Trying to take advantage of all that Portland has to offer, I am determined to bring the outdoorsiness out of this city girl.

My friend, Leslie, is a big hiker, she’s hiked 16 miles at the Half Dome at Yosemite, a portion of the Appalachian Trail of the Great Smokey Mountains and Mount Rainier in Washington. She’s the sort who probably hopes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro some day. We met in swimming class (no, she wasn’t the one wearing the G-string) and we go to the same gym.

About half of the trees in Forest Park are 30 and 80 years old, another 25 percent are 80 to 250 years old. They are adlers, maples, and Douglas firs.

About half of Forest Park’s trees are 30 to 80 years old, another 25 percent are 80 to 250 years old.

We’ve been talking about going hiking for a few months, but it had to warm up. (She can’t stand the “cold,” which I find to be a relative term here.) As I waited for the mercury to climb, we as a family had some outdoorsy experiences. We’ve enjoyed the nature walk by our house and during our trip to Bend, Ore. we took an impromptu hike through the Deschutes National Forest. It was gorgeous, the kids loved it and I kept thinking: I gotta get me more of this nature stuff.

More than 112 bird species and 62 mammal species hang out in Forest Park, which also gets about 40 inches of rain each year. In various spots along the path there are fallen trees, this was one of my favorites.

More than 112 bird species and 62 mammal species are in Forest Park, which also gets about 40 inches of rain each year. In various spots along the path there are fallen trees. This was one of my favorites.

I started researching local trails, whether I should get a backpack to carry Ethan and what other kind of gear might I need. There seemed to be a lot to this hiking thing. I even visited REI with the boys to test out some gear. I learned a lot, but came away a little overwhelmed. Couldn’t I just strap on some shoes and give it a go?

Leslie's daughter after our hike.

Leslie’s daughter after our hike.

Then on a Tuesday, I texted Leslie: Take me hiking. She gave me the lowdown on what I needed (boots or tennis shoes that I didn’t mind getting muddy, pants that I didn’t mind getting dirty and dress in layers.) So the answer to my previous question was, yes, I could simply strap on some shoes and go.

A couple days later, I was on the road to Leslie’s house. We were going hiking! We went to Forest Park, one of the country’s largest urban parks. It covers about 5,160 acres and has about 80 miles of hiking trails that wend up the Tualatin Mountains and snake down along the banks of the Williamette River and its tributaries.

Leslie had her 2-year old with her, in the Cadillac of child carriers, a Deuter. My oldest was at school and Ethan was with the nanny. I wanted to scope out the area before bringing my kids. It was a beautiful Thursday, blue skies, no humidity, not too warm, not too cool, it was like Goldilock’s porridge — just right.

The Pittock Mansion, a Renaissance-style home built in 1914 for Portland's newspaper publisher and family.

The Pittock Mansion, a Renaissance-style home built in 1914 for Portland’s newspaper publisher and family.

We decided to take the Wildwood Trail up to the Pittock Mansion, which is a massive chateau built in 1914 for The Oregonian’s publisher and his wife. The trail started off on a mild incline and zigzagged up the hill. I had to be careful not to get lost in my thoughts while admiring the towering trees above so that I could avoid tripping over their roots below.

The area was so lush, covered with ferns and ivy and soft moss blanketed almost all of the tree trunks. Leslie and I chatted about this and that, but being out among the trees, enjoying Mother Nature felt very grounding. I kept thinking: I needed this, I’m definitely going to do this more often.

Leslie, a minister’s daughter, agreed. She said hiking is like going to church for her. In all the busyness of life, it’s nice to have a place that helps you focus on what’s important. A quiet place to listen to yourself, find yourself or simply be yourself.

 

The view of Portland from the yard at Pittock Mansion. If you look carefully in the distance you can spot Mount Hood.

The view of Portland from the Pittock Mansion property. If you look in the distance you can spot Mount Hood.


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