Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cedar Crossing Bridge

Cedar Crossing Bridge

Cedar Crossing Bridge


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A few photos of Portland's Cedar Crossing covered bridge, over Johnson Creek out in east Multnomah County. It's just south of Foster Road -- turn south at 134th Avenue, which turns into Deardorff Road, which crosses the bridge.

Despite how it looks, it's not actually very old. It was only built in 1982, replacing a non-covered predecessor, because a local politician thought it'd be cool to have a covered bridge somewhere in Multnomah County.

Cedar Crossing Bridge

The state's page about the bridge asserts that it isn't really a "true" covered bridge. Apparently there's far more to it than just being a bridge with a cover over it. At least if you're a purist, I mean, which I'm not. I'm not even a covered bridge fan, really. My mother is, however, so as a kid I was dragged here and there all around the state to visit the silly things. At one point she had a guidebook to all of the covered bridges around the state, and the Cedar Crossing bridge was relegated to an appendix. So I gather that true purists think it's an impostor and scoff at it. I can sort of see their point, in a way, since it's more or less a small standard-issue bridge with a wooden canopy tacked on top. Purists want their covered bridges made entirely of wood, like in the old-timey olden days of yore. And really, I'm not sure any new bridge would measure up in their eyes, since covered bridge fandom is all about sentimental nostalgia for rustic old-fashioned stuff. Covered bridges are cultural touchstones for some people, so being a fan isn't strictly about the bridges, sort of like how NASCAR isn't just about auto racing. And I suppose how Grateful Dead concerts weren't really about the music, to pick a blue-state example. Or the way British people get worked up over crappy oil paintings of hunting dogs, come to think of it. If the underlying cultural stuff doesn't resonate with you, you're bound to be confused and wonder what all the fuss is about.

But regardless, the fact remains that it's a bridge and it's covered. So there.

Cedar Crossing Bridge

So, for whatever reason, I never actually saw the thing until much later. My wife and I had just moved back to Portland after being away for a few years, and we almost rented a house just a stone's throw from the bridge. We decided against it partly because I was working in Tigard at the time, which would've been a hell of a commute, and partly because the Foster Road area just north of here has, uh, persistent issues with poverty and crime. So I'm sure that was the right decision, but still, it would've been kind of interesting to have something like this in the neighborhood.

I was in the area looking for something else, and I remembered this was here, and since I've been on something of a (non-covered) bridge bender in the last few months, I thought I'd go check it out and take a few photos.

Cedar Crossing Bridge

Some links, mostly of interest to any diehard fans who stumble across this post (in which case you've probably seen them all already):
Cedar Crossing Bridge Cedar Crossing Bridge Cedar Crossing Bridge

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pics: Thurman Street Bridge

Thurman St. Bridge


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For a bit of variety, we'll tear ourselves away from downtown bridges for a moment and... well, uh, here's a bridge up in the West Hills instead. This is the Thurman St. Bridge, which crosses Macleay Park & Balch Creek.

Sometimes you see the name "Balch Gulch Bridge" used, but you know, it's the West Hills, and the word "gulch" just doesn't fit, somehow. "Gulch" conjures up images of desperadoes with black hats and handlebar moustaches, not sensible Subaru-driving black-lab-owning tofu-eating Portlanders. This post would probably be more interesting if we had desperadoes here, but we don't. Although do have the tale of Danford Balch, the first man to be hanged (ok, legally hanged) in the state. So the creek here is named after a confirmed bad guy, which is quite unusual for Portland. Most of our pioneers (and hence, most names of streets, hills, creeks, etc.) seem to have been your basic boring, starchy, churchgoing, selfless, thrifty, industrious types, who never had an untoward thought or a whiff of scandal about them. Which, I suspect, really means their descendants burned the diaries. But I digress.

Thurman St. Bridge

Besides the usual bridge resources (Structurae, Bridgehunter), the bridge was the subject of a great Portland Tribune story back in 2005: "Creaky old bridge cries out for a fix". Which it very much does.

