A Day in Oregon City

Looking toward Oregon City under I-205, in distance - historic bridge and Willamette Falls

Since relocating back to Oregon three years ago I have met some very interesting and fun people. One friend, Ginnie, and I get together every Tuesday (that we can) and see something new in the Portland area, where we both live.  This week we ventured further south to Oregon City. This was an area where I grew up so it holds a lot of memories for me. I moved here when I was in fourth grade and left in the ninth when my family decided to move to Oak Grove.

Oregon City has maintained its historical flavor over the years and this was one of the things I liked about it. Lately they’ve been sprucing up the neighborhood ( as many cities have been doing) and hanging flower baskets adorned many of the lamp posts. You’ll find historical buildings and homes all over the place and there’s a walk-about of Oregon City that’s fun and interesting, if you like that kind of activity check with the visitor center or me. Plus, the Clackamas County Historical Society Museum has its home here.

Courthouse adornment

Building across from the courthouse

Elevator connects two levels of Oregon City

Visiting Oregon City brought to mind the Oregon Trail and pioneer days – after all, it was the first city to incorporate west of the Mississippi. It was home to fur traders and missionaries and soon became known as “the end of the Oregon trail.” Later the paper mills sprang up as well as houses along the river, populated by employees of the Hudson Bay Company.

Ginnie and I took the elevator (it even had an operator) to the top of Singer Hill. There’s also a road along the cliff (if you want to drive) that was once a Native American path that expanded over the years to its present state. For a little more exercise – turn left at the base of the elevator (be sure and notice the 3-D historic photos lining the walls) and follow a tunnel to an old rock stairway that winds to the top past Singer Creek Falls .  A fountain stair-steps down the lower part of the hill to the railroad tracks at the base. Another tunnel takes you under Singer Hill Road and you’ll end up in the yard of two historical homes – the John McLoughlin Home (city founder) and Barclay Home (man prominent in community affairs) both can be toured.

Nearby church

The McGloughlin House

Barclay House



The top of the hill had a completely different atmosphere than the bottom. McLoughlin Promenade, a 1930s parkway along the top of the hill was recently renovated and offered different vantage points along the cliff where we viewed the city below, the Willamette River and Willamette Falls.  I frequented this area as a kid and a lot of it still looked the same.  Further up the hill a few buildings had been demolished (sadly the old theater) and others had been rennovated and turned into something new.  I entered the library and it was exactly as I remembered it. Same with the park and playground. Here are a few sites I remembered from my childhood:




Singer Hill Cafe  has been mentioned as a popular spot to grab a bite to eat so Ginnie and I decided to try it. The food was not great the day we ate there but the atmosphere made up for it. There’s an art gallery inside and an outdoor patio with plants growing on the walls and even covering the outside of the garbage can. It’s a “must see” when you’re in the neighborhood. The plant design is the work of the Oregon City Vertical Garden Institute.

Lunch salad

Singer Hill Cafe

Outside dining


Be sure and visit the Willamette River Walkway and John Storm Park plus the Willamette Falls Viewpoint off Highway 99E on the way up toward Canby above the old paper mills. This is only a smidgeon of what historic Oregon City can offer but it’s a good start.                     Happy exploring…

Kayaking on the Willamette

Kayaking on the Willamette

Ducks at John Storm Park

Willamette Falls from Viewpoint


Hawthorne District & Laurelhurst Park

People have been adding text to the stop signs in Portland

Spent a day with my photographer friend Tom who lives in SE Portland. It was his Birthday and we were originally planning to go to The Japanese Gardens but time got away with us and we decided to have lunch and explore the area and take pictures. It took us a while to pick the right restaurant but decided on Bread and Ink Cafe in the Hawthorne District. Liked the food and the atmosphere plus everyone’s friendly. I got a BBQ sandwich and Tom got their hamburger. Good fries and salad too.

After lunch, walking back to the car, I noticed a couple yards that had added creative touches. It’s fun driving or walking around Portland just to look at yards sometimes.

Mosaic wall with antique door knobs

Ceiling light globes all in a row









Next we decided to head over to Laurelhurst Park.  It’s a huge park – had paved paths with multiple levels located over by 39th and Stark. The land was originally part of an estate purchased in 1909. It eventually became named the most beautiful park on the west coast by the Pacific Coast Parks Association.

The place was obviously a favorite hang out with people strolling, jogging, skateboarding, reading, watching the ducks on the pond, throwing Frisbee, playing with children.  I was taking pictures and marveling at the multitude of things available to do here. There’s many play areas.

Sculpture and walking paths

The park’s beautifully landscaped with exotic plants (many labeled) plus there were several ponds of an emerald color filled with ducks, fish and frogs.

