I’ve lived in Portland for almost 20 years. In these two decades I’ve gotten a good grasp on most of the 133 square miles of the Rose City, from the central core to the far-flung areas like St Johns and far East Portland. But after all this time, there’s one area that I still don’t have much of a handle on: Deep SW. This is the area just on the other side (west side) of the West Hills. I know downtown and the part of SW (and now just plain ol’ South) Portland that hugs the river. But away from there, it’s pretty much “Here Be Dragons” on my mental map.
It’s not for a lack of trying. I remember during the first month in town (April 2001), myself and my soon-to-be roommate Chris L. did extensive forays into various parts of town. Partially because we were looking for places to live, partially because we wanted to get to know our city. One day we decided to take the 12-Barbur Blvd bus out that way. We rode it for a bit, got off, said “F— this!” and immediately hopped on the next 12 heading downtown. All we saw was a land of strip malls and mid-century apartment complexes. Too suburban. We moved to Portland to “live in a city”, and this area seemed the opposite from what we wanted. Besides, we wanted walkability since neither owned a car (or even bicycles at the time). We didn’t want to walk along busy boulevards or sidewalkless streets and rely on infrequent buses to get to where we needed.*
Anyways, I have made many a foray into deep SW since then, and don’t have such a dim view of the area. (Heck, Chris L had a coffee shop out there a few years ago, so his opinion also changed.) I’ve gotten more familiar with the area, especially since my dentist is out that way. And I have tried to explore the area as much as I can. Heck, I’ve made forays into the westside suburb of Beaverton, too. I can say now that if I had to end up living out that way, I wouldn’t find it so bad. (Though I’d choose East Portland over it.)** But I don’t know if I’d be the “ride everywhere” cyclist that I am today if I ended up out that way first–so many hills, so few bike lanes.
One of the things I’ve told myself to do is seek out new places when I’m out that way. On Saturday September 19th, I dropped off a camera at Advance Camera for a CLA (Clean, Lube, Adjust.) Advance Camera is in Raleigh Hills, a suburban neighborhood neither in Portland or Beaverton.*** I figured if I was out there, I should at least find a new-to-me park. I looked at the map: Albert Kelly Park was not too far north of Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway (OR 10). So I pointed the van there and took a look.
Albert Kelly Park is a good mix of developed and natural. There’s a pretty big soccer field and some basketball courts off to the side. But I was most interested in the creek that ran through the middle. Restoration Creek feeds into Fanno Creek, just down the hill from the park, which then feeds into the Tualitin River and then the Willamette. The creek had been “daylighted” a few years back. Before, it ran in a pipe. Now, the city recreated a riparian landscape. It’s all new, so it’ll take a few years for it to look “lived in”. But I appreciate what they did.
This is one of the things I do like about this area: the hilly landscape means that there are more creeks in a (somewhat) natural state, or places where creeks can easily be daylighted. There were several creeks on the eastside, but the flatter topography meant that pretty much everything has been paved over and piped with just a few outliers (Johnson Creek, Errol Creek, Crystal Springs Creek, Wilkes Creek, the Columbia Slough.) The deep and steep ravines that the westside creeks carved were tough or impossible to cover, so they remained.
And I’m a sucker for those wooded ravines. The one positive that came from my first foray into SW was seeing the wooded hillsides. They reminded me of Connecticut. The forest is different, dominated by Douglas-fir, alder, bigleaf maple. But it still has that feeling. There’s not much on the eastside that gives off the same vibe. I spent many a summer day back home exploring brooks, so a nice stroll along a swift creek in the hills brings me back.
I’ll be back out that way soon–I’ll have to pick up that camera at some point. And when this pandemic lessens, I definitely should see my dentist again. The next time I’m out that way I’ll open up another map (whether physical or on the phone), find another new-to-me park, and head there for some exploration.
*For those of you partial to SW, I will say that I was harsh on a lot of neighborhoods back then. For instance, the first house I looked at was at NE Sandy and 59th. In 2001, I thought that was the end of the world. Now? I have lived near there, and live further out than that.
**After I moved to Portland I’d encounter former Portland residents on my travels. Some of them told me they had a miserable time living there, and couldn’t see what the big deal was. When I asked where they lived, they pretty much all lived in far East Portland or Deep SW.
***There are several urban/suburban neighborhoods that lie between Portland and Beaverton in unincorporated Washington County. Multnomah County doesn’t have any urbanized areas outside of city limits, mostly because the county made sure these areas would incorporate by taking away urban services. Neither Washington County or Clackamas County (the other suburban county in Oregon) have been as strict, so they both have scads of “not a real city” places.
I appreciate the details you added to your Deep SW story. Really, that goes for all of your stories. I’ve done a handful of long walks/hikes in SW, but certainly not as many as on the eastside. It’s possible we could end up moving to SW to be closer to family in time, so l might start exploring the area more frequently. I always take public transit to/from my walks when they’re far away from my house, so I’ll need to be sure to have my transit handy. Several years ago, I got stranded out near Lake Oswego when I missed the last bus on a route.
Oops … meant to say transit app