Saturday, April 30, 2011

Walk 49: Milwaukie/Oak Grove Trolley Trail (8 miles)

This long walk sounded pretty cool at first: It traveled a former trolley line that existed from 1893 to 1968 (the last 10 years as a freight service), and I could trace the history of the trolley as I made my way along the 4 miles each way from Milwaukie to Oak Grove.

The trail began at SE McLoughlin Boulevard and Park Avenue, getting off to an inauspicious start by passing an auto body yard with some trashed police cars and an unmarked narrow trail that I wasn't sure was the Trail or not...

But before long I came to a sign that assured me I was on the right "track."

The trail soon led out onto Arista Drive (no relation I assume to the record label which brought us the Alan Parsons Project, among others). The road was under construction, so no sidewalk along this section, and I had to alternate from side to side to avoid various large equipment and traffic.

The book explained that I was passing by various historical landmarks like notable trolley stations, a sanitarium and a general store, but little evidence remained of these interesting spots now.

Unfortunately, as the Trail picked up again, things didn't improve much, as the ground was somewhat muddy and chewed up.

At Rupert Drive, an approximately 15 foot stretch of trolley tracks surfaced. It turned out that this was the only visible evidence of the actual tracks along the entire trail. That was a bit of a letdown!

It was there I discovered that the ground was being actively dug up, which I soon realized was part of a major construction to convert the entire trail into a biking/pedestrian path. Bad timing on my part! At this current moment it was a long, rocky and muddy terrain, forcing me to move off to the side roads for long stretches. Judging by this artist's rendition, it will be quite lovely when it's completed. Can't tell if it'll be paved or not, though.

The road however eventually came to a stop and I was back on the path, which then passed between some closely packed housing (and trailers), then leading to a narrower, but nicer, gravel/grassy path, and finally again out to paved streets with, for the first time, a sidewalk, although this one was a little wobbly.

The turnaround point came at Glen Echo Avenue, at Camp Fire USA. (Headquarters? A quick Google search just turns up "Retreat Center."

Well, this walk was more than a bit melancholy. Eight miles total and only about 15 feet of the original tracks still visible. As the line has been discontinued for only 43 years, I would've thought more of it would still be apparent. I felt like the boy from Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, who asks "Where are the Martians?"

The truth is, the trolley trail isn't really here anymore, and when the construction is complete, the trail will be something new and different; something of the 21st century.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Walk 48: Butler Creek Greenway Trail, Gresham (3 miles)

Last of the eastside walks from the book, although I plan to do one more "non-book" one at Powell Butte before I finish blogging these.

This one started at a trail off Binford Avenue, and meandered past creeks, over little bridges and led to the reflective and quiet Binford Lake.

Walking past this lake, I then came to the centerpiece of the walk, a large pond (or small lake?) at Butler Creek Park. I could see the willow tree from all sides as I walked around it. Truly scenic and relaxing.

As I left the park, the walk proceeded along local streets, past this English imported traffic device and eventually back to the starting point.

Just past the start/end point, I turned off on another path which crossed over the much grander Johnson Creek, until I met up with the Springwater Corridor Trail, which I'd been on in earlier walks. Here, I turned around and headed back to the car.

Ah, Binford Avenue. Reminded me of my first cat, Binky, who also went by the more formal name of Binford. He lived to the ripe old age of 18. Memories...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Walk 47: Portland Heights to Zoo (5.5 miles)

Walk 47 started at SW 18th and Jefferson, headed up 18th and under Highway 26, and took an immediate left along I-405. Loved the typical Portland graffiti exhorting us (someone in particular?) to "make things better."

Heading up Vista Avenue, I was treated to a great view of downtown Portland with Mt. Hood in the distance. What a lucky break to have such great weather this day!

As I made my way up 18th Avenue, I read in the book that there had been a cable car along this very steep road back in the late 1800's. After "several runaway crashes" it was discontinued in 1903. I can just imagine how terrifying a ride that would have been! It was replaced later by the Council Crest streetcar, which ran until the 1950's.

