A Slough Country Ramble, 27 December 2019

As I stated previously on this blog, riding down by the Columbia Slough is my “jam”. I lived near the western part of it for five years, so it was always easy to cruise down there. But I don’t live near it anymore. There’s not a lot I miss about the house in Woodlawn,* but quick access to the Slough is one.

Friday December 27 was a typical winter day in Portland–a temperature of about 45F/7C, a steely grey sky, a hint of sprinkles, a general overall damp feel in the air. I think when people complain about Portland weather, they aren’t complaining as much about rain, but about days like this. There was no sun. I don’t mind days like today, and there was sun the previous day, so I’ll survive.

I decided to hit the more eastern portion of the Slough, the one that is roughly east of the Airport and I-205. This area is closer to home. The Slough out here has a different character than the west. The western Slough is wider, there’s more woods and bike paths, and the industry a bit more removed. The eastern section the Slough is narrower and hemmed in by commerce and industry, and there is no great continuous path.** You have to seek out the green amongst the grime.

The trail by Dharma Rain Zen Center.

So on this gloomy Friday I went seeking out the green. The first stop on the way to the Slough: the land around the Dharma Rain Zen Center, south of NE Siskyou and to the east of 82nd. This former landfill now is primarily open land with a Buddhist temple. The east side of the property features a little wooded ravine that’s hidden from the neighborhood surrounding it. I ran into a few dogwalkers down there. The neighborhood is definitely using this resourse.

Johnson Lake.

The next stop: Johnson Lake, just south of the Slough to the east of I-205. (Editor’s Note, 9 Jan 2021: The City of Portland must have done one of their periodic “redirecting/scrubbling of URLs, as the link goes nowhere. And I can’t even find Johnson Lake on the Park’s website! WTF?) Johnson Lake is pretty obscure, and that’s why I like it! It was once a privately owned lake, owned by one Harry Johnson. The lake was spring fed and clear, Mr. Johnson had built a dance hall next to it, and oh how the neighborhood loved to swim in it. But then a series of unfortunate events happened: the dance hall burned down, the glass plant opened on the south shore and wasted no time in polluting it, I-205 chopped off a bit of the eastern park. Now it’s a relatively placid body of water, surrounded by woods, industry, and freeway. No one fishes here or swims here anymore, and for good reason.

But..it’s peaceful. I rode along the trail that follows the north shore. I didn’t see anyone else down here, but that wasn’t a big surprise.*** More surprising was the lack of trash. I expected to see a bunch of garbage, but hardly anything. Could it be the relative obscurity of the place, a robust clean-up program, or possibly both? I enjoyed the solitude by the water’s edge for a moment,**** and wondered how it was back in the day.

The path along the Columbia Slough just east of NE 158th Ave.

I moved eastward. I chose Airport Way because it was direct and had bike lanes. There’s not a lot of options out this way. The road was busier than I had hoped. I was thinking that the days between Christmas and New Years would mean a bit more chill environment, but not so. So I pressed on, stopping for lunch and a pint at Level Beer, and then re-encountered the Slough at NE 158th Ave. I rode that for a little bit, but night was coming so I decided to head home.

It was a fun ride overall, maybe 20 or so miles. (The Robin Hood doesn’t have a computer, and I rarely “live track” my rides.) I need to get on the bike more often, and get back down this way for more explorations.

*Other things I miss: The size of my bedroom, the size of the backyard, the size of the basement, a mile from Ranch Pizza.

**It’s been “on the books” for decades, though. Hopefully they’ll build the planned paths before I get too old…

***I did see one tent tucked into the woods, but I was definitely expecting more.

****After a bit, the noise from the freeway is less noticeable.

3 thoughts on “A Slough Country Ramble, 27 December 2019

Add yours

  1. I always love how you show us the obscure corners of PDX. That wasn’t something we did while living there. As for the gloomy winters, perception depends on where you came from. Native Portlanders seemed to complain the most. For me, it’s where I learned to bike commute year round and enjoyed skiing in the Cascades endless snow. I still have friends who transplanted themselves from Michigan and Vermont who now call PDX home.

  2. ooooh, I’m excited about this adventure, mostly cuz I don’t know some of this stuff–which means, new stasia adventure in the works! Thanks for the inspiration:)

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