Neighborhoods Visited: Hollywood, Laurelhurst, Downtown, Old Town, Chinatown, Pearl District, Eliot, Irvington
Miles: 14.2 miles
From there, we walked through the beautiful homes in the Hollywood area north of I-5 including the historic Hollywood theater. We also stopped by the Mountain Shop, an outdoor gear store where I will be speaking about urban hiking on Tuesday, March 29th.
One of the trippy aspects of this trip for me is revisiting places I’ve been to in Portland before but doing it on foot. A few weeks ago, I flew into Portland for the American Long Distance Hiking Association West Cascade Backpacking Clinic and took the Max from the airport to Hollywood station. Now, on foot, I crossed the overpass from that station into the Laurelhurst station. Late at night in the rain, Portland and the station and all its stairs looked so intimidating. In the light, it seemed like a harmless connection between neighborhoods splits by I-5.
We immediately dropped into Laurelhurst, an old, beautiful neighborhood of big houses and big trees. The Laurelhurst Park—a Frederick Law Olmstead designed area—is the cornerstone of the neighborhood (besides, perhaps, a weird golden statue in the smack middle of it). The sun was out and turtles were sunning themselves on logs in the middle of the grand pond. A sign warning that stairs in the park can be icy seemed laughable. Sunlight hit the big trees and green grass and it felt peaceful and springy.
In the Laurelhurst neighborhood, we walked past the Laurelhurst Theater, where our friend Tomato (we stayed with him last night) works and is the world premiere theater of thru-hiking movies by Squatch Films and TBW Films. Basecamp Brewery, an outdoor themed establishment among thru-hikers managed by our friend Siddhartha (who we stayed with on night 1). The area around Basecamp has a soup kitchen and camps and is a sharp contrast to the clean, woodsy feeling of inside Basecamp. We stopped in to say hi before heading over to another neighborhood staple: Next Adventure gear store, work and funplace of my friends Dandy and Miss Info (who I stayed with on Day 5).
When I thru-hiked the PCT in 2009, Miss Info and I got off trail together and went into Next Adventure to gear up for Washington. The outfitter has been an employer of pre-trail and post-trail hikers for almost a decade. I’ll be speaking at Next on Thursday, March 24th (that’ tomorrow!) at 7 pm about my urban hike. Hope you can make it!
From Next, we headed towards some confusing stairs until the Hawthorne bridge. I don’t know what the neighborhood under the Hawthorne bridge is called, but I loved it. It felt like a port town. There was stuff from everywhere and it was dark and a little dirty and hard to understand on googlemaps. Before crossing the bridge, we dropped by the immaculate wooden coffee/lifestyle shop Coava. Re-purposed in an old industrial building, it felt even more LA or Denver than Portland. I love that airy, bright, former industrial feel, though, and felt more than anywhere, if I lived in Portland, I would go there to work from my laptop to feel hip and metropolitan.
I was worried about time crossing onto the west side. I knew there would be cool things to see! It seems like no matter how short a day of hiking is, it always feels rushed at the end because there’s so much to see, so much exploration. Just like an outdoor thru-hike, urban thru-hiking feels like it just hits the highlights of an area without deeply exploring. I only get to linger in the occasional restaurant. It’s never going to be as strong in immersing myself as the experience of living there for years. While urban hiking may be a more intense way to understand a city than normal tourism, it still pains me to walk past so many cool-looking places.
We went past the Pioneer Courthouse Sqaure and many Benson Bubblers and inoperable fountains. We visited the “Keep Portland Weird” mural and laughed at the obscene line at Voodoo Doughnuts. We passed from the pricey neighborhoods downtown into the greying Old Town/China Town and watched the transition into the Pearl District.
Towards the end of the day, I got my obligatory ice cream, this time at Cool Moon (which I had visited with my friend Aine about a year ago). This time, I had a decadent spicy chocolate cone that kept me toasty despite the rain that was falling on us. That trip with Aine reminded me how the Pearl ends abruptly to the north and how difficult it is to get over the railroad tracks and up to the Broadway Bridge. There’s so many new developments and construction there even compared to a year ago.
I’ve taken the train through Union Station many times—pretty much every time I hike in Washington, I take the train there and back. Yet, I haven’t ever walked through the neighborhood around it. On the underpass right across from the train station, we took some stairs down to see a man literally shooting up in broad daylight.
On a train layover a few years ago, I walked the cool bridge from Union Station over to this little neighborhood on the other side of the train tracks near the water. It’s hard to access, but nice. From there, we took stairs up to the Broadway Bridge and crossed among many a commuting cyclist. The current construction on the bridge made the non-motorized lane very narrow and I felt awful about my backpack taking up so much space.
From there, it was a pleasant walk to Irvington, where we enjoyed the restaurants. Once again, I found myself in a neighborhood I had eaten in before, but this time I knew here everything was and how it was connected. Besides Denver, Portland is the urban hiking city that I was the most familiar with before starting my hike. It’s strange how on foot, even a place that feels familiar can suddenly become exciting and new, while also feeling more connected.