Day 11: Wildwood Trail Trip Report
For many years, I’ve wanted to do the 30-mile long Wildwood Trail in Forest Park a day. But like Portland locals, I haven’t done it because the Wildwood requires a full day’s dedication, and (I justify) if I’m going to spend a whole day hiking, I might as well do it in the Columbia River Gorge. (Among locals, there is even uncertainty on the length with some Portlanders even thinking that it is 40 miles long.)
That’s why I made it part of the Portland Urban Thru-hike—to put myself in a situation where I would have to do the Wildwood. And it’s why I planned to hit it on a Saturday—so other locals who want to hike the Wildwood could join, too.
Virgo, my friend Dave, who moved to Portland from Colorado, and I walked to the Goose Hollow Max Station and took the train up to the Washington Park stop. It’s only one stop, but avoids the long and dangerous walk from downtown up the hill. There are many styles of urban hikes, and for the Portland urban hike, I opted to take public transit in a few rare cases where the alternative was much longer or dangerous. By taking the Max up to the trailhead of the Wildwood, it allowed us to start earlier.
At the station, we met my hiking buddy from the PCT, Miss Info and her husband, Adam (who we stayed with at the end of Day 5 We also met Triple Crown Hiking Legend Steve Queen. Steve has done the Wildwood many times and is a geo-cacher in Forest Park. He easily led us to the trailhead.
From there, it was pleasant walking through sequoia groves, the Hoyt Arboretum, and above the Portland Japanese Garden (called the most authentic Japanese garden in the US–so much so that they actually have the url Japanesegarden.com). As Miss Info pointed out, there were plenty of invasives to see, too. Miss Info and Adam had been planning on only hiking 6 miles, but we were having so much fun with Miss Info that we didn’t want her to leave. I’d like to publicly acknowledge that Adam wins major awesome husband points for letting Miss Info hike with us all day.
What’s funny about the Wildwood is how many people on that trail were lost. There are maps everywhere on that trail. Every intersection is signed. People would ask us for directions since we looked like we knew what we were doing.
Forest Park was also filled with runners. Like many hikers, I found the runners to be a distraction to the hiking experience (we always had to pull over for them and so many of them seemed to be asking for directions because they were lost). Several of my fellow travelers were annoyed, but I told them the experience was nothing compared to when I was hiking the PCT and ran into the Cascade Crest Ultramarathon. I had to pull over every minute for another racer. My trail experience was pretty strongly impacted, but I at least partly forgive the race because the organizers fed me generously at the aid station.
The Wildwood Trail provided us a day of urban-hiking that felt like all the best of a (non-urban) thru-hike: laughing, joking, gossiping, playing tricks on one another, and pulling big mile days without any snack shops in site. I hadn’t hiked with Miss Info since we parted ways at Cascade Locks in 2009 on the PCT. My buddy Dave had never hiked a 20 mile day before, and it was an honor to be there with him as he achieved that. The reunions, the accomplishments, the mutual support, the trail culture: that’s what thru-hiking the major trails is about. Wildwood took us to a PCT-like place where we could be ourselves. Portland is so lucky to have such an amazing resource in the city and accessible for all to use, free of charge, and to reach by public transit.
Liz "Snorkel" Thomas
Liz Thomas is a well-traveled adventure athlete most known for breaking the women’s unsupported speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. She has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking–the Appalachian Trail, the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, and 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail–and has backpacked over 15,000 miles across the United States. While not on trail, Liz lives in Denver, Colorado.