I’ve mentioned here before how deeper SW Portland, the part of the quadrant not close to the river and over the West Hills, is still a “Here Be Dragons” on my mental Portland map. And I don’t explore it as often as I want due to three factors: distance from home, difficulty getting there, and paucity of attractions.
There still isn’t a heck of a lot of reasons for me to end up out here, but I do find them from time to time. For years my dentist was located out here on the Portland/Washington County line. 1 And now I have my main camera repair shop, Advance Camera, out this way as well. Advance’s location on the busy, no-bike-lane section of Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway in unincorporated Raleigh Hills means I don’t bike out there as much as I like, but I do occasionally make that effort.
On Friday July 8th I needed to get out to Advance to drop off two cameras for servicing: my Minolta SR-T 101 was having a bit of shutter curtain lag, and my Olympus 35RD was having advancing/shutter issues. (Thankfully both were still under warranty from previous CLAs.) It was a nice day, a high somewhere in the upper 70’s F (around 25C), why not ride?
Rather than bike from central Portland over the West Hills, I wanted to make it easier. So I took the MAX light rail to downtown Beaverton and rode the three miles to Advance. This meant I would have no big hill to climb, and besides a few busy roads in downtown Beaverton, the road was mostly on quieter streets. I even managed to see some monarch butterflies on the ride through some suburban neighborhoods!
After dropping off the cameras, I headed eastward towards town. I used Beaverton-Hillsdale for a few miles, as it’s the most gradual climb back over to the West Hills–any other way makes for steep and hilly riding. There’s a buffered bike lane too, though it’s in desperate need of sweeping. (And trimming in some spots, as blackberries and other bushes are encroaching on the right-of-way.) I detoured off of B-H Hwy through a (steep) apartment complex driveway (this area is littered with mid-late twentieth century apartment complexes) to get to SW Bertha St. In a few blocks this connected to the brand-new Red Electric Trail Bridge over a gulch in the Hillsdale neighborhood.
The Red Electric is a former streetcar/interurban right of way being built bits-and-pieces into a trail. The bridge is one big and key piece of infrastructure, though some feel it’s a “bridge to nowhere”. That isn’t the case, as it fulfills two key roles: 1) Safer access from the Hillsdale business district to the neighborhood to the southwest and 2) Safer eastbound biking on Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy into Hillsdale, as it allows one to avoid a tricky intersection. (It’s not as useful for westbound cyclists, though.) I’m always happy to see prominent new biking/walking infrastructure, especially in an area not great for walking or biking.
I rambled a bit eastward to the other exploration of today’s trip: there’s a pretty obscure path that goes under the SW Terwilliger Blvd overpass over I-5. This path connects to the eastern part of SW Custer (ugh) Street which allows one to bike or walk down to the riverside part of SW. I had seen it on maps for a few years but this would be the first time I got to use it! It’s not the most bike-friendly path, as there’s a long set of steps down to the path from its entry on SW 4th Avenue. (You can walk your bike fairly easily beside it, though.) The path is right under the Terwilliger/I-5 exchange, so it’s not exactly peaceful (especially if a stupid teen decides to set off a firecracker underneath it), but it sure feels secret.
Besides the path is Stephens Creek, a short stream that starts in Hillsdale and runs mostly uncovered to the Willamette. It’s not the prettiest of creeks here, under a freeway and with its share of shopping carts, but it’s something. Stephens Creek descends steeply into a canyon that you can’t really see from path or street, though, while the path rambles through woods for a bit until it comes out on SW Custer.
After a screaming descent down to river level, the rest of the ride was through familiar territory. A bit tired, I caught the MAX home from the South Waterfront station. It was a nice little ride, and I need to get back out here on my bike again to do some more exploring. Guess I’ll have to wait until I pick up another camera!
1 Alas, my new dental insurance means I won’t be going to him anymore.