Category Archives: Non-bike-specific Car-free Rambles

Car-free adventures that don’t necessarily depend on a bike

Hagg Lake Mud Run (and muddy it was indeed:)

Biking and running are the perfect exercise soulmates. At least, this non-medical expert thinks so:) They use enough of the same muscles to complement each other, and when you’ve pounded your running body into the ground biking is a nice, low-impact way to stretch out and still get exercise. I know that when I’m really going after it biking (on a tour, say) I maintain my running fitness even without running–and when I’m running, I stay in good cycling shape.

Doing both is what makes me a happy Honnold.

hagg lake mud run(see? So happy!:) at the Hagg Lake finish line)

Regardless, I tend to stay away from organized runs. Not for any reason in particular, just that running is something I do over the course of normal life, and I don’t feel like I need the fanfare (or the cost) of a run with starting lines and music and aid stations and finishing medals to get motivated.

That being said, I am a huge fan of the Hagg Lake Mud Run. This is a muddy, muddy run around Hagg Lake, with both a 50k and a 25k option (and, for the running badasses, a 50k AND 25k option, since the races happen on Saturday and Sunday respectively).

Some years, it’s just a somewhat goopy trail run, but this year it was pretty darn epic.

hagg lake mud run(compared to many, I was actually fairly clean at the end–though some of that is because running through puddles made for a quick and continual wash-on-the-run:)

I managed to fall on my ass twice in the 15 and a half miles, which, all things considered, I thought was pretty good. I certainly wasn’t as crazy muddy as some.

But this kind of run makes me super happy. It’s not a fast course by any means, and it’s not a run to try to get a super awesome time on–but that’s why I like it, because trying to race isn’t what I like about running. I like being in pretty places, enjoying myself outside. And there is something particularly awesome about tromping through mud puddles and skiing down mud slopes in a barely-controlled tumble.

Plus, the people who are attracted to this run tend to be pretty nice. It’s hard to be a pretentious ass when you spend so much time falling on your ass. :)

So for those of you runners or sort-of runners out there, I’d say keep Hagg Lake in mind. It’s the one organized run I consistently consider (and often do) during the year, and it’s a rockin’ good time. Professional pictures from this year’s race should be up soon at the Hagg Lake picture site, should you want to get a feel for what it’s like (and three more pictures from my mom here:) Check it!

Snow: the accidental incentive to carfree living:)

Don’t laugh. I know the snow that we’re getting here in Portland is not, in the scheme of things, very much snow at all. But for a city where it rarely snows and sticks, it’s pretty darn exciting.

Portland snow(getting buried!)

snow--really(Incredulous. But psyched)

Snow that sticks around for a bit is pretty awesome, for many reasons. My favorite, though, is the way it transforms public space. Snow is the great democratizer: all of a sudden, the definitions between road, sidewalk, lawn, path, public, private are erased, all blanketed by the same beautiful white.

Division Street snow(without the stop sign, hard to tell where the street starts)

And I think it’s that magical transformation of the world that encourages everyone to get outside.

It’s possible that Portland has more people than average who like to take advantage of unusual circumstances to go out and play (this may, in fact, be one reason I love Portland so much). And something abnormal like this not only brings out all those people, but also fundamentally alters the landscape.

The pictures of cars up there? All parked. As I’ve walked around the world for the last two days–and let me tell you, I’ve done a lot of walking:)–it has been so quiet. The very few cars that drive past make a muffled whoosh over the snow instead of the normal roar. But really, it seems like no one is driving.

Instead, there are people skiing, walking, jogging, biking, walking their dogs, sledding even down the middle of the streets. (Not that the streets look that different from the sidewalks, of course, or the yards, with all that snow.) Parks like Mt Tabor and Laurelhust turn into giant snow playgrounds. Neighbors you would never expect it from dig up their cross-country skis and slide right off their porches, out to explore.

Mt Tabor in the snow(with all its hills, Mt Tabor has been a super popular sled-ski-snowboard spot:)

I don’t know that this would keep up if the snow lasted more than a few days. As people got used to it, they’d probably start to venture forth in their cars again, start being more annoyed than enchanted with the wintery wonderland that makes things so much slower, softer, peaceful. But for now, I love that the world and the streets are full of people, people who you can smile at and at make eye contact with, people who move at the same speed as you, people hidden behind layers of fleece and wool rather than metal and motors.

