Revival of the Travel Blog: Thru Hiking The Wildwood

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August 5th 2020
Published: August 6th 2020
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Today seemed like a great day to revive my old blog. Not a special day by any means, but a good day for reflection and to edit a lot of my former posts (HOLY DRAMA, BATMAN. Those entries had to change). Four days ago, I completed something that I never thought that I could: I hiked 30 miles in ONE day. Well 30.2 plus maybe another quarter mile to check out a viewpoint. But I'll get to that.

First, an update.

What a year it has been with COVID-19. Who knew that I would be sent home from work in March and told to telework until further notice. Who knew that "social distancing" would become the norm, and facial coverings would be mandatory whenever leaving the house. Who knew that life would change on a global scale over such a short period of time due to a viral outbreak that originated over 6000 miles away.

I definitely wasn't prepared, but I also didn't know a year ago that my life would be what it is today. I'm 32 now, and live in a beautiful house in the Heights that we are renting from a couple that owns a chimney company. Occupying the house with me/putting up with my nonstop talks about hiking is my 911 dispatcher girlfriend, Crisa who also has a love of travel. Her tastes are quite a bit more refined than mine as she prefers plush feather blankets and boutique airBNBs to camp fires and sleeping on the ground, but we find a nice balance. She has this amazing ability to walk into a room and strike up a conversation with anyone which my introvert-self appreciates on an almost daily basis.

We spend quite a bit of our home life catering to our two fur children that are both named after beer. Obie/Oberon/Monster is still my favorite trail partner as he's a total goofball and ready at a moment's notice to go anywhere. When that gear comes out, he heads to the door and sits, waiting eagerly for the much loved command "come on" when I'm about to walk out the door. At 7, he has already hit his "grumpy old man" years often grumbling at us when we interrupt his sleep or ignoring other dogs like he can't be bothered by their presence. His furry snoot has grayed considerably in the past year, but I'm hoping we still have lots of miles together. Our big guy, Guinness just turned 6 and has some hip trouble that limits his adventuring, but doesn't limit his constant outpouring of affection. He is quick to offer emotional support before we even realize that we need it, and is one heck of a dock diver and swimmer. The boys have a sibling type relationship where they don't want us to know they love each other yet they nap and play together, and every now and then we catch them licking each other's ears. It's pretty cute.

Since Crisa and I started dating last fall, we've had a lot of great experiences together including recently running off to Wyoming one weekend to look for animals around the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks. What an experience! But coronavirus has definitely impacted our plans and our daily lives. While Crisa is deemed essential and can still go to her office every week, I've been confined to our home office, spending most of my day talking to the pups and drinking endless amounts of coffee. To stay sane, I've spent a lot of my free time in the woods, doing a lot of hiking...a LOT.

Prepping for an upcoming, multi-day backpacking trip is what led to the idea about hiking the Wildwood. The Wildwood is the longest natural woodland trail located in a city park in the United States at 30.2 miles. It begins at the Oregon Zoo in Portland and winds north through the Hoyt Arboretum, past Pittock Mansion, weaving through Forest Park all the way to NW Newberry Road. It's not necessarily a difficult trail with mostly soft ground and less than 3000 feet total elevation gain, but the challenge is finishing all 30 miles in one day.

Some friends of mine had completed the entire trail before, but I had never even thought about attempting it until Crisa mentioned that it would be good training for my backpacking trip. She said I could do it. I had doubts, but also love a challenge so of course I was onboard. We started talking about the trail a few weeks before the big day, plotting out how to rendezvous since Crisa wasn't interested in doing all 30 miles, but absolutely wanted to support me. I decided early on to go northbound so my car would be safe
Wildwood Trail MarkerWildwood Trail MarkerWildwood Trail Marker

These blue diamonds are supposed to mark every 1/4 mile of the trail.
at the zoo all day although that meant hitting the Arboretum and Pittock early in the day, which felt like the best features of the hike.

Before we knew it, the day was upon us and it was 5:30a.m. I moved a bit slower than I wanted, taking awhile to tape up my slightly injured ankle and triple-checking all of my gear. After kissing my girl goodbye and getting a glare from the pups as I told them to stay, I drove to the Zoo, sipping coffee and feeling anxious/excited/nervous all at once. The sky was gray and the cloud coverage made it a bit chilly, but it was also calm and peaceful at the zoo with the parking lot nearly empty. Around 7a.m., I finished up the last of my coffee, paid my parking fee for the day, locked up my car, and set off on what would be the beginning of a very long day.

