Wildwood Trail: Start to Finish

November 9th, 2016 , Posted by Marty Brown

Guest post by Marcy Houle, author of One City's Wilderness: Portland's Forest Park


Last September, something truly
amazing happened in Portland’s Forest Park. It was an achievement never before
attempted. And, at its conclusion, it stands as an inspiration for many more to

One City's Wilderness

On September 4 and 5, Alex
Schay, set out to do a goal he had made for himself. He wanted to hike the
entire Wildwood Trail, that winds 30 miles through the largest urban wilderness
in the United States, and do it in two days. 


Other people have set and
achieved this goal. Alex was not the first to do it. But one thing makes his
goal unique, and never before attempted.


You see, Alex Schay is


What’s more, the guide dogs
for the blind, one of which is Alex’s faithful companion, Clifton, are only
trained for city streets.


Alex, who loves the outdoors,
knew this was an important objective he wished to accomplish. With his
beautiful and smart guide-dog, Clifton, they worked together, hiking easy
places at first,
then more complicated, to get Clifton used to exploring native
trails. At last they were ready. 


Alex contacted me to ask if
OSU Press might provide him the Word documents for my book One City's
Wilderness: Portland's Forest Park
, so he could follow the trail
descriptions written for Wildwood.  He wished to use the
book to get a better understanding of the trail, and information
on trail crossings and connections. The Press gladly consented. Before
long, Alex set off, attempting to walk the trail only with Clifton,
as his companion and assistant.


Alex also used a GPS-based
app called Blind Square, to help him be aware of and navigate various
trail crossings in Forest Park.

 Alex Schay and Clifton on Wildwood Trail. Photo: Wesley Mahan, NW Examiner


















(Caption: Alex Schay and Clifton on
Wildwood Trail. Photo: Wesley Mahan, NW


On Sunday, September 4, Alex
left the zero-mile marker for Wildwood Trail, at the Vietnam War
Memorial.  He covered half the park, contending with “washed-out bridges
or sections of trail, overha
ngs, and roots and rocks too numerous to mention.”
On Monday afternoon, September 5, he  successfully reached Wildwood’s
conclusion at NW Newberry Road, near Sauvies Island.


He reached his goal, hiking
30 miles of the nation's longest hiking trail in any city -- Wildwood
Trail.  He hopes his terrific and brave success will only be the
beginning.  He encourages other blind hikers to attempt the hike,
using the aides he did,  and find the great satisfaction of facing a
challenging goal and connecting with the beauty of nature.


Congratulations to Alex!
Below is a letter he sent to friends and supporters after the hike. Alex’s
story is also featured in a recent NW






I thought that some of you might be interested to
learn that on Sunday & Monday, September 4th & 5th, my guide dog,
Clifton, and I made a successful independent hike of Forest Park’s Wildwood
Trail. We began at the Vietnam War Memorial near the Oregon Zoo on Sunday
morning, and came out at NW Newberry Road near Sauvies Island Monday afternoon.
At just over 30 miles in length, the Wildwood Trail is the longest contiguous
urban trail in the United States, crossing numerous watersheds.


Many tools and techniques enabled a successful hike.
First, I used textual descriptions about the Wildwood Trail, taken from Marcy
Houle’s book,
One City’s Wilderness, to get a general understanding of the
trail, as well as an understanding of some of the trail crossings and
connections. Thank you to Marcy! Mike Yamada from the Oregon Commission for the
Blind may also be gratified to learn that Blind Square, a GPS-based app that
helps blind people navigate and understand their surroundings, may be used to
determine the proximity of various trail crossings in Forest Park. Blind Square
can also announce upcoming trail crossings, which can be quite helpful. I was
also able to consult with other hikers to confirm that I was on the right
track, or to get back on track. And of course, Clifton did an amazing job
focusing on details, like washed-out bridges or sections of trail, overhangs,
and roots and rocks too numerous to mention.


 I am revising
Marcy’s textual description of the Wildwood Trail so that it can be an even
more effective tool for blind hikers, giving more blind people access to Portland’s
remarkable Forest Park.


In the event you have questions or comments, please
do not hesitate to give me a shout


Warm Regards,


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