Up Spring Street, I passed Ainsworth Elementary School, notable for a couple of "Auction Winner" parking spaces up front, and an artificial turf soccer field permanently installed on the playground. Very nice.

Leaving Ainsworth, I crossed a 60-meter pedestrian bridge, looking down for a quick rush of adrenaline (and a bit of vertigo). I'm always good for a cheap thrill...

I then headed again up picturesque Montgomery Drive, eventually passing a house who's yard reminded me of an Italian villa/vineyard:

Turning right on Patton, I proceeded past Strohecker's/Lamb's, which has been there for over 100 years. I now know what attracts 'em in Portland Heights...

Then came a sharp right turn onto the Marquam Trail toward the Zoo. I had come up from this trail in the opposite direction on an earlier walk (38, the '4T'), so things were starting to look familiar now.

After the trail took me up to the Zoo and the Max stop, I descended in the elevator to 800 feet below the surface, where they preserved some lava that was drilled out of the Sylvan Hills ("boring" lava, though I found it mildly interesting).

As I rode the Max back to my starting point, I noticed a gentleman with a cowboy hat made from an 18-pack Rainier beer box. I pointed my camera toward the middle of the train, trying not to be obvious, but as I snapped the pic, he flashed a sideways peace sign. Cool, dude.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Walk 46: Portland: SE Creeks & Bridges (4.6 miles)

This walk started at the same spot as Walk 44 (SE 17th & Bybee), but turned right at Westmoreland Park instead of continuing straight toward the Crystal Springs Gardens.

First stop, Westmoreland Park, somewhat waterlogged from the spring rains but still rather picturesque. I spotted some petanque (pronounced "pay-tonk") players nearby, but didn't stay long, as this lawn bowling was a bit slow for my taste.

Through the park I walked parallel to Crystal Springs Creek, which eventually along 21st Avenue turned into Johnson Creek and the same-titled park:

I continued south until connecting with the Springwater Corridor Trail, which goes all the way from this point to Gresham, where it connected with much earlier Walk 17. Turning east, the trail crossed three bridges, over Johnson Creek, McLoughlin Boulevard and the Union Pacific train tracks. This was cool, because as I saw the red arch over the bridge, I remembered that I had seen this from the other end at the far point of Walk 25. It was all starting to fit together now!

From the bridge over McLoughlin Boulevard, I saw this blue building, which for a minute or two I thought the painting on the back said "Your ornamental tron specialists." "What's an ornamental tron?" I wondered, until I had another "doh!" moment as I realized the word was...iron. Ohh, brother.

Retracing my way back along the Springwater Trail, I then headed west into Andover Place, past the Waverly Country Club (more golfing I wasn't doing!) and then north on 9th Avenue.

Here I saw some out-of-circulation trains by the side of a street. Kind of unusual; kinda cool.

Right next to the trains was some new condo construction, which was a little weird because they were building behind a brick wall. Not sure if they're going to tear down the brick when they're done or leave it, but if so it seems strange to leave it there now.

Heading back toward the starting point, I entered a neighborhood that seemed vaguely familiar. I soon found out why: At 9th & Sherrett was the former site of the "T-Hows," where Lisa and I experienced some really great summer evenings with friends, drinking tea in a homemade community building, constructed by permaculturalist/architect Mark Lakeman. I found this article that describes Lakeman's efforts and what the tea house was about (but frustratingly no pictures), including:

Built during the winter of 1995 out of recycled doors and windows, plastic sheeting, and stormfall, it was a lovingly crafted tea house, built around and through the trees on a yard.

It's impossible to describe how cool this place was, and how sad it made me when it had to be dismantled due to local building codes, but the memory remains thanks to the "Share-it Square" (get it...Sherritt square?)... A kids' play area, painted intersection, and "T-Station." Maybe again, someday?

And so back to the start. And yes, at Westmoreland Park I did see yet another pukatron. As I walked past, it was spinning away, set in motion by unseen forces that were no longer present.