As I headed up the hill to the start of the Wildwood, a few ultrarunners passed me, talking about how this first bit was the least encouraging part of their run. They took off to some concrete stairs off to the right while I intersected with the Wildwood off to the left near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The trail weaves around Washington Park, intersecting several other trails along the way so I tested out the Gaia app for navigation which I hadn't used before but was highly recommended in a lot of my hiking groups. It instantly showed me where I was, and I relied on it for the first 0.5 mile or so as the trail winds all over. Not far in, I spotted the blue diamond trail markers that would be my friends for most of the day.

At around a mile in, I hit an archery range where several families were already set up despite it only being about 7:20 a.m. on a Saturday. The trail continues on through the Hoyt Arboretum, weaving among old-growth Douglas fir trees. I was moving at a pretty good clip as I passed the fork for the Japanese Garden and paused briefly on the overlook, surrounded by Giant Sequoias and redwoods. It was a beautiful sight! Around mile 3, the trail ascends upward with lots of switchbacks towards Pittock Mansion, a historic landmark in Portland built by Henry L. Pittock, the founder of the newspaper, the Oregonian. Just after 8 a.m., I was at Pittock Mansion and surprised that it was so quiet and calm with just a couple other people near the viewpoint. I took in the gorgeous view of Portland, happy to have a few quiet moments to myself as the city slowly started to rise. A quick restroom break and then I was back on the trail, winding down from Pittock to Lower Macleay Park -- a day hike I had completed twice before. I started jogging a bit, feeling excited at completing this short section so quickly.

That excitement was a bit short-lived though as I came upon a placard showing the Wildwood trail map; I still had a LONG ways to go. I saw the most people on this section of trail as I passed the Witch's Castle or Stone House which used to be a bathroom before becoming too vandalized to maintain. The "crowd" quickly thinned out as the trail branched off to the left and started ascending. I didn't see very many people between miles 6-10 as I weaved north, entertaining myself by counting the number of slugs on the trail while I
The WildwoodThe WildwoodThe Wildwood

Hoyt Arboretum
listened to a podcast by a man named Mighty Blue that had hiked the entire AT.

Just over 11 miles in, the trail intersected with Firelane 1, and I was pleasantly surprised to see two picnic tables -- a perfect spot to take a short coffee break. It was around 11:00 a.m. at this point, and the top of my left foot was already starting to ache. I made a quick call to Crisa to update her on my pace, and happily consumed a cup of coffee and the other half of my probar that I hadn't finished earlier in the day. The caffeine helped me get my second wind and I took off at a nice pace which continued until about mile 14. My left foot was really starting to ache by this point, and I had loosened the laces of my shoes but I'm not sure it had been enough as my feet started swelling. I had also shed my long sleeves earlier in the day, but was really still feeling the heat of the day as my pace slowed considerably.

I was surprised to find no trail detour around mile 14.5 even though trip reports and the Portland Parks and Rec website said the trail was closed. So I continued onward, passing a handful of people every now and then, and occasionally getting sniffed quickly by pups as they passed by with their owners. By around mile 16.5 I felt like I was barely moving and stopped at the Firelane 5 intersection to finish off the last of my coffee and let Crisa know I wasn't going to be at mile 22 when I thought I would. Instead, we made a plan to rendezvous at mile 22.5, and she was going to bring me another trekking pole, pain meds, and a new pair of socks which I was hoping would help the aching that I now felt in both of my feet.

Miles 17-21 are a bit of a blur as I just remember being very tired and getting slightly annoyed at a family that was loudly playing music while hiking, but it was also during this time that I realized I was hiking the "wrong" way and had been for hours. Portland Parks and Rec had put out numerous signs suggesting trail traffic head in one direction to minimize risks associated with COVID, and make loops out of the Wildwood and connecting trails. I wasn't interested in looping on other trails so I mostly ignored those signs, until a neighborhood Karen asked me if the trail had one-way signs clearly posted and remarked that she wasn't interested in hiking on a trail that was bi-directional. (Sorry Portland Parks and Rec -- fatigue had set in long before these trail signs appeared). At that point though, there was no turning back and I couldn't even glare at Karen since I was trying to mentally figure out how I was going to finish the last 8 miles of this trail.

