Oregon City, Oregon. I don’t know about you, but to me it has a ring to it (like New York, New York). Despite the name, it’s more of a hamlet of hub-Portland than a hub itself. When a friend of mine came to town a couple weeks back and invited me on an adventure, we decided on visiting Oregon City. Why? Because of the Willamette Falls on the Willamette River. In my own travels I’ve paused to gaze at the Falls numerous times, but my friend hadn’t. Ever.
Once in Oregon City, I was unsure of the best place to view the Falls and figured we could explore or ask a local. Before we found anyone to ask, we spotted the Oregon Municipal Elevator – an outdoor elevator. While I’d seen it before, I’d never taken it; so what’d we do? We parked, fed the parking meter a silver Washington and dashed across the street to the hallway leading to the elevator. A trippy hallway with 10 or 12 frames on each wall, each frame held three images that changed as you shifted position. The pictures documented the elevator’s construction and history. Fascinating, but our goal of going up and down the elevator and on to the Falls overshadowed it. When we got in the elevator, we discovered a nice public employee running it. That same public employee turned out to be our nice local who directed us to the best viewing spot.
Once we stepped out of the elevator on the viewing deck, she directed us to our left and down the McLoughlin Promenade, a 7.8-acre park on the bluff overlooking the Willamette River. Dedicated in 1851, the park benefited from the Work Progress Administration with a stone walled concrete pathway built in 1938 and benefited from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which funded the restoration of the Promenade in 2010.
A short easy walk brought us to truly the best spot I’ve found to view the Falls. Now if you’re like my friend and thinking “vertical” falls, you, like she, may be a little disappointed. The Willamette Falls, as you can see in the photos, flow more “horizontal,” with a short drop amongst an industrial setup. Also, the industrial buildings (power, mills and the like) mashed right up into the Falls appear rather weathered and decrepit. After viewing for a short while, we proceeded down the Promenade and walked the footbridge over 99E, a Blue Star Memorial Highway, and along and then under the train tracks, looping back to my car. The trek took us a grand 24 minutes.
Deciding on the Molalla State Park as our next destination, we headed out of town on 99E, but before completely leaving, I pulled the car over at the scenic area and historical marker. I’d viewed the Falls here many times. Here as we read the informational signs, the Falls’s value, with all its industry evidenced there, began to increase.
With basically a 40-foot drop, we learned that the “Willamette Falls is the second most powerful waterfall in North America.” While some of the buildings at the Falls sit empty, some of them actually still see use and from the informational sign we learned what many of them are. For example, one of the buildings is the T.W. Sullivan Powerhouse, built in 1893 and rebuilt in 1953, and is one of the oldest continuously operated power plants in the United States. The Museum, which I have to return to explore, has more information about the significance of the river and the Falls.
After properly admiring the Willamette Falls, my friend and I headed on to the Molalla State Park, took a soggy walk around and wrapped up our adventure by dinning at MOD Pizza. It’s amazing how hungry a person can get while adventuring!
When your friends or family come visit our wonderful state of Oregon – where do they want to go, or where do you want to take ’em? When you finally decide to vacation in Oregon, what do you want to see? When you’ve lived your entire life in Oregon and get adventurous, where do you want to explore?
For travel in Oregon, there are the favorite go-to spots: Multnomah Falls, Mount Hood and Timberline Lodge, Seaside and naturally, Crater Lake. Once you have hit those places, where do you go? With a rain forest, a desert, a prairie, an award winning hipster city, a completely free public access coast and two mountain ranges, there are many Oregon wonders to discover! Here are six I highly recommend.
With a span of 1,232 feet (376m. – almost a quarter of a mile), the Astoria-Megler Bridge is the world’s longest continuous truss bridge. If you’ve ever wanted to walk or run the 50-year old bridge,October 16th is your opportunity this year. Annually the city closes the bridge to cars and opens it to walkers and runners.
