08 August 2014

Going For A Walk: St John's & Forest Park, Portland {Or We Don't Like Mr Hardesty}

My sister and I have realized that you can only eat so many cookies before they show up on your hips and tummy. So we decided to get our act together and do some walking in Portland to burn those calories and fight the signs of middle age. Our first challenge was a 5 mile walk from St John's in North Portland, across the Willamette River, through Forest Park down to Linnton and then back to St John's. 

We started off our walk at the St John's library which was built in 1913, thanks to Andrew Carnegie, the patron saint of libraries everywhere. Okay, maybe he isn't a saint, but when you're the richest man in the world and you give away all of your money to establish 1,698 public libraries, you become pretty popular with library people and book lovers everywhere.

Next, we meandered through the St John's neighborhood. It is a cute little place which almost feels like a separate town and not part of Portland proper. There are a lot of interesting little places like Pattie's Home Plate Cafe (a combination old fashioned diner, costume shop and toy store), the Man's Shop (which has been in business for 73 years) and the Salle Trois Armes fencing center. It is also chock full of those classic bungalows you see all over Portland, like this one.

And because this is Portland, you'll also find the unusual. Like this fence. We have no idea what these things are that are attached to the fence, but we could swear they look like faces and the eyes kept following us as we walked down the street.

Portland is quirky. How many people do you know who have a poetry box outside of their home where you can go up and read a poem.

Or have a free library dedicated to a friend who has passed away. Bob was a voracious reader.

Eventually we got to the St John's Bridge. I'm not what you would call a bridge person, but this is a pretty cool bridge. It's arched concrete supports make you feel like you're walking through a cathedral. Which is handy, as the park underneath the bridge is called Cathedral Park.

But we didn't have time to dawdle in the park, so we headed up to the bridge to cross over the Willamette.

It is super noisy on the bridge from all of the traffic, but you get some amazing views like this one of the Linnton neighborhood in the hills and of the white tank farm down on the river. The tanks are full of gasoline, oil, jet fuel, biodiesel etc. It's probably wise not to light a match down there. 

There are a lot of barges, boats and shipping that make their way down the river. The usual types of things you expect to see in a harbor. And then there was this. It looks like some sort of basketball court on a barge. Sponsored by Nike of course (they're headquartered in Beaverton, outside of Portland).

Once we crossed the bridge we headed up these stairs to Forest Park in the Tualatin Mountains. Forest Park is the largest urban forest in the States - it is over 5,000 acres and has more than 80 miles of trails, roads and fire lanes to explore. Did I mention it is in the mountains? We started our walk at 150 feet and climbed up to 1,110 feet.

This picture is deceptive. The trail seems flat, doesn't it? It wasn't always. I love walking with my sister. She stops to catch her breath almost as much as I do going uphill.

You can see all of the trails, roads and fire lanes on this map. The mention of fire lanes is a good reminder about the danger of forest fires. Forest Park burns in cycles ranging from 75 to 400 years. And because most of Forest Park's hills are steeper than 40 degrees, fire spreads more easily. And don't forget all those containers of gas, oils, jet fuel and biodiesel sitting at the bottom of the hills. I don't even want to imagine what would happen if fire spread down to there.

When you're walking through a forest, don't forget to look up from time to time. It's pretty up there.

We loved the section of our walk that was on the Wildwood Trail. You know why? It was relatively flat! Then we got to the turn-off for the Hardesty Trail and climbed up to the highest point. We don't like Mr. Hardesty. We've never met him, we're not even sure he is a he, but his trail was a hard slog at times. It could benefit from an escalator.

We finally made it to the Springville Road parking lot and made our way down to Linnton. Springville Road is an old footpath that became a market road at one point. Nowadays, it is used by people and horses. Along the way, there are a number of Bell manhole covers. If you are an American of a certain age, you'll remember when Ma Bell broke up. The manhole covers are a little reminder of the old days.

Eventually you get to the Linnton neighborhood which has some nice houses with amazing views. And because it is Portland, you also get the quirky, like this boat on the side of the road.

And that was it, pretty views on our way back down to the main road, then back across the bridge and over to the library. I think we deserve a few cookies after all that effort.

If you're interested in going on this walk or other walks through the hills of Portland, check out Laura Foster's book - Portland Hill Walks. It is a great book, chock full of interesting facts. (You don't really think I knew all of the stuff in this blog post myself, did you?) According to The Oregonian, "Anyone who loves Portland should own this book." Or you could just check it out from the library like I did, thanks to Mr. Carnegie.

Walk on 6 August 2014


  1. Fun little Portland trek! Forwarding this to my Tacoma-living sis. Found your blog through a linkup and am having fun reading... And I'm from North Dakota, too :)

    1. Wow - another North Dakotan! What part are you from? Thanks for sharing the post with your sister and thanks for checking out our blog :-)


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