, then expanded to other neighborhoods close to my own. Last summer, my biking took over, and I didn't get around to walking or hiking so much, and I think I missed out on a few good places to really enjoy. This summer I need some time to really think again, and there's really nothing better than a hike to let one's mind wander. There's not a whole lot you need to pay attention to on a hike besides the ground in front of your feet or taking a moment every so often to enjoy your surroundings.

It was with this in mind that I checked out "Walk There! 50 treks in and around Portland and Vancouver" from the library. I didn't know that it contained a compendium of walks I had already been compiling from the website run by Metro. Holy crap is this book awesome... there are walks in nearly every neighborhood in Portland, and plenty in the suburbs and outskirts of town. I decided to just go through these walks one-by-one and get to know the Portland I would most likely never see (though I may not choose to cross the Columbia to walk in Vancouver, but that's just a personal decision).

Trailhead??I started with the "4T - Trail, Tram, Trolley and Train, Portland" walk, since it is an easy one to pick up right after work (as I work downtown near Pioneer Square). This would be my first walk that includes a hiking part, and at first I was a little afraid of the beginning of the walk, as the difficulty level is a 4/5 (note that the PDF version is 3/5, which I more agree with). The other urban walks I've been on were obviously concrete-centric, and I was excited to get out into the hills. One starts by taking the MAX to the Washington Park station, then walking over the freeway to a trailhead that's *really* hidden... one must cross a freeway onramp (no crosswalks, no stop signs) then walk down a gravel "path" along the onramp to find the trailhead... it really looks like there shouldn't be and probably isn't anything actually there... but there it was, and I was on my way.

The trail starts with switchbacks up a hill, and it's a little strange because the Forestyrushing freeway is *right there* and you have to get up and over a hill to make the noise go away. The forest itself is pretty much like Forest Park, with our Portland coniferous thick forest growth everywhere, complete with wildlife (rustlings in the trees, slugs) and moisture (random puddles, streams, mud). Once I got to a point where I could no longer hear a freeway, however, I was right below Patton Road, which was pretty busy. One issue I had with this walk was that most of the "urban"-type walking had no sidewalks. The walk up to the Marquam Trail had no sidewalks at all, but for the most part had some pretty wide shoulders.

photo.jpgThe main Marquam trail up to Council Crest was closed for something or another, and the sign suggested I use the "south trails," so I headed south on Fairmount Blvd, having absolutely no clue where the other trail was, until I ended up on the opposite side of the hill and used my handydandy GPS to get me up to the top of the hill. When I finally made it, I took a well-deserved break to try to dry off just a bit, and enjoyed some conversation with a family of Quebecois.

On the way back down (Council Crest is the apex of the walk), the Marquam trail had a sign that it was closed from the top, and i my confusion, a nice older woman suggested that we just walk the trail - it is supposedly closed due to construction on the cell towers, and they won''t working by the time we got up there. So yeah, we went around the damned sign and followed the trail down. She was v helpful in pointing me in the correct direction to OHSU.

Once I left the Marquam trail, there was a lot of narrow shoulder-walking, which I didn't get on camera, since it was kind of fucking scary. The adults driving down to town from OHSU all use this road, and, from what I can tell, all drive 45 in a 25mph zone, 90% own expensive cars, and ALL should be used to the number of pedestrians and bicyclists along the road, because there were a ton of us trying to use < 3' of shoulder. Hrmph. So really, the walk wasn't hard, it was just kind of scary in some areas. The book recommends walking against traffic on Fairmount, and at that point, one is paying more attention to making sure one is as far away from the road as possible without tumbling down a fern-lined ravine.

When I finally made it to the Homestead neighborhood, the sidewalks came back and Mt Hood made its appearance, looming incredibly huge over the city. It seemed to have kind of a "full moon near the city" effect that my phonecam didn't pick up. I made it quickly to the tram, rode it down to the south waterfront, took the streetcar to the bus, and bussed it home. 4 different kinds of public transportation in one day! So all in all, it was a good walk (just over 4.25mi with my extra jaunts), though I think I was wanting more of a hike. I suppose I should stick to Forest Park for my hikes, and go purchase this little book for other urban outings (it's pocket-sized!!). Stay tuned for more...