A walk in the woods

I knew this weekend would be cold and wet. I hemmed and hawed about hiking today, thinking that finishing the new Steve Jobs biography and making progress on “Breaking Bad” in my nice warm apartment would be a fun alternative.

But if I let that stop me, I have a solid seven months of rainy-day Saturdays to plan around (eight, depending how you feel about June). So I threw on a hoodie and headed for Tryon Creek State Park.

Portland has its fair share of problems, but urban parks and trails aren’t on that list. Tryon Creek State Park is nestled between Portland and Lake Oswego, and shares that same “forest within a city” vibe that makes Washington Park and Macleay Park so much fun. Tryon Creek was one of my first hikes in 2009, when I hiked 103 miles. It’s been nearly two years, so I figured I was due for a return trip.

The park itself is scenic. There’s fall foliage, beautiful cedars and a quiet creek to keep a hiker occupied. But just navigating the maze of trails is difficult enough.

I have a horrible sense of direction. Just awful. My best friend and I went to Boston in 2009, and he stopped letting me navigate when I led us astray only two hours after we stepped off the plane in Boston. I have no concept of direction or navigation, and maps somehow rarely help. Left to my own devices, I’m a directional luddite, which isn’t helped by the fact that I love to walk.

So keep that in mind when I tell you that the Tryon Creek State Park map resembles less a network of interconnected trails than a plate of spaghetti. Some trails loop around the outer rim of the park. Others cut through and criss-cross somewhere in between. Yet others jet out to various parking lots. And there are equestrian trails mixed in with the walking paths. There are eight miles of trails in all, not one of which makes a lick of sense to me.

It’s no small victory, then, that I only got lost once. Even better: It added .8 miles to the day’s total — silver lining! If you’re keeping track at home, that is .4 miles of hiking before I realized, “Wait a minute …” — and that was only after consulting my hiking book. I hit an unfamiliar junction and thought “Where to now?” So I pulled out my book for help, only to realize that the answer was “back where I came from.”

The park is quite peaceful, which I love. Birds chirp, creeks bubble on, rain splats onto leaves and the ground, and groups of kids scream and frolic from time to time. But that’s about it. It’s a remarkably calming place to hike, which is even crazier when you realize that it’s a five-minute drive from I-5.

In any event, I enjoyed the hike. I think I missed the best of the fall foliage by a few weeks, but no matter. It’s a quiet, close-in hike that keeps me sheltered from the worst of the rain and offers the occasional nice view. Some days, that’s all I really need.


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