Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Crater Lake

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I always felt a little embarrassed when Crater Lake came up in conversation. I've lived here basically my entire life, and until last week I'd never been there. It felt like I'd shirked one of every Oregonian's sacred duties. If you're among this blog's elite (i.e. few) Gentle Reader(s), you know I'm not real big on observing sacred duties, generally speaking, but this seemed like one I ought to take care of sooner or later.


These are just six of several hundred photos I took there. I might post more later, although they're all sort of variations on the same theme. You go to Crater Lake, you take photos of the lake. If the Rim Drive is open (it wasn't), you drive all the way around the lake, and take more photos. If the trail down to the lake is open (it wasn't), maybe you hike down to the lake and back, taking photos. Possibly you visit the gift shop before you leave.

Crater Lake

It's a cliche that people tend to make whirlwind visits to national parks, staying just a few hours, maybe even driving through without stopping. Crater Lake is a place where you can do that reasonably and not feel guilty about it. I'm not trying to be snarky or disagreeable here, I'm just laying the facts out as they are. The lake is the main event. Once you've had your fill of looking at it, or taking pictures, there's not all that much else to do. You can stick around and take more pictures when the light changes, if you have the time. I'm told the hotel is really nice if you want to stay a few days and just relax and look at the lake. But I had other plans, and hours more to drive that day. So maybe next time. And there will absolutely, positively be a next time.


About that blue color. Going on about the blueness of the lake is another cliche, and everyone says that cameras don't adequately capture the color. I thought that sounded really dumb, and I'm still not ready to buy into the general statement. But I will say that my camera didn't do it justice. You can see from the photos here that it's not precisely the same blue in each photo. That part at least is accurate. Probably it's the position of the sun and the direction I was facing each time, something like that.


If you want to see the really interesting parts of the lake, you'll need a submarine. The lake supports unique, ancient colonies of deep moss, and a variety of simple organisms that live on the moss. The water's so clear that photosynthesis can apparently still occur 759 feet below the lake's surface. Try doing that in the ocean, or anywhere else. The USGS has more info here and here.


There's probably no realistic way they'd ever offer submarine rides in the lake for paying customers, as fun as that would be. I realize it wouldn't be cost-effective, and there'd be all sorts of environmental impact stuff to worry about, and concerns about commercializing the park and whatnot. Usually I line up squarely on the side of zero commercialism, zero development, zero impact on the park's environment. But I'd be willing to make a rare exception if it meant I could ride a submarine in the heart of a volcano high up in the Cascades, to visit an ancient moss colony that shouldn't exist. Sign me up, already.

Monday, June 25, 2007


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Here are a few photos of "Hole-in-the-Ground" (yes, that's its real name). It's a maar -- a relic of a volcanic explosion -- out in Eastern Oregon, about an hour southeast of Bend off Highway 31.

The name is accurate: It's a very large, and very beige, hole in the ground. It looks a bit like a meteor crater, but it isn't, sadly. It's pretty damn big, no matter what created it.
Hole in the Ground panorama

Hole in the Ground

The USGS quotes a couple of sources about the place:

From: Wood and Kienle, 1990, Volcanoes of North America: United States and Canada: Cambridge University Press, 354p., Contribution by Lawrence A. Chitwood

Hole-in-the-Ground is a nearly circular maar with a floor 150 meters below and a rim 35 to 65 meters above original ground level. Its diameter from rim to rim is 1,600 meters. The volume of the crater below the original surface is only 60 percent of the volume of ejecta. Only 10 percent of the ejecta is juvenile basaltic material. Most of the ejected material is fine grained, but some of the blocks of older rocks reached dimensions of 8 meters. The largest blocks were hurled distances of up to 3.7 kilometers from the center of the crater. Accretionary lapilli, impact sags, and vesiculated tuffs are well developed.

From: Heiken, et.al., 1981, A Field Trip to the Maar Volcanoes of the Fort Rock-Christmas Valley Basin, Oregon:
IN: Johnson and Donnelly-Nolan, (eds.), 1981, Guides to Some Volcanic Terranes in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Northern California: USGS Circular 838.

According to Lorenz (1971):
Hole-in-the-Ground is a volcanic explosion crater or maar located in Central Oregon on the edge of Fort Rock basin. At the time the crater was formed between 13,500 and 18,000 years ago a lake occupied most of the basin and the site of the eruption was close to the water level near the shore. The create is now 112 to 156 meters below the original ground level and is surrounded by a rim that rises another 35 to 65 meters higher. ...
The crater was formed in a few days or weeks by a series of explosions that were triggered when basaltic magma rose along a north-west-trending fissure and came into contact with abudnant ground water at a depth of 300 to 500 meters below the surface. After the initial explosion, repeated slumping and subsidence along a ring-fault let to intermittent closures of the vent, changes in the supply of ground water, and repeated accumulations of pressure in the pipe.

