|We love mile markers: a blue blaze and quarter-|
mile increments were trail highlights.
The dog joined us on Day 3.
Eight year old Eleanor wanted to claim the Wildwood. So this spring break, with mornings in the 30s and grey skies occasionally gracing us with showers, we hiked its length, plus 6 extra miles. The route brought us off the Wildwood the first night, down a mudslide of a firelane, to a motel on the highway below the park. The second night brought us to some friends’ home in a quiet dead-end above the park, and the last day, we walked to our house just beyond the park’s north end.
Most people hike the Wildwood in segments, looping onto it from firelanes and side trails that carry you down to the trail from streets above or up from the neighborhoods or highway below.
|Stumps of trees cut a century ago nurture new life.|
A one-way excursion on the Wildwood like mine is possible, even if you don’t have friends living up on Skyline Boulevard.
Start at Mile 0, at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington Park. Pass through the Arboretum and below homes perched on hills; climb to the Pittock Mansion, and vow to come back another day when your feet are not caked in mud; descend trails cut by Mr. Pittock to Cornell Road and the Audubon’s sanctuaries. That’s at mile 5, and visiting the birds who live there adds a nice educational component. We ate lunch watching a spotted owl preen, crouch and swivel on the arm of a volunteer. From there, it’s down to Balch Creek, then up and out of the canyon, then traveling above the Willamette Heights neighborhood. After a bit, the neighborhood peters out and it’s just you, a few dogs and their owners and miles of trail.
|Oxalis, one of countless shades of green in the park.|
There are no other motels next to the trail, so the 11 mile mark is the best place to descend if you want to spend the night in a warm bed other than your own. (Camping is not allowed in the park.)
|A true friend shares the last of her frozen |
peaches with some tired hikers.
|The end of the trail.|
But if you care to walk faster than our two-mile-per hour pace, you could make Day 2 as long as you want, even making it to Newberry Road, at the end of the Wildwood. There, you can walk downhill on Newberry (about 1.5 miles) to Highway 30 and a TriMet bus stop where you can pick the mud out of your boots while you wait for the ride back to town. For a shorter walk, bail off the Wildwood at many places between the 20 and 28 mile marks, heading downhill on firelanes or trails. You’ll end up at or near a TriMet bus stop on the highway.
The Wildwood’s a great walk for kids: level, runnable and so, so close to Portland neighborhoods. If you go, Marcy Houle’s book One City’s Wilderness is an indispensable guide. In print since the 1980s, it’s been updated in 2010 with new maps, full color photos of the birds and plants you’ll see, and great stories that explain the landscape you’ll pass through. The Forest Park Conservancy, a nonprofit advocacy group, leads frequent walks into the park, and offers interpretation, opportunities to help remove invasives or maintain trails, and a wealth of other information about the park.