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Part One and Part Two.


Portland bridges move people over the river.

They also create fantastic venues for events.

Above is Portland’s Mini Maker Faire from Sunday in OMSI’s parking lot.

That’s the Marquam Bridge and I-5 overhead.

A beautiful thing about Portland is its availability. I left my driveway at 1:30 and parked on the east side by 2:00 to avoid parking meters and get on the hike.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with a leisurely Sunday watching NFL games, but it’s a kick to check on the city.

Some folks avoid downtown’s urban center. They don’t want the hassle of pan handlers and homeless suffering, and just getting hit up too often.

Avoid the interruptions by dressing appropriately. The right look means peace and calm.


A beat and broken cowboy hat, semi-cateye shades, and a work shirt means you’ll be left alone by nearly everyone.

Once you hit your stride you’ll sweat through most everything, so tie the shirt around your hips early.

Next stop is north of the Hawthorne Bridge.


It may look like just another cement city sidewalk, but the river is just to the left.

It’s a commune with nature on Portland’s original super highway, the Willamette River.


What are the rules for the city section of the river?

Throw a line in the water.

Throw a lawn chair on the beach.

Enjoying the city means knowing how it works.

This is a nice beach and it’s upstream from the Municipal Sewage Pump, so that’s nice.


The walk ramp to cross the Morrison Bridge looks like something from a World’s Fair.

How many skateboarders have done this 360?

Earlier under the Marquam Bridge a group of older skater dudes, maybe thirty-something, popped the metal lid on a big water meter and used it as a ramp.

What is it about grown men skateboarding pathetically? You’d think they’d stop after getting passed by middle schoolers.

Not in Portland.


The hike plan was taking a lap between the Hawthorne and Burnside Bridges on the east side, then crossing over to Saturday Market.

The Burnside stairway is pretty monumental.

The air near the top is what you’d expect with such busy foot traffic.

The gateway looks like you’re entering another time zone.


Once you walk through the door and look around, you’ll see all the bridges on both sides. Burnside looks flat, but you’re up there.

Turn left and head west and the cowboy hat and cheap sunglasses pay their freight.

Walk past the row of men and women stretched out on the sidewalk with no problems.

What is it about a big sweaty baby boomer who looks like a bad farmer that discourages conversation? It’s a good thing, and later on a bad thing.


Once Portland put up a sea wall on the Willamette and moved the freeway to the other side of the river, Waterfront Park thrived.

If Pioneer Square is Portland’s living room, then this is the backyard.

Turns out this is where the city began.


“First Wharf Stephen Coffin, 1846.”

How long has that been carved into the cement, and how have I missed it?

The city was big enough to need a wharf in 1846?

Portland was on its way.

Not far away came this:


Northeast Portland used to be on the west side?

If this is one of the corners of the original 640 acre land claim, where are the others?

You can’t beat walking history when the sidewalk is also a text book.

By the time I saw the words in stone, I’d passed through Saturday Market.

While there I noticed a couple walking in front of me drop a wad of cash and keep going.

Several market visitors looked at the money and asked each other what they should do.

I scooped it up and said, “The answer is give it back.” One of the street guys asked me to give it him.


The couple who dropped the money were a same sex pair, a couple of ladies enjoying a great Sunday.

What they didn’t enjoy was a sweaty man in a beat up cowboy hat and skinny shades giving their money back.

They gave me the stink eye and said they hadn’t lost anything I might have.

I gave it one more shot. They quick stepped away as if fleeing an over-aggressive beggar. Not a pleasant feeling.


In the distance a piper played.

He took a break and we talked. I said the gathering at my Dad’s funeral sang Amazing Grace, that we did the first verse about four times.

I told him about the dropped money and the attitude.

Did I look like a bad guy? He said he was legally blind and couldn’t say what I looked like but I sounded okay.

So I dropped the dropped money into his tip jar. He didn’t run away.

As I walked off I heard the piper play Amazing Grace.

Hiking baby boomer Portland can be an enlightening experience.

Dress too well and you’ll find yourself the target of needy people.

Dress down and you’ll put yourself on the margin. It’s a fine line, but true friends know the difference.



About David Gillaspie
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