Hole in the Ground

The Forest Service also describes the place, with nearly (but not entirely) identical words:

Hole-in-the-Ground is a volcanic explosion crater or maar located on the west edge of the Fort Rock basin. The floor of the crater is at an elevation of 4340 feet and the surrounding area has an elevation of about 4650 feet. The crater is approximately 1370 m (4500 ft) east-west by 1675 m (5500 ft) north-south. The crater was probably formed in a few days or weeks by a series of explosions due to rising basaltic magma coming into contact with abundant ground water at depth. The magma may have been rising along the fault that is exposed in the crater walls. After the initial explosion, repeated slumping and subsidence along a ring fault led to intermittent closures of the vent, changes is the supply of ground water, and repeated pressure buildup. The layering visible in the rim records the pulsing of the eruption.

Hole in the Ground

The surrounding area is full of volcanic oddities. Nearby there's another maar called "Big Hole", and a bit to the east you'll find "Crack in the Ground" and "Fort Rock" (more about the latter in a future post). Further north you'll find Newberry Caldera, the Lava River Cave, and much more. If you're spending a day or two, doing a volcano-themed tour or something, you might as well stop by and check this one off the list. The WP article linked to above has an aerial photo, and the USFS page links to a couple more. It does look a lot more interesting from the air, but since neither I nor my car can fly, that information isn't terribly useful. Waymarking also offers a few photos of the place.

The gravel side road off Highway 31 is pretty washboardy in parts, so if you're afraid to, uh, "mar" your vehicle or your busy travel schedule, you could also skip this one and you'd be fine, probably. There's a trail down into the hole, but I figured I'd seen enough and headed off to Bend after this to find a hotel and a bite to eat (more about which here).

If you search for info on the place, like I'm doing, you'll actually encounter quite a few academic papers mentioning it. Apparently it's a well-studied example of a maar, probably due to its relatively convenient location. Here's an interesting recent paper mentioning it: UNDERSTANDING MARS AT THE MICROSCALE BY IMAGING TERRESTRIAL ANALOGS: THE HANDLENS ATLAS. The researchers visited a few volcanic sites in Eastern Oregon and took microscopic photos, attempting to better understand what the microscopic imagers on the Mars rovers are observing. Kewl. This was mentioned on a recent episode of Oregon Field Guide, but I always prefer the original source materials when they're available.

Oh, and for your further entertainment here's a rather odd page arguing Hole-in-the-Ground is somehow electrical in origin, just like the Grand Canyon. Oh, and the events of ancient mythology. And gravitational lensing. And sand dunes on Mars. And the Big Bang. WTF!? Who knew? Color me skeptical, as you always can, but the whole site really sets off my crank alarm bells.

DeGarmo Canyon

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Some pics from DeGarmo Canyon [map], wayyy out in SE Oregon, in the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. I've decided to bail on covering my mini-roadtrip in chronological order. Instead I'll start with places with the most manageable number of pics to choose from. Otherwise it'll take freakin' forever to get any posts at all out the door.

Eastern Oregon is basin and range country, full of steep fault block mountains and low, often marshy valleys in between. Hart Mountain is one of the more impressive of these mountains, rising sharply above the adjacent Warner Valley. At first glance it looks like a solid, impenetrable wall of rock, 2000 feet high and many miles long. A closer look shows a few narrow canyons cutting into the mountain. DeGarmo Canyon is one of these, with a small stream flowing through it, and even a couple of hidden waterfalls, which is what prompted me to visit.

I'm not the most rugged, outdoorsy type in the world, so if you'd like to read more "professional" accounts about the place, try here or here. On the other hand, this post has better photos, or at least more photos. You can find someone else's DeGarmo Canyon photos here

Here's the canyon from the main road, with a tiny sign, and a road leading to a small parking area at the trailhead. This road can be charitably described as "unimproved". If you aren't driving a 4WD, high clearance vehicle, you might prefer to park on the main road and walk the extra 0.5 mile. I'm one of the few remaining Portlanders who doesn't own a gigantic SUV, so the road was, um, an interesting challenge.

Entrance to DeGarmo Canyon

The first waterfall is right near the trailhead. It isn't the main event, only about 10ft tall, and you don't get that good of a view of it anyway. This is the best pic I've got, and I'm sure you'll agree it isn't very good:

DeGarmo Canyon #1

It was at about this point where I realized I'd brought the wrong sunblock along, i.e. the one without DEET. As a hardcore urbanite, one forgets that where there's water, there are often mosquitoes, even in the middle of the desert. And yet I continued along the trail. It probably wasn't the smartest choice, but I can be pretty stubborn when I need to be. I came here to see the waterfall, dammit.

