Monday, March 28, 2011

Walk 40: Milwaukie Downtown & Riverfront (3 miles)

There should be a tourism bureau ad that goes "You think you know Milwaukie? Let us show you our wild side."

This walk started at the brick-fronted City Hall, went past Clackamas County's Ledding Library (where I found a really cool out-of-print Midnight Oil CD single), the Waldorf School (sorry, no picture, but I hear they teach you how to make a really nice salad there), and by Milwaukie High School (home of the Mustangs). I believe Mom went here a few years back...?

I then left the downtown area and crossed McGloughlin, heading into the riverfront section, along the Kellogg Creek Trail. This is where it got interesting.

After walking on the trail for a while, with good views of the Willamette River, I came to 19th, a narrow back road between some beach-type houses, before approaching the tiny (and new) Spring Park, notable for an odd mound of soil and large chunks of concrete.

My inner kid told me to step up to the top of the mound, where I saw a path leading down into the Spring Park Natural Area. Turns out the little park was just a front for a well-kept secret (from me, anyway).

Again with the mud! I had to walk along some small logs that had been laid out to make it over some of the wetter areas. I hoped the view would be worth the trouble.

And it was! The north end of the natural area, nearest to Elk Rock Island, was heavily moss-covered with many large rocks and streams of River water running in and around, with a close-up view of the Island. I had the place to myself, and tromped around for awhile, using my imagination to pretend I was in some far off place, like the UK's Isle of Man. (Hey, I was listening to long-time resident of that mystical place, Rick Wakeman, on the iPod!)

From here, I had a nice view of the Island and a big waterfall across the river. This is another place I'll come back to later in the summer, when the water level is lower and I can actually walk to the Island, when it will be more of a peninsula. For now the Willamette made that goal impossible.

Walking back up the riverfront toward downtown, as I entered Milwaukie I was treated to one more interesting sight: These four lifelike statues in a display window at the famous Dark Horse Comics, one of the country's largest comic book publishers. Pretty cool!

One last stop before leaving town: Main St. Soda, where I purchased (for the first time ever) a New York egg cream (chocolate syrup, half & half, soda water). Yummy! I don't see soda fountains like this very often anymore, but this is the second one so far on this 50 walks tour (the other in Hillsboro).

Another lovely day; a nice combination of city fun and outdoorsy fresh air.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Walk 39: Mississippi & Overlook (2.5 miles)

Subtitled: "I crossed the Failing Bridge and lived to tell about it!"

This walk started at Overlook Park, notable for a soft track to walk dogs, a picturesque view of the Albina rail yards and river, and another sighting of the elusive “pukatron.”

I left the park, headed toward Kaiser Permanente, turned up N. Interstate, took a right on Failing Street, and crossed the dreaded Failing Street Pedestrian Bridge over I-5. The bridge, along with the street and a former school, were named after Portland mayor (1853-1854) Josiah Failing.

An interesting bit of trivia: Mayor Failing was a Republican delegate to the 1864 National Convention, and helped nominate Abraham Lincoln for a second term. Yay, Republicans of the 1800's!

Before leaving Failing Street, I passed another "Hummel-figurine-filled window - it sure looked like an antique store from the outside but there was no sign posted. Another mysterious quirk of Portland. Note the can of "vandal mark remover" spray on the right.

Turning down Mississippi, here's where the walk got REALLY GOOD for me. In sequence, I passed a comic book store, a CD/Game Exchange, and an ice cream shop. I haven't read many comic books since my childhood, but looking around I found a "new era begins" Legion of Super-Heroes from 2010 and had to check it out. That was my favorite series when I was a kid and spent many rainy days reading them with my sister.

The ice cream at Ruby Jewel Scoops was interesting: Thai peanut curry, which was the only really odd flavor on the menu that day. Had a nice kick to it, and tasted great! Next time I think I'll have the caramel & chocolate, though.

Carrying my goods, I passed by the ReBuilding Center, which according to the Walk There book is the "largest nonprofit used building materials resource in North America." It's fun to step inside and see sections like "Appliance Alley" and "Tub Town."

This place is BIG. Just up the street from the toilet-laden entrance is an impressive "enchanted forest" type entrance to the place:

Turning a corner and heading back up Albina Avenue, I spotted my first pink dogwood tree of the spring. I love how these just explode and brighten the street.

I passed some modern-looking apartments before reconnecting with Mississippi.

Joy of joys, a second music store, this one a records-only small and funky one. They didn't have any rock music, but they did have a nice selection R&B, funk and soul. I picked up a 1976 Kool & The Gang, which has never been issued on CD, called Open Sesame.

Two landmarks of note: First, the John Palmer House, an 1898 Queen Anne home:

And on Interstate Ave, the St. Stanislaus Church, "the heart of Portland's Polish Community," which turns out tens of thousands of pierogies at the annual Polish Festival.

While much of this area is undergoing a renaissance, with new food places, shops and buildings, as I walked past The Palms Motor Hotel sign, I was reminded that there's still a way to go. But hey, they've got "phones, hottub room, microfridges and king beds," so it can't be all bad, and I'm sure things aren't as run down on the inside as out here!

