This was the day I was looking forward to the most—an extremified version of the classic Portland urban hike, the 4 T Trail—a ~4 mile hike that takes travelers via trolley, train, trail, and tram in a loop through the west side of the city. In addition to adding miles, I added on the Tillikum Crossing—a pedestrian, bike, and bus/train only bridge! This day would exemplify the best of the non-motorized user experience in Portland allowing me to maximize the infrastructure.
I started in the Brooklyn neighborhood and hopped over Divis and through an industrial area and up stairs to MLK Blvd. This ended up “urban cliffing me out”—that is to say, that the stairs led up to a bus stop for users of the busy MLK, but otherwise wasn’t very walker friendly.
Luckily, Virgo knew the area well from his run route, so we went over the beautiful Tillikum bridge—a bridge for the people! Built in 2015, it was a joy to see so many families, dogwalkers, cyclists, runners, and tourists all enjoying Portland’s most beautiful central bridge (St. John’s being a beautiful bridge way north).
From there, we took T #2—the trolley—one stop to some stairways (the typical 4T route has users take the trolley all the way to the train). We grabbed some stairs downtown, passed a bunch of Benson Bubblers, and grabbed some of the fountains on the Portland Fountain Walking Tour. Sadly, they were not running, but some were just as beautiful. That would be one benefit of doing this hike a little later in the year—getting to see the fountains running. Nonetheless, as I tell people, March is the perfect time for me to do this hike because I’ll be in the mountains in the summer.
My buddy Sean met us at the Tom McCall Waterfront. We walked to Saturday Market together (the fountain there was working) and I used a Portland Loo, an idea that really shouldn’t be so revolutionary: having public restrooms available for free in places where people congregate for festivals, hanging with their friends, and being tourists. Portland has been hands down the easiest urban hike for me with regards to public restrooms. I can only hope that the rest of the trip will be as accident free.
After more stairs and bubblers in the city, Virgo and I trained up to the Oregon Zoo—a cool ride that goes under Forest Park through a tunnel. When you get off the train, you have to take an elevator up almost 700 feet! (I desperately looked for stairs and couldn’t find them). We crossed the busy thoroughfare
From there, the Marquam Trail was a respite from the busy city walking and we enjoyed some forest time before popping into a beautiful neighborhood high in the west hills with a killer view of Mt. Hood. There were long, secret, hidden stairs and windy roads here (which surprisingly had sidewalks—very uncommon for these mansion-filled hilly neighborhoods in my experience). There was even a Shell Station (=restrooms, water, food) on top of the hill, another anomaly for these kind of neighborhoods in my urban hiking experience.
From the Marquam Trail, we climbed to the OHSU campus and back down again via stairs including the Cliffhanger. Virgo’s girlfriend, Jamie, met us.
In addition to Kelly Butte (yesterday’s hike), one of the series of stairs I was most concerned about was the area around I-5 Naito near the Ross Island Bridge. It ended up being not as sketchy as I expected (both in terms of cars and people and confusingness).
We climbed back to OHSU with the tram looming above us. I was REALLY looking forward to the tram—I’ve wanted to take it for years and just have never found myself in that area everytime I come to Portland.
I told Jamie the experience of being at OHSU was like being in a sci-fi film. We were opening doors, going up stairs, walking through weird piped industrial halls looking for the way from the parking garage to the tram. It was like boarding the Death Star and looking and looking for a robot that we needed. The giant robot-looking like tram lured above us.
When we finally got to the tram, it angeringly closed at 5 pm and we got there at 5:10. We dissapointingly walked back down the hill. I went to where the tram would’ve dropped me off and Virgo caught a ride with Jamie back home. I had the fun experience of walking solo from that quickly crossing bottom-of-the-tram-OHSU-neighborhood-for-medical-people-with-money-for-food-trucks-and-condos over across the Ross Island Bridge, dubbed the sketchiest bridge for pedestrians. I longingly looked at the Tillikum Bridge where pedestrians don’t have to deal with the noise and cars.
From there, I was supposed to head to Ladd’s Addition by making a turn north, but couldn’t figure out how to get off Divis on foot (really, I couldn’t figure out how to walk north on Milwuakie). I ended up going south on Milwuakie all the way back to Brooklyn and then finally finding a pedestrian bridge over the railroad to take 20th up.
I was angry, upset, and hungry. It was getting dark and I was walking through the dispensary district which a friend had warned me wasn’t that great. When I finally got up 20th, though, it ended up paying off though—I found myself in the Clinton neighborhood and at Fifty Licks ice cream. This is sacrilege, but it was the best ice cream (not chunky, that is) I think I’ve ever had.
The rest of the walk was divine through Ladd’s Addition and then on Hawthorne back to Belmont. Just like a wilderness hike, urban hiking has its up and downs—it’s just on an urban hike, it’s a lot easier to find ice cream as an upper.