2) Fort Stevens State Park
While at PCC I took Oceanography, complete with a required science project. In passing our professor mentioned magnetic sand on the Oregon Coast. I took that and ran with it. It turns out that yes, near and along the Columbia River (not far west of Astoria) where the river meets the Pacific Ocean, there are patches of black magnetic sand.
One of Eastern Oregon’s largest cities and quintessentially Old West, Pendleton bustles as a hub in north-east corner of the state. One of rodeo’s oldest and much-loved events, the annual Pendleton Roundup held the second full week of September, draws visitors and competitors from across America. The Pendleton Roundup is known for having one of the sport’s largest arenas, and not only is it uniquely large, but it is also uniquely a grass arena. Let ‘er Buck!
3) Steens Mountain area
Steens Mountain rises up above the ridges and hills of the southeastern desert region. At 9,700 feet high, it seems perpetually covered in snow.
When I was a kid, the Alvord Hot Springs below the Mountain were free. It’s been awhile since those days, and I’ve heard the owners have capitalized on its popularity. In the area there is also the Alvord Desert, a dry desolate ancient lake spreads out about five by ten miles; it is great fun to drive on! While I have not hiked the area, I’ve heard about the trails and Alvord Lake. I also understand mustang bands roam the area. These attractions keep Steens Mountain on my further exploration list.
4) Powell’s Bookstore in Portland (and the smaller branch in Beaverton)
The largest independent bookseller in America, Powell’s City of Books was the pioneer in selling new and used side by side. With new titles as well as old, book buying has never been so much fun.
Ask any book-loving Portlander about this bookstore that takes up one full city block, and you are likely to hear a story. One of my friend’s first dates with her now husband were at Powell’s. Another friend exchanges wallets with her husband to fortify their weakened power and resist buying another good book. For me, this was the go to place each term of college and university semester. I’d compare the recommended newest edition with the older ones sitting next to it; Powell’s saved me money.
5) Silver Falls State Park
The State Park in Silverton has an easy walking loop taking you by 10 different falls. The paved trail gets you close, even behind, some gorgeous waterfalls. However, to get in the water you need to drive over to lesser-accessed walk – to the Upper North Falls. A short walk from the parking area gets you right to falls. There the rocky edge is usually shallow enough for wading out a little ways before any drop in depth. Once in, relax as you are in a real rustic swimming hole – Pacific Northwest style.
While I love AAA TripTiks and Google everything, I still use printed material, including my Webster’s Geographical dictionary. There is something about the feel, the smell and the act of opening the book that arouses imagination and prompts creative thought to flow. Something about the low-noise, the focus and the simplicity of using a book resonates with me. Unlike the hi-tech, one page can only lead to another page on the same topic – travel. The lure of one idea leading to another completely different idea does not rise up.
If you were to open my Geographical dictionary to my home state of Oregon…well, actually allow me to share a glimpse of what you would see:
Day-in, day-out, I travel the same dustless hard gray asphalt roads and frequent the same places in the same silver gray Chevy. The same old job with its route rhythms, the same chain grocery stores with such minor discrepancies in prices it’s hardly worth changing them up and the same town with only so many variations for my commute to work, all tempt me to simply shift to cruise control.
Living in the same house with its set layout, with senior cats who demand the same food, water and turn out daily, along with the same food and water needs of my own, not to mention the laundry, the plants, the bills and the family with needs of their own, creates humdrum. Monotony. I mean, the same white ceiling stares down as I drift to sleep and continues staring as I roust from slumber, day after day. Night. After. Night.
The vistas, textures, odors, flavors and noises absorb not into my senses, but rather fade in the background of life. Each morning brings a new day, but dang, with routine and to-do-lists its newness sure evades notice.
Traveling refreshes senses and an awareness of the world around. As cliche as it is to even say, my childhood gave me a slower pace and more vivid life experience. I see this perception change as due to how present I was then verses how present I am now. As a kid, I was very present and my thoughts of the future formed differently*. So many things were new, and I zoned in intensely. I took them not for granted. Traveling in new environments offers the opportunity to practice being present and more aware.
