Portland area winter hikes. Part 1

Forest Park as seen from NW Aspen avenue

One of the many things that make hiking in the forest such a beautiful experience is the knowledge that it is far older than us and the perception that it will be around long after we die. This perceived permanence always allows us the space to appreciate Oregon’s forests some other day. However, any of them could burn away by next summer.

I was born and raised in Oregon but since I started school I have used it as an excuse to be less adventurous. In light of the Eagle Creek and subsequent fires, I have made an effort to explore more and appreciate the beauty Oregon has to offer before it disappears.  

This post is the first in a series of three winter hikes. Many hikes become inaccessible or too dangerous in the winter time, so I will focus on hikes that are not only safely accessible and trekkable, but still beautiful during the cold months.  

Macleay Park

On a snowy Tuesday morning, I opted to go on a hike that requires no driving for Portlanders or park fees whatsoever, and I found Macleay Park.

From campus you can take the NS streetcar line to the NW 23rd and Marshall stop. From there you can make your way through a cute neighborhood by foot until you reach NW Upshur Street. The west end of this street dead ends at the park. After walking under the Balch Gulch Bridge, you will find the entrance to the trail, which has very clear instructions on possible routes depending on how deep into Forest Park you want to explore.

The great part about this hike is you can easily add it to the beginning or end of a busy day with not much preparation or planning. The trail is wide, easy to walk and is in excellent condition. I was able to hike the entire 2-mile loop comfortably in everyday tennis shoes. Same goes for the 6-mile loop: no hiking poles or fancy boots needed.

The small 2-mile loop brings you back to the top of the historic Balch Gulch bridge which is the route I enjoyed on my quick excursion before class. One of the things I found lovely about this hike was the structures. The beauty of this hike doesn’t necessarily rely on the lush greenery that comes about it in summer. The Lower Macleay trail runs along Balch Creek, and hikers encounter several wood bridges across the creek before they reach the Stone House.

The Stone House, known by some as the witch’s castle, is about fifteen minutes in. It is the point where the Lower Macleay trail intersects Forest Park’s Wildwood trail.

This trail is popular for Portlanders that want to get out of the city for a quick escape. However, this may make it a bit crowded on weekends. I would recommend visiting it on a weekday before the locals from the surrounding neighborhood get off work. I only encountered a handful of hikers during my visit on a Tuesday morning.

So Long Social Media?

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

I don’t keep up-to-date on Apple’s software, but I kept hearing about its new Screen Time feature. It lets you know how much time you spend on apps and social media and will set limits if you want it to. I personally did not turn it on or give it a try, but I increasingly found my friends talking about it and social media’s effect on a person’s outlook on life.

With books like The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost by Donna Freitas and similar studies and articles in circulation online, it’s no secret that social media is linked to feeling dissatisfied and unhappy with one’s own life. Even weirder, they say receiving “likes” triggers a dopamine high equivalent to hugging. Reading things like this make me want to delete everything but my contacts from my phone—but it’s always a fleeting feeling because I’ll end up distracting myself on Instagram.

Only one of my friends goes sans social media. She has accounts, but long ago deleted the apps from her phone and nearly never chooses to check social media elsewhere. For me, social media is a platform that allows me to stay connected with distant friends and family. I look at my friend though, and she has no trouble keeping in contact with the people that matter to her. Another friend of mine recently deleted all social media from her phone and is going on a two week purge. The goal is that after two weeks, she won’t have any desire to re-download those apps. I’m genuinely curious to see what changes she sees in herself, if any. 

Meanwhile, I actually turned on Screen Time to satisfy my curiosity on my own app usage. In the past seven hours, I’ve spent 40 minutes on my phone and 28 of those were on social networks. Not even 24 hours have passed, and I’m disgustingly well on my way to wasting hours of time on my phone. 

New Year, Same Resolutions

IMG_0830By: Anna Sobczyk

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions for a simple reason: I have made the same resolution for about five years in a row without ever completing it. For years, my goal was to complete an unassisted pull-up from a dead-hang. Every year, I continued with my usual patterns of running, swimming, and outright avoiding any weightlifting.  So, each December when I tried to do a pull-up, I really shouldn’t be surprised when I fail. Nonetheless, I continued to be disappointed. 

Last spring, I injured my foot and I couldn’t run. I still don’t know what’s wrong with my foot exactly, but running results in a pain that feels like ice picks being hammered into the ball of my foot. Needing something to fill the void running had left, I started weightlifting with a couple friends just once a week.

The PSU gym has a machine that assists you in pull-ups, and it was definitely my favorite. I started the term being able to lift 65% of my bodyweight and ended the term maxed out at lifting 93% of my bodyweight. I could do a chin-up from full extension, but the pull-up still eluded me. 

Then, one miraculous day over winter break, I finally did a pull-up and it left me in a state of shock. It didn’t seem real to have finally completed this goal—which started out as a New Year’s resolution—years later on a very un-noteworthy day in December. Now I know I could have accomplished it years earlier had I just devoted one hour a week towards it. For all my future New Year’s resolutions, I’ll just remember the history behind my pull-up and know there’s a process and a way to help me achieve my goals.

Excuses, excuses—what’s yours for not voting?

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Remember those videos where comedians like Jimmy Kimmel would walk around a college campus and ask random students questions about current politics? The point was to showcase how out of touch students are with the world outside of school. I remember watching those videos and laughing at how ignorant people were. Now, ironically, I am officially one of those ignorant college students. I never imagined myself being that person—the person who didn’t know and didn’t care. 

