Reasons Why You Should Walk Through Portland
Becky Ohlsen, author of Walking Portland, is one of our prolific writers. She is constantly out hiking and researching and writing books for us. So it was nice for Becky to slow down just a bit and amble through the streets of Portland, observing all its changes. While still researching, of course.
Walking is a great way to think. Lots of important thinkers have written about it, from Emerson
and Thoreau to Nietzsche to Kierkegaard – who supposedly said, “If one just keeps on walking, everything will be alright.” (Seems worth a try.)
Walking and writing go well together, too – just look at Wordsworth, or for something a little more contemporary, Rebecca Solnit (who wrote the wonderful Wanderlust: A History of Walking ).
Anyway, it beats sitting at your desk and struggling to dredge up something useful to say. Writing, even travel writing, involves a surprising amount of sitting at a desk. When I’m on a deadline, I dream up excuses all morning, little errands that surely need doing: groceries to pick up, packages to mail, something on hold (or more likely, overdue) at the library.
So if there’s one thing I hope for the new edition of Walking Portland, it’s that it gives readers 30-odd new excuses to go outside and take a walk.
Although the book works just fine as a travel guide for visitors to Portland, it’s really less about getting around than it is about slowing down and seeing the city differently.
Portland is growing and changing at breakneck speed. It’s hard to keep up, even for someone like me, whose job is to keep up. Things move fast: apartments spring up on the tombs of old dive bars; restaurants open to great fanfare, then close again before I have a chance to eat there; entire streets are rerouted or redesigned.
The pace of growth in formerly sleepy little Stumptown is exciting, but for some of us it’s also a little alarming. I find that walking is a nice way to slow it all down, take stock of what’s new, and absorb the changes at street level. (I still miss a lot, and I’m constantly amazed at new buildings and businesses popping up where just yesterday I could swear there was nothing.)
Most of the walks in the book are built for sauntering aimlessly through urban areas with a high potential for distraction and discovery. (A few are more remote, incorporating wide-open meadows, riverside paths or leafy trails through the woods.) They’re easy to customize: you can mix several walks together, do half one day and half the next, get tired and hop a bus, or even just “walk” vicariously while sitting in a pub, reading the book.
I support that approach.
As I mentioned in the first edition – and it’s still true – some of the best things in Walking Portland are gone: The old steakhouse with the deep red leather booths. The creek that disappears. The rock club that turned into a pawn shop. The building shaped like a shoe.
Some of the walks are ghost walks now – so much of what they pass is lost. But there’s still a lot in Portland waiting to be found.
The new edition includes three brand-new walks and one bonus walk, as well as all new photos and updated descriptions of the original 30 routes. Ideally, it should work like any good guide: point you toward a neighborhood and give you a general sense of its character, then turn you loose. After all, it’s much more fun to discover interesting things on your own. (But do let me know in the comments if you find things you’re excited about sharing!)