Once you’ve noticed them, the entries to the trails between and behind the streets of Portland seem as much a part of the streets as any of the houses or businesses there. But before I decided to walk 16 of Portland’s trailways in 2016, I must have driven — or even walked — hundreds of times past many of these pathways without the slightest clue that they were there.
This, however, wasn’t exactly true for me of the Lyseth School & Pine Grove Trail. My church, Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church, is next to the Lyseth Elementary School end of the trail, and from the church grounds I had noticed the occasional obscured figures making their way through the woods and had become curious. Also, I had just spent a year without a car, and had been walking to church via Ray Street, right beside Pine Grove Park. I was curious about that, too.
In fact, that curiosity was at work when I got the idea of walking 16 of the sites in the Portland Trails system. So when I began, Lyseth/Pine Grove was one of the first trails I walked. That time, I approached it from the Lyseth School end, off Bramblewood Drive, which in turn is off Summit Street.
This morning, though, I used the Allen Avenue entry. The woods is pretty open; you can see houses all around, as well as the school. The Portland Trails website says that students at Lyseth designed the trail, and students from both Lyseth and nearby Lyman Moore Middle School helped construct it.
It’s a tiny haven of peace and quiet in a busy North Deering neighborhood.
Come back out onto Allen Avenue, cross the street, and you’re on the path to Pine Grove Park. It’s a narrow pathway between homes and yards that takes you into what seems like deep woods. There’s a steep hill, and branches of the trail circle the top of the hill and cut through the middle. On either side lie Virginia Avenue and Ray Street.
I love this trail. I like to experience solitude in the middle of the city, and you can really feel alone here — unless, of course, there’s someone else there. A man and dog were there this morning, and we said a cheery hi. People ask if I feel afraid in the woods, and mostly I don’t (this guy and his dog were clearly NOT potential evil-doers). I might change my mind, though, if I had the experience of being suspiciously followed, as a friend was.
The sun cast dramatic shadows this morning, and the sky was brilliant blue. It had been a while since I’d been in the woods, and as I emerged onto Allen Avenue, I felt a little happier, a little uplifted, very peaceful. I’d been in a funk about Christmas, because this one is my first without either of my parents. I’d just about decided to ditch the whole holiday, since the religious part doesn’t resonate with me. But the minister this morning talked about Christmas as a message of renewal of hope and commitment to others and the planet, as well as a time to remember past bonds with loved ones and to strengthen current ones. This did resonate, and it was on my mind as I trudged, making sure to avoid the tree roots so I wouldn’t trip. I drove home to lunch, my kitties, and a cheery afternoon.
More photos in slideshow below.