Enjoying the pond










One of my passions is macro photography and I especially like to capture the unique beauty that each flower possesses. When a photo is enlarged there are parts of the flower not visible to the naked eye that suddenly appear as if by magic. There’s a wonderland in most flowers that goes unobserved except on the most superficial level.

After leaving the park we enjoyed the neighborhood. I noticed many people plant vegetable gardens in their front yards mixed in with shrubs and flowers. I do the same thing and like this trend toward urban farming. It makes sense and tastes good too.

A few of the houses I liked

Happy Birthday Tom. Had a great time together today.

Day Hike In the Columbia Gorge

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I consider myself very lucky that I have a son who loves the outdoors as much as I do. And like me, his favorite place is the Columbia River Gorge with its abundance of waterfalls. So we decide to hike around Oneonta Gorge one Friday because there’s a couple falls neither of us have seen yet.

The drive into the Gorge is a beautiful thing. The blue Columbia River intersects Washington/Oregon – the landscape’s green and wild, with tall basalt cliffs on either side.

The trail starts at Horsetail Falls and winds up on a series of switchbacks and before we know it, we’re high above the Gorge. Our first stop is Ponytail Falls, which plunges 80 feet into a pool below. The trail allows you to walk behind the falls where there’s a cool cave.

From here it’s up to a viewpoint on the cliff where we can see the entire Gorge spread out before us. Quite impressive and well worth the hike. We decide to continue on to Middle Oneonta Falls. The trail leads us deep into the woods, along a ravine, across a bridge to the 60 foot falls. I look around and think how lucky I am to live so close to such a wonderful place.

Further on we catch the Larch Mt trail. The creek that cuts through this canyon has a lot of interesting patterns and as we continue to climb to the top of the ridge I enjoy the sounds of the whitewater washing over the rocks below. In the distance I can hear Upper Oneonta Falls but it lies hidden from view on this trail.

After much sweating and a few stops to catch my breath, we reach Triple Falls. It’s a magical place and perfect for a picnic lunch. We sit by the creek on a log above the 85 foot falls. Before us: the rocky creek; another smaller waterfall meandering down the hill; a green canopy of Douglas Fir, Hemlock and Spruce; fern and moss; blue sky; fresh air; and the sounds of birds. What better way to spend a day?

On the return trip to the Oneonta Loop trail we find an unmarked path that takes us far down into the canyon (sliding on our backside at places) to the little-known and rarely seen Upper Oneonta Falls. Totally secluded and wild and so fun to explore (being sure not to damage the natural surroundings) this falls offers another chance to walk behind the water spout to cool off. Little frogs hop all around us. A refreshing pool sparkles in the sun.

As we climb up the the hill and hike out and return to our car we discuss how great it is to spend a day like this out in nature. We decide to make a quick stop at Multnomah Falls to buy a map of the hiking trails in the Gorge and agree to hike a new trail every week. For me, it’s a way to reconnect to the roots of my soul. It’s where I’m most happy.

Wahclella Falls, Columbia Gorge

Wahclella Falls
Being ever spontaneous – when my 28-year-old son Ryan called at 1:30 in the afternoon and asked if I felt like going for a hike in the Gorge – I said, “Yes” even though I had a date at the theater that night and needed to shower and eat dinner before I left. He promised it would be a short trip.

Along Tanner Creek

So I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t take a whole day (or even a half day) to head out to the woods when you live 45 minutes from the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. This particular hike was two miles roundtrip along Tanner Creek and our final reward, before heading back, was a dramatic waterfall that dropped 60-feet into a huge natural pool. Picture this: canyon, trees, waterfall, blue sky, creek and pool surrounded by rocks and boulders (some larger than a car).

Ryan loves waterfalls (something he acquired from me). I remember when he was two-years-old, hiking into the gorge in search of distant waterfalls. He could hike up to five miles, which astounded almost anyone we met on the trail. He was a little trooper. He also memorized all of the fall’s names and kept pictures of them like people collect baseball cards. One day I walked into the living room and he was creating the falls (with their distinctive shapes) by draping towels and blankets from the furniture. I’m pleased to say he doesn’t do that anymore.

Ryan at the base of Wahclella Falls

It’s fun to share a passion like searching for waterfalls. It’s especially rewarding to share it with my son because of the common thread it creates between us. And because it takes us into the wilds of Oregon. This was a hike we had never been on before and a falls we had never seen and I thought I had seen them all.

The Tanner Creek Trail follows Tanner Creek and gains about 300 feet in a little over a mile. On the way we passed Munra Falls next to a wooden bridge that was impressive in its own right. The path then follows a narrow tree-lined canyon for a while until it opens up at the falls into a grotto-type idyllic setting.

