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Harvey W. Scott, editor of The Oregonian, has pointed to the city below since 1933.

Harvey W. Scott, editor of The Oregonian, has pointed to the city below since 1933.

What else to do on a rainy, windy January morning than walk up to Mt. Tabor Park and see who else chose to go outside. It’s a lovely park in every season and people arrive in any weather.

fascinating birdhouse

fascinating birdhouse

I was distracted on the way by beautiful old neighborhoods with their lovingly created gardens. If I walk slowly and look in every direction, I inevitably find something I haven’t seen before, like a darling miniature bait & tackle shop used as a birdhouse, weather-worn and moss-covered. I also enjoy watching the plants in other people’s yards in different seasons, and then choosing which plants to add to my own yard to keep it interesting year-round.

gorgeous purple beads

gorgeous purple beads

On Mt. Tabor I found everyone I expected to find: runners and cyclists circling the dormant volcano on its spiraling roads. Sweethearts holding hands without gloves, despite the rain. One photographer inside the cone itself, which has now been shaped into a mini-amphitheatre that hosts free summertime concerts. A professional photographer, an assistant holding a light, and a lovely young woman in dark clothes against dark skin with gorgeous gemstone-green streaks in her hair, most likely hiring graduation photos. Moms and dads with strollers and my personal favourite: a dad walking hand in hand with his 3-year old daughter, each sporting wild blonde curls blown in the wind and unrestrained by anything hat-like.

Trail through the trees on the east side of Tabor.

Trail through the trees on the east side of Tabor.

Joggers near the top to Tabor

Joggers near the top to Tabor. Debris from the night’s storm lays in the road.

A cyclist rides in the shade while a morning sunbeam lights up Portland in the Willamette valley.

A cyclist rides in the shade while a morning sunbeam lights up Portland in the Willamette valley.

Mt. Tabor park is large enough to have crowds of trees as well as open fields, ponds (ok, ok, they are the city’s water supply), trails, paved roads, and several outbuildings as well as one administrative office.

This time I noticed how darling the public bathrooms are. I think it’s a sign of how old the park is, that the public bathrooms are built of stone and brick and stucco. Someone took the trouble to design them in half-timbered style, with turrets, like something one might expect the Seven Dwarfs to live in.

Bathrooms near the center of the park.

Bathrooms near the center of the park.

Near the top, this bathroom is closed due to vandalism.

Near the top, this bathroom is closed due to vandalism.

This bathroom is on the east side, near the tennis courts.

This bathroom is on the east side, near the tennis courts.

I’m always talking about how great Portland people are, and the people are great, yes, but not to a soul. Sadly, one bathroom holds a sign stating “closed due to vandalism,” and the sign itself is tagged. The brick walls of the building have been recently scrubbed, but clearly bear the marks of earlier spray paint. Sigh. We have our troublemakers who spoil it for the others, too. Just like any city.

But I have hopes that maybe in the summer time, and maybe when the park budget is improved, we can have open facilities in all locations on our little volcano in the middle of the city.

The amphitheatre in the center of the dormant cone, which still shows blackened rocks.

The amphitheatre in the center of the dormant cone, which still shows blackened rocks.

Trails in Forest Park are irresistible. Like this. Could you stand here and NOT pick a path and walk?

Trails in Forest Park are irresistible. Like this. Could you stand here and NOT pick a path and walk?

Arno and I met for the very first time on Mount Tabor, a beautiful Portland park so close to my home that I walked there to meet him. It’s the site of an ancient, dormant volcano. The date went so well that we spent about four hours on Mt. Tabor, till we got hungry and had to come down off the volcano.

After eating, we weren’t ready to separate quite yet. Arno had moved from Chicagoland only months before, and didn’t know many places in Portland, so he asked where we should go next. I had had been in Portland a couple years, and didn’t know the place like a native, but knew of Forest Park, rumored to be one of the largest city parks in the country (5,172 acres). (I’m determined to do some real research some day, and figure out precisely where Forest Park fits in the list, since the lists I have found don’t mention it.)

The sun thought about getting stronger and lighting the world.

In this photo, the sun is thinking about getting stronger and lighting the world.

trillium

trillium

On that day, we walked the trails and tried to keep ourselves steady as we tumbled madly for each other. We came to a beautiful little bridge over a creek, and stopped. Arno called it The Troll Bridge. We paused awhile to see if the troll would come out, and in fear for my life, I caught Arno in an embrace. (ok, maybe it wasn’t out of fear…)

violets

violets

We shared our first delicious kiss on the Troll Bridge. And since then Forest Park has held a special place in our collective memory.

