Trail, Tram, Trolley and Train: Portland's 4T loop

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Several years ago, I read with interest a newspaper feature about a multimodal loop excursion around downtown and southwest Portland. It was a first-timer's account of the Portland 4T — Trail, Tram, Trolley and Train.

The Portland 4T showcases some of the characteristics that have given Portland its reputation as one of the nation's most livable cities: urban forests just minutes from downtown, its light-rail and trolley system, and a tram that provides spectacular views as it transports riders up and down a hill overlooking the city.

For a long time I've had the itch to try the 4T. On a day in October, my Portlander daughters Lisa and Anna Anderson and my wife Nancy Anderson and I finally found time for all four of us to do the 4T. Here's the story of our adventure:

2 p.m.

The map shows a big loop, but we decide to start by taking a mostly straight, mile-long hike south along 19th Street from Anna's apartment near the Fremont Bridge to the MAX light-rail stop across from Jeld-Wen Field, home of the Portland Timbers soccer and Portland State University Vikings football teams.

We pay a total of $10 for the MAX tickets, and Anna assures me that it will cover the streetcar fare after we get off the tram. I have my doubts when I see that the tickets are good for two hours.

We ride MAX to the Washington Park subway station. At 260 feet below the surface, it is the deepest transit station in North America. We take the elevator to the top, where the "Trail" part of 4T officially begins.

We see some signs, but it's not really clear whether you go left toward the zoo or right toward the World Forestry Center. We go right, past the attractive new Les AuCoin Plaza, the Forestry Center and through an access road behind the Portland Children's Museum. That's the wrong way, we found out later. (You're supposed to follow the sidewalk by the zoo, then cross Zoo Road and head west across the Highway 26 overpass.) It doesn't matter. We lose about 10 minutes, but get headed in the right direction.

2:56 p.m.


About 50 yards down the eastbound Highway 26 onramp is the trailhead for the Marquam Trail, the one we'll follow for most of the next four miles.

Within minutes we are away from the noise of the freeway and walking through the woods on a trail that is mostly up. The exhilaration of hiking in this urban wilderness is quickly dampened by the pain in my left ankle, a persistent problem in recent years that has returned with a vengeance despite the ankle brace I had laced up just an hour earlier.

My pace is now about half that of Nancy, Lisa and Anna's. As I plod along, runners dash by me in both directions.

Emerging from the woods, the trail takes us for a few blocks along city streets past a church and a gas station up to Council Crest Park.

I sit down on a bench and lace my ankle brace tighter. That does the trick. I'm now hiking in relative comfort. That's good, because the steep part of the hike hasn't ended.

As I get toward the top of Council Crest — the highest point in the city at 1,073 feet— I see people sunbathing on the west-facing lawns. Looking east, I can see Mount Hood and other peaks.

Nancy, Lisa and Anna are taking in the views of downtown while waiting for me to catch up. It's about 3:45 now, and we all agree that we have to pick up the pace.

The Marquam Trail goes down from here. We wind through the woods again and across city streets.

We reach the shelter at Marquam Nature Park, where we study maps and use the drinking fountain. We've still got a ways to go and it's growing darker in the forest. After hunting around for a few minutes, we find where the trail continues and start going up again.

Soon we connect with the half-mile Connor Trail, dedicated in 2006. As we trudge along, I see what looks like fog hanging in the gulch near the top of the steep trail. I stop and realize that it's not fog but one of the gray-toned buildings in the Oregon Health & Science University complex. The end of the hike is near.

We emerge from the trail and follow streets down to OHSU Hospital's Peter O. Kohler Pavilion, where we are eager to take the free aerial tram ride down to the South Waterfront District. (You pay $4 going the other direction.)

5:13 p.m.

We miss the tram! The last one left 13 minutes ago.

"Let's take a bus," I suggest.

We see a bus through the window. When we get outside, the bus pulls away. There wouldn't be another one for 20 minutes.

Disappointed, tired, cranky and ready for dinner, we eat the last of the crackers Nancy has packed. Then I pull up the map on my phone.

Getting to the streetcar stop at Moody and Gibbs near the east terminus of the tram is a 1.3-mile hike. We sigh, then suck it up and start walking.

We walk down Campus Drive, then take the Terwilliger Trail, a series of city streets and the new I-5 pedestrian bridge that leads us to the streetcar line. We sit on the streetcar for 20 minutes before it departs. Lisa falls asleep and I begin to nod off. We walk the final four-tenths of a mile to Anna's apartment.

6:30 p.m.

It's almost dark. We've been out four and a half hours, and our 4.5-mile hike ends up being a 7-miler.

"Good, quality family time," I say to a family that's ready to wring my neck.
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Information from: Gazette-Times, http://www.gtconnect.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press