In between rounds at the Waterfront Blues Festival, I needed a decent hike, but I had little time, which was frustrating. I always have the fantasy of trekking in Nepal or circumnavigating Mont Blanc, but most of my hikes are local and casual. So it goes. Yesterday, I opted to start in Lower Macleay Park, as I have done in the past, seeking what passes for elevation gain inside Portland city limits.
By the time I had cruised three quarters of a mile along Balch Creek and joined the Wildwood Trail, I’d passed 25-35 people. This is not the trail for solitude on a weekend. Normally I would avoid it on a weekend, but it is close, pretty, and still offers a challenge.
The Wildwood Trail climbs in half a mile to the Audubon Sanctuary on Cornell Road, then continues toward Pittock Mansion. There are a couple of trail junctions, including one which called to mind my recent trip to Maryland.
Many people were walking and running in the forested hills, over many switchbacks. Running shoes were definitely the footwear of choice. With few exceptions, the trail is very smooth and make for easy walking, although effort is required. All told, there is around almost 900 feet of elevation gain. Not bad for inside the city limits.
The Pittock Mansion is a unique destination for the top of an ascent. It is a great old building, and there are spectacular views to the east. Should you desire, you can drive up and pay for guided tours through the mansion, learning a chunk of Portland history. I took a quick look at the building and turned around.
Here’s a fun bit of trivia: Henry Pittock, for whom the mansion is named, and who was an avid outdoorsman besides being publisher of The Oregonian, is credited by most with the first ascent of Mount Hood, on July 11, 1857. I think my hike just got more credibility.
On the descent, I veered onto the Upper Macleay Trail to make a bit of a loop. It was pleasant, but offered little to recommend it over the Wildwood Trail. I made good time back to the Cornell Road crossing and then to the bottom of Balch Creek Canyon, where the crowd increased.
I was happy to return to the car, and soon, drove to the Blues Festival for the closing night. My wife and I love going each year, and this year we brought our pup into the fest. This year’s festival, while not without controversy for a couple reasons, was as good as any in recent memory. Try this variety and talent on for size: Nikki Hill, Robert Randolph, Mavis Staples, Chubby Carrier, and Taj Mahal. And that’s just one day.
There was also some guy named Robert Plant singing a ditty about a whole lot of love. He did many familiar songs, including a great cover of “Spoonful,” and some Zeppelin songs were reworked with more of a world music feel. Amazingly, Plant still has the magic. After seeing Eric Burdon a couple nights earlier singing “It’s My Life” and “House of the Rising Sun”, and now hearing Plant sing “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Whole Lotta Love”, I ticked off a bucket list item without planning on it. What a weekend.