Monday, January 18, 2010
Springwater Trail/East Bank Esplanade
All On A Winter’s Day
I had a chance to go up to Portland today and ride solo for a while. I don’t get many of those opportunities anymore, so I selected a short ride that would take me past my favorite city spot, the East Bank Esplanade. I did a lot more riding than this, but I’ll just highlight this ride because it’s magical. I highly recommend it for an easy solo or group outing. It stretches along the East side of the Willamette River and leads you into the city with remarkably little interaction--ever--with cars. I know most people know about this path, but I'm always surprised to hear more people haven't yet ridden on it. If you only go on one bike ride this whole year, this is the one to do.
Short Ride: Springwater Trail/East Bank Esplanade
Length: 10 mile loop
When I introduce people to this ride I like to start at Sellwood Riverfront Park; there you can park your car for free and unload bikes. Just east of the parking lot is a multi-use path that is part of the Springwater Trail. The path is remarkably level, there’s no car traffic, and it’s extremely enjoyable at any speed. It can get a little congested because so many people are out there, but everybody seems to get along pretty well. Just be aware that folks are moving at different speeds. Bikes-fast. Runners-medium. Strollers-slow. Birdwatchers-well, God love ‘em for being out there with us. ‘s all good. Have the camera handy, it should get a pretty good workout!
Going north on the trail takes you past Oaks Amusement Park, a destination spot in its own right that is so retro it’s just plain cool. Then there’s Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge to the right, and there’s always something of interest for the folks who are there with their binoculars. The entire path unfolds one great scene after another, until you round a corner and suddenly you see downtown Portland ahead. A little farther you’ll encounter some gnarly construction next to Ross Island Sand and Gravel (people run the stop sign but I’ve seen cyclists get honest-to-goodness citations there. So come to a full stop, ‘kay?). Follow the signs, past the place where the Portland Spirit docks, past the Portland Opera building, OMSI, and you’re there: the East Bank Esplanade.
There are so many things to take in all at once here. The river traffic, the bridges, the city skyline, the people, it’s really quite amazing. There’s a good energy here, and it’s worth being a part of it. Choose a bridge and cross over to the west side, or keep moving north along the east side until you get to the Steel Bridge. Sometimes riders and pedestrians will be temporarily halted there while the middle span is raised for boats to go through. That’s fun to watch. Trains move along the tracks directly above, so don’t get too freaked when you feel the whole structure rumble. It’s part of the fun. Be sure to ride the west side, too: there’s the new location for Saturday Market, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and of course, Riverplace Marina. You’ll find a great spot there to grab an ice cream cone before you head back. You can easily return by crossing over the Hawthorne Bridge. The sidewalk on the eastbound side can feel a little unnerving at first. The views are spectacular, and all very accessible by bike or by foot. In all my riding I’ve never experienced such interactivity with a city that has so little to do with motor vehicles. That’s what makes this ride one of the very best Portland has to offer.