A couple of shots from in the canyon, looking west/downstream and out toward the Warner Wetlands:

DeGarmo Canyon #2

DeGarmo Canyon #11

Looking east/upstream. You can sort of make out the main waterfall in the distance, although it's a bit lost in the glare:

DeGarmo Canyon #3

More pics of canyon walls:

DeGarmo Canyon #9

Lichens, DeGarmo Canyon

After a short hike, you'll get to the waterfall. It's just a couple of miles roundtrip, but it's a bit steep in parts, there isn't much shade, and you're at nearly a mile altitude even at the base of the thing. Oh, and since you're east of the Cascades, watch for rattlesnakes. I think I saw one in the canyon, although it slithered away before I could get a good look at it.

The trail continues up the canyon for quite a few miles past this point, but I came here for the waterfall, and it was just the first item on a long TODO list for the day, so I turned around here. Also, I was still getting eaten alive by extremely large mosquitoes. And yet I still had the presence of mind to shoot the waterfall from a couple of different angles and tinker with the exposure settings. I'd just like to point out --yet again -- that I really go to the mat for you guys, o Gentle Reader(s). If I come down with West Nile out of this, you'll owe me big time. Ok, I'd probably get an interesting post or two out of it if I caught West Nile, so I guess it wouldn't be all bad, I suppose...

Waterfall, DeGarmo Canyon

DeGarmo Canyon #6

Waterfall, DeGarmo Canyon

Waterfall, DeGarmo Canyon

Saturday, June 23, 2007

seaweed + thistle



Hey, I'm back. I've got about 1300 mini-roadtrip photos to sort through, so it'll take a while to wade through them and figure out what's worth posting. I'm going to lead off with some small stuff that doesn't require a lot of explanation. First photo is seaweed at Cannon Beach, second photo is from Vancouver Lake, up near the 'Couve.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

So I semi-promised I'd post while I'm on this mini-roadtrip. And I haven't until just now, but I have a good excuse. Seems that mobile phone service in the remote desert is um, incomplete. I knew that already, of course, but each time I got the notion to post there was no service to be had. The only really useful thing about moblogging is to describe what you're doing right this minute. Moblogging from the hotel to say what you did earlier in the day would be pointless. You can do that just as easily when you get home, and then you'll have a proper keyboard and you can post photos (you in the back with the camera phone, stop snickering. Thanks.)

So as for what I'm doing now: I'm enjoying a steak and a nice cabernet. After that, it's the Jacuzzi. There's actually a mildly funny story about how I ended up with a Jacuzzi, but my thumbs are tired, and it would mess up the shallow, materialistic vibe I'm attempting to exude. Hey, I'm in Bend. I'm just trying to fit in.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

on the road again

iris, saddle mountain


I'll be on a roadtrip for a few days, and my camera and Blackberry aren't on speaking terms, so this blog's going 100% old-sk00l ASCII text for a few days. Well, old-sk00l if you consider being able to post to the interwebs from a phone, but not being able to post photos, to be old-sk00l. I dunno. The standards keep changing all the time, and it's tough to keep up.

And then again, where I'm going I might not be able to post at all. There are still vast regions of the Western US that lie entirely outside the Series Of Tubes, or at least the Series Of Wireless Tubes, and I'll be there for at least part of the trip. It's also possible I'll be too busy to post anything, or I just won't get around to it or something. In any case, with any luck I'll register visitor number 30,000 while I'm away. If that's you, congrats. You win something, probably.

Until I get back, here are a couple of pics of Saddle Mountain State Park, the highest point in Oregon's Coast Range. There's more where these came from, and I swear only some of them will be flowers. Honest. I mean it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Oceanic mobloggage

I'm standing in the ocean right now, writing a blog post on the ol' Blackberry. Ok, I'm a dork. The things I'll do for the sheer novelty value...

If this turns out to be the last ever post here, you can probably blame the sneaker wave that I'm ignoring as I type this...

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Saturday, June 16, 2007

infrared magic


The second thing I learned today: Digital cameras can see infrared light, invisible to the naked eye. Or at least mine can. A simple test: Put your camera in b+w mode. Point a TV remote at it, and press one of the buttons that keeps signalling as it's held down, like channel+ or volume- . Hold the camera so that you can see both the remote and the camera's LCD screen. You ought to see the infrared LEDs flickering on the camera's screen, and nothing at all happening in real life. It's more than a little spooky.

Block 47

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I learned exactly two things today, and this is one of them. Right across the street from the convention center, at MLK and Holladay, there's a weird little half-block, landscaped as if it was a park, but unmarked, so you can't be sure whether you're visiting a city park, or trespassing.

I took these photos way back in December, but I've only just now figured out what the deal is with the place. So here's the dirt. It's owned by the PDC, and although it sure looks like a regular park, it's (supposedly) only temporary. As soon as the PDC finds a sufficiently well-heeled crony who wants to build here, poof, no more "park". That's the plan, at least.

