With a full belly, a bottle of water and a first-rate guide book, I set out today under concrete skies to establish a new routine: a weekly walk or hike, preferably in an area unfamiliar to me.
I had with me a copy of “Portland Hill Walks,” a guide to 20 explorations in parks and neighborhoods written by Laura O. Foster. Filled with maps, photos and short essays detailing the history and landmarks of each hike, it is an indispensable resource and one I plan to refer to regularly.
When the year began, I resolved to do more of two things: 1. Get out of town. 2. Try new things.
Well, I didn’t leave the city limits but I did cross the river to a destination 8 miles from home and I did try a new thing.
Today’s walk took me to Southwest Portland, a 3-mile route beginning in Multnomah Village and looping through the Vermont Hills.
The walk started and finished in Gabriel Park, 90 acres of open space with baseball, softball and soccer fields; basketball, tennis and volleyball courts; a skatepark, off-leash area for dogs, walking paths cutting through a grassy meadow and, most surprising, a wetlands area with western red cedars and a footbridge over a creek.
(Full disclosure: Actually, the morning began at Marco’s Cafe and Espresso Bar. Hey, the book recommended it under nearby Food and Drink. What’s an obedient reader to do?)
Anyway, it was a great start to my new weekly activity.
In a city with nearly 300 parks and natural areas, most residents can probably name their own neighborhood park as a favorite. By using “Portland Hill Walks” as a guide, I can not only familiarize myself with these little gems, but I can also get some up-and-down exercise too.
Today’s walk took me up and down residential streets, curving through quiet, well-maintained neighborhoods with signs of whimsy, creativity and casual comfort.
This being Oregon, I walked in a mist or light drizzle some of the time, dodged several mud puddles and spied other people out for a run or walk.
I also met one four-legged resident, a big ol’ Black Labrador named Louis, who was taking his human for a walk on Southwest 32nd Avenue.
Typical of his breed — and reminiscent of our own Max — he was friendly, wagging his tail as he approached.
“Oh, look,” his owner said. “He thinks you’re his new owner.”
Fresh air. Low-impact exercise. New sights and scenes. What’s not to like?