The magic of exploring Portland on foot

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The Japanese Garden, which is just walking distance from Washington Park. Silvia Cardullo/PSU Vanguard

Walking in Portland has its ups and downs. Just last week, I was wandering toward Powell’s Bookstore on West Burnside and found myself the victim of one of the countless crows which roost throughout the city. How embarrassing. Luckily the crow’s missive missed my face and struck my second favorite winter coat instead. My mind raced, mathematical formulas coursing through my brain-noodle. The quickest route (x) back to my downtown apartment, using navigation (y) to avoid flashing cameras, equals staying away from Pioneer Square (z).

Unfortunately I’ve never been good at crunching numbers relating to probability, and two blocks from home I found myself caught up in some sort of Santa parade. One of Santa’s elves noticed my disheveled state and bestowed upon me the cleansing powers of moisturized wipes. My coat once again black as a crow’s wing, I snapped a few group selfies for future reflection and headed home.

It’s not all bird shit and selfies with Santa, though. Here are some other options for getting out.

Nature Walks

As the coming months see winter passing into spring—when nature awakens with life renewed and picnic baskets are brought out of hibernation—nature offers up its seasonal magic, which contrasts nicely with the occasional dreariness of city life. The 178-acre Marquam Nature Park near OHSU is full of moss covered trees and quiet dirt trails and offers splendid views of downtown Portland. The park lies on Marquam Trail, part of Portland’s 40-mile Loop system (full of worthwhile outings for walkers), and lies within a mile-long trek south from PSU’s park blocks.

Another great park is the 410-acre Washington Park. The long, uphill walk from campus might be a bit grueling for the inexperienced, but the attractions at the end of the climb—Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, Portland Children’s Museum, Archery Range, World Forestry Center, Hoyt Arboretum, Oregon Holocaust Memorial, Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial, the sculpture Sacajawea and Jean-Baptiste, Oregon Zoo—should help alleviate your sore feet. Most of the venues and activities in Washington Park are absolutely free, while others offer special discounts for students. Reward your long walk and cultural adventure by relaxing on the light-rail MAX train, which winds its way back down to the city from a stop underneath the zoo.

Take in Portland History

Try out some of Portland’s guided walking tours! The “Beyond Bizarre Ghost Tour,” run by certified members of the International Ghost Hunters Society, is a group tour of Portland’s many spooky locations, many of them underground; ghost-hunting gear is available for the extra-curious. Local organization Know Your City offers a variety of historical tours, including a “Peoples History of Portland” tour and a “Seedy, Seamy, Sinful Portland” tour. PSU’s department of Planning, Construction, & Real Estate offers several on-campus walking tours. I’ve heard particularly good things about their sustainability tour and historic building tour.

Walk like Debord

Guy Louis Debord was a French Marxist who co-founded the Situationist International and wrote, among other works, the Theory of the Dérive. The idea behind a dérive is to allow yourself to be pulled into your environment with no set destination in mind. At times this type of intentionally unplanned journey can be the most wonderful—like how sometimes being hit with bird waste can lead to a holiday parade. The dérive can be conducted as a solo mission or in the company of others. Take your study group out for a peripatetic brainstorming session. Turn off the television and go for an after-dinner walk to your favorite bar or coffee shop. Impress a date with your physical stamina and knowledge of French philosophy.

Run for your life

Those who prefer to explore the city at a faster pace should check out the Running Around Portland club over at PSU’s Academic and Student Recreation Center. Take in city sites, meet new people, and get in shape! It’s a complete New Year’s resolution.

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