Tag Archives: Clackamas County

The Adventures of Lycra Grrl: Traversing to Metzler with a Ninja

One week ago my friend Emily (aka Ninja) and I biked to Metzler Park, a county park outside of Estacada. Joined by Emily’s brother Dominic, we had a nice overnight adventure, complete with a couple of unexpected twists.

Emily biked from her place in North Portland and met me one mile from mine. Rare indeed are the times when “friends” are willing to bike to my house, as I live outside of the edge of civilization according to many. If you’re wondering where that is, here’s a closeup of my neighborhood on the map of Portland.

Soon we headed south, then east along a highway I had traversed many times, but never by bike. The freeway noise was loud, but the novelty of the new experience kept me from even noticing much. As it turns out, the freeway is also fairly well-equipped for bikes, so we had a pretty smooth ride!

As we approached Carver the shoulder petered out, but we were close to our exit. After a brief refreshment break, we branched off on our last major turn, where we were to follow one of Clackamas County’s backroads for about 15 miles.

Springwater Road had a lot of up on our way out, but most of it was fairly gradual. It was warm, the first sunny day in nearly a month. Mount Hood beckoned us across deliciously scented strawberry fields. Even Mount St. Helens was out! Along the way my bike was making a noise that I suspect had to do with the extra weight, but before long the noise vanished again. (Note to self: get this checked out before your trip later this summer!)

After the final push up one last hill, the ground gave way beneath us and we hurled downward at quite a clip entering Metzler Park. Which was great, except it would mean a cantankerous uphill first thing in the morning.

Dominic had driven Emily’s car to the site, and he was already chatting with the park host when we arrived. Soon we set up our tents, and I ran away to check out the surroundings while Emily showered. I discovered a great suspension bridge crossing the creek, a placid swimming hole that reminded me of Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula, and more salmonberries throughout the park than I have ever seen in one place. Dominic wanted to see the final game of the Stanley Cup, so at about 5:30pm we piled in the car and headed to Estacada, where we ended up at the Safari Club.

The legend behind Estacada’s “Legendary” Safari Club is that the original owner was a big game hunter, and many of his kills ended up as trophies at the restaurant. And man, is there a lot of taxidermy in that place. The dioramas are strange enough, but for this place to be in the heart of Estacada takes the cake. Given the lack of upkeep on the specimens and how nobody seemed to care if we touched them, I wouldn’t be surprised if this place has changed hands multiple times since the original owner provided the trophies.

The Safari Club is also not the ideal place for a vegetarian to get a meal, although I managed. Considering I had brought some leftovers for dinner and wasn’t nearly as tired from our bike ride as my ride to Champoeg, I could easily have skipped the trip into Estacada and been fine. But then again, I would have missed the prime opportunity to take funny taxidermy photos with someone who shares my sense of humor.

When we returned from Estacada, dark clouds had started creeping in overhead. We built a campfire using wood the previous campers had left (hurray!), and sat around chatting in the dark until nearly midnight.

At 5:30am I woke to quite a racket: RAIN. Water would come into the tent if I left to use the restroom, so I just listened for a while. Finally when the noise died down a little I headed out, and it wasn’t horrible. Despite a weather forecast for a chance of “showers” (“a fall of rain for a short duration“) this rain didn’t even pause for about four hours. The inside of my tent mostly stayed dry—pretty good considering I hadn’t put the rain fly on 100% perfectly.

The question of the morning became whether we would take the car home. Emily had already said she was planning to get a ride out of the park in the morning, in order to avoid that nasty hill. Given the rain, she was planning to take the car all the way back to Portland. Originally I was planning to climb the hill (after all, I need hill training for my upcoming trip), but the rain fouled things up for me too. I had not brought any raingear, thinking that the chance of showers was small enough I could just live through any sprinkles I would encounter on the way home.

Lesson learned, eh? Oregon et Fortuna, you are harsh mistresses.

After much deliberation I did accept a ride home. I wouldn’t have done this had the car not been there already, nor if it hadn’t been raining for the last four hours. Estacada gets more rain than Portland because it is closer to the mountains, and it didn’t rain at home for the rest of the day. So, I ended up pretty disappointed in myself. Rather than working through a challenge, I took the easy, convenient way. That hasn’t happened for a while.

It is regret like this that teaches us to do better in the future, yes?

Photos: Emily and HA Bike to Metzler Park on Flickr.

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Exciting Bike Improvements Along the Springwater

Recently I got some great news about planned safety improvements along the Springwater Corridor, at an intersection very near my house in Portland. This fall, Clackamas County will be adding a bike signal—the county’s first!—to the intersection of Johnson Creek Boulevard and Bell Avenue.

The intersection presents a unique challenge, because the old rail line (and now the Springwater) cross the intersection diagonally. When I was a kid, it was common for car traffic to be stopped for minutes at a time for a passing train, before train service finally petered out. Ever since Johnson Creek Boulevard got an I-205 offramp in the early 90s, and the Springwater opened in 1996, both car and bike/ped traffic have been steadily increasing, and safety concerns along with it.

Despite being an extremely cautious cyclist, I’ve had close calls with motorists at this intersection on a few occasions. I’ve also witnessed many more close calls. Almost all of these have been from motorists making a right turn from northbound Bell Avenue onto eastbound Johnson Creek Boulevard (next to the building above), and failing to check the crosswalk before starting to make their turn.

But there are other safety issues as well. Springwater traffic climbs so high on nice summer weekends that sometimes there isn’t enough curb space for users that are trying to make the double-cross to navigate the intersection. A group of more than three bikes usually finds one person spilling over into the street. And during the couple of times the Hood to Coast race has come through the area, the curbs were even overflowing into the streets with participating runners.

Because I live nearby and have witnessed so many traffic snarls, I’ve been suggesting for several years how much could be improved by adding a diagonal bike signal at this location (drawing at left). Bike signals are extremely expensive infrastructure, though—$248,000 is one estimate I’ve seen thrown around. Given that Clackamas County is perpetually underfunded, does not generally prioritize bike/ped improvements, and residents are generally unwilling to chip in for the common good, I assumed my dream would never be realized.

Then again, there are instances where it just takes one injured person suing a cash-strapped government entity to make them suddenly find money or re-prioritize a safety hazard. Or perhaps sustainable transportation dynamo (and personal hero) Lynn Peterson had something to do with this before being called to the Governor’s office.

However it happened, I don’t care—I’ll take it! This is amazing news for our forgotten little neighborhood, and I can’t wait to return home and try out the first bike signal in Clackamas County.

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