Walking Portland

We had this book for years before bothering to crack it open. When we finally did, a whole new world opened under our feet.  Portland Hill Walks, and the sister book Portland City Walks are wonderfully detailed guided tours, filled with stories of Portland’s history…

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The amount of research and care that went into these books is astounding, and every bit of it is interesting. The only challenge is trying to follow along and keep it all straight as the miles pile up behind you. Portland owes Laura O. Foster a huge debt. Without these books, many of these amazing stories would be lost to time. Instead, the history comes alive as you walk some of the Portland areas most interesting neighborhoods (Hillsboro is noticeably absent… though, it might make an interesting footnote in a future book).

Each walk is about 4 to 6 miles in length, with a map, general advice/directions, and key point marked on the map and text to help you keep track of where you are in the narration vs. ground. I take a photo of each map, and use an iPhone app called Map Overlay, which overlays the map on my iPhone GPS… This makes following all the turns a lot easier. (Maybe someday, we’ll have GPS-enabled narration too, so you can listen while you walk?).

In addition to the interesting history, it’s nice to have a reason to explore Portland’s many neighborhoods. The walks have taken me to many places I’d never have discovered otherwise, and they’re all right here in town. At this point, we’ve done about 2/3 of the walks in both books – that’s a lot of walking. I’m not sure if there is some kind of prize for completing all the walks, but perhaps there ought to be?

As you might guess by the title, “Portland Hill Walks” focus on the hilly areas around the city… these also tend to be pretty interesting neighborhoods anyway. The walks utilize the labyrinth of concrete staircases that connect streets all over the city. There are more of these than you might realize – they’re like secret pathways…

There are staircases like this one hidden in hilly neighborhoods throughout Portland. This one is in the Nob Hill area of NW Portland.

There are staircases like this one hidden in hilly neighborhoods throughout Portland. This one is in the Nob Hill area of NW Portland.

Inevitably the walks take you by homes most of us can only dream about. This one isn’t even especially notable… I just happen to have a photo of it.

This house could be yours for the low low price of $1.175M. 3 Bedrooms, 2 baths... 3486sq ft... and a killer location in the NW Portland hills. I'm a bit amazed that anyone can afford to live in these places. My mortgage payment is only half of what they pay in property tax!

This house could be yours for the low low price of $1.175M. 3 Bedrooms, 2 baths… 3486sq ft… and a killer location in the NW Portland hills. I’m a bit amazed that anyone can afford to live in these places. My mortgage payment is only half of what they pay in property tax!

Once nice perk of the hill walks are the views… this is a well-known view from near Pittock Mansion, in Portland’s west hills.

A view to the east on a hazy morning. Mt. Hood rises above the city skyline of Portland. The sun was reflecting off the buildings, giving a sort of back-glow.

A view to the east on a hazy morning. Mt. Hood rises above the city skyline of Portland. The sun was reflecting off the buildings, giving a sort of back-glow.

The walks slowly take you by the underside of places you might otherwise drive by without a thought.

I'm not sure who brough English Ivy to Portland, but I hope they're happy. While this invasive weed can look neat on passing observation, it completely envelops anything it encounters, choking native trees and plants. It's a constant struggle to contain, as it's very difficult to remove.

I’m not sure who brough English Ivy to Portland, but I hope they’re happy. While this invasive weed can look neat on passing observation, it completely envelops anything it encounters, choking native trees and plants. It’s a constant struggle to contain, as it’s very difficult to remove.

Many of the walks head through trails in Portland’s many parks. This one is a short section just below Council Crest.

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I think we’ve walked through about a dozen cemeteries as well. They’re peaceful, moody, creepy, and just plain neat. This one is Greenwood Hill Cemetery, in the southwest hills.

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Speaking of spooky walks through the land of the dead… Here’s a view inside the Portland Memorial Mausoleum in the Sellwood neighborhood. This place has nearly 6 miles of hallways… and while there are lots of residents, none of them are living.

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Ok, enough of the dead… how about a stroll through Crystal Springs Rhododendron Park? Try to visit in early May to catch the Rhododendrons at their peak.

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Another neighborhood a little bit out of my price range…

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The walks pass by many of Portland’s city colleges. It’s a good excuse to visit these campuses – otherwise only the realm of faculty & students. Doyle is an old dorm hall at Reed College. The books include all kinds of details about how these places came to be as they are.

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It’s fun to stumble upon pathways I never knew existed. This pedestrian bridge crosses a ravine on the Reed College campus.

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And this walkway connects a couple buildings together at OHSU.

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One constant on many of the walks… cats. This fluffy individual demanded attention!

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Around every corner, there’s a new discovery to make you smile and say “neat!”

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A few of the walks venture into Portland’s outlaying areas… from Forest Grove to Oregon City. One of them heads through Lake Oswego. I might poke fun at the snooty attitude that’s pervasive in “LO”, but some of these lakeside properties are quite nice.

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We’ve done walks in all seasons… But, mostly we seem to do them in the winter, as they’re a quick way to get outside, and comfortable enough to do even if the weather is a bit yukky. Here’s a little fall color in a park in north Portland.

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I’ll be sure to post many more walks as they happen – this post is simply to catch-up a bit.

 

 

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