Yet, here I am. As soon as I started college, my focus shifted to only include school. My double major makes studying itself a part-time job on top of three other campus jobs. Over the past couple weeks I’ve seen several people on campus handing out voter registration forms. Each time, I feel guilty—because I’m not voting.

I don’t admit to this fact easily because I feel that both the media and this campus demonize people for not voting. Voting campaigns lean on turns of phrase like, “What’s your excuse?” and following it up with essentially, “there is no excuse.” There’s not much room to open up a conversation within that dialogue.

I’m not here to make excuses for why I’m not voting. Simply stated, I don’t vote because I’m uninformed and choose not to use my limited free time researching who and what is on the ballot. It’s not that I don’t want to vote; I just really value making informed decisions, and I am currently not up to speed on the happenings of the political world.

Voting is a right, but attending school is a privilege that carries a lot more weight in my life right now. For the foreseeable future of my academic career, I will continue choosing to study for a midterm worth 50% of my grade over looking up who’s running for governor.

Internship Fever

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

When I started this fall term as a junior, I was bitten by the internship bug. Portland boasts so many great businesses and opportunities for internships. Luckily, PSU offers students a way to find potential employers. Handshake has hundreds of employers with job and/or internship openings. I recently found an on-campus job through Handshake and have discovered a couple of summer internships that I’ll definitely apply to. 

PSU also recently held a career and internship fair. I always found career fairs more awkward and stressful than anything. I would wander around aimlessly and always leave feeling unaccomplished. Once I found out Handshake lists all the attending employers, it changed my approach. Before any career fair, I peruse Handshake and find the employers hiring my major. From there, I narrow down which ones I really need to visit based on how their business fits my own career path. It makes the whole experience much more focused, efficient, and less stressful once I’m actually at the fair.

Even though it’s only fall term, some summer internship deadlines are fast approaching. I scroll through Handshake often to keep updated on deadlines and new opportunities as they come up. So far, I’ve been able to find internship opportunities that really align with my career focus, and I’ve never been more excited. Now, it’s all about applying and hoping for the best!

Is Crazy Bad?

IMG_0830By: Anna Sobczyk

Ableism is a term that didn’t pop until the 1980s and is a term I had never heard of until I moved to Portland. A quick Google search defines ableism as “discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). I recently sat in on a presentation on ableism given by PSU’s Disability Resource Center (DRC), and learned there’s a lot to unpack on the topic. The part that struck me the most was when the DRC presenter said we should be eliminating certain words from our vocabulary. Specifically, “crazy” was bad to say. Quite honestly, I still can’t wrap my head around it.

Another part of the conversation that made me check my perceptions was the notion that our society doesn’t inherently know the history of disabled persons or mental health. Everyone I know has learned about slavery, voting rights, and the Holocaust—including the derogatory terms that arose from these time periods and events. During the DRC’s presentation, it was evident neither my peers nor myself knew anything substantial about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the general history of disabilities and mental health. Perhaps this lack of education early on is to blame for why words like crazy are normalized and why it’s so difficult to recognize their harmful impact.

Although to me, using the word crazy is equivalent to using the word stupid. Both are adjectives to describe something or someone. If I called a person stupid, that’s simply a hurtful way to use the word. Crazy can be used in the same capacity. However, just because a word has the potential to be hurtful or mean doesn’t justify eliminating it from our vocabulary. Of course, slurs do exist that are implicitly hurtful, degrading, and derogatory—but is “crazy” really one of them?

Don’t Tolerate Disrespect

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

When it comes to summer jobs, there’s nothing quite as notorious as working in customer service. Coworkers and friends complain amongst each other, and entire memes exist based around the lamentations of the job. I work harvest during the summer, and so my job is a unique form of customer service. I see the same customers (the drivers and farmers) over, and over, and over again—and I’ve been seeing these same people for five years now. Each year I inevitably have to deal with cranky farmers and drivers who are upset about waiting in lines that are completely out of my control. In the past, I tolerated inappropriate and rude behavior. I also believed I deserved it, and that I was somehow bringing it upon myself.

One particularly negative experience this year reset my thought processes. A farmer chewed me out for something I had no control over. Everyone working was following a specific system for moving trucks along, and the farmer didn’t agree with it. The system set in place was done so by someone higher up than me, and yet this farmer decided to come unhinged on me. He cussed, pointed his finger in my face, and raised his voice. This, by far, was the nastiest experience I’ve had at work. I stood my ground and explained the reasons behind the system, but only once he’d left did I realize a few things:

  1. I did not owe him any explanation. He was upset over a decision, but that did not give him the right to yell at me.
  2. In any case, I do not need to offer explanations of how I do my job in order to—first and foremost—be treated with respect.
  3. Since he was so angry, he should have taken it up with a higher ranking employee instead of berating someone who wasn’t involved in the decision making process.
  4. My instinct was to stand there and take it, because I felt like walking away was a sign of weakness. However, listening to that hot-headed tirade was a waste of my time, and I was under no obligation to stand there and take it.
  5. He will likely never apologize.

I regret my tolerance in years past and shake my head at ever believing I deserved to be treated poorly. However, I know these feelings are a reality for a lot of young, service industry workers. My only hope is that others will recognize their worth on day one of the job instead of five years down the road.