One of the things I love to do is explore this place I call home. Over the past twenty-odd years I’ve spent a lot of my free time on a bike or transit, seeking out new-to-me corners of the Portland metro area. Even though sometimes I get the feeling like I’ve “seen it all”, I’m constantly surprised by what I discover.
But there’s a few times where I’ve known about a place yet have never gone. A lot of these spots were far-flung, beyond the reach of transit or an easy bike ride. But sometimes there’s spots I’ve known about in areas I’ve repeatedly traveled to, yet haven’t seen. One of these areas is Kingsley D. Bundy City Park. It is one of the most obscure parks in the city, but it’s along Johnson Creek just east of Leach Botanical Gardens, a place I’ve gone to a lot over the years.
I’ve known about Bundy Park for a long time, ever since I got my copy of Wild In The City, a guide put out by the Audubon Society about the many different greenspaces around the Portland Metro Area. The circa 2004 Shawn read and re-read that thing until it became dog-eared, and it definitely has aided me in finding out about cool places to go. Kingsley D. Bundy Park was mentioned in that edition 1 and I did intend to explore it during one ride around then. But I didn’t bring the book, I just wrote down the approximate location. I didn’t find it. I knew that it was at the end of a dead-end off SE Foster, but there are a few and the ones I did travel down just dead-ended at a property. And this was the era before smartphones–I just had an okay bike map that didn’t include Bundy park. So I went home and filed away for “another time”.
That time didn’t come until Thursday March 10th. I was playing around with the idea of a Pedalpalooza ride exploring some of the hidden wonders of the Johnson Creek watershed, so on this pretty nice early spring day (partly cloudy, 51F/10C) I decided to take a much-needed ride on my Bantam. During this ride I hit up a few other secret spots along the watershed, like the source of Crystal Springs Creek and “Knapp Falls”. I almost didn’t go all the way to Bundy, as I was a bit tired and needed to meet up with someone around 6, but decided if not now, when?
And I almost didn’t find it, again. I knew that it was at the end of SE 141st south of Foster. But riding east on Foster from 122, I only saw a sign for 140, then 142. I turned down 142nd, and at the end of that road was a small bridge (owned by the City) over Johnson Creek that led to an ominously fenced-off field, with a “Cameras In Use” sign. This was not it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s what happened last time.
So I back-tracked. And where 141st should be, I found a single-lane dirt alley. I followed that for a little bit, and was greeted by a chain over the road and a “No Camping” sign provided by Portland Parks. This must be it. 2 And man, is this obscure or what? No sign, no street sign. Just a sign telling me what not to do as evidence of who owns this land.
And man, they really don’t want people to camp down here. About 100 feet after the chain was a gate and some logs, the logs chained in place. I lifted my bike over that, only to find another big log across the path another 50 feet in. I decided to lock the bike and walk the rest of the way in. What I found was some mature second-growth of Douglas fir and cedar alongside Johnson Creek. It was pretty peaceful–the rush of the creek in this little valley pretty much negated the traffic sound of SE Foster. And the creek itself was pretty, though it had a strong turquoise color that puzzled me.
One tree had a small metal plaque saying “In memory of Kingsley D. Bundy”, the only evidence of the park’s namesake. I’m guessing they owned this land and donated it to the city, much like The Leachs did with their garden. I can see why it wouldn’t be developed–seasonal flooding in a small canyon. When I got home and looked at some city maps, I can see there are many other open space parcels nearby, none of them formally developed nor really open to the public. So I’m glad that Bundy Park is open, though they make it really hard for you to get here!
Upon leaving, I had a perverse thought: What if I did camp here? Even though I’m not the biggest stealth camper, from time to time I have toyed with in-city destinations. I did camp up on top of Powell Butte one summer night, and there was the whole “stealth camping on Sauvie Island” trip, but that’s outside of the city. This could be a good spot. It’s very obscure and they made it very hard for people to get down here. There’s lots of trees and very little litter, so I don’t think people really hang out down here. But there are a few houses nearby–I’d worry that my light would catch their eye and lead to my discovery. Probably too risky, but still a romantic notion.
It was getting late, and I had an appointment to make, so I rode off. Now that I know how to get down here, I know I’ll be back. When exactly, I don’t know…
1 This is the original 2000 edition. The revised 2011 edition (the one that doesn’t have an otter on the front) does not include Bundy Park.
2 To the book’s credit, Wild in the City pretty accurately described how to enter the park. I just didn’t have the book with me any time I tried to find it. You think I would have learned…