Thursday, January 2, 2014

The "Peaceful Places in Portland" Blog Has Moved to

"Peaceful Places in Portland" is still going on as a blog and a book, but it has a new home. Instead of this dedicated blog, it is now a section on my main website,

So, come on over to Peaceful Places in Portland there!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Oregonian Story

The Oregonian ran a nice piece in today's paper about the book, so I wanted to share the link here:

'Peaceful Places Portland' offers holiday shoppers quiet moments

It's really sweet to see the book getting such a nice reaction.

If you want a signed copy of the book, straight from me, head over to my web store.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cathedral Park

As easy as it is to forget nature when in the city, we can also slip into thinking of Portland as small and quaint, and forget that sometimes it does monumental, as well.

Both of these things are cured by a visit to Cathedral Park, which seems to be unknown to most Portlanders, even though they drive right over it all the time.

It’s under the St. Johns Bridge, which is about as large-scale and classy as Portland can get. Did you know that when the bridge opened in 1931, it had the highest clearance in the nation? That it was the longest suspension bridge west of Detroit? Today it sees more than 20,000 cars daily, but nowhere near that many ever visit the spacious, quiet park underneath it.

To go down there is truly appreciate the grandeur of the bridge, with its 400-foot gothic towers and the cathedral-like arches that gave the park its name. Visiting here will also give you another sense of Portland, sometimes lost: that it’s a river town. There’s a boat ramp here, as well as ducks and geese and picnickers, and the occasional sea-going vessel cruising by.

It’s thought that Lewis and Clark camped here, and we know that the original founder of St. Johns homesteaded here in 1847. In the 1970s, the area was an informal junkyard, so Howard Galbraith, the "honorary mayor" of unincorporated St Johns, led a drive to make it a park.

The Highway 30 traffic is far enough above you that the sounds won’t disturb you. Downtown is far enough downstream that you’ll feel out in the country. And the bridge is big and beautiful enough that you’ll remember that sometimes Portland do things on a mighty impressive scale.

N Edison St & Pittsburg Ave


5 a.m. to Midnight

TriMet #17 to N Syracuse and Philadelphia or #4 or #75 to N Lombard and Baltimore.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Elk Rock Island

It can be easy, when living in Portland, to forget that the Willamette is a river.

I know that sounds odd, because what else would it be, but how often do you look at that body of water downtown and think about currents, and drainages, and riverbanks, and islands? It just seems kind of like some water to get across on the way to work, right?

Well, it’s a river, and if you want to get just a little glimpse of it in that form, head out to Elk Rock Island. First you have to find tiny Spring Park in Milwaukie. It’s a nice enough place, but follow the trail into the woods. Yes, you’re headed for the riverbank. And when you get there, if the water is low enough, you can walk right out there to the island-m-across a land bridge that  is thought to be 40 million years old.

See, we’re not just “in town” anymore, are we?

This little island had many owners before 1910 (one of them even built a dance hall on it) before its last private owner, a Scottish grain exporter named Peter Kerr donated it to the city with one stipulation: “Preserve it as a pretty place for all to enjoy.” Mission accomplished.

Here, within sight of homes and docks and industry, is a patch of woodlands, a small beach, a rocky bench, a cliff face, and a hidden laggon. Here are hiking trails and picnic spots, some peace and quiet, and-m-in winter, anyway-m-a waterfall across the way!

And here, rolling along as it always has, is a river, with a gentle current and birds bobbing and swooping, and, yes, an island in the middle of it.


When: Sunrise to sunset, but generally not accessible due to high water in winter and spring

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Leach Botanical Garden

So with this post, I am going to start steering people over to my main website, If you want to read all about Leach Botanical Garden, just follow this link.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The View From Rocky Butte

Whenever I give folks my one-day tour of Portland, we always wind up at Rocky Butte.

Whether we’ve been up to Timberline Lodge, wandering the Gorge, or walking the city’s neighborhoods, I always want to close the day with the view from the little park on top of the Butte. It’s the best overall view of where we live, which after all is in a big city where two big rivers come together, seemingly at the foot of a big volcano.

Officially, I can tell my guests that Rocky Butte is an extinct volcanic cinder cone and that it used to be home to a jail, a quarry, and a Baptist college. All of that is long gone, in its place a quiet, grassy little park, surrounded by rock walls, littered with climbing routes, topped off by a cell phone tower that you’ll hardly notice.

That’s because Rocky Butte has the finest view in the city: west to Downtown, east to Hood and the Gorge, north to the airport. I love sitting up there in the evenings, watching planes come and go while the city’s lights start to twinkle and the setting sun paints Mount Hood in pink alpenglow. All at once, I am reminded that Portland is a big, international city, but also a small town; bustling, but with pockets of nature and serenity; by the river, but surrounded by mountains; and at the end of the day, just darn lovely.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Portland's Butterfly Park

I have yet to meet one person who knew Portland had a butterfly park. And even if you knew where it was, and went there, you might reasonably ask two questions: Is this the whole park, and where are the butterflies?

Well, yes, this 1.09 acres is the whole park. But for perspective, let’s have a little history. This was a gravel parking lot and dump for the Macadam Bay Club-m-in other words, just another patch of forgotten, drive-by patch of Willamette River bank, presumed to be creepy if not dangerous.

But the city bought it 1984, and starting in 1991 volunteers planted it with wildflower seeds from the Columbia River Gorge. Now those grasses grow among native grasses under dogwoods, oaks, and cottonwoods-m-just like a natural riverbank. The area is part of the South Portland Riverbanks Project, restoring 35 acres of wooded riverbank to natural, fish-friendly environs.

And yes, this was planted with butterflies in mind; in fact, the city says it’s visited by morning cloaks and orange sulfurs, among others, as well as birds such as cedar waxwings, killdeer, orioles, and chickadees.

To find this little patch of nature, park just off Macadam at the entrance to Macadam Bay, or walk south a few minutes on the paved Willamette Greenway Trail from Willamette Park. You’ll see an interpretive sign and an unpaved path headed through some brush towards the river-m-and yes, that’s the whole park!

But it’s a nice little park, and as close to a secret as a city park can be. You’ll probably have it to yourself, to enjoy the view of the river, of Sellwood across the way, and who knows, maybe even of a butterfly or two.

Web -- 7720 SW Macadam AvenueMain Parks Number: 503-823-7529
Free. 5 a.m. to Midnight. TriMet #35 or #36 to SW Macadam and Taylors Ferry.