Walk the Mountain: An evening in Forest Park for no reason

PORTLAND, Ore., — “When I walk the mountain, all I do is walk the mountain. When you walk the mountain, that’s only part of what you do,” Josh Spice commented in an internet post from Bailey Newbrey. Spice said the words of wisdom came from someone else and unfortunately I can’t attribute it to anyone. 

I’m not in the habit of using Instagram as a source of introspection, but this was a unique situation and that thought was close enough to ideas that were rolling around in my head for a while. 

I was in Forest Park the previous two nights. Although this story is about one of the two nights, the pictures were from the night before that when I only rode to the 1-mile marker. The rainy second night I was just pedaling the single speed in the rain, keeping the camera stashed and dry (I had a battered Sony RX100Va, a digital instead of the film cameras I normally have) I was riding with a loose plan of going to the picnic table in the northwest part of the quirky intersection of Leif Erikson Drive and Saltzman Road, which is about 10 miles from my couch, depending on the route I take. It was raining, and had been for a few days — enough to cause flooding and a gnarly land slide that killed someone driving on Historic Columbia River Highway under 15 feet of mud. 

The recent rain and storms knocked down trees and branches, most of which workers had removed from the road (or really “road”) by the time I passed through. Runoff mixed mud and silt with the biological material that makes mud that dries into dust and small twigs. It was just me, the drizzle, my new single-speed Surly ECR and the trees. 

While I wasn’t out for any sort of training ride or to accomplish anything, I was riding this as part of Shawn Granton’s Midnite Bicycle League Challenge, but the reality is I would have been there anyway. Granton is a rad dude who organizes the best and most informative social rides around, including Urban Adventure League.

This is what I wrote in that Instagram post: 

“I was in Forest Park here in Portland the other night, riding a 20-mile out-and-back in the rain; half of the ride was on an unpaved road among trees. The air smelled of creosote and pine tar — in the best possible way, a Cascadian forest in the rain. 

It was just me, small rain drops and suspended mist bending toward the light and the industrial areas off in the distance (where Chris King is!). 

It was glorious and it helped me solve nothing. I was walking the mountain, as it were.”

Beyond the shadows was the glow of the industrial bullshit along the Willamette River in Portland, which makes an image like Valhalla (no, not Long Island), a glowing anthropomorphic purgatory beyond the darkness that separated around me; I slipped quietly through the darkness without leaving a wake.

My lights seemed to shine inside the darkness, those bending illuminated rain drops looked like roots from apparitions of trees growing in the forgotten nightmares and bad ideas cast away as pedal strokes and deep breaths of damp forest air fueled forgotten creativity and the possibility that tomorrow may be tolerable. Beyond the the ghosts and afterimages of trees and glowing eyes, the glow of the anthropomorphic land that should be a flood plain bangs and echoes and booms and reminds me that no matter what reality that may be around me, there is always a reality that is completely foreign to me. 

They may not notice the the ghosts. Maybe they’re hiding from them. I wonder if they walk the mountain. 

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