today i took advantage of two of the key features of my current situation:
a) i have a flexible schedule
b) i am in portland
and i went on a walk. for several hours. in places with lots of trees.
you may not know this, but portland is home to the largest urban forest in the united states. i wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t know that, because i actually didn’t know it either. word on the street is that it’s the largest urban park in the united states, forested or otherwise, but in researching for this post, wikipedia schooled me otherwise. which is why wikipedia is a good resource, and fact checking your stories is a good thing. :)
it’s really ok that it’s not the biggest park in the country, because portland also has the smallest park in the world, which was founded to serve as a leprechaun colony, and i think that more than makes up for lower marks in any other park-related contests. i only learned this factoid a few days ago from justin, who is in corvallis for the summer and wants to come up to town to hang out with the cool kids, and i thank him for the heads up. :)
portland has a lot of parks of all sizes, really, which is one of the things that makes it a great place to live.
anyway, our urban forest is cleverly named forest park, and it is actually the fourth largest urban park in the country, so that’s nothing to be ashamed of (and central park is not one of the top three, which surprises people). forest park is over 5,000 acres big, with about 70 miles of trails, and much of the park is old growth forest. it connects right up to washington park, which is a neat place, too, being the home of the international rose test garden, the portland zoo, and hoyt arboretum, which is kind of like a tree zoo. there are several miles of trails with different sorts of trees planted throughout and some edumacational signs, so you can learn about said trees. it’s fun to go on the flowery tree trails in the spring and the leafy tree trails in the fall. :)
anyway, today i went to the bank, and while i was out i decided it was way too nice a day to not keep walking for a while. it has been surprisingly humid here lately, so walking outside during the day has tended to grow tiresome, but today was warm and clear without a lot of humidity, so it was a perfect day for walking, particularly in places with shade. like urban forests!
i decided i would take the train into washington park and walk until i wanted to stop, with the vague intention of making my way along the wildwood trail, which starts right above the zoo, goes through the whole of washington park, climbs up to pittock mansion (where one of the best views of the city is to be had), and then dives into forest park. the trail runs for a total of 30 miles, switchbacking along the ridge that runs next to highway 30, which skirts the edge of the lower columbia river and eventually leads to mt. st. helens.
i didn’t walk 30 miles, but i did walk through the redwood and piney sections of the arboretum (and they smelled good! particularly the cypresses near the beginning) up to the mansion and into forest park, which i have been meaning to explore for a long time. the benefit of this route was that it would theoretically spit me out somewhere not too far north of my house, which means i would have made a great big loop, and i wouldn’t have to walk back through downtown to get home. the problem was i had never really tested this theory and didn’t have a map of all those trails, but i figured there would be a map somewhere near the entrance to the park and i could wing it. i was halfway right, because there was a map, but the inch or so around the rightful home of a “you are here” icon was rubbed off by too many fingers jabbed excitedly at the marvel of cartographic representation, so all of the intersections that would have been helpful to me were gone.
there was enough information, however, to tell me that i was right to believe it was possible, so i just started walking in the general direction i wanted to go. i took a few wrong turns and ended up in some ritzy subdivisions that weren’t my aim, so i did a fair bit of doubling back, but it worked out in the end. i actually went somewhat out of my way because i thought that i had gone too far and decided to cut through the subdivisions rather than risk having to backtrack a lot and then still have to figure out where the hell i was before dark, but it turns out i was just on a Really long switchback and i should have had faith. the way i took actually worked out really well, though, and gave me a tour of some nice neighborhood streets and showed me a park with a playground and some baseball diamonds that is only a handful of blocks from my house.
my route was vaguely similar to this, though i took the train for the part going across the highway into the park, and the part through the parks was nothing at all like those neat straight lines. the trail is all zigzag, all the time, so it was easily two or three times longer than the pedometer shows, but i didn’t want to fiddle with trying to recreate it. given that i walked pretty solid, yet in nothing like a hurry, for at least three hours, i would guess i traveled somewhere around 10 miles.
so good day.
and now my feet are tired.
unfortunately, though i know victor will shake his head and think less of me, i didn’t bring my camera because i need a new memory card and am annoyed at this fact, and when i get annoyed about things like that i actually tend to procrastinate resolving them for a while until i realize how silly i am being. it’s a shame, too, because the trees and berries and critters were purty, and the day was clear enough to see all the mountains – hood, st. helens, rainier, and adams – from the overlooks in washington park and from pittock mansion.
i’ll just have to do it again sometime. and you should come visit. it’s a good place to be.