by PLC Hiker Otis Durham:
Months ago, with Greg Keener’s encouragement, I agreed to become a Piedmont Land Conservancy Hike-A-Thon fundraising hiker. I told Greg I’d likely be in Portland, OR visiting my daughter. “No problem. Hike wherever you are!” I assumed this would give me good motivation to get out in the grandeur and beauty of nature that surrounds Portland. However, when January 1st arrived, I had no transportation, it was cold, overcast with drizzling rain and I was embedded deep in urban Portland where sidewalks and streets, not soft forest trails, are the norm. I expected the worst. A walk in urban blight wasn’t exactly in the spirit of the Hike-A-Thon. Plus, I wasn’t familiar with the wildlife & natural risks in this area of Portland. But, I’d made a commitment and people had given money to PLC for me to participate.
So, I came up with a plan. A pub crawl. I could easily enjoy at least 6 breweries within a 6 mile walk from my daughter’s house. Great Notion Brewery was my first destination. However, the hiking gods had a different plan. My great notion of a Pub Crawl was canceled. Each brewery along the trail was closed for New Year’s Day. Oh well. In total sobriety I continued walking. Then, a small epiphany. In the midst of this urban setting there was beauty. The trails were well marked and easy to follow. No roots or rocks to trip over. I could actually look around and enjoy my surroundings rather than constantly watching where my next step would land. There was adventure. Around the next corner something was there ahead of me waiting to be discovered – or discover me!
I’d walked down NE Alberta Street several times over the years without truly seeing or experiencing its many gifts. In the past I was heading to a restaurant, tea shop, pub or brewery. On January 1, 2017, I was hiking to help PLC protect and preserve nature’s gift and my eyes were opened to better see an urban setting. Go figure. My spirit was more aware, playful and open rather than task oriented. I’m used to that as miles pass under my boots on hiking trails in the woods or as miles stretch out before my eyes when a well earned vista calls me by name. New perspectives, wisdom and insights are fairly typical when I hike in natural surroundings. I wasn’t expecting something similar in an urban setting. We have to live, work and play somewhere. Our activity always leaves a mark of some kind. A Douglas Fir Tree just isn’t the same when it stands as a sentinel, alone among houses and pavement. Wise leaders helped protect Mt. Hood from condos. I’m glad the Piedmont Land Conservancy is helping us minimize our human footprint on nature in NC. I’m thankful Greg asked me to get involved. Amazingly at 6.1 miles, a favorite taproom was open. I stopped, sat down at a picnic table to smell a few roses, cool down and celebrate Hike-A-Thon with a taste test of a flight of 12 Oregon IPA’s.