During my mini-vacation to Horsethief Lake, I had no pressures of going to work that day and put it out of mind. Though unable to just stare out the window with unhurried thoughts as I did when a kid, with the car in cruise control, my thoughts relaxed. I consciously noticed the changing landscape and weather the further east we drove. We left the tall green leafy trees and overcast sky of home as we entered the winding gorge with denser green leafy and tall evergreen trees, but still cloudy sky, and by the time we reached the State Park, a few wispy trees and shrubs sprinkled the landscape and the sky sparkled clear, bright blue and sunny. The air smelled differently too –more like dry baked forage than the earthy fresh mown smell of damp green grass.
Traveling simply takes me to new places and helps me stay present, reminding me that I can still discover flavors, feels, scenes, sounds and scents.
*There is a legit reason for this – it has to do with the frontal lobe. That is the section of the brain that finishes developing last, in a person’s 20’s. It is the part of the brain that thinks abstractly about the future, gauging and weighing out possible outcomes, along with tempering impulse behaviors.
Bright and early the Saturday after the 4th of July, my sister and our two good friends left on a Columbia River Gorge adventure. Despite the other three being good and abstaining from sweets and caffeine, this driver decided that she needed her Dutch Bros hot cocoa. (*To set the record straight, I was reminded that my passengers succumbed to my bad influence and shared a hot cocoa…) With hot cocoa in the driver’s hand, we drove out I-84E to Hood River, Oregon where we crossed over the Hood River Bridge. Following WA-14E we buzzed along east for about 18 miles.
Ranger Warner, who confirmed our art walk reservations, didn’t tell me that there are a number of areas (…like 3) encompassed by the Columbia Hills Historical State Park, nor did he tell me where to meet the tour. Unfortunately I didn’t think to ask. We took the first exit north off WA-14E that said something about the State Park – I think it said to “Columbia Hills State Park – something ranch.” That was not the right road. The gravel to the Dalles Mountain Ranch made for rough riding. After about 5 or so minutes of rattling and shaking, while crawling along at less than 10mph, we decided to turn around and see if there was another entrance to the Park. Clattering and rumbling back we made our way in low gear to WA-14. My poor little Malibu was bing-binging and flashing “Power Steering” by the time we reached level ground. Well, our hunch was right; there was another entrance. This time off to the south toward the Columbia River a large grand sign welcomed us to “Columbia Hills State Park and Horsethief Lake.” The asphalt road led us smoothly to a gravel parking lot a stone’s throw from the train tracks and the river. It was there that we paid our ten bucks for an Adventure Pass (a day parking pass) and met up with the tour group.
We lucked out. The free tours are lead Fridays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. by volunteer guides. This morning three guides showed up. The art walk is about mile and takes a little over an hour. Due to vandalism the art walk is closed except for these April through October State Park sponsored pictograph and petroglyph tours. They suggest reserving your spot two to three weeks out, but lucky me got four spots just four days out. The number given to reserve your spot is: 509-439-9032. When Ranger Warner called confirming our art walk reservation he left this number: 360-773-7712.
According to our guides, the area now known as the Columbia River Gorge has been the most continuously inhabited location in North America. Some of those inhabitants included the Chinook, a loose conglomeration of tribes that extended from the Pacific Ocean east through the Gorge and the surrounding areas. Much trading and traffic of different Indian peoples has happened here. These Indians are the ones who left their marks on the land and rocks. The artwork, both pictographs (rock paintings) and petroglyphs (carved rock art), are evidence of these peoples. Though thought to be very religious (from other evidence and tradition), our guides admitted that we don’t know for sure what the artwork represents. The various diseases and hardships that overcame many of those people in the last two hundred years means there is no definitive voice interpreting the remains today.
The Indians consider this area a sacred place and even today bring offerings of worship here. Walking along this art trail was like visiting the remnants of an old Catholic cathedral or Buddhist monastery. We were seeing Native American artwork that could be likened to stained glass windows or chubby little Budas. The trail had about five stops where the guides pointed out artwork and talked about what were seeing. With the smells of wild berry bushes, grasses and dust in the dry heat air, we took in the artwork. I was glad the guides had leaflets showing exactly what we were looking for in the rocks. Some of the work was difficult to see, and the guides said this was because the sun was so bright. Apparently if there had been a bit of cloud cover or been overcast, the artwork would have been seen better.
