Over the river and through the woods… if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, this modern fairy tale-themed outing on a gray day will leave you refreshed and renewed. A modest hike in Forest Park, cozy booksellers, woodsy surroundings, a stop at an authentic German beer bar and some unusual artifacts await you.
Portland is well-known for our parks; most notably, perhaps, Forest Park. Coincidentally, the producers of the TV show “Grimm” thought Portland’s Forest Park was similar to the Black Forest of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and so decided to bring the hit show to Portland. If you’re a fan, you can be on the lookout for Wesen throughout the day. With a few stops along the way, you’ll have imagination and fuel enough to go the distance.
Breakfast begins at Sweedeedee, a small, bright breakfast joint, opened in 2011 by former Random Pie manager Eloise Augustyn. The former kaleidoscope factory features a rustic European elegance. Fuel up on protein rich eggs and the potato plate with baked eggs, trout, and salsa verde, but don’t miss the gloriously crafted Honey Pie. A warning: seats fill up quickly – and you order at the counter – so get there early to secure a spot.
After breakfast, head to the SE corner of Rosa Parks Way and Interstate Avenue for picnic supplies at New Seasons. Artisan cheeses, crusty bread, and fresh fruit make for hearty alpine provisions. Kitty corner to New Seasons, and on your way out to St. John’s, stop in for a coffee to go at The Arbor Lodge. This timber-lined coffee shop energizes the neighborhood with Coava coffee, the baristas are unfailingly nice, it’s quiet and warm, and lovely art graces the walls.
Wind through St. Johns to the St. Johns Booksellers, where you may find fairy tales, a guide book on hiking, or a copy of Wildwood by local author and Decemberists lead, Colin Meloy. A hodgepodge of inexpensively-priced used books, kind staff, and quiet surroundings make this bookstore a must-see. While it lacks the exhaustive collection of Powell’s, the location and customer service have created a loyal following in North Portland. Should you decide to extend your ramble in St. Johns, pints can be found. Occidental Brewing is just under the bridge, and has a nice selection of house beers in their tap room, including Lucubrator and Schwarzbier, two winter seasonals.
Once you’ve gathered supplies and a guide book, set off for a hike in Forest Park, located in the Tualatin Mountains slightly north and west of downtown Portland. Portland’s civic leaders created a municipal park commission in 1903, leading to the acquisition of land through donations, foreclosures, and transfers. Eventually encompassing about 4000 acres, Forest Park now ranks 19th in size for parks within U.S. city limits. Forest Park stretches for more than 8 miles; with over 80 miles of intertwining trails (including the 30-mile-long Wildwood Trail) there are extensive hiking opportunities throughout the park.
Proceed west over the St. Johns Bridge near Cathedral Park to NW Bridge Avenue, where you’ll park at the Ridge Trail Trailhead entrance on the south ramp of the St. Johns Bridge. Walk Ridge Trail to Leif Erickson Drive, and turn right on the continuation of Ridge Trail, proceeding straight ahead to the junction of Wildwood Trail. Turn right at Firelane 7, right again at the junction of Hardesty Trail, where you will intersect with Wildwood Trail, and continue back down in a loop to Leif Erickson, returning to your car via Ridge Trail.
A bountiful wildlife graces the park, with over 112 bird species (including Great Horned Owl, Bewick’s Wren, Orange Crowned Warbler, Osprey, and Northern Pygmy Owl). Mammals such as the creeping vole, bobcat, coyote, Mazama pocket gopher (my favorite), little brown bat, and Pacific Jumping Mouse make up Forest Park’s family of over 62 species of mammals. Douglas fir, western hemlock, western red cedar, and smaller populations of grand fir, black cottonwood, red alder, big leaf maple, madrone and western yew create the leafy canopies under which you’ll walk.
Returning to North Portland, head to Mississippi for a stop into PaxtonGate PDX, where you’ll encounter a plethora of choices should you want a memento of your foray into the wilderness. Owners Andy and Susan carefully curate collections of science and natural history treasures. Mounted insects, air plants, rock and mineral specimens abound; coyote, possum & other small skulls line shelves alongside shells, bones and feathers. Fossils, locally made jewelry, and glass eyes fill curio cabinets; a lovely small library fills a half wall, and gorgeous art in all price points is plentiful.
Just on the corner of Mississippi and Skidmore, Prost! offers a delicious finish to a day spent tromping in the woods. While you soak in the dark wood of the authentic pub, the Erdinger Dunkel Weisse is rich, caramelly and warming; great to sip and enjoy while pondering the wildlife roving Forest Park, the probability of mythical creatures in our city’s woods, and discussing the day’s adventure.