I had two goals for today. I wanted to get out of the city and I wanted to cross a bridge.
About the only difficulty that I have with not owning a car is not being able to get out of the city. Portland, however, has Forest Park, more than 5,000 acres of forest. It’s huge. I was surprised to learn that there are 18 bigger city parks. If you live in Anchorage, New Orleans, Raleigh, Phoenix or Houston – to name just a few – I hope you are enjoying yours. Forest Park, usually draped in clouds and fog, is located on the Tualatin Mountains as they slope down toward the Willamette River. I see the hills every morning as I walk out my door; the park is the backdrop to downtown Portland.
Technically, I didn’t meet my first goal. I never left the city.
I took the number 17 bus and daydreamed I had.
When I got on the bus, I asked the driver to let me off at Saltzman Road. He had never heard of it. Luckily, I had maps. When I rang the bell for my stop, he hesitated. There was a stop, but the street otherwise felt desolate, if a street populated with auto shops and businesses of unknown wares can be desolate. Within minutes though, I was climbing the hills of Forest Park aiming for the Wildwood Trail.
The Wildwood Trail stretches for more than 30 miles, but I wanted just a few to myself. It didn’t take long for the sound of cars to be replaced with the call of birds. The walk was freeing, random thoughts coming and going as they pleased.
When I finally hit the Wildwood Trail, I couldn’t help but think of the book, Wildwood. It was written and illustrated by a husband and wife team. (He’s the lead singer of the Decemberists.) The book is set in Portland and Forest Park renamed the “Impassable Wilderness.” A young brother, under his sister’s care, was snatched by crows. There’s an evil Dowager Governess and her army of coyotes. The couple managed to write a story that my imagination had demanded, a story that filled in behind the fog.
As I walked along, a bird had screeched. I had never heard such a screech before. I stood still.
I then heard a cackle.
The Dowager Governess.
My pace picked up, trying to distance myself. Before rounding a bend, I looked back, and caught a glimpse.
Just a couple out for a walk. The sun came back out and I was back in the city.
The bridge has a sidewalk, so I’m not claiming to be a pioneer.
I have a fear of heights.
The bridge is named for the neighborhood, which is named for James Johns, a settler in the 1840s and described as a hermit and recluse. The bridge was completed in 1931.
The main span is 1200 feet long, and this is definitely a suspension bridge. I was halfway across, pretending to enjoy the view of Mount St. Helens, as two trucks rumbled past me. The entire bridge bounced. 600 hundred more feet. I lurched the entire way. A guy on a bike, politely, yelled “on your left.” I may have screamed, “AND THERE’S A TWO HUNDRED #&%$ FOOT DROP TO MY RIGHT.” I prefer to think I merely said, “Oh, sorry.” The St. Johns Bridge is probably the most beautiful of Portland’s bridges.
I think I hate it.
After the main span, there’s another 500 hundred feet to cross.