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.

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