Coffee Outside and a Forest Park Ride: 21 May 2022

At MP 6 1/2 on Leif Erikson Drive, Forest Park. 21 May 2022. Minolta XD5/MC Celtic 28mm f/2.8 lens/Ilford HP5+/Ilfosol 3 1:9 at 5:30 in Rondinax 35U tank

It’s been a wet late spring, so if something’s going on during a nice day, I seize that opportunity. The weekly Portland Coffee Outside meetup was happening at Poet’s Beach on Saturday May 21st, and it was going to be beautiful out. So I rolled the five or so miles from my house down to this public beach on the west side of the Willamette River just south of downtown. There were a couple dozen people there by the time I got there. My coffee kit was simple: Esbit stove with pot to boil water, pour over bags from Backporch Coffee Roasters. It’s the type of no-fuss kit when I don’t want to think too hard about it.

The crowd dissipated around noon. I had no obligations on this great day, might as well go for a ride. I decided to head up to Forest Park and ride Leif Erikson Drive. This “drive” is actually an eleven mile/eighteen kilometre dirt road through second-growth forest, Portland’s best opportunity for “gravel grinding” without leaving the city.

Coffee Outside at Poet

But it’s been maybe four years since I rode it. Why? Well, while it’s not that far from my house (about eight miles of riding to get to the Thurman Rd. Trailhead), to incorporate it into a ride and not just an out-and-back means a least a 35 mile loop. I’m no longer the type of rider that can “bang out” 35 miles no problem, it’s now in the “major commitment” category. And I thought about riding it back in 2020 when pandemic meant rides like this are in vogue. But I wasn’t riding transit back then due to the fear of the virus, so rides like this were daunting.

I pointed my Bantam towards the Thurman Street Trailhead, first making a pit stop at Food Front for food to bring with me. The parking near the trailhead was quite jammed and there was a good deal of walkers within the first couple miles. But once you get beyond that first two miles, the “crowds” thin out since barring the Saltzman Road trailhead, there’s no real trailheads again until towards the end. It was just me, other cyclists, and a few hardy runners.

The first three miles are fine, but I find that the riding and the scenery get better after milepost 3. Here is also where I make my customary food stop, as there’s a lone picnic table where the Chestnut Trail meets Leif at about MP 3 1/2. Two unnamed creeks also meet right here, so the sound of a gurgling brook accompanying lunch is pleasant. This part of Forest Park is very rustic, the only other picnic tables on Leif Erikson are around MP 6 where the Drive intersects Saltzman “Road”.

From here Leif Erikson stays fairly level, though there are some small ups-and-downs at it crosses the numerous creeks coming down from the West Hills, aka Tualatin Mountains. Since it’s been a wet seasons, all of these creeks were still full and running–if it was later in the summer many would be dry. The trail was also muddy in spots, but nothing too bad. And the sounds of the city are pretty much hushed as you get further in (though technically the trail is above busy US 30), aside from a stray train horn now and then you’ll hear birds and the breeze blowing through the trees.

Hours later I exited Leif Erikson at the Germantown Road trailhead. This paved and somewhat busy road is a fast and fun descent down to the Saint Johns Bridge. And the bridge provides amazing views, well, when you have the opportunity to look vs. concentrating on the road. I stopped at Blue Moon Camera for film and other sundries and had an early dinner at Stormbreaker Brewing next door.

The warmth of the day and the length and intensity of the ride (plus beer and food) was tiring me out, so I rode a few more miles to the nearest MAX light rail station so I could take the train the rest of the way home. It was about 32 miles/52 km of total riding, not too shabby. I need to get back up to Forest Park on bike sooner than later, four years for the next ride is just too long to wait.

Storybook house. NW Thurman St, 21 May 2022
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