While guide “J” kept his interpretations palatable, our two other guides affirmed the sacredness of the area every chance they got. I appreciated J’s constant reminder that we really don’t know what these works of art represent or for what purpose they served; every member of the tour’s guess was just as valid as any of the opinions of the guides’. Personally I think at least some of the artwork was made simply for art’s sake and some of the specimens were practice sketches. I doubt it is all sacred.
“White. White paint represented death, didn’t it?” The older blonde lady-guide piped up.*
“Um. I’ve never heard that before,” said J hesitantly.
“I thought I read that somewhere – that artwork in different colors had different meanings,” she persisted.
“Maybe. I think they just used what they had,” said J.
A few minutes later, as we preceded single-file down the sun baked and sneaker trodden path, the guides are talking among themselves again.
“I think I read that colors signify different meanings,” repeated Blondie, this time to guide “K”.
“Yeah – you could be right,” he says.
“I think white represents death,” she says again.
“Really? That’s new to me, but it could be. Their artwork was full of significance that we don’t even understand,” he affirms her with genuine interest in his voice.
When at the beginning of the tour our three volunteer guides discovered that they had unexpected co-guides, I didn’t expect their consensus that they’d learn from one another to amount to much. Nevertheless, they kept talking among themselves and comparing notes. They all had their own angle. Blondie was definitely death focused. K was especially attuned to the spirit side of things, with a touchy-feely edge. J was a textbook guide; he had a script and followed it.
The art walk is a destination walk with “She Who Watches” being the final viewed specimen. The piece was created using both paint and rock carving. A large piece, it looked to me like a bear with very Native American features. There are various traditional tales associated with this artwork. All of them include a woman chief, the wolf and a being put in stone to watch over the chief’s people. Some of the traditions say that the wolf promised her he would watch over them, and he put himself in the stone, while others say he put her in stone, so she could always watch over her people. Anyway, it was a neat piece to see. I was impressed at the symmetry of the eyes and ears.
One thing that was not made very clear on the art walk was how many, or which of the specimens exactly, were rescued and strategically placed. Apparently at least some of them were salvaged before the dam was put in about a mile up river and the area flooded.
Even at the end of the art trail our guides were still talking among themselves and comparing notes.
“Didn’t owls signify death in Indian depictions?” Again the topic of death, and again, brought up by Blondie.
“Yeah – sometimes animals did depict life events and situations,” affirmed K.
“I know I was just reading about how owls signify death. And my spirit animal is an owl,” she relates to him.
Uhhh… and you’re broadcasting this why? I thought to myself as I moved on, looking for my sister, relieved that that part of the art walk was over.
After the tour we ate our picnic lunch in the day area by the lake. With many picnic tables in the shady grassy area, we had no problem finding a nice spot by the water’s edge. The following swim in Horsethief Lake, with rocky Horsethief Butte looming above and the sun shinning down, refreshed our sun-chapped skin. Yes, blue sky, sparkling warm water and good friends – what a lovely day.
On the drive home, we veered off a little so to take in the Historic Columbia River Highway, which turns 100 years old this year. Stopping at Crown Point and the Vista House, we took in the view.
*Quotes and dialogue – not precisely accurate as I am quoting them as I thought back to what they said.
What better way to celebrate our nation’s birthday than a few miles from where Oregon was voted into America? As I shared in my last post, it was at a spot right in Champoeg Park in 1843 that settlers voted 52 -50 to come under the provisional government of the United States. Just a few miles down the road from that historic spot you’ll find the little western town of St. Paul, Oregon.
For the last 81 years St. Paul has turned out a family friendly PBR and PRCA rodeo over the 4th of July weekend. For many this is an annual tradition. For me, it had been about 15 years since I’d last attended. A number of the people I went with this year on July 2nd had never been to a rodeo, so to see it with someone seeing rodeo for the first time was an experience. I think they enjoyed themselves…at this thing they call rodeo.
