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!:)

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