Portland's urban adventures
The city calendar is packed with bike-related events. Pedalpalooza, a three-week biking extravaganza held each June, offers “bike in” movies, food cart tours and the famous World Naked Bike Ride, held on 8 June this year. During the Portland Bridge Pedal, which takes place on 11 August 2013, the city’s 10 bridges are partially closed to car traffic, welcoming cyclists to traverse the waterways. Or for something more adrenaline-filled, the long-standing weekly Zoobombing meet up, held every Sunday evening, is where die-hard speed demons take part in high-speed, downhill bike races. Bring your bike, your helmet, and most importantly, your courage.
For a more relaxed ride, head to Springwater Corridor in the Hosford-Abernethy neighbourhood (enter the trail at Southeast 4th Avenue and Southeast Ivon Street). A former rail line built in the early 1900s, the 40-mile path winds along the banks of the Willamette River through wetlands and industrial areas, and crosses Johnson’s Creek – one of the few free-flowing streams in the city. Parts of the trail are fairly secluded – look for robins, starlings and the occasional heron or deer.
For adventure mixed with local insights, Granton’s Urban Adventure League offers biking tours based on historical and geographical themes. Granton said his most popular expedition is the three-hour Dead Freeways Ride, which retraces the routes of freeways that were torn down or planned but never built. One stop along the tour is the Mount Hood Freeway, the construction of which was halted in 1974 to preserve the neighbourhoods that would have been demolished. Left behind were “ghost ramps” –dead end freeway ramps suspended in air –and parks that sit where eight–lane-highways would have been.
Near the water
There are kayak rentals along the west and east banks of the Willamette, where you can explore on your own or with a group, gliding under bridges and taking in the cityscapes. For the romantic adventurer, Portland Kayak Company offers guided sunset and moonlight tours of Ross Island, the biggest of the four forested Willamette River islands. The tour takes about three hours, with sweeping skyline views along the way. Paddlers pass sandy beaches, protected wilderness areas where ospreys and eagles roam and a blue heron rookery with upwards of 50 nests.
Slightly north of city limits – but only by 10 miles, and easily reachable by car – Sauvie Island is one of North America’s largest river islands. Larger than Manhattan, the Columbia River island is a lush agricultural site and nature preserve with countless miles of flat hiking and biking trails. In the summer and autumn, bring a basket to collect the fresh berries, flowers and vegetables available at the “U-pick” stations across the island. The Pumpkin Patch is a local favourite, with beautiful peach and nectarine orchards laden with juicy softball-sized fruit in late summer.
There are also a few public beaches on the island. Reeder Road has access points to popular Walton Beach on the island’s northeast coast and the one-mile-long Collins Beach, which has been open to nude bathers since the 1970s. Sturgeon Lake at the north end of the island has a sandy beach for swimming and it joins with the waterways of Steelman and Mud Lakes, making it an ideal spot for more experienced kayakers who are looking for a challenge.
Most travellers come to Portland for the beer, coffee and the laid back, artistic feel of the city. But once you get under the trees and in the water, you might end up staying for the adventure.