People may not be giving up their cars for any reason than that they want to go play in the snow–like I said, the accidental incentive to being carfree–but it sure is nice when everyone wants to be outside:)

(more snow pictures here)

Walking the streets of Portland

One of my favorite things about Portland is how much there is to explore: no matter how long I live here, there are always new things to find. (As a side note, this is particularly essential for a person as prone to crazy wanderlust as me:)

And when I want to find something new and learn about it, one of my favorite resources is this happy little book:

portland hill walks cover(read all about it here!)

It’s full of different self-directed walks all over Portland (though, tellingly, nothing in super East Portland, perhaps since on the whole it’s kind of a shitty place to walk). And the best part of it is that Laura Foster has a humongous wealth of knowledge about Portland history, geography, geology and all sorts of little quirks, so as you walk you can read all about the architecture you’re walking by, the old personalities that fill up the historical space, the cool things to notice about the plants…all sorts of stuff.

Last weekend, James and I had a chance to take one of her walks with our good friends over at Walklandia, who are slowly but surely walking every single street in Portland. (Seriously. Check them out! They’re giant badasses.)

Our walk took us to Willamette Heights–an old neighborhood in NW Portland–and through a few chunks of Forest Park, a lovely excursion for a foggy morning.

willamette heights spiderweb(nothing like fog to remind you how many spiderwebs there are in the world:)

hand by hand mural(a mural called “Hand by Hand” to commemorate the centennial of the Willamette Heights neighborhood)

At one point, we found ourselves on top of a nondescript little hill that Foster calls “Scot’s Nubbin” but is also mentioned online as Scotch Nubbin–basically, it’s what’s left of a hill after the western side of it was terraced and sluiced away so as to accommodate all the fancy houses.

(How cool is it to be able to say we stood on top of a nubbin? :)

forest park(We also just saw–and hiked through–a bunch of Forest Park, which is super beautiful right now in its fall splendor)

Sometimes, a pre-planned walk like the ones in this book, with historical information and other interesting things of note, gives just the kind of structure you need to transform a random I’ll-just-walk-through-my-neighborhood walk into a real excursion. That little bit of extra pizazz that comes from a walk that feels like a self-directed tour, where afterward you can tell someone about all the cool stuff you saw that you didn’t previously know about–sometimes that’s exactly the right impetus to start a few hours’ worth of exploring.

Not that meandering, no-real-destination walks are bad. I love those walks. But it’s also pretty sweet to go on a walk through your own largely defined backyard (ha! I wish I had some of the backyard these fancy houses had, up against Forest Park!) and come out of it feeling like you have a better sense of your city. I’m grateful to Laura Foster for all the piles of research she must have done to make this book and that feeling possible.

And I’m thankful that I live somewhere that’s as walkable as so much of Portland. Thanks to our Walklandia friends for the company!

(And, if you’re interested in what’s up around Willamette Heights, more pictures here. Enjoy!:)

Get your shoes on–it’s Walktober!

I guess I’m a few days late in saying so, but the month of October also happens to be the month of Walktober! That is, it’s a few weeks to celebrate walking, the most democratic means of transportation:)

Walktober is put on by Oregon Walks as a way to “promote walking as a fun, healthy, ubiquitous activity in the Portland metro region,” and it consists of a bunch of different organized walks happening all around the city.

Think of it as the Pedalpalooza of walking: Oregon Walks facilitate the calendar, but the individual walks are led by people like you and me. (So if you have a fun idea for a walk, definitely head over to the Walktober site and get it on the calendar.)

So far, I’m kind of psyched about the SW Urban Trails walk happening this Saturday at 9am, and my buddy Shawn over at Urban Adventure League is hosting a Sunday sunset meander at Mt Tabor that ends, should you so desire, with adult beverages. Both of those sound pretty rad, but there are also trail walks, hikes in the Gorge, guided walks at Tualatin Hills Nature Park, and informative, tour-y type walks. There are even two walks where you can learn about being blind or low-vision and navigating the city sans eyesight.

I sort of want to add my own walk to the calendar, since I do so love to wander–I’m just having a hard time settling on a theme:)

Regardless, October with its crisp fall days is a lovely time to get out there with your walking shoes and your happy red cheeks and see the city turn colors. You’ll probably even meet some awesome people:) Go for it!:)