Thurman St. Bridge

The Thurman St. Bridge presents a historic preservation conundrum. Deep down, everyone realizes it's not a very good bridge: It's old, rickety, and inadequate for present-day traffic; it's not very safe to drive on, especially in winter; it's liable to fall down in the next earthquake; and it isn't even very attractive. Visitors to the park below practically hit their heads on the bottom of the bridge truss, it's so low to the ground, and if they don't, they're liable to get beaned by bolts falling off the bridge. The sidewalks are made of creaky little wood slats, and you can see between them in some spots, and the roadway itself is asphalt over wood, if you can believe that. If you ran across a bridge like this in, say, Peru or Macedonia, you'd come back and tell your friends all about the crappy Third World bridges you encountered. And without photos they might not believe you. Instead, it's right here in Portland. In a fancy part of town, even.

Thurman St. Bridge

Thurman St. Bridge

On the other hand, the bridge was built way back in 1905, which is extremely old by Portland standards, so you can't just scrap the thing. Good or bad, people are used to it being there, and not everyone wants to see it go. In fact, nobody's seriously proposing to remove or replace it, as far as I know. It's also true that there isn't anything else in town quite like it. It's quite the historical artifact, really. It's just that, as part of being so old, the bridge dates back to before the Ford Model T came out (1908, for you trivia buffs). So it wasn't designed for a world in which everyone had a car, much less a hulking multi-ton SUV.

Thurman St. Bridge

Actually, my understanding is that the bridge was designed to carry streetcars. (As in, the rickety little wood streetcars of 1905, not the big Euro-sleek ones Portland has today.) According to the Trib story linked to above, the bridge was built to coincide with the "Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition", a semi-official World's Fair that was held nearby in what's now industrial NW Portland. It wasn't part of the fair proper; the backers were trying to sell West Hills real estate, and figured a shiny new bridge with a shiny new streetcar was just the ticket to reel in a few interested fairgoers. And you have to admit that'd be an extremely Portland thing to do. (*cough* aerial tram *cough*)

So it's not really a relic of the fair, per se, but since almost nothing survived of the fair itself, it's only natural to want to hang on to anything vaguely connected to the event. One of the few surviving structures, incidentally, is the "NCR Building", which was moved to St. Johns after the fair, and (like many historic buildings in town) is now the McMenamins St. Johns Theater & Pub. Mmmm.... Beeeerrr....

Anyway, PSU has a great site about the fair if you're curious about this long-vanished episode of local history.

Autumn Leaf, Thurman St. Bridge

Walking across is fine, I mean, other than the fact that you're on a creaky 103 year old wooden bridge that's crying out for a fix, over a rather deep canyon, with just a cheap chain link fence for a guardrail. Other than that, no problems here. So after a good renovation, I think the bridge could be great as a pure pedestrian/bike bridge. Although that would involve moving it somewhere else, and building anew here, which would cost money. So that's probably not in the cards in the near future. It's always cheaper, in the short term, to patch things up a little and hope for the best. Hell, that's practically the law of the land here in Oregon. Apply duct tape liberally, throw a blue tarp over the whole mess, and punt it off for the next generation to figure out. Oh, well.

Thurman St. Bridge

Monday, September 22, 2008

back from vacation, sadly

So I'm back from a much-needed and all too short vacation. Which explains the lack of posts here over the last week, on the heels of the previous week's flood of posts. You might've been wondering, idly, what the deal was with all those posts. And it's true, there was a reason for those beyond just being interested in bridges and whatnot, and I may post about that soon. But not right now.

