The Perfect Portland Winter Walk

Laura Foster has a knack for finding fun details as she walks our local neighborhoods.  She is the author of several walking books, including Portland City Walks, Portland Hill Walks and The Portland Stairs Book.  She says winter is a great time to explore the city on foot...and took us on a walk throuhg Willamette Heights and Forest Park.

You'll find more great information from Laura on her Portland Walks and Urban Hikes blog.

Portland’s Willamette Heights and Forest Park: A Perfect Winter Walk
From sites encountered in the walk described in Portland Hill Walks: Twenty Explorations in Parks and Neighborhoods by Laura O. Foster

Portland’s Willamette Heights has a colorful past: in 1859 Danford Balch hid in the primeval woods there after shooting to death his new son-in-law, Mortimer Stump. Balch and his large family lived along the creek now named for him, and he had hired Stump to help out with the chores. Instead, Stump eloped with Balch’s oldest daughter.
Fifty years later, Balch’s forest had been converted into Willamette Heights—one of the city’s most remote and beautiful neighborhoods, tucked into the hills above the canyon of Balch Creek.
 

Portland’s northwest hills are a great place for a winter walk: the steep streets and staircases warm you up, you’re rewarded with nonstop views of gorgeous and artistic homes, and you can combine your urban walk with a wilderness hike by stepping off many of the streets right onto a  Forest Park trail. 

Guilds Lake was a large shallow wetland along the Willamette River. It was later filled and is now the Guilds Lake Industrial Sanctuary—home to warehouses and industry.

Guilds Lake was chosen as the site for Portland’s great moment in the spotlight, the 1905 World’s Fair. Developers got busy capitalizing on that opportunity: they put in a streetcar on Thurman Street and built spec homes in the popular Arts and Crafts style. They marketed the neighborhood to fair visitors: after visiting the fair, people road the street car up to look at homes and sites that had sweeping views of the lake, the river and Cascade Peaks.
Hallmarks of the style: picturesque homes with steeply pitched roofs, half-timbering, elaborate corbelled chimneys—a general English landed gentry look.
Today walking Thurman from the Thurman Street Bridge west gives you one great home after another to admire.

Upper streets in Willamette Heights have the tall firs and cedars of Forest Park as a backdrop.
One reason mail carriers have great legs: old homes, even at the top of 30 steps, still get their mail delivered to their door. Not true of new homes, where cluster mailboxes at the curb are more efficient, but a lot less interesting.

After climbing streets and stairs, big views are the reward.

NW Gordon Street is gorgeous—homes are newer versions of the older shingle and Arts and Crafts style seen in Willamette Heights.
Many streets have Forest Park trailheads at their dead-ends.

Long before Benson Bubblers, school kids felt sorry for horses pulling delivery trucks up steep Thurman Street into the neighborhood. They raised funds for a fountain, which runs continuously. It has a horse trough, dog bowl and bubbler for humans.
 

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