After four outings under cloudy and often wet conditions, what a treat it was to do my weekly urban hike in glorious sunshine.
Thursday’s 64 degrees came within two of matching Portland’s record temperature for the date. It may not sound like much to those accustomed to warmer winter temps, but to me it was downright luxurious to hike up and down city streets in a polo shirt and cargo shorts.
I picked out a short hike — Portland Heights to the South Park Blocks to Goose Hollow and up Vista Avenue — knowing I had less time than usual. But I also chose this loop because I knew it would be especially satisfying on a clear day.
I wasn’t wrong.
The hike began near Ainsworth Elementary School in Southwest Portland and took me on residential streets I’d never been on before, providing views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams in Washington state; the city skyline, from the distinctive arch of the Fremont Bridge to familiar office buildings downtown; and Oregon’s most iconic peak, Mount Hood, on the eastern horizon.
The loop took me down to the South Park Blocks and the Portland State University campus, bringing me within a block of where I used to work downtown; through Goose Hollow and up a concrete staircase I never would have discovered on my own; and back up Vista Avenue, past a succession of mansions and grand homes originally occupied by many of the city’s leading businesspeople and professionals.
(Click on photos to view captions.)
Today Portland Heights reeks of affluence. It’s a BMW neighborhood and many of the homes are built into the hillsides, sometimes on seemingly precarious foundations. This is a primary attendance area for Lincoln High School, widely viewed as the city’s most academically rigorous public high school, and attended by the sons and daughters of doctors, lawyers and other professionals.
I don’t say any of this with jealousy or resentment, but simply as an observation. It’s remarkable, though, that these stately homes — on streets named Elm, Laurel and Myrtle — are situated in a compact area not far from scruffy Burnside Street and two freeways (U.S. 26 and I-405).
The most eye-opening aspect of the hike? Ambling down SW Cardinell Drive, a street that snakes down a hill to the PSU campus, and enjoying views of the city skyline while passing ostentatious homes that defy easy description.
Thanks once again to Laura O. Foster and her marvelous book, “Portland Hill Walks,” for providing the inspiration to get out and about in my own city.