Yesterday the sky threatened rain, and I told Arno I was determined to go outside for a good long while, and get some exercise, rain or no rain. We found our way to the other side of town, to the west hills, and to one of the many trail heads. The drive was beautiful in itself, winding up through the gorgeous homes in Portland’s King’s Heights. The homes are so eclectic, so fascinating, so obviously loved, that it’s always worth the trip there.

Path through a decadent green carpet

Path through a decadent green carpet

We didn’t get rained on, though the sky remained cloudy. It remained warm, and our walk was lovely. Arno turned on the GPS to track us, and we did a 7 1/2 mile loop, which was enough to get the stir crazy out of my bones.

This picnic table is begging for someone to stop for a lunchtime break.

These picnic tables are begging for someone to stop for a lunchtime break.

We crossed many little wooden bridges, but did not come across our Troll Bridge yesterday. We did pause on a couple of them, however, to share a kiss and wait to see if a troll would come out.

Most of the people we passed on our walk were joggers and cyclists.

Most of the people we passed on our walk were joggers and cyclists.

I asked Arno to hold the camera while I took off my fleece and tied it around my waist. He took my photo! Can't trust that guy... ;-)

I asked Arno to hold the camera while I took off my fleece and tied it around my waist. He took my photo! Can’t trust that guy… 😉

Awwww, I thought this was a really wonderful tribute. Here's a place to read more and see a video about Dave Terry's memorial.

Awwww, I thought this was a really wonderful tribute. Here’s a place to read more and see a video of Dave Terry’s memorial.

DSC_1108

adiantum aleuticum. Eye-catching, lacy, fern hands.

adiantum aleuticum. Eye-catching, lacy, fern hands.

Friends of Trees sign

There is a local organization called Friends of Trees that strives to fill the cities of Portland and Vancouver with more trees. It’s a volunteer organization that helps property owners place trees and care for trees in our green spaces.

I lived through the infamous Ice Storm of January ’98 in northern New England. Neighborhood trees were a primary reason for destruction and widespread power outages that winter. Ice caked inches-thick onto branches in densely tree-lined streets of Burlington, Vermont until the weight brought them down onto thousands of power lines. Transformer boxes exploded throughout the night. The city had power restored in a few days, but outlying rural communities of Vermont, northern New York, and the Canada border were without power for over a month. Two months later, on a work trip through the Northeast Kingdom in March, I saw that the ice still had not melted in some places. There was a public outcry that gained support that winter, to chainsaw every last city tree to the ground to prevent that catastrophe from happening again. Despite having seen the worst case scenario, I remain convinced that it’s better to have trees on city streets.

Dave's announcements in the church parking lot

Last summer I had already spotted some of the recently planted trees from Friends of Trees in my neighborhood. You can tell because of the high quality planting, the large trees, and the tags placed on the stakes that they are from FofT. I had considered looking into the program last Fall when a volunteer showed up on my porch one day and said she noticed there was space on my property that could use a tree. When I said I agreed that there should be a tree in that piece of lawn between the street and the sidewalk, she asked if I was interested in working with Friends of Trees. Yes. Yes I was.

roots

The available trees are listed on a website at hugely discounted prices. In exchange for the awesome deal, buyers are encouraged to volunteer some time to the group on a planting day. I bought my seven-foot Oregon White Oak for only $35, and of course that includes the planting. Oaks are slow-growers, which explains why it was only seven feet high. Many of the trees go in as tall as fourteen feet. Where else can you get such a great bargain?

Crew leader Nick is glad these holes do not have roots or stumps

Today was planting day in our neighborhood (Mt. Tabor and Montavilla). For my volunteer work, I chose to be on a planting crew, since I like physical labor and I love planting stuff. I joined the crew that planted my White Oak as well as trees of my neighbors. Prior to working, we assembled at the Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church for an excellent healthy breakfast. (I was pleased that we were able to use real dishes, which I assume were washed by volunteers. I love how green Portland is.)

My crew at work

After we ate, we assembled in the parking lot across the street to hear instructions and announcements from our orchestrator Dave, plus the neighborhood coordinators, some board members, and also our sponsors, including Portland General Electric. PGE is donating a dollar to Friends of Trees for every customer who switches from paper bills to electronic notifications. “It might not seem like a lot,” said the spokesperson, “but with 700,000 customers, it could add up to a significant donation. So tell everyone!”

