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Trip Report:  Wildwood Trail, Forest Park, Portland OR
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Trip Report: Wildwood Trail, Forest Park, Portland OR

Trip Report: Wildwood Trail, Forest Park, Portland OR

Location: Wildwood Trail, Forest Park, Portland OR

Conditions: partly sunny

Duration: 10 hours

Difficulty: difficult

Kid Friendly? No for the whole trail, Yes for hiking a section

Pet Friendly? Yes

forest part

The Full Report

So, I'm one of those thru-hikers who has completed one long trail and then obsessed about being a "professional hiker" ever since. I'm constantly dreaming about hiking long distances, and partially assuage that desire by helping outfit other folks for their adventures. Last week a friend of mine from my time on the PCT came to visit. Her trail name is Snorkle and she is a professional hiker. You may be asking what qualifies as professional in this context, and I think it comes down to two main things; the amount of time you spend doing long hikes each year, and being sponsored. Snorkle is such a professional, that in the off season she has taken up urban hiking, wherein she creates a route in a city that highlights some of the unique, pedestrian friendly aspects of that particular city. In LA and Seattle that meant a lot of stairs. In Portland, that means bridges and nature trails.

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Saturday, Snorkle was slated to hike the Wildwood trail which starts at the Washington Park Zoo, and ends 30 miles north in Forest Park at Newberry Road. It had been 7 years since the last time I had hiked with Snorkle, so naturally I was delighted when she asked me to join her that day. Also there was her friend Virgo (who makes short films about Snorkle’s hikes), Steve (a triple crowner who is setting out on the PCT again this year) my husband Adam (a good sport when it comes to my “hiker trash” friends) and Snorkel’s friend Dave who had never hiked more than 15 or so miles in a day.

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Adam and I are just starting to get back in hiking shape for an upcoming hike of the John Muir Trail in August (trip report to come) so we decided to hike with Snorkle for “a few” miles, and then head home. We got a late start (at 8am), but it was perfect hiking weather; partly cloudy, dry and cool.

The trail winds up from the zoo, through the arboretum, and above the rose gardens. Every ¼ mile there is a blue diamond painted on a tree, with the mileage marked above it, making it either extremely easy, or extremely maddening to mark ones progress, depending on your perspective. A few miles in, the trail dips down to cross Burnside St. and then heads back up to the Pittock Mansion. This is the last spot for a flush toilet and to fill up water bottles, so we took advantage of the opportunity. This is also a great spot to take a snack break, as the view of the city is amazing from in front of the mansion.

Next the trail heads down past the Audubon Society Nature Store and into Balch Canyon. Adam and I had parked a car 6 miles down the trail, so that we could just hike that short section. When we got to our exit point, I expressed my disappointment to have to stop, as I was having so much fun. Being the good husband he is, Adam said it was too bad I couldn't stay, due to our shuttle arrangement. One of the other hikers offered me a ride at the end, Adam gave me his water and snacks, and with a kiss on the cheek, he was off to the car, and I was off down the trail. Truly elated, about an hour later (as the coffee was wearing off) I started to wonder if I had gotten myself in over my head; the last time I had hiked 30 miles in one day had been 7 years prior and I didn't know how my body would respond. So I popped some ibuprofin and continued on.

forest park 2

Once past the junction with the Leif Erickson trail, the other foot traffic thins out considerably, as the southern portion of this trail is by far the most popular, with the easiest access. Here I noticed how many Trilliums were blooming everywhere. Late March to early April is the ideal time to hike this trail to see these beautiful white flowers.

As is likely to happen with a group of thru-hikers, the talk eventually turned to what food we would have for dinner. Steve mentioned there was a cutoff trail that would take us down to his car at the foot of the St. Johns Bridge. Snorkle pointed out that although that would mean only hiking 22 of the 30 miles, on the plus side it would mean we could eat dinner sooner. That clinched it, and to my relief 30 miles turned to 22. That seemed much more manageable to me, as it had only been 2 years since I'd hiked that many miles in one day.

After the climb up from Balch Canyon, the remainder of the trail was relatively flat, traversing the contours of the ridges and gullies. As we wove our way further north, the forest seemed to get older and quieter, and I found myself getting into the steady hiking rhythm that comes with a long hike on smooth trail tread. Eventually we hit the spur trail down to Steve's car, and were soon rewarded with a spectacular view of the St John's bridge rising out of the dense green foliage. Although I've lived here my whole life, I still find that bridge to be breathtakingly impressive. Of course, my phone had died, so you'll just have to hike the trail yourself to get the view.

Overall, it took us something between 9 and 10 hours (although we did stop frequently to film shots for Virgos movie). I would recommend starting as early as possible and allowing around 12 hours to hike all 30 miles (depending on personal speed/hiking style). I highly recommend bringing a portable charger like the Goal Zero Flip 10 or Flip 20 Recharger. Often when out hiking, cell batteries may be drained by intermittent cell phone reception, and having that extra boost can be a safety measure in case you become lost or injured and need to call for help.

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