If you’ve been intently following the blog this year, (all five of you!) you may note the trend of going on an adventure during one of my days off, whether a bike ride, camping, or a hike. I’ve managed to do one each week, with the exception of the first week of February (when I was sick.) One of the big benefits of doing “something” each week is that it gets me outside when I might just wallow in apathy and moodiness instead. Doing something outdoors besides the usual work-a-day commute and errands (meaning doing something “for fun”) helps keep my balance, so to speak.
It would be easy to do the types of rides and such that come naturally. But I want to challenge myself a bit. Not necessarily meaning “extreme rides”, but to go to places that I don’t go often. And the same thing happens for walks: I’m trying to go to new places, or revisit places I haven’t been in a long time.
So for my adventure last week, I decided a foot expedition to SW Portland was in order. SW is a weird quadrant divided into three distinct zones:
- “Inner” SW that includes downtown and the stuff hugging the Willamette southward. This is the zone everyone (whether visitors or us eastside folks) know best, because, y’know, downtown. (I spent my first month in Portland living in this zone, which is weird to think about these days.)
- The “Hills”, containing Portland’s showcase park, Washington Park, impressive views, and expensive homes.
- “Outer” SW, which consists of rolling hills and lots of post-war suburban development. Us eastsiders have little reason to head to this zone.
So obviously a venture to “zone three” was in order. While I could bike there (and have biked there), it takes a long time and is one of the worst places in town to bike. No, foot would be better, especially since what I’d want to explore is only foot-accessible: the areas around Tryon Creek, a mostly free-flowing stream that flows into the Willamette. It’s been a long time since I had been over this way, a few years at least. I had to make amends with that wrong.
It was about an hour or so on buses to get over to there. (And bus service to this area ain’t great, to put it mildly.) The 43 bus dropped me just outside Marshall Park. The suburban neighborhood above quickly morphed into a steeply-sided wooded canyon. And Tryon Creek entered the park via a set of pools and drops commonly known as the “Marshall Cascades”. This feature is one of the big draws to coming over here, because not only is the east side bereft of streams, but the ones that there are don’t drop as much (or at all, if you take into account the mostly tidal Columbia Slough.) The east side was too flat, so most streams got paved over. The west side is too hilly so the streams survived, mostly.
Marshall Park is a nice little obscure city park with a well-worn path. However, crossing SW 12th Pl, the trail, though marked as SW Trails Route 5, becomes less pronounced. While it seems it wants to make you head downward to the creek, in reality the best route is to stick to the top of the ridge, as there is no “official” through trail to Tryon Creek State Park, though there is a very unofficial one. (I tried it a few years back, it required bushwhacking, a creek fording, and a scramble up a steep embankment.) The “official” route was still rough, and required some bushwhacking to get back onto roads that would lead me to the North Creek Trail into Tryon Creek State Park.
Ah, Tryon Creek State Park, the centerpiece of this creek. It’s got an interesting history: first homesteaded, then logged to provide “charcoal” for Oregon’s iron industry, then logged just for the sake of logging, it was ripe for development in the ’70s, until a group of concerned neighbors under the banner of Friends of Tryon Creek got it made into a state park. (Read more about it via the link above.) And it’s a very nice park with lots of trails, most foot, a few horse, and one paved bike, winding through its lands.
I always like coming here, but don’t get over here as much as I should due to the difficulties in getting here. And it seems to be a place forgotten/unknown by us eastsiders: there’s no sweeping city view to be gained, just contemplative hikes through woods. Tryon Creek slows a bit through the park and meanders while the valley opens up a bit. Walking down by the creek, I’m amazed by the quiet. Yes, there’s always that distant buzz of automotive traffic, as we are in a city, but here it’s really distant. No, I hear the gurgling of the brook, the wind in trees, songbirds and birds of prey. Being down here reminds me of my youth in Connecticut, where no matter where I lived, there was a brook nearby, brooks that I explored in all seasons, swimming in pools, wading up the stream, rambling along the sides. I don’t get that type of experience this often in Portland.
After exploring the park some, I hiked out and onto city streets. SW Terwilliger was in full-on evening rush hour mode, and while I had a bit more daylight for exploring, I didn’t feel like dealing with traffic. So I hopped a bus, took a pause at Sasquatch Brewing, and headed home. It was about 5 miles of hiking altogether, not bad. I know that I’ll need to do more SW exploring at some point…
Ride With GPS route here.