Anyway, I thought about maybe doing the moblog thing from the beach again, but I just sort of didn't feel like it, so I didn't. It wasn't a huge trip; we just headed out to the beach for a few days and didn't do much. But that was just what I needed. We made the rounds of the local used book stores (of which there are many) and bought a bunch of cheesy 80's fantasy and SF novels, hung out on our balcony reading & watching the ocean, hung out in the hotel bar drinking tacky fluorescent drinks with parasols, bought a few tacky tourist souvenirs, made the rounds of the local brewpubs (of which there are many), oh, and walked on the beach a little. It was wonderful. I have a bunch of vacation photos, naturally, and I'm sure I'll get around to posting a few sooner or later.

Right now, though, I ought to try to get back to work. I find I've almost forgotten how to do this "daily grind" thing. It's a nice feeling, really...

Friday, September 12, 2008

...and the hawthorne bridge, finally...

hawthorne bridge, infrared

hawthorne bridge, infrared

So I figured that, for the sake of completeness, I had to cover the Hawthorne Bridge too. I initially wasn't going to, you know; I'd dismissed most of the downtown Portland bridges as "uninteresting" from a walking standpoint, and declared the bridge-moseying project complete. I've already declared Mission Accomplished at least twice now, and it doesn't seem to be helping.

hawthorne bridge, infrared

I figured I needed a gimmick if I was going to make the Hawthorne interesting. Just playing tourist and taking tourist photos wasn't going to cut it this time. So I figured, hey, what I'll do is put the infrared filter on the camera, walk across, take a few photos, and hit the Roots brewpub. After a bit of tasty sudsy refreshment, I'll switch filters and put the UV-pass one on instead, and walk back the other way. There's a nonzero possibility that nobody's ever done this before, but I could be wrong.

In case you find it hard to tell, everything above the HR tag (the horizontal bar) is infrared, and below it is ultraviolet.

hawthorne bridge, infrared

Incidentally, there were a couple of odd things I noticed around the east end of the bridge which I'd never paid attention to before. Or the east end of the approach viaduct to the bridge, which is not the same thing. There's a sign in the same unreadable dark-brass-on-dark-aggregate they used on the Morrison (hence no photo), telling us the bridge's East Approaches date back to just 1957, so they aren't really historic. When it's time to gentrify the area, we can tear them out with a clean conscience, like the city did with the Lovejoy Ramp some years back, and then we have room for shiny new condo towers. Hooray!

The other odd thing is how, at the very end of the east viaduct bit, pedestrians are shunted over a block to Clay St., and bikes get to stay on Hawthorne itself. Kind of strange, not the end of the world of course, and it actually puts you closer if you're heading to the Roots brewpub like I was. Just a strange little quirk is all.

willamette riverbank, hawthorne bridge

Oh, I almost forgot -- I guess I ought to do a links section here, in case readers want actual useful information about the bridge.
  • The bridge page at Structurae
  • And the equivalent Brigehunter page too.
  • Multnomah County's page about the bridge (because they own it, natch)
  • And here it is on PortlandBridges, too.
  • The Hawthorne has its own Flickr group. Not all Portland bridges have these; I imagine only the ones with fans do.
  • A post at Portland Architecture griping about the bridge, particularly the fact that they have to raise it a lot. Which is true, sure, it does open a lot, and yes, it can be mildly annoying at times, I guess.
  • Speaking of which, check out this cool time-lapse video of the bridge at night. It opens at one point, so you can see what that's like.
  • More cool video about operating the bridge.
  • And video of a typical morning rush hour on the Hawthorne. Look at all the bikes.
  • A Bojack post worrying that they might build condos at the west end of the bridge instead of the proposed courthouse. Which I'm sure is a distinct possibility, at least once the real estate market recovers.
  • A great mid-bridge panorama.
  • The bridge was renovated & repainted about a decade ago. The company that handled the work has a page describing the project.
hawthorne bridge, infrared willamette riverbank, hawthorne bridge
Ok, now with the UV. hawthorne bridge, ultraviolet hawthorne bridge, ultraviolet morrison bridge, ultraviolet hawthorne bridge, ultraviolet hawthorne bridge, ultraviolet hawthorne bridge, ultraviolet from hawthorne bridge, ultraviolet

Spring Street Bridge

Spring St. Bridge


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The Spring St. Bridge barely merits a post here. It's a little pedestrian bridge over a ravine up in the West Hills. It connects two dead-end streets, and I'm sure it only exists so that kids can walk to Ainsworth School, on SW Spring St. You can't even see the bridge on the Google map above, so just trust me that it's in the forested bit in the center.

