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.
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.
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.
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.