Take a Walk
By Ellie Hodder
Ellie Hodder is the
founder of Women Walk
the Marathon® in
Portland, OR and
creator of the website
Read This Column Last!
OK. You’ve read the entire issue of Walk About from cover to cover and have decided to get involved with a walking club or gather a group of friends. Good for you. It’s always an added bonus to share your love of walking with friends.
What are your walking goals for 2009? What are your plans to keep your group together and sustain your enthusiasm?
Whether your goals are to walk every day at least a half an hour or to participate in walking events, or some combination of these, it’s good to have some tools at your fingertips so that you can keep your walks fresh and interesting. If you’re going to walk events — say, a half marathon in hilly terrain — it’s good to have resources for routes with degrees of difficulty that will prepare you for the challenges of that event.
Below are some handy tips that will help you do just that.
Walk Your Neighborhood
Many municipalities have great web sites that are loaded with information about walking in city neighborhoods and parks. There are many great parks and trails north of the Columbia River in Clark County and the city’s web site holds a wealth of information to help you know all about them. Check out the City of Vancouver web site at www.ci.vancouver.wa.us/parks-recreation. Trails are described in detail and maps are available for you to download to your computer.
Similarly, the City of Portland offers free maps for walkers. These maps are available at www.portlandonline.com either digitally or in hardcopy and detail routes in all neighborhoods of the city. There is information on the site regarding wheelchair and stroller accessibility, as well.
Maybe you have a route in your neighborhood that you love, but don’t know the distance. There are many free online mapping sites such as www.gmap-pedometer.com (a Google site). Go to this site, and pull up your neighborhood. Then, click on the points of your route. The map uses GPS technology to tell you how far you’ve gone.
The urban areas of the Pacific Northwest are home to many small and large parks. Consider using the Gmap web site to search out all the parks in your neighborhood and see how many you can visit over the course of a couple months without driving to any of them.
Enjoy Our Fabulous Urban Parks and Greenspaces
With a little sleuthing, you can find used books that will help you widen your horizons. Have you ever considered walking all the trails of Forest Park in 2009 (not all at once)? Did you know that Forest Park is the largest urban wilderness in the country and a local treasure? Pick up a copy (when I say “pick up” I really mean, put on your walking shoes, grab a reusable tote and walk on over to your local bookstore or library) of One City’s Wilderness, Portland’s Forest Park by Marcy Cottrell Houle. This book details the trails and service roads and gives commentary on the flora, fauna, and geology of the park. Personally, I think the time estimates are a tad generous, but the books worth owning if you like trail walking and are looking for trails in your own backyard.
Take a walk on Wildwood Trail, which begins across the parking lot from the Oregon Zoo and continues for nearly 30 miles. By breaking it up into smaller segments, you and your walking buds can walk the entire length in a single season and enjoy spectacular views and wonderful hiking trails right inside the city limits.
Or, maybe you enjoy urban walking. Pick up a copy of Nature Walks in and Around Portland (previously A Pedestrian’s Portland) by Karen and Terry Whitehall. Portland is home to a host of parks with many unique features and great birding. Also check out Afoot and Afield Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain.
Looking for a Challenge?
If the neighborhood streets and sidewalks fail to challenge your quads sufficiently, there are some lovely hills and a plethora of stairs hither and about. Need to get your heartrate up? Get a copy of Portland’s Little Red Book of Stairs: the City’s Ultimate Guide to More Than 150 Curious and Colorful Outdoor Stairways by Stefana Young and see how many stairs you can incorporate into your route. Or, pick up Portland Hill Walks, Portland City Walks, or Walk There by Laura Foster for a few uphill challenges.
We are so lucky here in the Pacific Northwest. The weather cooperates so that, with a small investment in rain gear, we can walk nearly every single day. With a little ingenuity, we can take in a wealth of natural and architectural beauty in our own backyard, and enjoy walks that are interesting and offer physical challenges, too. And much of it is available without expending a drop of fossil fuel. It doesn’t get much better than this!