Spring St. Bridge

I only bothered doing a post because of a rather embarrassing detail. The bridge is just down the block from Jewett Park. I've been there a couple of times and never noticed this was just down the street. I had no idea it was here until I saw it on Structurae and Bridgehunter. So much for my quasi-legendary powers of observation. Sheesh.

Although, in my defense, I wasn't really looking for bridges at that point. I suppose that's always a risk with single-mindedness, isn't it?

Spring St. Bridge

The bridge does show up in the city's bridge inventory, which tells us that it was built in 1938, it's made of wood (duh), and could maybe use a seismic upgrade someday. Which probably follows directly from being made of wood.

Ainsworth Greenspace, near Spring St. Bridge

Next door to the bridge there's a little mini park area I also didn't notice. It seems that the land belongs to the school district, and the school has an "Environmental Club" devoted to maintaining it. Which is one of those nice perk programs you get to have when you're a school in the nice part of town, I guess. They call the place "Ainsworth Greenspace", which sounded oddly familiar to me, although I didn't immediately realize why. Turns out that the place suffers from a rather improbable naming collision. There's another tiny "Ainsworth Greenspace" up in North Portland, next to the MAX line, which plays host to a sculpture called "River Spirits". That Ainsworth is named after the street it's on. This one is named after the school it's next to, while the North Portland Ainsworth is next to an entirely different school. Both the street and the school are named for the same guy, a certain Captain John C. Ainsworth, as is Ainsworth State Park out in the Columbia Gorge. Oh, and let's not forget the Ainsworth Blocks, on NE Ainsworth St. in NE Portland (as opposed to N Portland, where one of the Ainsworth Greenspaces is at). And CafeUnknown has a post about Portland's late, lamented Ainsworth Building. So this is the complete list as far as I know, although I wouldn't be shocked if there are others lurking around town somewhere. CafeUnknown has

So now you know. And, in the immortal words of G.I. Joe, knowing is half the battle.

Mason Hill Park expedition

Mason Hill Park


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Today's adventure takes us a little further afield than usual, to tiny Mason Hill Park in the remote, hilly northwest corner of Multnomah County (a region the county refers to as the "West Hills Rural Area"). The park caught my eye while I was looking at a map the other day -- with the word "Hill" in the name, I figured there might be a nice view, possibly, and even if it didn't, it's in a corner of the greater Portland area I'm not overly familiar with, so I figured I'd go check it out and see what gives.

Mason Hill Park

A sign in the park notes that this was once the site of the local one-room schoolhouse. Nothing remains of the school, but there's a picnic structure that sort of evokes it. A 1986 Oregonian article about a school reunion mentions that the school closed in 1944, and then sat derelict until 1962 when the Columbus Day Storm (aka Typhoon Freda) finished it off. After that, the park you see here was born.

Mason Hill Park

So it's a peaceful little spot for a picnic, with a nice view of the Tualatin Valley to the south. I've actually come across a couple of references to the park as a convenient rest stop while biking around the area. That could be fun -- it's quite a scenic area, if you can handle all the hills.

