Thursday, August 09, 2007

Macleay Park sidetrip

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A few months ago, I did a post about public stairs in NW Portland, in which I semi-promised you the post you're now reading:

From here, the hike directions usually send you up Luray Terrace and into Macleay Park, from where you loop back around down into NW Portland. That's sort of what I did too, but I'm trying to keep this post reasonably focused on stairs, if I can. I've got park photos too, but we'll save those for another post, ok?

So these pics are from Macleay Park, up in the West Hills, some from the popular trail along Balch Creek, and others from the obscure chunk of the park south of Cornell, where a few trails winding around in the forest, eventually ending up at the Pittock Mansion if you go far enough south. The southern section is perhaps not as scenic as the stretch of park along Balch Creek, but there are also far less people there. If you just want to get away from the crowds for a while, this is a decent area for it.

The first photo is of the famous Stone House ruins, not far from the Balch Creek entrance to the park. Some people think it looks creepy and it's been nicknamed the "Witch's Castle", but the true story is less exciting, or at least less supernatural. It was actually built in the 1930s as a public restroom, believe it or not. It looks like this because the federal Works Progress Administration built it, and the Northwest branch loved building everything out of stone, in a very distinctive style. They did this for showpiece projects like Timberline Lodge, as well as mundane stuff like the flood control works along Johnson Creek at Tideman Johnson Park, and public restrooms like the ones here. Apparently the building was abandoned after the 1962 Columbus Day Storm damaged it, and it's fallen into picturesque ruin over the last half century.

If you look at a trail map of the park, you'll see something called the "Tunnel Trail". I took it, but it turns out to be much less exciting than it sounds. It's a short cutoff trail that heads down to one of the road tunnels on Cornell, which you can't (or at least shouldn't) walk through as a pedestrian, even if you like tunnels as much as I do. There's a separate pedestrian path that bypasses the tunnel, but at least you do get a look at the old WPA-era stonework, if you're into that sort of thing.

Scanning through the slideshow, you might notice that it has a high percentage of closeup shots. It's not that I didn't take any photos with wide vistas of the forest, it's just that I didn't care for most of them. It's a nice walk, but the forest it passes through is fairly generic, with the usual uber-Northwestern assortment of ferns, moss, fir trees, slugs, and so on, along with the same invasive species you see in other "natural area" type parks around the city, primarily ivy and blackberries.

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