A neighborhood event at Chuck's house

One board member was proud to tell us that just last week, Friends of Trees planted their 400,000th tree! Awesome!

Our crew joined up at Tristan’s truck full of trees, then we headed off to the first address to begin. The first planting turned out to be a major challenge. The spot that had been marked out for us turned out to be the site of a buried stump! Doggedly determined, the guys hacked and pounded and scraped and clawed and dug and pushed (and maybe cursed just a teensy bit), till we finally had a hole large enough to accommodate a substantial rootball. Our crew leader Nick was very knowledgeable and experienced, which turned out to be a great asset during the day, and particularly with that first tree.

Next we planted three ginkgos for neighbors who coordinated their choices to match the ginkgo already there. Chuck, one of the homeowners, came out with hand baked energy bars from Trader Joe’s that were delicious even though I had just eaten at the church. Four ginkgos in a row will be lovely this summer, and I’ll have to drive by and see them. As we planted, other neighbors walking their dogs showed up, and it was fun to see what a community event Friends of Trees had created, because of course they knew Tristan and Chuck, and were all talking together. Tristan’s Red Bud was next, where we got to meet his lovely wife, at home with their new baby. Then we crossed Stark to busy Washington, where Meghan and Nick’s spiky Hawthornes will provide beauty, shelter, and hopefully a buffer to the traffic, not to mention a built-in defense system.

My old house was next. It was a potentially uncomfortable situation, bringing a gang of new friends to the house I no longer live in. I gave a brief explanation that he and I aren’t dating anymore, I don’t live there, but I purchased the tree and committed to my volunteering when I did live there. I tried to lighten it up a little by saying, “Maybe we’ll get lucky and meet his mother!” Dawn picked up my meaning immediately, knowing that my sarcasm meant I hoped not to see her at all.

with Oak

without Oak

Well, true to form, Mark’s mother (who still lives there) was on site perfectly on cue. She stood by and critiqued the work, making sure to tell Nick, the arborist, how to do his job. We were all rather pleasant about it, and in no time, my beautiful Oregon White Oak was placed in front of the famed house on Morrison Street. Believe me, I will pass by frequently, and thrill as it grows. Tell me, tell me, how could there be a better way to spend volunteer time?

Our last two trees were for Jesse, whom we lost from the crew in the church parking lot because he needed to find someone with space to bring him along. One of the trees was a tulip tree and a challenging planting because it was bare root instead of a root ball. We relied heavily on Nick’s guidance and pulled off a beautiful placement.

Crew S

At Meghan’s house, Nick found out that my daughter Tara wants to be an arborist. She has been certain of that for nearly two years now. Nick was jealous and excited to hear it, wishing that he had known so early in his education what he wanted to do. I told Nick about Treeverse, a documentary in the making about two Oregonians who will travel a full kilometer from treetop to treetop without touching the ground and bringing their gear with them. He gave me some brilliant advice on how to keep Miss T interested in trees, how she can gain valuable knowledge and experience, and even some college programs to recommend to her.

Though Friends of Trees pulled together a splendid hot lunch from donations from Papa Murphy’s as well as many dishes of home cooked food from volunteers, I was ready to head home and check on my girl. She arrived at the same time, home from her own volunteer morning at her school basketball concession stand. She says, “Wow, Mom, you’re in a really good mood.” Yeah, sometimes I need to exit the cocoon and interact with people. I think I’ll talk my budding teen arborist into volunteering with Friends of Trees a few more times this Spring. It will be good for both of us.

rolls so big I had to use my hands!

Trust me: if you’re in the neighborhood, you need to stop at Miyamoto and try their Nigiri and Norimaki. It’s just off Stark, on SE 81st.

