Finding my new “jam”: Mid-County

The Raleigh Crested Butte at Luuwit View Park, 27 May 2020. Camera: Pentax IQ Zoom 170SL. Film: Kodak Ultramax 400,

For many years, hitting the area around the Columbia Slough, especially west of Portland International Airport, was my “jam”. It was the place I’d head to if I wanted to go on a bike ride and not really think about where to go on a bike ride. The Columbia Slough was easy: it was just a couple miles from my house in Woodlawn, had cool bike paths and scenery, and felt removed from the rest of Portland. I knew that I wouldn’t hit up this area as much when I moved from that house last year. It was going to be relatively far from me to go there regularly. I knew I was going to miss that access, along with access to the rest of the North Portland Peninsula. But living in North Tabor with Emee is a much better situation than the five years of purgatory in Woodlawn.

It’s taken a year for me to figure out what my new jam is. No, it’s not the obvious: While I love Mount Tabor, I don’t go there as much as I should. And while I love hoofing it around the streets of the Tabor neighborhoods, when I bike, I want to get a bit further out. Something a little different. Something that’s not the same-old, same-old of inner Southeast and Northeast, places I have biked ad nauseam for almost two decades. Nope, for biking I’ve been heading east.

Why east? Well, it’s an area that I’m not as familiar with, so I want to explore. And when I say east, I’m not just talking about neighborhoods east of my house, like Montavilla. I’m talking about the area once known as Mid-County, now as East Portland, the zone to the east of I-205 and west of Gresham. This once farmland was made into suburbia mostly in the 1950’s. The street grid comes discontinuous. There’s a mix of nicer neighborhoods and some of the poorest districts in the city, places where people who were gentrified out of inner Portland ended up.

There’s lots of interesting nooks and crannies out this way, and because they’re “off the beaten path”, it doesn’t feel as stale and cliche as riding the Springwater again. I don’t have any “go-to” circuit, though I tend to hit up the side streets of the Hazelwood, Russell and Parkrose Heights neighborhoods (just east of 205 and north of Burnside) a bunch. They’re chock-a-block with mid-century ranches and windy streets, semi-secret cut-throughs, and a taste of gravel. Oh yes, there is some choice gravel out this way.

The Bantam at Foster Floodplain, 24 May 2020. Konica C35 EF, Fomapan 400.

And it’s not just those neighborhoods: I’ll find myself heading across I-84 and down into Parkrose and Argay, then onto the outer reaches of the Slough. Or, I can head south and hit up the areas around Johnson Creek, like Foster Flood Plain or the Covered Bridge on SE Deardorf, or the secret “Knapp Falls”.

And of course places like Powell Butte are out this way, which I also don’t go to as much as I should. Heck, there’s a bunch of buttes out this way worth exploring, like Gresham Butte. There’s plenty of areas out this way that I don’t know much about. So I have my work cut out for me!

I still enjoy the areas in “my old jam”. And I definitely need to get out that way again. And there’s that whole world of outer SW that’s still waiting to be explored…

Cedar Crossing, Multnomah County’s only “covered bridge”. SE Deardorff Road over Johnson Creek. 27 June 2020. Camera: Pentax IQZoom 170SL. Film: Fuji Superia Xtra 400.

3 thoughts on “Finding my new “jam”: Mid-County

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  1. I’m glad you shared your other, older blog. I enjoyed reading the last essay in particular, I’ll be curious to look at some of the others, in time. Most of all I really like your writings on rides and explorations around Portland. You’re such an accomplished cyclist, a wonderful advocate, role model as it were for biking as a fundamentla means of life. I’ve taken a renewed interest in biking this summer. Your journal has been a particularly timely find for me. Think I ran across you on Dan James’ blog, I’m not sure. At any rate, a wonderful journal here. One thought I’ve had now that has been a theme in my thinking as I’ve read your articles, is wondering about how hills come into play down in Portland. Hills are a real barrier for my riding in town, here (Seattle). Not insurmountable, there are workarounds as our large bike community will attest. But it has made me wonder about what that’s like down in your neck of the woods.

    p.s. Really enjoy the art you’ve shared in the blog, too

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