A St. John’s Adventure with Portland Stair Walks
Exploring the Best of St. John’s: Laura O. Foster’s Stair Walk in Pictures
by Briana Ybanez
Laura O. Foster’s “Portland Stair Walks” begins with a trip to St. John’s, one of Portland’s most famous and photographed bridges, and for good reason, it’s one of the most scenic places in all of Portland. I decided to try this stair walk tour after a long, stressful day, and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable, calming days I’ve had all winter.
It was freezing cold when I walked down to the boat ramp at Cathedral Park, located right along the water of the Willamette river, under St. John’s Bridge. I was not prepared, only a light sweater to protect myself from Portland’s unusually cold March weather. I stood on the floating dock beneath the bridge, as instructed by Foster, and wondered to myself why I hadn’t made my way out here before, it was a serene moment, realizing that I was the only one standing out there so close to river’s small waves. Initially the sky was grey and cloudy overhead, “Ok, this isn’t too bad,” I thought, “If only it wasn’t so damn cold.” I started to walk back to the shore, wondering how I’d finish the walk under these conditions. But suddenly the cold didn’t seem to matter anymore, as I stood on the shore of the river, I watched as the mute, greyness that surrounded me dissipated, and a soft, warm light began to slowly wash over the bridges concrete anchorages. As soon as I began to wonder if I’d have the chance to witness one of Portland’s rare, yet spectacular, winter sunsets, it happened. The sky opened up to a bright pink, purple, and deep blue. The light posts that line the edge of the bridge in succession lit up as well. Here was the result:
I was so blown away by the sunset on the shore of St. Johns, I had to go back the next day to complete the tour. This was one of my favorite parts of the tour, walking up the famous “wedding stairs” and admiring the symmetry of the arches underneath the bridge.
The highlight of this tour is walking across the bridge, a .7 mile walk with Forest Park as a beautiful backdrop. I could feel the enormity of the structure, in contrast to the more unpolished and worn down neighborhood it stands in. Although it was cold and my shoes were damp from the rain, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride for such a beautiful piece of architecture. As Laura O. Foster writes, “This 3-mile, one-way stair walk rates high on covering intriguing ground, with a few unpleasant bits that make the good stuff all the sweeter.” Although this city was designed to get you outside, depending on the season, and how busy you are, it can be rare to have the opportunity to contemplate the nooks and crannies that Portland has to offer. “Portland Stair Walks” takes you away from the four walls of your home or work place, and into the unexpected: quirky wall murals and hidden graffiti, the boats resting on the Willamette river, or the white, snow capped treeline against the famous pale green beams of the St. John’s bridge.