A note on driving, or I suppose riding, to the park: I looked at the map and decided the quickest way would be to head out Sunset, get off at the Jackson School Rd. exit, and head north, and then get to the park via a couple of smaller roads. As it turns out, these smaller roads are, uh, unimproved. That's transportation speak for "gravel". Munson Rd., in particular, is narrow, rutted, steep and twisty in parts, and washboardy in a couple of spots. Or it is until you it the Multnomah County line. Then it's nice and paved. This isn't the first time I've seen a road paved right up to the county line, but it always cracks me up when I see it. So if (like me) you don't have a truck or giant SUV, or you do have a truck/SUV but you're afraid of messing up the paint or something, you may want to take a different route. Skyline to Johnson Road is a good route, paved the whole way and everything, and the northern stretch of Skyline is beautiful, except for the huge tacky McMansions everywhere. Yes, sadly, the McMansion plague extends out this far. And further still, I'm sure. It seems all rural and bucolic, but land is expensive here, as it turns out.

I should also note that the Thomas Guide has the park's location slightly wrong. It's on the other side of Johnson Rd. from what the map shows. Other maps may do this too. So don't go blundering onto someone's farm thinking it's the park. If it looks like a farm, it is.

Mason Hill Park

I had to do a bit of digging to figure out who owns Mason Hill Park. The sign says Multnomah County, but the county turned its park system over to Metro back in 1994. I finally checked PortlandMaps, which is sort of the final arbiter of these things, and its page for the park confirms that it belongs to Metro. Metro's website doesn't mention it; their parks section only mentions a few of the "crown jewels" like Blue Lake, the Smith & Bybee Wetlands, etc., and even then not in great detail.

I did come across a more extensive list, actually a list of the former county parks that Metro owns now. Seems that as part of the deal, the county still kicks in a little money to help maintain them. From the document:


...the following Metro natural areas and regional facilities that were transferred from Multnomah County in 1994:


Some of those I've heard of, others not. It appears that Bell Vue Point is a little spot out on the east side of Sauvie Island, across the river from Kelly Point, and I think Multnomah Channel Park would have to be somewhere around Sauvie Island too. This "Phillipi Property" I have no idea about. Google comes up with a few references to a "Philippi Property" way out in Eastern Oregon, and a "Philippi Park" on the Columbia, also way out in Eastern Oregon. So I'm guessing neither of those are the right one.

Updated: I've found the elusive "Phillipi Property". Metro's GIS system shows it as a narrow strip of land between Marine Drive and the Columbia, starting a little east of the intersection with NE 138th Ave., and continuing to a bit west of NE 185th Ave., at the point where the east end of the Columbia Slough connects (joins? branches off from?) the river. The place has a bike path, so it's visitable. I've driven by, but I haven't stopped yet, since I couldn't find anywhere to park safely. Clearly this will require a bit more researching.


In short, I've got a brand new list of obscure places to try to track down, if possible. Yay!

Updated 9/5/12: Metro usually doesn't do a lot to publicize their list of greenspaces, but they did list them in their 2011-2012 budget pdf (and apparently not in the 2012-2013 one). They list the properties acquired from Multnomah County, plus the nature parks that have opened under their watch, which I'm listing because I've been to one and have a post to link to.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pics: Steel Bridge

North from Burnside Bridge


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Next up, a few photos of the Steel Bridge, yet another downtown Portland bridge. Most of these photos were taken from the sidewalk on the upper deck of the bridge. Not everyone realizes you can walk across the upper part; the shiny new-ish walkway on the lower deck is wide and convenient, and connects directly with Waterfront Park and the Eastbank Esplanade. The upper deck sidewalks are perfectly fine, but they aren't as convenient, so they don't seem to get a lot of foot traffic. I know I don't go that way very often.

Steel Bridge

That's kind of a shame really; if you're interested in the bridge at all (which I realize is unlikely), you get a better view of it from above. And if you're interested in the view from the bridge (more likely, although still not super-likely), that's better too. There's even a guardrail between you and the cars on the bridge, which is a nice, and unusual, touch. Still, on the east side you're dumped off into the N-dimensional circus that is the Rose Garden transit center, with streets and MAX lines radiating off in all directions, and then some. And on the west side, well, it's Old Town. Which I'm not afraid of, but a lot of people are, and sometimes I admit they might be on to something.

