A cold bicycle cruise around the Peninsula

Saturday December 7. We were in the middle of “Arctic Blast 2013” or whatever you wanted to call it. While it was sunny and cloudless, daytime highs were barely hitting freezing, which is a big deal in this temperate region. Cold weather or not, I wasn’t going to be stopped from enjoying a nice long bike ride, especially since I had been itching for one for quite a bit.

The destination for this adventure? The “Peninsula”, also known as the outermost parts of North Portland, as the Willamette and Columbia Rivers create a sort of peninsula. I hadn’t been out to Kelley Point Park, the furthest point of the peninsula (and the furthest NW point in Portland) since probably “working” our Portland Perimeter Populaire during Pedalpalooza in June. A visit to this area was long overdue, cold extremities or not.

I layered up appropriately as the weather forecast issued dire warnings about the cold and wind chill. Wool baselayers, wool long socks, synth vest, wool sweater/jacket, wool neckwarmer, wool cap, and my new Rivendell anorak/windbreaker. I soon found out the windbreaker was overkill, as the wind was very light at best by the time I got out of the house and all the other woolness kept me warm.

From the house it was just a mile before I hit the beginning of the more-extensive-by-the-year (but not yet fully extensive) bike path network that line the lowlands between the Columbia Slough (a back channel of the river) and the main Columbia itself. This bike path was significant, however, because it just got paved very recently. It was a lovely mile on fresh pavement paralleling the Slough (besides the goose shit), then a rough connection to the path on the west side of Interstate Avenue.

Here I had some great views of mountains. Though it doesn’t come across well in the photo, I could see Mount Rainier just to the left of Mount Saint Helens. It’s always a great day when you can see Rainier from Portland, and it’s best on a winter/early spring day when ol’ Tahoma is laden with snow.

I took a moment to pause and reflect on my surroundings. Besides some birds (including a bird of prey flying overhead), the omnipresent drone of traffic in the distance, and planes flying overhead, things were pretty peaceful and quiet. I only saw a couple other cyclists on the path, and things didn’t feel quite as cold as I thought they would be. A perfect little moment.

I pressed onward and westward. Soon I came to Smith and Bybee Lakes. The top of the lakes were freezing over, which is a pretty rare sight. I doubt that it was more than an inch in thickness, but it was still cool to see that.

Then westward along the Marine Drive bike path. Right where it ends and leads into Kelley Point Park there is a stub of a bike path that heads southeastward along the Columbia Slough. I know the hope is to extend it to something, but right now it connects to nothing. And right now it’s closed off. Flaunting danger, I decide to ride as far in as I can. The path was mostly good with some bumpy sections, but right before the end I found the reason for the closure: a good 50 foot section had collapsed.

Since the path went nowhere, there wasn’t any need to fix it for now. Undaunted, I pushed through the wreckage and finally found the end of the line. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to be down here recently, as there were very obvious tire tracks, probably from an ATV, in the fresh snow.

I turned around and headed on towards Kelley Point. It was about 3 pm now, so I knew I didn’t have much daylight left, and then things would get really cold. (This would become the coldest night in the Portland area in 40 years, seeing a low of 12F/-11C.) I could feel that cold as the shadows increased down in the park, but I paused quick enough to see the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia.

From there I sprinted along N Lombard into the St Johns neighborhood where I enjoyed a well-deserved soup, sandwich, and beer at Proper Eats, then continued through the dark streets of North Portland back to my house in Woodlawn. A fun adventure altogether!

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