Finding Balance, or a Council Crest Hike, 29 Nov 2016

It’s been a not fun November for me. I mean, there’s the current state of the world, which I have been thinking about a bunch. (And when I’m too burnt out on thinking about the current state of the world, I feel guilty that I’m not thinking about the current state of the world.) Then there was the whole business with my front bag getting stolen and moosemoose being lost in the process. And it’s been another wet and dark month, not one to lift up my moods.

And the problem with the shorter days is that I can only realistically do an outdoor adventure on one of my days off. While there’s generally about a good hour of daylight left after I get out of work, that’s not enough for something extensive. And while I am no stranger to night rides, sometimes I want to actually see the areas I’m going through. So I have to make a point of taking one of my days off to do something outdoors. That didn’t happen much this past month. I had other projects on my mind, household stuff. By the time I realized I needed to get out there for my own damn good, it’d be 4 pm on Wednesday (my days off are Tuesday-Wednesday), not much time to do anything. Then as the work week wore one, I sorely realized how much I should have done something for my own mental health.

Well, this past week I wasn’t going to let it slip away from me. I decided to go on a hike on Tuesday. It’s always better to plan this stuff for the first day off rather than the second, so I don’t get distracted and somehow forget or wuss out. And it also helped that Tuesday would be the better day of my two days off, mostly dry (one 3 minute shower!) with a temp hovering around 50F/10C. Since I’m still “breaking in” my new Alico hiking boots and I bike commute, I decided to do a hike. While there are a few scattered options for a good hike on the east side of town, the best bet for hikes in town is on the west side, as the West Hills offer a ton of options. (And it’s always an excuse to go into an area of town I don’t normally frequent!) I decided to head up to Council Crest, the highest point in town at about 1,070 feet. It’s a place I have hiked to plenty of times before, but it’s been almost two years since the last time I had been up there on foot. What better time than now?

This time I decided to start the hike with a good urban section, getting off the Portland Streetcar on NW 23rd Ave. I only really spent anytime on “Trendy Third” in the first year I lived in town (2001) since I had a job off of it. I didn’t care much for it then, and still don’t (a bit too upscale for my tastes) but it’s nice to check it out every once in awhile. At W Burnside, the street turns into SW Vista Ave, and starts pitching steeply up into the hills. At the top of Kings Hill, I passed the Vista St Clair highrise apartment building, where I spent my first month in town, crashing on the floor of Dylan (RIP) and Emily’s pad. (Dylan passed away in 2011, I still do miss him a lot.) I don’t typically walk up Vista as it’s a bit busier than I like, but it has a nice steady grade since it was the route of one of Portland’s last old-school streetcars.

I turned off Vista at Spring, right by Ainsworth School. I like this part of the route because it uses a secret foot bridge, a secret foot path, and a secret set of stairs to almost get up to the top of Council Crest! Then the top itself, a nice spot to see the city and the mountains. Unfortunately it was too cloudy to see Hood or any of the other big snowy volcanic peaks. But unlike most times I’m up here, it wasn’t windy, so I didn’t feel the urgent need to keep moving.

From the top, I descended downward via the Marquam Trail. While the Wildwood Trail is longer and more well known, the shorter and more urban Marquam has its charms. And besides a few short “urban” sections, stays in the woods. The trail snaked down into what’s known as the Marquam Ravine, a second-growth protected natural area. While there’s houses all around, and you can definitely hear the city in the distance, it’s enough of a removed feeling to recharge my batteries. As dark neared, I made my way for the Marquam Hill neighborhood, aka “Pill Hill”, a weird mix of residential neighborhood and lots and lots of hospitals. In fact, to get to the Aerial Tram, I needed to walk through part of a hospital!

But the Aerial Tram is a gem, an unparalleled view of the city, provided that you are not afraid of heights, or being squished in a pod with 50 or so people during rush hour as the tram swings over I-5 and all. But that view! It had finally cleared up, and I had a great view of Mount Hood at the golden hour. A beautiful end to a great day.

I hiked about 7 miles. I was definitely tired at the end, and my feet were a li’l sore, but no major complaints. Yeah, I need to do this more often. And I need to make sure I do something like this regularly. It’s good for my mental health.

You can see my route here.

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