Updated 9/8/2022: If you look at the map above, and try as you might you don't see anything resembling the park in the photos, I'm afraid things eventually played out as planned, and a gigantic Hyatt Regency now sits where Block 47 used to be. It opened in December 2019 just as the COVID-19 pandemic was ramping up. The opening was also right in the middle of a wave of local hotel openings and rebrandings, and even before the pandemic I was convinced we were seeing a bubble in hotel construction, too many beds chasing not enough tourist dollars, since tourism was bound to fade as people forgot about Portlandia and we stopped being the hot, trendy-yet-undiscovered capitol of hip quirkiness and quirky hipsterdom and everything you probably haven't heard if. And sure enough, a few days ago it was reported that three of the older-but-renovated hotels are on the brink of foreclosure. The article quotes various angry industry people who want the city to do something about it. Where the only thing that would actually help would be to travel back in time a short distance, not even a decade, grab their previous selves by the lapel (or hoodie ties, or whatever), and somehow convince them not to approve quite so many new hotels. At least I get to say "I told you so" now, for all the good that ever does anyone. b47-2

Until the PDC took an interest in the place a few years back, this plot was just another ugly parking lot, a blight on the landscape and (more importantly) a drag on local property values.

The PDC put out a pair of press releases about the project, and the Daily Journal of Commerce also ran an article about it. From the first release:

"The challenge for us was to think about making an immediate impact on the site that will last for five to ten years," said Kurt Lango, principal of Lango Hansen. "As landscape architects, we tend to envision landscapes in terms of how they'll mature in 20 years or more."

Lango Hansen explored historical information on the site and collapsed the patterns of plat maps and building footprints since 1889 into one frame as the geometry for their site design. Different materials will recall site uses over time. For example, brick will be used in the corner where a barbershop and restaurant used to be. A stone mound with grasses growing out of it will signify debris mounds that once collected on the vacant lot.

While the initial design formalizes past site uses, it will evolve over time. The varieties of plant materials will be allowed to overgrow their boundaries and form new patterns.

Given the temporary nature of the project, the landscape will incorporate recycled materials into the design wherever possible. PDC is currently reviewing their other properties for materials and pieces that can be used on Block 47.

As the recycled materials are temporary and not meant to endure decades of weather, the open space will highlight a unique approach to detailing. Timber for benches will be sanded down to reveal historic patina, and concrete for the seat wall is being sheared to show aggregate patterns. Places for art are also an integral part of the design.

So it's intended to be temporary, and it's supposed to "evolve" over time. In other words, they didn't spend a lot to build it, and they aren't going to spend much to maintain it, either, and the hope is that it'll at least decay gracefully over its lifespan. The basalt mound you see here actually evoke the piles of garbage that used to accumulate here back in the day, except that the new mound is much more sophisticated & artistic than the original, plus it stays put when the wind blows. It's kind of remarkable having art inspired by heaps of trash, but hey. I actually kind of like the thing. Even if you don't happen to agree, you still have to admit it's a step up from the genuine article. You're all with me on that part, right?

There's an old DJC profile of the designers here. The Hansen half of the firm describes the project thusly:

Block 47 (an urban garden on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Holladay Street) is a good example of that, where we were looking at actual maps of what had happened at that site over its history and expressed them through the landscape. We also built in a way of allowing everything to outgrow its boundaries over time so the pattern does break down over time, knowing that eventually a hotel is going to go there. That whole evolution is built into the project.

So if you can think of a way to really enjoy the place, you ought to hurry up and do it now, before the threatened hotel goes in. Although at last word (September '09) the hotel's on indefinite hold due to the bad economy. So you do still have time to visit, if you're so inclined.

The designers can talk all they like about historical plats, and rubble mounds and whatnot, but when I see the place I always think of my mom's chocolate crinkle cookies. If I ever manage to drop by on a light snow day, the analogy will be perfect.

And yes, I do realize Mom knows how to access the interwebs (sort of), and might be offended if she knew I was comparing her cookies to chunks of basalt. That's one of the great things about using a pseudonym. Sure, she might still be offended, but she'll probably assume I'm a total stranger. Or at least she can't prove it was me. Which is the key thing, you know.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Prescott Biozone

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If you've ridden the MAX Yellow Line very often, you might have noticed the big rusty propeller in a small vacant lot next to the Prescott MAX station. You might've wondered if it was left over from our city's seafaring heyday, or you might've just wondered what it was doing there now, or what it was supposed to be advertising. Wonder no longer (assuming you were wondering), for the answers you seek are here. If you weren't wondering, um, hello and welcome anyway, however you ended up at this obscure corner of the interwebs...


