Monday’s Meander: Welcome to My Neighborhood

A scene along Old River Road.

Summer has hit full force, with the good and not so good. City center protests for 53 days that now have brought federal troops’ presence, for one, have ramped up local worries….And I need nature all the more.

It has increasingly gotten very hot and dry here. Where to meander? When we considered where to ramble over the weekend, we decided to keep it very local and mostly ventured along the river again. That late July Oregon sunshine burned too fiercely for me; it was a slower, sweatier time time out and about. It may rain for 7 months, but when the summer arrives it brings plenty of blue skies radiating sharp heat! (Not any rain to talk about until October or November.)

Since I worked hard on another piece of writing today, this post will be short and sweet. I have scads of photos of our surrounding woodsy/ riverine/suburban Portland area and local trails we walk. Though I have at times featured shots specific to a larger topic, there are scads more that you might enjoy – these are fairly random random but, hopefully, a refreshing assortment.

A Gabriel Park trail, close to our city.
The ole Willamette River.
It really is nearby–a view from a Cook’s Butte trail.
“Our” woods to call home.
Community gardens

Wednesday’s Words/ Nonfiction: An Adoration of Trees, i.e., Solace and Safety

The solace and the beauty remained every bit as enchanting, of course, after our long hiatus from our urban forest. We went hiking to insert ourselves once more within its wonders. As we were away Monday (more on that next week), here is what I saw on Sunday’s foray–this, rather than a slated piece on love. Love is right in those trees for me, anyway. Not apart from Portland but in its DNA, Forest Park sprawls in the west hills right snug to the city.

Portland from the way up many rising hills; the forest is on slopes at base of Tualatin Mountains

It is a densely planted, textured, thriving 5000 acres, one of the largest urban natural areas in USA. It is home to over 100 species of mammals and as many birds, and offers 70 miles of trails. It is, then, a treasure, and I have waited for months to visit. Here you will see a small amount. But first we stop at the Oregon Viet Nam Veterans Memorial. Several sat on the slopes quietly talking on blankets or sat alone, meditating.

We headed into Hoyt Arboretum area. This part of the forest covers 192 ridgetop acres, home to 2300 kinds of trees and bushes. The trails range from steep to comfortable, a great workout in the bright, hot, open air. Lots of Douglas Firs and so many others.

If I recall correctly, above and below are paperbark maple. New kind to me!

And below as noted. The nest two are the trees coming and going.

Click through the slide show for a walk into and out of the redwoods.

A couple strolling hand in hand. Lots of couples!

It was a rewarding and hotter-as-we-climbed afternoon through hills, up to ridges and down again (about 4.5 miles)… appreciating fine old trees, scatterings of wild flowers and much other growth. (Usually we can see 3 major mountains in good weather but that day they were obscured by mistiness.) I also appreciated people here and there being respectful of space and quietness, ambling softly among the wide open spaces, feeling freer and refreshed in radiant summered air.

For me, there is almost nothing like a brisk walk or steady hike. When outdoors the inner and outer aspects of my life coalesce better, and somehow I feel more vibrant, and life more real. Yes, happiness is the word– for the rocky soil, reaching, entwining branches and grandness of blue sky above with a veil of shadow about feet. And all that enthralls and surprises in between. The trees teach us about endurance, flexibility, connectedness and symbiosis, efficient designs for thriving, usefulness, fineness of form, historical preservation, and of course, loveliness. They speak to me as the wind circles and rushes, as within trees the night’s deep stories come alive and dark flows into dawning light and then birds perch, flutter and sing among branches. I see how small I am and yet a part of the whole. And in this time, of all times, how fortunate to have such reminders, and a few hours’ glory of God’s diverse creations.

Monday’s Meander: Blueberry Picking Day!

Mt Adams stands majestic over “Fruit Loop” farms and vineyards. (All photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson, copyright 2020.)

Saturday we eagerly left Portland metro–first time in months–to visit a favorite area, the rolling, fecund acreage in Hood River Valley. We drove an hour through the Columbia Gorge along the muscular river that gives it the name. It was a vibrant, burnished day that grew sunnier each mile as rugged landscape showed off its beauty.

Our goal: find blueberry perfection! We always enjoy the Fruit Loop, a 35 mile meander about its fertile land which supports our state’s most productive orchards. There are about 26 farms/orchards/wineries one may visit each season. We were pleased to try a new place, Kennedy Farms, in operation since 1901, and the attractive Dutch Colonial style Gorge White House. We went just in time to pick three pounds of sun ripened blueberries. We needed to test them as we worked at a leisurely pace.