Finally, back to Overlook Park for one final spin on the pukatron:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Walk 38: 4T – Trail, Tram, Trolley & Train (4.5 miles)

I gotta admit, this alliterative walk surprised me. Looking at the book, I thought, "Four mile walk, then ride back to the start? Easy!" But this four mile walk is a bit more challenging than a flat, city street four mile walk. It's a 600 foot elevation gain from the Oregon Zoo to the OHSU tram, made much more difficult by the nearly nonstop muddy spots on the trail. This hike will be a LOT easier in the summer!

I started by parking at the zoo, behind the Max station, conveniently ignoring the sign that said "NO PARK AND RIDE." Hey, I was parking and walking (then riding)! Here's the map that shows the four sections of the four T's: (Marquam) Trail, (OHSU) Tram, (Portland Street Car) Trolley, and (MAX) Train.

I walked downhill past the Children's Museum, where I saw my first well-marked 4T Trail sign, then crossed Highway 26 (aka "Sunset Hwy"), and just before entering the freeway on the right side, headed uphill on a never-before-noticed-by-me side trail.

I soon saw a quite muddy spot, the first of many, many sections that I would have to step around, or hop over, which eventually built up enough momentum that I started running along the trail just to make it easier to keep hopping over these (more on that later).

After the first major elevation gain, approximately 2 miles into the walk/hike, the trail opened out onto Patton Road near the intersection with Talbot. I've driven by this intersection hundreds of times but never knew there was a trail lurking here!

Turning up Talbot, I soon rejoined the trail and continued on up to Council Crest, where I was treated to my first good view of the city (albeit slightly foggy/cloudy, which is the norm for this time of year).

On the other side of Council Crest I headed downhill on the Marquam Trail, breaking into a run, partly because I was leaping over so many muddy spots it encouraged me to do so, and partly because it was just fun to run on the soft soil (easy on the knees!).

Eventually I reached the Marquam Shelter, with a small amphitheater setting for a potential picnic spot.

Turning again uphill and heading toward OHSU, this is where the climb started to get to me. I had been jumping over mud, slipping in the wet, and stepping on or around washed away rocks for several miles now, and I was starting to feel some serious fatigue in my legs. Just as I was in need of a long break, I arrived at the OHSU campus, anticipating a relaxing ride down to the bottom of the hill.

But as I walked through the campus, I realized I didn't know where the tram entrance was. As I turned a corner, I saw that I had walked to the road below the tram, looked up and mouthed "Oh CRAP!" One more trudge up three flights of stairs to the much desired restful journey downtown. What an impressive structure though; glad I got to see this view at least once.

As I got inside the tram, I was treated to a beautiful view, and a slightly exhilarating ride:

Once at the bottom, I hurriedly made my way to the streetcar ("trolley"), which soon pulled away toward my MAX Train destination. I gotta say, though, this trolley takes its sweet time! I think I could've gotten there sooner just walking the route, if my legs weren't so burnt out from the trail walk/run.

I hopped off the trolley at 10th and Alder and waited just a few minutes before the MAX train arrived, which took us through the tunnel to the Oregon Zoo stop. This is a cool spot, as it's 260 feet below the surface. A quick elevator ride up and I was back at my car.

This adventure turned out to be a lot more interesting than expected. The trail is quite a workout and there are plenty of places downtown to stop when I return (hopefully with family) when the weather gets drier, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the fruits of the trip. Maybe then my shoes won't get quite so muddy!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Walk 37: Peninsula Park & 4 Neighborhoods (3 miles)

Four neighborhoods and a large park in just three miles? Yep. This walk passed through Humboldt, Piedmont, Arbor Lodge and Overlook.

Starting at PSU's Cascade campus near Jefferson High School, after a few blocks I soon came to the Peninsula Park and rose garden. This place is big! A bit bare looking, but I could appreciate the stone and brickwork and envision what this will look like when the fountain is flowing and the summer sun works its magic:

Walking through the center of the garden I approached an octagonal bandstand/gazebo, which on the opposite side faces a large field. Seems like everywhere I go I can picture making music somewhere. Must be "tuned in" to the idea!

At the other end of the field is the city's oldest community center (which includes an open air pool in the back).

Another interesting sight along the way is the Villa St. Rose, a former Catholic convent and girls school, now renovated senior housing.

As I made my way toward this pedestrian I-5 overpass, I stopped and had a short chat with a resident of the Villa St. Rose. She told me that she knows man there who "remembers the bad old days. He would point to a row of houses and say 'That was a crack house, and that one, and over there...' Fortunately that's mostly gone now." While it's really great to hear about neighborhoods improving and drugs and gang problems disappearing, I have to wonder: Where does it go? Declining neighborhoods? Other cities?

Speaking of interesting houses, I thought this was a yard sale, until I looked a little closer, and realized that the stair-stepper, bench-and-weight set, fire pit and lawn chairs were all part of a permanent setup. Not something you normally see in late winter.

Toward the end of my walk, at Ockley Middle School I came across three totems featuring poetry by its students.

This was my favorite. Text re-typed below:

The sky is light blue, and the sun is out;
birds are flying; it’s a beautiful day as I shout.
I hear the half way wonderful sounds of Oregon –
Shouts coming from the car,
sounds of people smacking food
or being rude; as my day ends,
I leave on my 18 speed bike.
The world is a Beautiful place.
Don’t miss out.
Sean Lacy, Age 13