Saturday evening we took a tour of what folks from the citizens group North Portland Greenway hope will eventually be a trail which connects Cathedral Park in St Johns, with the Eastbank Esplanade and Forest park via the east side of the Willamette River. I had no idea all these as yet, un-built and often privately owned tracks existed. The ride was a grand adventure.
We started on Waud bluff (never knew there was a name for it), on Willamette Blvd next to the University of Portland. Scott Mizee led the ride, along with Jason Starman and Joe Adamski. The first thing we did was make a screaming single track decent down to the railroad tracks. I immediately regretted not bringing my mountain bike instead, but the trails were totally doable by all the folks along who had everything from road to MTB steeds.
We continued along the tracks and through the UPS parking lot to a look out point on Swan Island. Scott talked about the industry of the island, the history (the spot where those buildings are used to be Portland's first airport) and the sections of trail that have already been created, which we proceeded to tour shortly.
The ride was so much fun in part because I've lived in Portland my whole life, and I had no idea of all the cool paths that were right under my nose. Even with the trail undeveloped, there are folks right now who use them to walk and bike to Swan Island, (where about 10,000 people work now) or on to downtown from north Portland. The finished part of the trail is gorgeous and includes a view point with historical information. It's a great spot to watch ships being built and launched. They try to announce when the launches happen and Scott said they're great fun to watch, and include lots of pomp and circumstance. One of the goals of the project is to attach a bike/ped access bridge across the river to the existing train bridge, which would give great front-door access to mountain biking in Forest Park or just a more direct route from north PDX to downtown.
We continued on through more parked trucks and into railroad-owned territory. On a perfect, warm Saturday solstice evening, there was no traffic and the ride was lovely. The views of the Fremont bridge and downtown were spectacular in the fading evening sunlight. Clearly we weren't the only trespassers, as evidenced by the graffiti tags on many of the train cars. I felt like I was rolling through a scene from Breakin'.
We came out from River Rd, which turns into Tillamook St, and comes out via a bridge over railroad tracks onto a section of Interstate Ave that I ride past all the time. There are two lovely bike lanes on either side of the bridge/road that lead exactly nowhere, since technically, you can't (legally) ride on the railroad path. I've often wondered where it lead though, and now I know.
Most of the riders peeled off at that point to get home or to other PP events, but Jess, T, and I were game to go back and explore north section of the trail. We rode up Interstate to Willamette and back to our starting point, but then kept going through the U of P campus. Down another steep hill (paved this time) and soon we were back along the railroad tracks. As we bumped along the large thick gravel next to the tracks, I wished once again that I had my MTB--I would have given it to Jess. Her broken wrist is mostly healed but still in pain every day. We weren't expecting quite this much adventure when we signed onto this ride. Although we both had a good time, a little full suspension would have been nice for her to have on a lot of sections.
She came through like the trooper she is though. Our next stop was a cove near the train bridge that goes across the Willamette near Ida St and the Fred Meyer in St Johns. I had often looked down on it from the bluff, but being up close was very cool. The area down there is pretty sketchy and I would *never* go down there without a group. We saw some folks that probably live down there and skirted one look out point after hearing evidence of a rowdy solstice party going on.
We did climb the stairs to stand on the train bridge and we treated to a train coming through just at that moment. There were two tracks on the bridge so it was plenty safe for us to stand on the sidelines and watch it go by. It was amazingly cool and made even better when the conductor, who looked far too young to be so curmudgeonly, leaned out of his window and yelled, "Get out of here!" Perfect.
As we climbed down the stairs, I couldn't help but ask, "When do we find the body and pull a gun on Ace?" We came out into Cathedral Park just as the sun was setting over the St John's bridge.
Thanks to Scott for showing me I don't know nearly everything about Portland. I'm excited that cool people are working to make this trail happen. Scott said they may try to do the ride tours monthly, which I think would be great for creating interest in the trail and getting the word out. The wheels of transportation are slow, and what they most need right now is a group of people they can call on in key moments to agitate the right political powers-that-be.
Check out their site to get more info and sign up for the email list.