Wildwood Weekend

This weekend we went on an adventure. In the woods. On the trail. Less than 20 miles from my home.  It’s a trip Jacob and I have been talking about for a couple years, but we finally picked this weekend, the longest weekend of the year to give it a go.

The plan was to hike the entire Wildwood Trail in one weekend. The Wildwood Trail is 30-miles long, running the length of Forest Park. If you’ve ever hiked in Forest Park, you’ve probably  been on it, or at least crossed it.  It starts just above the zoo, passes the Japanese Garden, the Hoyt Arboretum, Pittock Mansion and McCleay Park before continuing north through the much less busy northern 20 miles of the park.

We decided to do our trip in the opposite direction, starting in the north and hiking south towards the zoo.  We started on Friday night.  We met my Dad on Germantown Road, and did a car shuttle up to the northernmost trail head on Newberry Road (which is just south of Sauvie Island on Highway 30). There were 4 of us: me, Jacob, my Dad and Spike, our dog. We started hiking at 7:30pm, after we got off work. It was the longest day of the year, but we brought headlamps just in case.   Luckily we did not need them.  We made it to the car at 9:15, just under 2 hours.

After much debate, we decided to meet the next day at a trail head on NE 53rd. This meant we would be hiking 17 miles that day. Bring it on. After car shuttling back to Germantown we hit the trail right at 9am.  This was my favorite part of the trip. The weather was perfect, sunshine streaming through the trees onto the fern-covered hillside.  It was beautiful, plus relatively easy since the trail stayed relatively the same elevation for a few miles.

Along the way we passed tons of runners. Far more than I expected this far out of the city and a crew of people doing trail maintenance on the Wildwood! Thank you!

Every couple miles the trail intersected with a fire lane. These are wide trails and in some cases roads that can help get equipment in fast if a fire breaks out. They run straight up the hillside. At each fire lane there was also a map, handy for a break and to see what was ahead.

Shortly after lunch, we hit the halfway point. 15 miles! Another great feature of this trail is all the markers. Every quarter mile a tree is painted with blue diamonds and has a sign with the distance from the zoo. We started at 30 miles and were working our way to zero.  Fifteen miles was halfway through the entire trip and  about two-thirds of the way through our second day.  We still had 7 out of 17 miles to go.

After the 15 miles marker, I started to slow down and the last few miles really crawled by.  We started to stretch out as a group.  My Dad far ahead, me in the back, and Spike in the middle trying to pull us all together.  Slowly, but surely and with an increasing number of breaks and rests, we made it.  Spike immediately laid down for a nap in the grass next to the car.

Since we pushed ourselves on Saturday, we only had 7 miles to go on Sunday.  Unfortunately, it’s through the section of the trail with the most elevation gain and loss.  After our car shuttle, we started hiking from where we left on on Saturday.  The trail took us down to the bottom of McCleay Park.  It was raining, but the trees provide enough cover we didn’t even get wet.  We passed the Stone House, or as I like to call it, “The Witch’s Hut”.  It’s one of my favorite landmarks in Portland.

Then we started the climb up to Pittock Mansion, crossing Cornell Road along the way.  I was hoping to detour over to see the mansion, but it was raining so hard at that point, it was best to stay in the forest.   Finally, the trail took us back down to Burnside, then up one more time for our final climb through the Hoyt Arboritum and into Washington Park.

The rain let up by the time we got close to the zoo and the tree cover went away.  The final mile was a nice walk through the park to the end (or actually beginning) of the trail.  I was moving pretty slow by the time we made it to that sign, with multiple blisters and some very tired legs.  But we did it!  Wildwood Weekend complete!

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