Gravitating towards Grant Butte: A ramble, 17 March 2021

Dilapidated homestead next to Southwest Park, 17 March 2021. Olympus 35RD/Kentmere 400

As the weather warms and a hoped-for touring season is on the horizon, I’ve been wanting to get in longer rides. I haven’t gotten much of anything north of 20 miles in lately, so I want to up the mileage a bit, aim more for 30 if possible. I like doing these rides in the middle of the week, as I have a flexible schedule. Wednesday March 17rd was shaping up to be a great spring-like day, cler and a high scraping 60F/16C. (It seems like the best weather days during the week have happened consistently on Wednesday over the past couple months!) I pulled out the Bantam for the first time in a bit and headed east.

I had a vague goal of heading towards Grant Butte, an obscure volcanic cinder cone that rises above SE Division St where Portland fades into Gresham. I had never been up there before, today could be a good day. My idea of routing was to hit up the Midway Post Office on SE Stark and 102nd first as I needed to drop off some mail. I then wanted to ramble through some new-to-me or barely visited parks in deep SE while hitting up some roads I don’t normally ride.

What parks did I hit up?

  • Midland Park. This park is tucked behind Midland Library on SE 122nd Ave just south of Stark. I’ve been there before a few times, but I wanted to check out the newish naturescaping they did in 2017. The idea was to have several different habitats, like forest, prairie, and butterfly garden. You can see more about that here.
  • North Powellhurst Park. This obscure greenspace is just east of David Douglas High School. I’ve been here once before, but it’s probably been like fifteen years. I dug the “rough-stuff’ path that wound its way through a patch of Douglas fir trees. I didn’t dig the fencing that divides up the park (courtesy of the adjacent school), which caused me to backtrack as my bike couldn’t fit through the barely two foot wide opening they provided.
  • Verdell Burdine Rutherford Park. Located south of SE Main and east of 162nd, basically at Portland’s city line, this park was formely known as Lynchview Park (named after the adjacent school.) It got renamed last year for a Black woman who was involved in the NAACP during the mid-late 20th century. They built a new and grand playground too, and installed a Portland Loo, the bare-bones public bathrooms they never close. That came in handy right about then!

Finally Grant Butte was in my sights. I first aimed for the “main access road” that led to the water tank area. But man, it looked steep, steep as that descent down SE Raymond from Powell Butte a couple weeks previous! Plus, they were doing “construction”, so I didn’t want to push my bike all the way up to get turned around. So I tried to go up a side trail, but it was sketchy and muddy, and oh yeah, steep as well. Ah well. Grant Butte doesn’t look like the type of place that’s well-loved or maintained. I’ll try again some other point, probably on foot. Sounds like there’s hella stinging nettles up there, so I’ll make sure I wear long pants.

Instead, I went to the east side of Grant Butte to explore the wetlands. This marshy area is the headwaters of Fairview Creek, a five mile long stream that runs north into Fairview Lake, which is now the modern source of the Columbia Slough. This land was a dairy farm up until about 1990, and Metro (our regional government) bought it in 2014. They’ve been doing remediation here, restoring the wetlands to what it looked like before Euro settlement. I had been on the Gresham-Fairview trail to the east of the wetlands, but never the upland to the west. There was a bit of garbage near SE Division, but nothing as I got deeper in. The soil was rough and bumpy so I pushed the bike. I got down to the water’s edge and watched the geese chill in the creek for a bit. It was a bit peaceful despite the drone of SE Division. I can only imagine what it was like in the before times.

I then got on the section of the Gresham-Fairview Trail between SE Division and Powell. This trail follows the path of an old interurban line, one that branched off the Springwater line at Linneman Junction, headed north to Ruby Junction where it crossed another interurban that ran from Montavilla to Gresham, and then ultimately to Troutdale. It saw passenger service until about the Depression, then was used for freight. It sounds like freight was pretty intermittent after 1960, but the first MAX light rail train cars were actually delivered by freight train to the Ruby Junction shop in the mid-80s! (The Springwater Corridor was still an active rail corridor then, ceasing service around 1990.)

Rather than immediately getting on the Springwater Trail and heading west towards home, there was one last greenspace to explore. I have seen on my maps a green bit named Southwest Park that was just immediately south of Grant Butte. Satellite imagery showed a bunch of trees. It was worth exploring. What I found was an informal natural area, half wooded with Douglas firs, the other half a field. The park went all the way down to the edge of the wetlands. I figured a spot this obscure would be empty, but that wasn’t the case! There were kids biking, people walking their dogs and the like. Not a lot of people, but clearly the neighborhood uses it. The rambling around on the bike was fun. But the best part was the abandoned and fenced off property adjacent to the park. The house and old car were in a state of accelerated entropy, returning to the forest. The things you find in the out of the way places…

Now satisfied enough with exploring the area, I head home. I got to the house right at sunset (thank you, Daylight Saving!) with just about 26 miles on the trip odometer. A good little bike ride. I definitely want to get out to that part of Gresham again for more exploring.

For photos of this ride, see the dynamic flickr album below. Or click here.

Fairview Creek Headwaters, 17 March 2021

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