Anyway, it turns out this is not a historical artifact at all. It's Art, and the spot where it sits isn't a vacant lot at all, it's Nature. TriMet's guide to the Yellow Line's artworks calls this place "Prescott Biozone", which is quite the grand and optimistic title if you ask me.

Prescott Biozone
  • A rusted steel propeller
    sculpture flowers amidst a
    swirling pattern of grasses.
  • Three basalt basins
    collect water for birds.

As you can see in the photos, that's pretty much the whole story of the place: Propeller, grass, basins.


If you check this map for the overhead view, it sure looks like the Biozone is actually one of those traffic-calming sidewalk extension things, except with a propeller, grass, and some basins. That's what happens when you've got a nice pot of urban renewal cash to play with when you're building a MAX line, I guess. ART on FILE has a page about the place, although they don't mention anything about it being a Biozone. Unlike TriMet's brief blurb, they credit the designers, Brian Borello (who also did the blue ox hooves up at the Kenton MAX station) along with Valerie Otani. The page also offers a clearer description of the place:

In recognition of the shipbuilding industry the artists designed stainless steel “ship’s prow” forms that collect rainwater and then funnel it into a green space. A large rusted steel propeller sits near the station in a swirling pattern of grasses. The water running off of the blades of the propeller is captured in three basalt basins and used as water for birds.

So I suppose you'd really need to see the piece in action during a rainstorm to get the full effect. Fair enough. We've got no shortage of rainstorms much of the year, so I guess it's reasonable to put in art that relies on the rain. I started out thinking the place was dumb, and I didn't see the connection between the propeller (a reference to Swan Island, just down the hill to the west) and the whole ecology thing. Now it all makes a wee bit more sense, although I admit I'm taking their word for it. The basins might fill up just as well just letting them sit out in the rain, for all I know. PDX Magazine also mentions the place briefly, calling it "Brian Borello’s visual meditations on rain filtration at the N Prescott St Station".

As an aside, I would like to register my continued displeasure at a current fashion, where people will think something's "green" because it's covered in unmowed, tassely grass. The semi-accursed Tanner Springs Park is full of the stuff. Which to my mind constitutes active governmental persecution of those of us with grass allergies. And what's with all that stagnant basin water? West Nile, anyone? Anyone...?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

a cute squirrel



Finally, a squirrel that knows how to hold still for the camera. It's quite a rare talent among squirrels.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Skidmore Bluffs

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A few pics of a secret little spot up in North Portland, a park the city calls Mocks Crest Property, and everyone else calls the Skidmore Bluffs [map].

The park's a small grassy area atop high cliffs overlooking the Willamette. To the south you can see part of downtown Portland. Directly below, you get a great view of the Union Pacific railyards if you're into that sort of thing, and to the north you can see parts of Swan Island and industrial North Portland. Further to the west, across the river, are the green hills of Forest Park. It's quite a view. Great place for a picnic, or to watch the sunset, or take pictures, or just hang out, etc. I didn't check to see if there's WiFi here, because that would be too geeky even for me. So ymmv if you show up with a laptop and expect to work on your PowerPoint slides or whatever. And if you'd rather work on your sales presentation than enjoy the view, why would you go to the trouble to get here, anyway?

skidmore bluffs

I didn't tinker with the colors in photo #2 here. It really is that green, at least in the right light, during the right time of year.

A small sign at the park says it was purchased with Metro Greenspace money in 1995, and the parks website says the city's owned it since '98. The city hasn't done a lot with the place in the short time it's owned it, but that's fine. Leave it like it is. No railings please. They block the view, and all they do is protect stupid people from gravity. If you haven't realized by now that falling off of stuff from a great height is bad, it's time for you to go, that's all I'm saying.


If I was going to add anything at all to the place, maybe a trail to the bottom via one of the gullies bordering the park to the north or south. Or even better, possibly a steep, vertigo-inducing set of stairs. That would be fairly awesome, actually.

skidmore bluffs

skidmore bluffs

skidmore bluffs

You can see the hillside's been neatly trimmed up, probably so the brush won't catch on fire later in the summer. I have no clue how they do this. All I know is that you couldn't pay me enough.

So here are a few comments about the place from out on the interwebs. You'll notice that everyone says the place is top secret insider info (although they posted on the net to say so). So shhhh, don't tell anyone. I don't want to spoil anyone's fun, of course, but I figured it'd be OK to post about the place here since nobody reads this humble blog anyway. Beside, I'm just repeating stuff that was already out there on the net, and posting a few photos. It's not like it was that secret, really. And what could really happen anyway? It's a small park in a quiet neighborhood, it's not like it'll suddenly be overrun by buses full of Japanese tourists or "active seniors". And unless someone proposes building an ultra-luxury condo tower next door, which is highly unlikely, the place isn't going to be on the parks bureau's radar for the foreseeable future. So don't worry, it's all good.