Afterwards the group was comparing their favorite parts of the rodeo. Despite thinking long and hard, I am not sure which part of rodeo is my favorite.
I really enjoy watching team roping. While one rider ropes the head, the other ropes the heels of the steer – that takes skill and teamwork.
Then again, I really enjoy barrel racing. It takes guts to ride your horse at top speed and whip around those barrels. Ride, ride, ride!
The clown hits my list though too. He’s got to provide entertainment for the crowds, while also providing some distractive presence between the cowboys and the animals.
The DJ impressed me at this rodeo. My friend Anna and I agreed it would be fun to job-shadow a rodeo DJ. Though having a play-list and knowing generally what to play when, with the clown, the announcer, the mood of the crowds…etc. he could be called to play just about anything and the music needs to fit the moment.
The often forgotten and unnoticed pick-up men in blue hit my list as well. Man, when they do their job right, it is impressive to watch. When they do it well, you hardly notice unless you’re paying attention. They come alongside the bucking animals, pull the bucking strap off and rescue the rider. They’re the ones that actually put roping skills to work at a rodeo. Sure, there are the roping competitions, but those pick-up men better have some mad roping skills to catch stray animals. In a funny sort of way, they exemplify the cowboy at the rodeo more so than the competitors, who might not even be real working cowboys. They’re doing the actual job and not just competing.
It’s boots and chaps
It’s cowboy hats
It’s spurs and latigo
It’s the ropes and the reins
And the joy and the pain
And they call the thing rodeo
When you and your sister both have an early summer Monday off, you have to go do something. But what? It was a weekday and a workday, notorious for being a day popular attractions are minimally populated. Opportunities abounded. We thought about going to Horsethief Lake in Washington, but decided that it was too far away for the day’s adventure. We considered going shopping at Washington Square mall, but I didn’t have anything I needed to buy. We contemplated the beach, but decided instead to go hiking around Champoeg State Park, just outside of St. Paul, OR.
The area now known as Champoeg (pronounced: sham-poo-ee) Park was once known as tchnampuick and inhabited by the Tualatin Kalapuya tribe until the early 1800s when French-Canadians from the Hudson’s Bay Company retired here.
After stopping in at the Visitor’s Center, buying the $5 parking pass, looking around at the free exhibits and meandering through the 1860’s-style kitchen garden, we drove to the east side of the Park. There we wandered around the Riverside day use area and along the easy Pavilion Trail.
Champoeg Park Pavilion and Monument Plaza is where farmers and trappers voted for a Provisional Government in Oregon on May 2, 1843 at a “meeting of the ‘inhabitants of the Willamette settlements’.” This vote formed “the first American government on the Pacific coast.” Later, in 1900 the land was purchased by the State for a public park, and to commemorate the vote the State erected a monument here.
With the breezes through the evergreens, sunlight penetrating the clearing like a monument spotlight and happy boater laugher floating off the river, just sitting on benches made for a relaxing summer afternoon. The back history told me I was not alone in enjoying this spot. This location has hosted many happy moments. Back in the day, Champoeg was called the “Plymouth Rock of the Pacific Coast,” and every May 2nd citizens would gather to celebrate. The Pioneer Memorial Building was built in 1918 and the attached covered area was added in 1920, providing a place for these annual celebration gatherings.
With the park open year round this is a great place to come and enjoy!
After reading about the Willamette Waterfront bridge tour loop in Laura Foster’s book Walk There! 50 treks in and around Portland and Vancouver, four friends and I decided to take the jaunt.
Once in Portland, Oregon we parked about 2nd and Morrison SW Morrison Street. The street parking is pretty safe in Portland, but don’t leave valuables sitting in view anyway. If my short-term memory serves me correctly, the fee was $2 an hour and free after 7 p.m.