I finally hit the intersection with Springville Road around mile 22.5 where I was supposed to rendezvous with Crisa, but her ride was delayed so I took a much needed rest. I took my shoes off, knowing new socks were coming, and cringed as I wiggled my feet around. After a couple minutes, I just laid down, right on the dirt and rocks, not caring about anything. A man came by and asked me if I was alright and I quietly said yes, that I was just waiting for someone. I laid there looking
Hello, Portland!Hello, Portland!Hello, Portland!

Photo taken from the viewpoint at Pittock Mansion.
at the tall conifers, trying to tell myself it would all be over soon. After a few minutes, I heard "Is that my gorgeous girlfriend?" from up the road and couldn't be happier to see Crisa happily bouncing down the trail towards me.

Her fresh legs and enthusiasm were just what I needed as I changed my socks, took some pain meds, and we headed off down the trail. It was around 4:30 p.m. at this point. The trail gently weaved through Forest Park, and Crisa happily entertained me telling me all about how her day had been while I had been on trail. The miles passed slowly, but faster with her there as the sun was starting to fade. We passed mile 24 and I cringed at the thought of another 6 miles, but also knew I couldn't quit now. At mile 26, I think I let out a deep groan, feeling like Crisa's car was forever away. But I also realized I had just walked a marathon, which I had never accomplished before so that felt good and slightly motivating. Around mile 27, Crisa suggested we try jogging a little and I wasn't sure I could tell the difference at that point between jogging and standing still. My feet were aching badly although my injured ankle was holding up pretty nicely with the taping I had done that morning. Crisa did her best to keep me smiling and moving. At times, it took a few seconds to take even a couple steps and I would alternate between dragging and trying to swiftly walk. Just after mile 28, we passed Firelane 15, our last intersection before we were done and I knew I had this! About 1.7 miles to go and we would be done.

I tried to go faster but in reality was still moving slowly as we walked and walked and walked. Then we were at mile 29 and it felt even closer. Then mile 29.5 and we were switchbacking, realizing we were going to have to end the trail on an ascent. I was using both poles at this time to propel myself forward, and not looking forward to one final push. Around the last bend we went and then it was slowly uphill to NW Newberry Road. Crisa got behind me at some point and started filming my final steps as I pushed my way to the final Wildwood Trail sign, touching it as we passed. I had done it -- all 30.2 miles (plus whatever distance it was over to Pittock viewpoint). It was 8:20 p.m. by this point meaning I had been on the trail mostly walking for approximately 13 hours and 20 minutes. She grabbed the beer from her pack which she lovingly had put on ice so it would be cold for me, and we toasted the end of the trail. The end of a very long day. The complete thru-hike of the Wildwood Trail. Looking back on it now, I'm not sure I could've made it those last 8 miles without Crisa's help. And she was right, I could do it, but I'm not eager to complete another 30 mile hike in one day again any time soon. But who knows. Oh, and we saw 27 slugs total. Happy Trails!

Final steps video:

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


Slug 1 of 27 I counted on the trailSlug 1 of 27 I counted on the trail
Slug 1 of 27 I counted on the trail
The WildwoodThe Wildwood
The Wildwood
Another slugAnother slug
Another slug
The Witch's CastleThe Witch's Castle
The Witch's Castle
Still smiling around mile 7Still smiling around mile 7
Still smiling around mile 7
The WildwoodThe Wildwood
The Wildwood
Rest stop around mile 11.5Rest stop around mile 11.5
Rest stop around mile 11.5
The WildwoodThe Wildwood
The Wildwood
The WildwoodThe Wildwood
The Wildwood
Crisa on The WildwoodCrisa on The Wildwood
Crisa on The Wildwood
Crisa on The WildwoodCrisa on The Wildwood
Crisa on The Wildwood
We did it!! Finishing the trail at NW Newberry RoadWe did it!! Finishing the trail at NW Newberry Road
We did it!! Finishing the trail at NW Newberry Road

7th August 2020

I’m so flippin’ proud of you!

Tot: 0.125s; Tpl: 0.015s; cc: 13; qc: 29; dbt: 0.0732s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.1mb