The Dirt Cheap Guide calls the place "Mocks Crest Park":

Little known to the public, this small park in North Portland's Overlook neighborhood offers sweeping views of industrial districts (Union Pacific Railyards, Swan Island, and the Northwest Industrial District), bridges (Fremont Bridge, St Johns Bridge, and Railroad Bridge), West Hills neighborhoods (Hillside, Kings Hill, Washington Park, Council Crest, and Marquam Hill), downtown, the Willamette River, and miles of Forest Park. Mocks Crest Park isn't on most maps and isn't mentioned by the parks and recreation dept, so this is insider knowledge. And it's panoramic for sure. The view at night of all those lights is also serious (I imagine the sunset would be good since you're facing southwest).

Mocks Crest Park is at the dead end of N Skidmore Terrace.

The Zinester's Guide to Portland once described it:

We haven’t included this li’l gem of a park in previous editions because we were jealous and preferred it to be our li’l secret. Well, what is popularly known as the “Skidmore Bluffs” is not so secret anymore. This is basically a patch of grass at the west end of Skidmore, sitting on Mocks Crest, the bluff overlooking the Willamette River below. You won’t find softball fields or rose gardens here, just some of the best views in Portland. You’ll have downtown and Forest Park on the opposite bank, and the industrial riverside areas and UP’s Albina train yard directly below (which explains why this spot is popular with the hobos). It’s a great spot to watch the sun set over the West Hills and contemplate life.

And a review on Yelp says:

Portland purists may be disappointed that I'm letting the cat out of the bag about one of Portland's best green spaces to watch a sunset and hang out with friends while overlooking the industrial maze of Swan Island and the west hills across the river. While other popular parks and crannies are widely known (Mount Tabor, Forest Park, Peninsula Park, and Laurelhurst are among my and others' faves), the Skidmore Bluffs is somewhat lesser-known. Therefore, ride your bike up there and bring your camera--the evening light is great for snapping shots of your photogenic friends lazing and laughing together at the Bluffs. To get there, take Skidmore all the way west until it ends. Take right and first immediate left, and you'll end at the Bluffs.

And from a bike forum post:

- go to the skidmore bluffs. from East Broadway, take Williams north to Skidmore.
take a left on skidmore and ride west (toward the river) until you come to the end. take a right and then an immediate left. (skidmore blvd vs. skidmore ave) at the end of the block you'll find the park.
it's an amazing overlook of the city/trainyards/forrest park. I don't think it's an official park because lots of people drink there but there are still benches and such. GREAT at sunset or at night. big bike destination. bring a tallboy and friends.

CafeUnknown just calls it the "Nameless Park", and has a photo of the place.

For a bit more of the unique Skidmore Bluffs vibe, check out "Bluffs, but not bluffing" at Mirror and Shadow.

A couple more photos:

Skidmore Bluffs

This is the "grand" entrance to the park, on Skidmore Ct. (not to be confused with Skidmore Terrace). I'm not sure what was here before the park. Someone's house, maybe?

skidmore bluffs

Cottony bits, caught by the wind. If I believed in magic -- and I'm not saying I do -- I'd say there was a bit of it around here.

Monday, June 11, 2007




More flowers today. I actually have a long(ish), serious, photo-free post in the works, but it isn't quite done yet, plus I'm really busy tracking down a nasty heisenbug in somebody else's JNI code, so it's relaxing to take a minute and post a few flower photos. So those are my two excuses today, and I can probably come up with more if I really must.


These little pink flowers are kind of nice, but I have no idea what they are. Feel free to chime in if you can identify 'em.

Thx. Mgmt.


These are in a planter near Lovejoy Fountain. Last year, a commenter to this post said it was a "penstemon". Which is true so far as I know.


Sweetpeas, growing wild in an ivy-filled road median. A couple of cars drove by while I was squatting in the median amongst all the ivy, taking photos. I wonder what they thought I was doing?


Tiny unobtrusive blossoms on a tree in my neighborhood, one of those little things one notices while hurrying slightly less than usual. FWIW.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Organic Beer Festival 2007

Organic Beer Festival 2007

Organic Beer Festival 2007

Friday after work we dropped by the grandly-named North American Organic Beer Festival, which was up in Overlook Park this time around. This is the first edition of the festival that I've been to, and we all thought it was a pretty good event. I'm not what you'd call a strident organic type, but when you see the word on beer it tends to indicate the brewers put a bit more time and care into their ingredients. I'm always in favor of that, and who wouldn't be?

