Wrapped in blankets and sipping coffee this morning, Dave and I feel a million miles from the weekend’s monster adventure. Well — 30.2 miles, to be precise. That’s the distance we covered in our epic trail run/hike along the entire Wildwood Trail.
The Wildwood Trail is the curvy spine of Forest Park in Portland, Ore., snaking through ridges and valleys for more than 30 miles. I began running on sections of the trail last fall and quickly fell in love with the trees, the views and the relative solitude just steps from the city. I’m not sure when I first had the idea to do the whole trail in a day, but once Dave agreed to cover the distance with me, I couldn’t wait.
And so, Saturday, we made good on my daydreams. We woke up around 6, strapped on our backpacks filled with water, food and other supplies, and hopped in a cab. The northernmost point of the Wildwood Trail (technically the end of the trail) is about a 20-minute drive through industrial Northwest Portland on U.S. 30 and left on Newberry Road, just before the bridge to Sauvie Island. The trailhead is nothing special — just a few roadside parking spots and a simple wooden sign indicating the start of the trail. We started walking.
The first 10 miles were swift and scenic. This section of Forest Park was completely new to me, so I savored each step. Apparently some of the offshoot trails in this area (including Firelane 15) have spectacular mountain views, so I’ll have to come back to investigate. Our favorite bit of scenery here on Saturday was this petrified-looking frog.
After the first 10, we booked it to the 15-mile marker, excited to reach our halfway point and inhale our lunch. Like good trail runners(/hikers), we supplemented our peanut butter sandwiches with pretzels and gummy bears. I can’t remember much from the next five miles (I must have been on a gummy bear-induced sugar high), but I do recall crossing into more familiar territory like Saltzman Road and the brutal Firelane 1.
After the 20-mile mark, we started our final countdown. Nine more miles. Eight more miles. This would have been a lot more satisfying had these not been by far the most challenging miles of the trek. The climb to Pittock Mansion is always painful no matter how many times I run it. And just when you think you’ve reached a downhill respite after Pittock, the trail ticks upward again. Here’s the elevation chart from the whole 30 miles:
Ultimately, we managed — pushed along by the promise of pizza and by the changing scenery as the wilderness of Forest Park turns to the well-worn acres of Washington Park. But mostly the pizza. And also beer.
The finish, near the zoo, was a bit anti-climactic, as we couldn’t actually find the “0″ mile marker. I’m not sure if there is one, but we found another sign indicating the start of the Wildwood Trail, so we took our celebratory pictures, called it a day and walked to the Max (light rail) nearby.
To be clear, we did not run the whole 30 miles. We took a laid-back approach to the distance, switching between running and walking whenever we felt like it, aiming only to finish in an easy 10 hours. I think our final time was about 9.5 hours, including many stops and a detour to enjoy the perfect views at Pittock Mansion. The goal of covering the Wildwood Trail in a day was driven by a desire to explore more of the park, so we didn’t want to cheat ourselves by speeding through the miles. Also, duh, I am not at all ready to run continuously for 30 miles on hilly trails.
Wanna do Wildwood yourself? Things to remember:
- There are very few bathrooms and water stops along the trail, especially the northern 20 miles. Carry toilet paper and plenty of water. My Osprey backpack with a water reservoir was perfect for the job.
- Parts of Forest Park are remote enough to feel a bit spooky. Tell folks where you’re going, carry your phone, be smart, etc.
- Don’t go off-trail (except for aforementioned bathroom needs). Forest Park has a delicate ecosystem, and stomping around off the trail can contribute to erosion, spreading of invasive species, habitat destruction of threatened species and other problems. Be respectful.
Overall, our time spent on the Wildwood Trail was yet another day of Oregon magic. If any readers around Portland are thinking of giving it a shot, definitely let me know if you have questions.
Have you run/hiked any awesome trails where you live?
Gummy bears as fuel: yea or nay?