I was delighted with a variety of wildflowers, butterflies, birds, a refreshing stream and cooling mist from the falls. My boot split half way through the hike so I was limited in my climbing and exploring but thankfully it made it to the end, although we had to listen to the clap clapping where the glue didn’t hold and the sole separated. Reminder: buy better boots next time.

Beauty on the path

On the way home we stopped at Multnomah Falls Lodge for their famous ice cream cones. That place is always packed. We made a promise to come back here early morning before the crowds.

And, yes, I made it home in time to shower, eat at Mike’s Drive-in (yummy buffalo burgers) and arrive at the theater on time.

Way to pack in a day.

Ryan at Munra Falls

Lava Butte – Bend, OR

Vista from the top

There’s a cycle to life that is evident all around us. Nowhere is it more obvious than nature. I think that’s one of the things I love about getting away to a purely natural and preserved area and remaining aware of all that’s around me. There’s lessons to learn. Life speaks of abundance and rhytmn and survival.

At first glance, Lava Butte and the surrounding result of ancient (7000 years old) volcanic activity, appears to deny this. Harsh lava surrounds us, sometimes up to six miles away. But as we drive higher, to the top of the cinder cone, the signs of life stand out in stark contrast to the huge expanse of lava. Trees, flowers and chipmunks greet us with a cheery reminder that life does go on. There’s even one huge expanse of trees that had avoided destruction in the cataclysmic eruption. Imagine standing, an island, surrounded by 3000 degree molten lava flowing around you.

At 500 feet, the vistas from the top of Lava Butte are breathtaking – the Cascade Range and Deschutes Plateau in the distance. There’s a quarter mile treak around the cinder cone with informational signposts to fill you in on the natural landscape and history, if you’re into that. Long dead, petrified trees remain as a stark reminder of the destruction, now they’re a thing of beauty – knarled and sun-bleached.

At the time Newbury Volcano erupted, it filled the Dechutes River and formed a natural dam that formed Lake Benham. Over the years the river flowed over the dam and eroded the surrounding area forming Benham Falls.

We drive the four miles from Lava Butte to the banks of the Deschutes River where the trailhead to Benham Falls begins. It’s a half mile through spectacular long-needle pine forests – cliffs on one side and river on the other. I hear the roaring cascading falls long before I see it. I take a side trail closer to the water and follow the falls (which meander downhill rather than dropping steeply) but there’s no denying the thrilling spectacle of whitewater rapids gradually descending in a long series of steps for more than 500 feet. A fenced boardwalk leads to an observation point at the base of the falls.

At the days end I feel more alive. More in touch with what it means to be human. I’ve sensed the harmony of all things and am back in touch with the desire that everything co-exists together. There’s a balance to life, if we but find it.

A portion of Benham Falls

Glacial Erratic Rock – Willamette Valley

Composed of metamorphic rock called argillite.

Back during the last Ice Age (12,000 to 18,000 years ago) the Missoula Floods, originating in southwest Montana, deposited vast amounts of earthly debris over portions of Idaho, Washington and Oregon – eventually spilling into the Pacific Ocean. Because of these floods, the Willamette Valley in Oregon became one of the most fertile regions in the state. Vineyards sprung up – some 40,000 acres of grapes – which now produce some of the finest wines in the French Burgundy style.

When the 3,000 square mile prehistoric Glacial Lake Missoula flooded, the waters coursed through the Columbia River Gorge at 60-miles-per-hour carrying huge boulders with it. Eventually the cataclysmic waters receded and what remained were “glacial erratics” stranded where they had come to rest.

One such 40-ton boulder stands atop a hillside in McMinnville, OR surrounded by rich farmland and vineyards below. You can hike the 1/4 mile paved path year-round up to the site and see the largest glacial erratic found in the Willamette Valley. You will also be rewarded with spectacular vistas.

My mother was raised on this hilltop, her family moved there in the early 40s when she was 12, and she used to hike to the Rock throughout her childhood. It hadn’t been “discovered” yet and she knew it only as a cool rock and a good place to hang out (my slang, not hers). I also loved the rock as a child and remember finding it one day when I was at grandpa and grandma’s farm. It was a warm day and I climbed up on it’s sunny surface to daydream. I remember the rock seemed out of place there (being the only thing like it in the area). I knew it was a special find, but I imagined it coming from outer space – like a meteor.

Over the years I traveled and moved to other states but was surprised to discover recently that the rock is somewhat famous and an Oregon State Park called Erratic Rock State Natural Site. Now anyone can climb to the top of this hill to lie on the rock’s sun-soaked surface, enjoy the scenery and, of course, daydream.

Check out my Flickr photos on this hike at Glacial Erratic Rock

Hello world!


Traveler on a journey

Introducing my new travel blog of Oregon. Come with me and explore Oregon and (at times) other places on the globe. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you there…

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