Organic Beer Festival 2007

If you put the word "organic" on something, certain other things are inevitable, even now in 2007. Which means this beer festival looks a little different than most: Patchouli, occasional tie dye, a band with bongo drums, another band whose singer finished the set by reading from some annoying Hunter S. Thompson book. Lots and lots of people arriving on bikes (and I'm quite curious how they got home). Vendors advertising home solar power, Flexcar, that sort of thing. It's one of those "only in Portland" things, but one I can handle, with only a minor amount of amused eye-rolling. As I've said before, I'm not precisely in the "organic" core demographic: I've only been to one Grateful Dead show, in Eugene around 1990 or so, and only because a friend begged me to go. And I no longer own any tie dye or patchouli items. I am, however, in the core beer demographic, and I'll happily tune out the bongo drums if there's good brew to be had.

Organic Beer Festival 2007

Here's a pic of just a few of the vast armada of bikes lined up at the festival, chained up to the high fence the OLCC's jackbooted thugs insist you have around all beer events in this state. So that particular bluenosed regulation turns out to be useful for once, for a completely unrelated purpose.

Anyway, on to the beer:

El Torero Organic IPA
An IPA from Portland's Alameda Brewhouse. First beer of the day. Decent IPA, floral hops instead of citrusy. I might've appreciated it more if I hadn't arrived hot and thirsty.
Hop Lava, Double Mountain (Hood River)
I have a bad habit of hitting the double IPAs early when I go to beer events. It's not really the best idea, if you plan to drink anything other than double IPAs. Still, I stubbornly persist at doing this. I suppose I'm just not a very strategic thinker where beer's concerned. In any case, this is quite a good double IPA. A lot of them end up being too sweet for my taste. The idea is to strike a balance between the malt and the hops, it's just that not everyone agrees on what "balance" tastes like.
India Red Ale, Double Mountain
My wife says this was good. I didn't get to taste it. Double Mountain was supposed to show for the Spring Beer & Wine fest, and we were kind of disappointed they weren't there, since this beer sounded pretty good. May need to track the place down next time we're out in Hood River.
Hopworks IPA
Hopworks is a new brewery founded by the former head brewer at Laurelwood. They've got a pub opening later this summer out on Powell, which may herald the start of gentrification down there. Gentrification on Powell -- who'd have ever imagined that? In any case, this was a nice IPA. I thought they were trying for more of an English style than you tend to see in Portland, not quite so many hops, more biscuity malt, and a bit drier. But the guide says it's Northwest style, with all the classic NW hop varieties inside. I don't see any reason to doubt the guide's guidance, so I think I'll chalk this up to having a double IPA immediately prior to this. I'll guess I'll just have to try it again once the pub opens. I don't know what it'll be like, but I know you'll be able to get there on TriMet bus #9, one of the Frequent Service lines. And it'll be a short stagger away from the Clinton St. Theater, with its attached brewpub.
Hell's Kitchen (i.e. the potato beer), Crannog, BC
I actually wasn't surprised this doesn't taste like potatoes. Potatoes are a fairly neutral-tasting source of fermentable starch, which is why you see them used to make vodka a lot. A good, dry Irish-style Red. It's a shame the Crannog folks are up in British Columbia and don't seem to have wide distribution down here. I could drink more of this. And I have a sneaking suspicion it'd go really well with potatoes.
Backhand of God Stout, Crannog
A really great dry Irish stout that isn't Guinness, which is a rare thing indeed. They nailed the lactic and astringent notes, which is where people usually mess up. Too often you just get a dark, dry, sorta-roasty beer, drinkable but nothing to write home about. This one's not like that. To give you some idea, my wife picked this over the red when we were at the Crannog booth and didn't want to trade with me, which is saying a lot.
Standing Stone Double IPA
I remember really liking this one, but it was late in the afternoon and the details are a touch hazy. Standing Stone is out of Ashland, so hopefully I'll be able to track this down again. I can tell you it didn't taste like the previous double IPA.
This is a yerba mate beer from the Butte Creek folks. Yes, yerba mate, that stuff Argentinians drink out of gourds instead of swilling $5 lattes like civilized people. Wisecracks aside, this was the big surprise of the festival as far as I'm concerned. I wouldn't have thought an herbal, tea-like flavor would go well in beer, but it does, or at least I thought it did. It had a very refreshing quality about it. It'd be great on a hot day after mowing the lawn, if I had a lawn, which I don't. It'd also be great on a hot day after doing absolutely nothing, which I'm eminently capable of. Did I mention that yerba mate's loaded with caffeine? Did I mention that I'm a caffeine-based organism? I'm hesitant to say this would be a good morning wake-me-up, but it might be worth a try, at least.
Roots Chocolate Habanero Stout
I think this is the consensus choice as the beer of the festival. I only had a sip of it, a complete stranger was ahead of me in the line for the men's room and had acquired a rather evangelical fervor for the beer and wanted me to try it. It really was great. You wouldn't think this would be the ideal condition to try a chocolate habanero stout, impatiently standing in line in the hot sun. That can't be anywhere near the ideal condition, so it must be even better than it seemed at the time. Scary. A certain macrobrew calls itself the king of beers, for no obvious reason except marketshare. If there really is such a thing as beer royalty, though, this cocoa-n-chile beer has got to be the Aztec emperor of beers.
Roots East Side Abbey
I went back later hoping to get a full glass of the stout, but they'd just run out. They had an abbey-style ale instead at the Roots booth, so I had a glass of that. It was fine, although it wasn't the beer I really wanted. I probably ought to have asked what the abv was before getting a whole glass.
Lucky Lab Rose City Red
Your standard dry red style. Got up to track down another red for my spouse, and decided I'd have some too instead of waiting in another line. I'm glad I did. I can sometimes be a bit of a hop bigot, going "30 IBU's? You call that beer?" But 30 is what this clocks in at, and I liked it a lot. A mug of this would've gone great with food if I'd been interested in any of the festival's healthy organic food choices, but sadly it was not to be. At 4.2 abv, it'd be a good session beer too -- everyone could stand their round without getting loaded to excess. Or at least not to what I'd consider excess. The guide says this red's made without crystal malt, and the color comes from using Munich and dark malts in the right proportions. I'd love to be able to tell you I noticed a substantial difference, but I didn't. I will, once again, blame this on the other beers I'd tried earlier (and there'd been several at this point), rather than blaming my untrained and insensate palate. Hey, I'm the one writing this, I can blame whatever I want. Describing a beer as a "dry red" makes it sound like a wine or something, which it most definitely is not. A dry red wine is what I'm having right now as I write this, actually, but I wouldn't dare to attempt to describe it. Describing wine is an art reserved for highly paid experts and pretentious rich twits, and I wouldn't presume to horn in on their turf. Someday, maybe, wine will become an everyday beverage in this country the way beer is, but I'm increasingly convinced it won't happen until the very last baby boomer hoofs it off to the great Woodstock festival in the sky. But this post is about beer, and I digress.
Lompoc Bald Guy Brown
I'm pretty sure this is one of the Lompoc's usual seasonals. I didn't realize they were doing the organic beer thing now. Maybe it's just the 5th Quadrant up in trendy North Portland that's doing the organic beer thing. I dunno. I wish I had more to say about this, but it was late in the day. I remembered I'd had some after reading the guide again. They've probably still got it at all the local Lompoc outlets. The original location on 23rd is still my favorite, about the least pretentious, least upscale microbrew spot in the city -- except with really good food.
Hop Van Boorian
This is advertised as a "Belgian IPA". It's not the first thing I've tried that's been described that way, and the more of them I try, the more I think there's no such thing as a "Belgian IPA". Crossbreeding two popular styles seems like a no-brainer, but I've never tried one that's made much of an impression on me. It's quite a shame, really. By this I don't just mean US brewers trying to make Belgian styles but with more hops. I've run across a few beers from Belgium that claimed to be hoppy US-style beers, complete with hop cones all over the label, and still, no dice. The result is inevitably a little of both styles, but not enough of either. Belgian yeast/microbial flavors just don't seem to mesh up all that well with hops, period -- with the possible exception of Orval, which is definitely not a beer for all tastes.

