Heritage Trees by bike: an urban adventure


Sometimes, you have to take a break from blogging. More on that later, maybe, but for now, I bring you: the Heritage Tree Scavenger hunt, by bicycle.


(adventure bikies and the bottom of a Carolina Poplar Heritage Tree:)


One awesome thing about friends is how they think of things to do that you might never think of on your own. Thus it was that my lovely (and, sadly, now on her way to living in Utah) adventure buddy suggested, on the eve of her departure, a bike ride paired with the nature nerdery we all know I know and love: the Heritage Tree Hunt of NE and SE Portland, an 11-mile ride to seek out a variety of what the City of Portland calls Heritage Trees. These are trees “formally recognized by City Council for their unique size, age, historical, or horticultural significance” (more info on the program and the trees here) — that is, pretty awesome trees.


(like this Tulip Tree — Liriodendron tulipifera — near NE Clackamas and 24th)


We met up at Marisa’s house, her with a photocopy of the ride directions and me with my camera to take pictures of all the trees. The directions come from a book called Pedal Portland, chock full of 25 urban rides between 8 and 12 miles long that involve some aspect of scavenger hunt — or, at least, learning about things. I haven’t actually seen the book itself, but it’s definitely available at Multnomah County Library and I just now put it on hold because I want to take some more of these rides. (Psst: if anyone wants to go on any bikey scavenger hunt rides with me, let me know!:)

Over the course of 11ish miles, we stopped to marvel at 28 official Heritage Trees as well as many more trees that aren’t “officially” recognized but are amazing nevertheless.


(this tree in Lone Fir Cemetery, for example, was devouring some of the surrounding headstones)


The tree nerdery was fantastic, even if with 28 different and mostly ornamental (i.e. not as familiar to me) kinds, some of them definitely started blending together by the end. But even aside from the awesomeness of the trees was simply the awesomeness of being on a scavenger hunt in my own city, taking roads that I don’t normally bike on, seeing things I don’t normally notice, and actively being a tourist in a place that feels, otherwise, super familiar.

I know this is the case, but I often forget it until someone like Marisa reminds me: following routes from books or wherever is a great way to rediscover a sense of wonder even in a place that I know quite well. These Heritage Trees we saw are super close to my house, and yet because I’d never actively sought them out, they remained largely invisible to me. Now, having biked to them and read about them and hugged the ones we could reach without tromping through people’s gardens, I have a whole new layer of meaning to overlay on my understanding of my neighborhood. Plus, there’s the whole new shared-experience memory of spending a fantastic sunny day with a good friend discovering a new slice of Portland.


(and did I mention hugging lots of trees?)


Moral of the story? In a place that I already know really well, I should go on more walks and bike rides where I’m not the one coming up with the directions and the plan. I should make like a tourist and guidebook the heck out of Portland. It gets me out of my ruts and habits, makes me notice new things that have been there all along, gives me the feeling of adventure that is sometimes hard to remember to find in the course of normal life, and always (well, almost always, I’m sure;) leads to good stuff.


(the last Heritage Tree of our ride, a lovely Japanese Maple, with two goobers in front)


And I should also figure out how to get this awesome chica back to the Northwest;) Thanks, Marisa! :)


  1. No, YOU’RE a goober!

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