Starting out at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, between the Hawthorn and the Morrison bridges, we headed north. The 2.6 mile walk took us under the Morrison and Burnside bridges. As we passed under the Burnside Bridge we caught a glimpse of the art market being packed up. If we had thought of it earlier, it might have been fun to go there first, but we were late in the day. Another adventure awaits…
Approaching the Steel Bridge we were lucky to see that a boat was also arriving about the same time we were. That meant we saw the suspension train tracks rise to allow the boat to pass through. I had never seen that. The section of train tracks horizontally rose up and then there was the gap for the boat to pass through.
We chose to cross the Steel Bridge on the upper level – the sidewalk along side the car traffic. There is also the option to cross on the bike/pedestrian path on the lower deck along side the train tracks. We then headed south along the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade. Again we passed under the Burnside and Morrison bridges before crossing over the Hawthorne Bridge.
After our walk along the river in the Portland drizzle, we certainly were hungry! So, we went to Escape From New York Pizza. Yum!
Let’s tiptoe through the tulips…
Well, actually let’s take a walk through the tulips. A photographer friend invited me to join her in taking tulip photos to enter in the Pro Photo Supply’s “Catch the Color” photo contest.
By the time we were able to get out to the fields in mid April, the flowers were at 80% color or bloom. 100% apparently was toward the end of March. The variety of 80% colors and the immense fields of flowers at this year’s Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon impressed me and seemed to impress the dozens of other photographers taking photos as well. We were told that by the end of April, not a bud or flower would still be there. Despite being “late” in the season, I enjoyed the late morning photo shoot.
The price of admission seemed a little high at $5 per person; that’s just to wander around looking at tulips. The cool kiddie rides, pony rides, the cow train tour and elephant ears all – naturally – have an additional cost. The tip from the guy in the admission booth was to park as close to the tulip fields, behind the blue porta-potties. Not exactly my first chose – behind the outhouses that is – but parking in the corner of the lot did help when leaving and trying to find the car in a packed lot.
While most likely the tulip color is over, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm is open throughout the year with other flowers and country appeal.
With a name like the 1,000 Acres Park, what can you expect? Happy dogs. You can expect to see happy dogs – like everywhere.
This past Friday my friend invited me to go with her and her dog Sam to the 1,000 Acre Park, an amazing off-leash park in Troutdale, OR. Before we even arrived in the park, I knew it was a good place. As we pulled off the highway and drove into the park, Sam got really happy. Each time I’ve met up with them, he has always been good-natured, but as we approached the park his ears perked up, his eyes brightened and his tail began wagging. His excitement was contagious as he eagerly looked out the window!
Now, Friday is a weekday, right? It’s usually considered a workday, yes? The number of cars parked there seemed to indicate otherwise. The spots reserved for RVs and trailers each had two cars! As the lot was full, we ended up parking along the road outside the parking lot. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to find parking later during the weekend.
A beautiful sunny day, approaching 90 degrees, it was a good day to take a big loop around the park. I was pleased to discover that the park is as large as the name implies. Despite the crowed parking lot, the park itself was not crowded. We met up with clusters of people and dogs, especially along the soft sandy banks of the rivers, but there was plenty of space. Everyone and especially every dog we met seemed to be in good spirits and enjoying the day.
Located along the Sandy River delta, edges of the park meet both the Sandy River and the Columbia. The park has open spaces as well as forested areas, and the paths were mostly hard packed dirt. If you’re under time constraints or nervous about exploring the great outdoors, be aware that there weren’t many signs, and the routes and paths seem up for self-discovery.
With space to run and lots of other off-leash dogs to run with, Sam only paused long enough to either smell another dog or investigate an interesting smell. By time we got back to the car, he was still a very happy dog, but slowing down just a bit. I’ve decided that if I get really blue, I am coming straight to this park. There is no way you can watch so many happy dogs chasing each other, zooming through peoples’ legs and diving into rivers after sticks and not at least smile.
Okay. Glad I could finally share this location – filing my 2015 taxes took precedent. Yes, I put it off until this week. Unlike this park, taxes don’t make me happy.