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Take a hike

Get outside and take advantage of these guided walks that explore the Portland area
by: Roger Schmierbach,

What's not to like about walking? It's one of the simplest physical activities for most people. It burns calories, increases endurance and bone strength, reduces cholesterol and wards off disease. It's pollution-free, which means it's good for Mother Earth, too. It's easy on the wallet, saving on the ever-rising cost of gas.

Still not motivated? Look around the Portland area, which offers plenty of chances to start walking regularly. The city of Portland sponsors several programs, including hikes and walks for adults 55 and older, city strolls designed especially for seniors and free nature walks for all ages. Metro and the Audubon Society of Portland offer bird walks and other outdoor activities. And if you want to plan your own adventures, there's no shortage of park trails.

To get you started, here's a sampling of walking and hiking programs for late spring through early fall:

Portland Senior Strolls

Get healthy, meet other seniors and learn about some of Portland's neighborhood treasures by taking part in Senior Strolls, a series of easy, fun and free escorted walks sponsored by the city of Portland's Transportation Options program.

Lack of physical activity is an important contributor to many chronic diseases in older adults, says Donna Green, project manager for Transportation Options. The good news is it's never too late to become physically active, she adds, and even a small amount of activity can result in better health. Spending at least 30 minutes in moderate activity on all or most days of the week has remarkable health benefits for older adults, Green says, citing information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Most of this year's Senior Strolls will take place in Southwest Portland every Wednesday at 10 a.m. from May 14 through Oct. 8. Strolls range in length from under 1 mile to 2-plus miles, and will take place in great parks, neighborhoods, and commercial areas. All of the starting/ending points are on a TriMet bus route.

To learn more about the strolls, contact Green at 503-823-6114 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Senior Recreation hiking program

Portland Parks and Recreation's Senior Recreation program, for adults 55 and older, offers three progressive levels of walks and hikes from July through early September, starting with Metro Movers (a series of strolls through the city) and advancing to more vigorous treks (Hike for Health and Wilderness Hikes).

Before signing up for any of the walks or hikes, participants are encouraged to attend a free orientation session Monday, June 30, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the East Portland Community Center, 740 S.E. 106th Ave. 'It gives an idea of what the program is and what you need,' says Kay-Lani Munro, a recreation leader for Senior Recreation. Experienced hikers may pre-qualify for the higher levels of hikes.

• Metro Movers offers two-hour walks ranging from easy to difficult. Participants must be able to walk a 20-minute mile on uneven surfaces without shortness of breath. Each walk costs $2. Led by volunteers, the walks will be held Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon (except for holidays), taking participants to such locations as Smith and Bybee lakes, Hoyt Arboretum, Forest Park and Moulton Falls in Yacolt, Wash. The first Metro Mover walk, July 7 at Mount Tabor, can qualify participants for the next level, a Hike for Health.

• The Hike for Health series consists of longer treks with more elevation gain - 'Instead of a two-hour walk, they're more like a six- or seven-hour hike,' Munro says - so participants must first attend one moderate Metro Movers walk.

Transportation is provided. Participants will meet at Madison High School's parking lot at Northeast 82nd Avenue and Siskiyou Street. Senior recreation staff and volunteers lead these hikes Tuesdays and Wednesdays; summer destinations include Larch Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge, Hawk Mountain in Estacada, the Pacific Crest Trail in Trout Lake, Wash., Norway Pass in Woodland, Wash., and several sites on Mount Hood.

The fee is $13 per hike (participants receive a 10-percent discount if they register on or before the orientation). Hiking shoes are required; bring what you want to eat, plus your own water.

• Wilderness Hikes, held on Thursdays, will take participants to meadows, old-growth forests, beaches, glaciers and historic sites, offering panoramic views and glimpses of wildlife. These are long adventure treks - 'You're looking at a 10 to 12-hour day,' Munro says - and some have a 1,700-foot elevation gain.

Destinations will include Bugaboo Ridge in Detroit, Butte, the Rainy Lake area near Hood River, Barlow Pass on Mount Hood and Harry's Ridge in Washington. Each Wilderness Hike costs $18. Bring your own hiking shoes, along with, food, water and any equipment you want.

Participants must attend both a moderate Metro Movers walk and a Hike for Health to qualify for the Wilderness Hikes, and they're also encouraged to attend the orientation.

Pre-registration is required for Portland's Senior Recreation hiking program. Sign up by calling Senior Recreation at 503-823-4328 or the Customer Service Center at 503-823-2525. The Senior Recreation summer catalog (July through September) and with class registration also are available online at www.PortlandParks.org.

City-sponsored free walks

• Tree tours - Portland Parks and Recreation naturalists lead free guided 'tree tours' of Hoyt Arboretum the first Saturday of every month through November (remaining dates are May 3, June 7, July 5, Aug. 2, Sept. 6, oct.4 and Nov. 1). The walks begin at 10 a.m. and last approximately 1-1/2 hours. They are appropriate for adults and families. Naturalists will show participants interesting facts about trees, provide historical information about the Arboretum, and discuss any changes foreseen in its future.

Meet at the Hoyt Arboretum Visitor Center at 4000 S.W. Fairview Blvd. The tours are drops-in; no advance registration is required. For more information, call Parks and Recreation Environmental Education at 503-823-3601.

• GreenWalks - The Hoyt Arboretum tours are part of Portland Parks  and Recreation's series of free GreenWalks held every Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. in various parks throughout the city of Portland. See www.Portlandparks.org in the Environmental Education listings for more information about the full schedule of free nature walks, which are appropriate for adults and families. No advance registration is necessary.

Audubon bird walks

The Audubon Society of Portland sponsors free, guided Bird Song Walks on weekday mornings through June 6 for beginners to advanced birders. The walks take place in Beaverton's Tualatin Hills Nature Park every Tuesday; Mount Tabor in Southeast Portland every Wednesday; The Nature Conservancy's Camassia Preserve in West Linn on Thursdays; and Pittock Mansion in Portland's West Hills on Fridays.

All walks begin at 7 a.m. and last from one to two hours. Walkers leave whenever they need to for work. No pre-registration is required. For details about the walks, including meeting locations, visit www.audubonportland.org.

Metro-sponsored walks

Metro, the tri-county regional government, sponsors several walks every month.

The May calendar, for example, includes Saturday guided nature hikes from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tryon Creek State Park (free); spring bird walks Saturday, May 3 and May 17, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area (free); and a wetlands walk Saturday, May 17, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the Jackson Bottom Wildlife Preserve ($3).

For details about these and other Metro events, visit www.metro-region.org and click on 'calendar.'