(Note to this humble blog's surprisingly large (i.e. nonzero) UK readership: "Old Town" in the Portland sense means roughly pre-1900. Seriously. Feel free to giggle if you like.)

Railing, Steel Bridge


A few semi-interesting tidbits about the Steel Bridge:

  • It's owned by the Union Pacific railroad, not the city, county, or state. Railroads aren't usually too concerned about aesthetics, which explains a lot about the Steel Bridge. It's a workhorse, not a show horse, as the saying goes. I'm not sure why it's painted black. Maybe they got a good deal on black paint, many years ago. Must've been a one-time deal, if so, since it hasn't been repainted in a very, very long time.
  • The standard bridge links: Structurae, Bridgehunter and PortlandBridges.
  • As the Wikipedia article (above) notes, the lower & upper decks raise independently, which is unique in the world, yeehaw. This relates to the next point:
  • The bridge carries all sorts of traffic. It carries normal road traffic (it was the downtown bridge for US 99, back before I-5 existed), plus MAX trains, heavy rail (including Amtrak service), pedestrians on both the lower & upper decks, and I understand that it even caries a variety of utilities, although I'm not sure which ones. Which leads us to the next point:
  • Thus, the Steel Bridge is probably a great chokepoint for the Evildoers. (If you're an Evildoer, please stop reading now. Thx. Mgmt.) We probably don't have any Evildoers here, but the security industry insists it's a concern, so we might as well have a cow about it. At least that way we'll get our fair share of that dee-licious Homeland Security pork spending.

    Don't believe me? Last October, our fair city played host to something called "TOPOFF4", a Homeland Security shindig that involved a simulated "dirty bomb" attack against the Steel Bridge. (A few stories on that from Indymedia, the Mercury, the Tribune, and OregonLive.) The amusing thing about this is that they actually did the thing up at Portland International Raceway, and just pretended they were at the Steel Bridge. Now, I've been to PIR on numerous occasions, and I can state with authority that there's nothing there that in any way resembles the Steel Bridge. One would think that would be an obstacle, but if you have a Homeland Security-style hyperactive imagination, I suppose anything can stand in for anything else. Invading Iraq can stand in for catching Osama, for example. But I digress. Alternately, well, "TOPOFF" is security-speak for "Top Officials", and this was a bigwig-centric exercise. Which probably meant there was a big freakin' bigwig party at taxpayer expense. Maybe afterwards, but maybe during. Probably everyone got a solid gold "Mission Accomplished" paperweight and a gallon of caviar. That's how these things go, usually. And all those out-of-towners would need to relax after a hard day of manly-man Homeland Security playactin' and simulatin', so naturally there'd be strippers, this being Portland and all. Gotta show the big boys from DC a little local color, right?
  • A fun twist on the security angle involves the huge grain terminal that sits right next door to the bridge. You know, the one that used to have the ginormous Amazon.com ad on it. As it turns out, the common variety of wheat grown here in the Northwest is ideal for making pitas, naan bread, and other varieties of Evildoing baked goods, so a lot of our exports go to various corners of Evildoerstan. On several occasions I've seen grain ships docked here which had the ship's name in both English and Arabic, and at least one listed its home port as Alexandria, Egypt. Which is just one of those things that happens naturally when you're a major seaport, as we occasionally pretend to be, but I'm sure it's ulcer fodder for the security guys.
Steel Bridge All that security theater nonsense leads us to today's obligatory "not dying" angle: When crossing the bridge, by whatever means, try to avoid Evildoers. Especially the ones with WMDs. Domestic Evildoers with mysterious but important-sounding government jobs bear watching as well. You may want keep this advice in mind while crossing other bridges too, if I may be so bold. Steel Bridge Have I mentioned that I've got more photos on Flickr? Well, I do. FWIW. Railing, Steel Bridge Detail, Steel Bridge