Then again, if you are not in the Montavilla area, you need to get yourself there. You should make a day of it, because there are so many places that are worth your time to visit. The Montavilla Farmer’s Market will continue every Sunday through October. The Bipartisan Cafe is the comfortable neighborhood coffee shop to get your Pacific Northwest java on. The Academy Theater is a treat for the whole family at just $4 adults/$3 kids to get in. You’ll need to grab a tray to carry your beer and wine in along with your food and candy.  And if you want to watch the movie without the little ones, childcare is available. Flying Pie Pizzeria makes the best pizza in town with an active staff that provides a show while you wait, and pizza for your movie. There’s the awesome Salty’s Dog and Cat Shop pet supply store, Paperdoll stationery shop, and on the other side of 82nd is the GIGANTIC Monticello Antique Marketplace (in competition with her granddaughter for the main reason why my mother keeps coming back to Portland).

inside Miyamoto

All these businesses (and of course many more) are smack between two parks: The Montavilla Portland Public Park, and the huge, high, and uncomparable Mount Tabor Park (the dormant volcano is currently hosting an exciting bicycle racing series, Velo on the Volcano every Wednesday night. Click here if you want to see some pics from July 1st).

And if all this doesn’t bring you in, consider Miyamoto. The owners of Roscoe’s on the corner were convinced to clear out their storage room and open up a sushi shop. Open only three weeks so far, they are jammed daily. They haven’t even had time to erect a proper restaurant sign yet. They haven’t advertised. Actually, I get the sense that they’re just trying to keep the fresh fish, rice and seaweed moving across the counter to their hungry customers.

So you should go, and volunteer to paint them a sign or something. And bring your spare patio table and chairs from before you upgraded, because they’ve got space for outdoor seating. …but don’t get the impression that this lovely shop has been slapped together on a whim. It’s classy, clean, and comfortable.

Let the food convince you though, and eat! You need to order and eat. The portions are large, for what you may typically expect for sushi. We left there stuffed to the gills. The prices are so reasonable, we left a larger tip than usual. Even so, we still spent less than we were expecting.

While we were there, we talked with Kevin, Renee, and owner Quinn, who made us feel immediately at ease. Renee is fun to talk to and exquisitely attentive. Kevin focuses on putting together the best of what they’ve got to serve in attractive arrangements, whether you’re dining or in taking out. Quinn moves fast and manages to keep track of everything going on while simultaneously ready to say hello and answer your questions the moment the need arises.

I should add some “getting here” tips. Don’t use 82nd Street – yucky yucky. Take the Stark/Washington exit off I-205 if you’re coming from north or south. And use Stark, yes, Stark street, coming from east or west. It’s a lovely and smooth route which is nearly always clear of traffic congestion. Another important point: in Montavilla, Stark and Washington are parallel one-way streets, so you may need to make a left turn to get onto Stark and begin soaking up everything we have to offer.

Look out Portland, right behind Mississippi and Alberta, Montavilla’s the next up-and-coming neighborhood.

Aw, hey, I just can’t help myself. It was a fun day and we’ve got the photos to prove it. I know all you winter weather dwellers will recognize a distinct lack of snow… but we Portlanders view this as as sled-worthy as it gets!

The girlie and I took our chances and drove as far up Mt. Tabor as my little purple Saturn dragon wagon could make it. I had planned to take the #15, which goes right up the hill, but the busses were having a devil of a day, and no #15s would be in our are for about a half an hour, so we drove. We found a relatively flat spot where I was able to turn her around and face her back downhill, then we parked and walked the rest of the way.

Girlie trying to decide how to spend her Sunday

We weren’t the only kids who thought of sleds. We joined other squealing families flying down the hill. Mt. Tabor has a giant park, and we didn’t even get to the top of the extinct volcano…so I imagine there must have been sledding people all over the place.

We were happy at the spot we found, so we played till we froze our buns off, then headed back to the car. It was so cold that my remote unlock button didn’t work, so I used the key to unlock the car. That set off the alarm, which I couldn’t turn off, of course, because everything was frozen and not working properly. And the alarm system wouldn’t let me start the car after the apparent break in either! Well, the horn worked well. It honked louder and louder and faster, drawing rather fine attention. Finally, inexplicably, it went off.

I love her hands out behind her. Whee!

We went the few blocks home, sort of puckered as I crawled downhill and thanked the gods my breaks were catching something. All the way until the stop sign at 76th. Whoops! Slipped right through. Luckily no one was around. When we hit 82nd, there was a green light, but the folks coming through were not able to stop for us, and slid right through the intersection. Wow, just like real winter.

ferns

waiting their turn

We got off our snow-caked boots and drank hot cocoa by the fire.

And then, girlie found out that school is canceled for tomorrow. Does winter GET any better?

we weren't the only ones who went to play in the snow on Mt. Tabor

enough snow to get some downhill speed

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