So it's a bit foggy. So it's chilly out. So much the better for a winter walking adventure in Portland. It was New Year's Eve Day and the Columbia River Walking Club and Vancouver Volkssport Club had carefully marked two 5 km trails from the Pearl District REI Store.
You can walk the area any time, but it is especially easy with a marked trail or a guide. Local volkssport walking clubs provide both. Their walks are always open to the public and self-paced. I opted for the 5k walk through The Pearl District to enjoy a little of the old and be amazed at the new.
Portland's Pearl District, once a failing industrial area, has undergone a transformation and is now a highly sought-after area to live, work and play. Only twenty years ago, The Pearl consisted of dilapidated warehouses and abandoned rail yards. You can find out more about the history of The Pearl District on the Explore The Pearl website.
The walk took us through some of the streets with small apartments and lofts. On the main floors, there were often coffee shops, hair salons or flower shops. Urban grocery stores with well-stocked wine bins, were enticing. Fine restaurants dotted the area. As I walked along I noticed old warehouse buildings transformed into upscale shops. The Portland Street Car and MAX light rail lines ran through the area.
Soon, we headed toward the Willamette River. The Police Horse Facility had been moved to the the other side of the railroad tracks. The Union Station tower was a reminder of "something old - something new." At Albers Mill we turned and walked the riverside decks and paths under two of Portland's iconic bridges, eventually coming to Old Town.
Crossing Nieto Parkway, we entered Old Town at Skidmore Fountain, dedicated in 1888. The fountain still has the water troughs for horses. While walking it was easy to imagine Portland in the horse and buggy era. Ornate towers and iron building facades added interest. Portland, Oregon is home to the second-largest collection of cast iron-fronted buildings in the United States.
Since this was a planned walk, I followed the route knowing there would be points of interest along the way. One was Voodoo Donuts which has a cult following. Their Third Avenue location had a line winding halfway down the block. Although this area had homeless shelters and "interesting" entertainment venues such as Darcell XV's theater, it felt safe for walking mid-morning. Soon the route took us into Chinatown with restaurants, the Lan Su Chinese Garden and shop windows filled with oriental goods.
Many of these places were worth a stop. With volkssport walking, you are given a rather generous window of time for finishing the walk so you can easily spend the greater part of a day doing a walk that may only take you and hour or two if you don't stop. The choices are yours and that is why touring on foot with clubs like the Columbia River Walking Club are so popular.
Our walk ended where we started. The Pearl District REI on NW Johnson was a great place for a walker to shop. And, they offer free parking in their garage for shoppers.