Marc at work, sampling as he picks
Raspberries were not quite ready,

There were groups gathered on grass or at picnic/other tables around the orchards. The Kennedy Farm also produces wine and many were tasting several, as well as enjoying lunch for sale that was prepared there. They seemed a bit casual about virus potential, but many seemed to be with household members, and perhaps half or more wore masks–but it is hard to eat and drink with those on. Marc and I kept clear of others, enjoying more open areas.

Gorgeous dahlias and other flowers to cut–but we were focused on the berries this time!

This craggy, snowy wonder is Mt. Hood.

Having picked enough to share and freeze, we were thirsty and ready to get on the road again. We stopped, as is our habit, at Hood River, famous for wind and kite surfing due to strong Columbia Gorge winds. After admiring athletes’ river activities and soaking up peace by river’s swift current amid mountains, we completed the happy day.

Monday’s Meander: At the Park with Three Dads

Any day can be a day of gratitude for fathers but Sunday being Father’s Day, we spent time with my son, his wife and his son, as well as our daughter, our son-in-law and their two 14 month olds (plus one other daughter with partner). Gabriel Park has great groves of trees and broad grassy areas, woods and a community garden. Many people wore masks as did Marc and I though this was in open air with plenty of space –much safer. Son Josh (Falk), a pro skater, and Asher (14, long hair–our grandson), were mask-less due to much sweaty athletic activity. They had a great time out there sharing a mutual passion.

I can’t show much of the now-toddling granddaughters as it is preferred we do not. But I took action photos of the guys skateboarding. Josh has been skating since he was 12; he is 45, still sponsored with his skateboards and other items sold, and photographed for magazines (though he’s a contractor full-time). During most of my shots a man (in a black t-shirt) who was filming asked, without knowing who I was, if he was ruining my shots. I laughed, “Oh, I have hundreds of shots of my son, several of my grandson!” He asked who it was so I said, “The guy you’re filming mostly today!” He replied with surprise and appreciation that I was his Mom, out there a dazzlingly hot hour shooting away, in my sweaty mask. Hubby Marc relaxed on a bench.

Earlier in the day we met with another part of the family. Here is a far more protective picture with the toddlers and their parents–sorry to not share more. We brought fruit and animal crackers–those growing girls loved munching on a pear and a peach, and our short visit was good fun!

Alera, Alex, David, Morgan

On through the trees and into the community garden area to finish the beautiful day.

Marc, here on the pathway, helped me raise five kids! He is still standing, God bless him.

An altogether happy Father’s Day with loved ones. My own father passed away 30 years ago, but he is lovingly recalled. I hope you were able to appreciate your fathers and grandfathers, here or gone, as well.

Monday’s Meander: Helvetia Country

Go by car! That happens more these days- and I am happy to get out and about so off we went toward Helvetia, Oregon. This beautiful, hilly community is a lush and close-knit agricultural area established in late 19th century by Swiss immigrants. About a half hour deeper into the Tualatin Valley, we turned off a main artery. We remained on a narrow road that barely allowed two way traffic–of which there was almost none Sunday.

This community is also known for historic churches and pioneer cemeteries–none of which I have seen before and did not see this trip. Only a drive through this time, eyes feasting on pastoral landscape that revealed the fine farmers’ hard work.

You may see a few blurred spots–rarely stopped as any moment a vehicle could barrel around the sinuous hilly road. Well, bear with me–it is a driving meander, after all.

You will note the abundant red clover above. There are fields and fields of it (Marc says “crimson clover”- apparently different from simply red) planted in between other crop plantings to replenish nitrogen in the soil. Many crops do well, including lavender, peaches, many berries, wine grapes; pumpkins, eggplants, carrots, garlic, garbanzo beans and much more. I noted there are also gladiolus raised, but none were seen this time.

I love the big sky and clouds–mountain ranges and valleys make for interesting formations.

There are many lovely homes, also, some newer, and older farmhouses indicate a historically prosperous agricultural community. Incidentally, Roloff Farms is located here (“Little People, Big World” TV fame).

We passed about a dozen white and yellow boxes of bee hives– and the bees were wildly a-buzz for a long stretch. With all that clover and a diversity of other plants, they must be in pollinating heaven.

I hope you enjoyed the drive. Next time a longer ramble will be taken, and historic places enjoyed–with, I surely hope, several stops at produce stands.