A cool thing about urban thru-hiking is how easy it is for your friends to join you along on a trip. This morning, my good friend Allgood and his four-legged friend Karluk met us in the morning as we walked through the beautiful iconic Mt. Tabor neighborhood.
Portland is the most volcanic city in the US according to my Portlandness book (which has a great map of the volcanic vents in the area). Mt. Tabor is a volcano sitting right in the middle of town. Virgo uses Mt. Tabor as his running route and showed us the way right past a volcanic lava tube and through stands of old pine and blooming cherry trees. From between all the vegetation, we were still able to get a straight view down Hawthorne and all the way to downtown.
A controversial and political dilemma in Portland right now is what to do with the reservoirs atop Mt Tabor. One hundred years ago, water was piped from Bull Run to Mt Tabor where it was stored as the public water source for Portland. After 9/11, the feds became increasingly concerned with water contamination and the area around the reservoir is under surveillance. The result was even in times of drought, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water had to be drained and disposed of after a man was found peeing into a reservoir. Now, as feds are requiring water to be stored underground, we saw one of the 3 reservoirs empty and it was ugly. Allgood, Virgo, and I had much fun speculating over what we would like to see happen with the 2 filled reservoirs.
We walked again towards 82nd where we had another obligatory stop for Asian food. I think it’s funny that several cities I’ve walked as a street called Division—which often does just that—divides town in a pedestrian unfriendly way. Virgo took me to a pedestrian overpass stairway on Division, which oddly enough was not listed in Laura Foster’s Portland Stairways book, the crowdsourced info I used from the Internet, or the Portland Bureau of Transportation list of public stairs. As I walk this route, I can’t help but feel the neglect that people on the other side of 82nd must feel from the world and local government.
Nowhere was local government neglect more noticeable on Kelly Butte.
Frankly said, I was concerned and a little scared about hiking up Kelly Butte. My plans, prep, and research showed that this Portland Public Park had essentially been neglected by the local government and allowed to be taken over by teenagers and the homeless. While all my interactions with the homeless in Portland had been harmless, and I’ve never had problems with people in LA, SF, Chicago, Denver, or Seattle, the secluded nature of Kelly Butte made it different than being out in the open on the street.
Sure enough, as we climbed to the gate that blocks cars, there was a homeless couple with a fire and graffiti everywhere. It’s funny, though, because the natural world up there was eerily peaceful and resembled the much more cared for Mt. Tabor. Kelly Butte is also volcanic—perhaps another vent from Mt. Hood—which is one of the reasons why I put it on the route. My apprehension about the hill wasn’t helped by Virgo joking that Kelly Butte is where people dump bodies.
While googlemaps showed the trail ending on the top, I looked at historic topo maps before I left to find where trails connected (satellite view for finding hidden trails is useless in Portland because of all of the tree cover). I found evidence of a historic trail headed off the southern side of Kelly Butte into the neighborhood. On an urban hike, almost every 100 feet and every turn is calculated and pre-determined. With Kelly Butte, my plan had been to “find a trail to get to the other side.”
As descended steeply off the butte, we found evidence of a homeless camp and all I could think was how to get off that hill. My heart racing to get off (meanwhile Virgo wanting me to go slower to get a cool shot), I jumped at the site of two people coming right towards us. Virgo and I have prepared mentally about what to do if we get jumped (he’ll eject his SD card to keep his footage before throwing his camera), and all those thoughts were racing through my head. Until I realized that the two people were kids going on a hike in their local park with branches as hiking poles. Phew! This—these local parks that kids can explore and play in and the freedom and trust to do it—is what I’ve been advocating for within cities. Seeing those kids playing on “scary” Kelly Butte warmed my heart and made me feel silly about the preconceived notion I had about the place based on what others had blogged.
After Kelly Butte, we walked through a series of neighborhoods connected by parks, the most notable being the forested Lent Park, which reminded me strongly of Columbia Park in NoPo where I’ve spent much time walking Karluk. From the Mt. Scott neighborhood, we walked the fun Woodstock neighborhood.
I stopped at Cloud City Ice Cream. Despite being overrun with kids, I was absolutely floored by their flavors. I love myself a chunky ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s is the classic example) and this place was chunktacular. I begged the scooper to let me try many flavors (while apologizing profusely and simultaneously asking how many flavors can fit into a 2 scoop). The winners: Better than Therapy (ginger chunk ice cream with ginger snaps), Animal Cookie (with whole size cookies inside), Chex Yourself (chex with caramel and chocolate), and hands down the best chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream I have ever had.
Ice cream in tow, we walked through the gorgeous campus at Reed College, which I found less intimidating than Lewis and Clark. We passed by some kids buildering (bouldering on a building) and chatted with them about the trip before taking a beautiful bridge over Reed Ravine to where the dorms are (does every fancy Portland college have to have a ravine running through it?).
The rest of the trip was through the more industrial area near Giant Brewing (where I had been particularly excited to visit after recently purchasing a bottle of their Ume Umami beer from a well-curated liquor store in Pasadena). The day ended in the Brooklyn neighborhood preparing for a big day heading out to the west side.