A few weeks ago I headed out on the Springwater Corridor for a bike ride. Just shy of mile post nine, I hit a roadblock.
Fine, it wasn’t a roadblock. I had lunch at Cartlandia, a pod of food carts. Feeling full, I turned around. To celebrate the 4th of July, however, I decided to ride my bike for the day. Lunch would be for fuel, not a reason to turn back.
Stella! and I began our ride in downtown Portland, heading out on the Springwater Corridor. The corridor is part of the 40-Mile Loop, trails that run along the Willamette and Columbia Rivers and through Forest Park and Portland’s varied neighborhoods.
The 40-Mile Loop, however, is not 40 miles (and I question its loopness, but more on that later). Today, the 40-Mile Loop is already more than a hundred miles of multi-use trails with more in the making. In 1981, the 40-Mile Loop Land Trust, a non-profit organization, was incorporated to acquire land and easements to create a conservation and recreation corridor.
The idea for a corridor linking Portland’s parks dates back more than a century. The Olmsted brothers (sons of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who helped design Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston) were hired in 1903 to design a master plan for Portland’s parks in preparation for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition and World’s Fair. Their plan included recommendations for looking fifty or more years into the future (if only that weren’t such a rarity). It may have been a long time in the making, but the vision has finally made progress in reality.
(An exciting addition to Portland’s trails, and this one would be a huge boon to commuters, is a proposed trail along Sullivan’s Gulch, giving the Gateway and Hollywood neighborhoods another link to downtown.)
Conveniently, I arrived at Cartlandia just in time for lunch. Only 12 miles into my ride, but a perfect place to refuel. (The rest of the ride would be all new to me, so how was I to know when I’d have a chance to refuel again. No need to answer that.) Not too far from Cartlandia is a trail that runs along the freeway, I-205, which I had decided to take, cutting the loop in half.
The path started to feel very urban, even with Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood trying to peak above the freeway and the industrial parks. Although the trail is not always scenic, at this point I had already gone 16 miles – 16 miles of well maintained trails. Scenic or not, that is impressive. Trails open to everyone. I had lost count, but I had come across at least a couple hundred riders – lone riders and groups, couples and families.
Or whatever jaw-dropping word of choice you like to use.
Or standing there on the Fourth of July, from every mountainside let freedom ring!
A few miles after the trail passes the airport, I missed the signs for the trail. (I’m not really sure how I missed them, because they are pretty well-placed along the trail.) After a short detour, I got back on the trail, and around 34 miles into my ride, I came upon these signs.
The editor in me wanted to get out a red pen.
I suppose not all loops are closed circuit loops and it was easier than stating, “There is a gap in the trail and to continue forward you will have to ride on several busy streets.” I turned around.
At mile 36 of my ride I stopped at the Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area to go for walk. It’s the largest protected wetland within a U.S. city, a stark contrast to the industrial parks and port terminals that surround it. I didn’t see any of the park’s painted turtles, one of the largest populations in Oregon, but I did spy a heron. I think I may have seen a bald eagle in the distance too, but that might have been wishful 4th of July thinking.
The wetlands were my last stop before heading home. I’m glad I stopped at the wetlands, yet for a brief moment I wished I hadn’t. Getting back on my bike, I was already oh so very sore. Muscles screaming, “Just exactly who do you think you are old man?” Those first few pedals mocking me, reminding me there were still 10 miles home. (I made it by bribing myself with a Theo’s dark chocolate bar.)
By taking the I-205 trail, I cut the 40-Mile Loop in half and still managed to ride 46 miles. There’s still the Powell Butte and more of Forest Park to explore. I chose my route because I was at Powell’s Bookstore the other day, flipping through “75 Classic Rides: Oregon” and saw Rides 13 and 14 (Marine Drive and Eastside Neighborhoods). I picked up the book to plan my next ride.
Ride 15 “Double Volcano” may have to be aspirational for now. I think next up will be Ride 10 “Wine Country Tour.”