Oh, and here's a sunset at the festival, FWIW. I'm not sure why I took this. Possibly there was beer involved.

Organic Beer Festival 2007

Updated: Linkies from Venti's Cafe and Basement Bar and the NAOBF itself. Hooray, interwebs!

Friday, June 08, 2007

cris de coeur


Most graffiti is really stupid. People always say it's an art form and all that, but if that's the case, most of the time it's really bad art, and all it says is "hey, look at me, I was here."

Here are a handful of exceptions I've run across recently. In the top photo, someone has written on a decaying poster "I just want to mean something". This is next to one of the Fremont bridge supports, up in the dreary semi-industrial part of NW Portland.

(If you're wondering about the title, here's a great explanation. Basically a "cri de coeur" is like a heartfelt plea, but much fancier.)


A truism every graffiti artist knows, and no politician has apparently ever learned.


I'm convinced this kite picture is trying to make a point. I don't know what it is yet, but it just has that look. Maybe it's the eyes.


A rare bit of graffiti in the Pearl, insisting the place is not any safer. Sadly, it lacks crucial bits of context. Safer compared to when? Or due to what?


Every hippie's favorite number. You see this around town a lot (like this for example), and it doesn't look like it's all the same person.


Posters aren't technically graffiti, but this seemed to fit here. Either poster by itself wouldn't be a big deal, but they make for a nice dichotomy. When you see something like this in the wild, be sure to take a photo of it. Anything with a dichotomy in it is Art, automatically. It doesn't even have to be a very good photo, which this isn't.