Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nansen Summit expedition

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Here are a few third-rate photos from Nansen Summit, a tiny park at the very top of Mt. Sylvania, down in Lake Oswego.

Sometimes I just say "third rate" to be self-deprecating, but I really am disappointed in how these turned out. The view is supposed to be the main event here, and I showed up on a glum, foggy morning. It was sunny the day before, and I might've gotten some glorious shots then, but I just didn't have any free time that day. It's doubly disappointing because I was motivated to go track this place down after seeing a number of cool photos of the place. So I'm sure it really is photogenic if you're lucky, and/or know what you're doing.

Here are some selected images from across the interwebs, so you can see what I mean:
Nansen Summit Park

A curious thing about Nansen Summit is that it's not a city park, or any kind of public park. Instead, the Mountain Park Homeowners' Association owns and runs it, as part of an extensive network of parks and trails. Mountain Park is an exceptionally large subdivision, primarily developed back in the 70's and 80's. (Their website has a slideshow of groovy "vintage" photos from when the area was under construction.) The fact that this is part of a subdivision also explains the heroic-sounding name of the place. Since this is the extra-swanky part of Mountain Park, all the streets are named after heroic historical figures: Hidalgo, Garibaldi, Juarez, Bolivar, Becket, Masaryk, with Nansen at the very top. Nansen being Fridtjof Nansen, the famous polar explorer, humanitarian, scientist, diplomat, and winner of the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize. It's unclear how being the rich guy with a house at the top of the hill equates with heroism, but there you go. I do think it's kind of ironic that so many of the streets are named for heroes of Latin American history, so that the neighborhood's groundskeepers, maids, and nannies are far more likely to get the historical references than the residents themselves are. Go figure. So anyway, the whole area is private property, but it's not a gated community, and there aren't any big scary signs saying "Residents Only, Violators Will Be Waterboarded", like some of the more fierce subdivisions out there do. Someone put Nansen Summit on their list of 5 Best Places to Picnic in Portland, When It's Not Raining, and they don't seem to have gotten a cease & desist order over that. So you'll probably be OK if you decide to visit, unless you get lost among the winding suburban streets, or you try to put up any political signs, which is Seriously Frowned Upon. I've never really understood why homeowners' associations are so big on banning political signs. I can't see how they reduce property values or otherwise lower the tone, and as "clutter" they're quite temporary and not really unsightly (except the ones for Republicans, obviously). I suppose they just do it because they can. Mountain Park did have a UFO sighting last year, which I guess just goes to show that even the most control-freak homeowners' association can't control everything. If UFOs actually existed, I mean.

Nansen Summit Park

Ok, so forget about UFO's, that's not the only excitement to be had here. Being the top of Mt. Sylvania, it turns out Nansen Summit is the business end of a large "dormant" shield volcano, one of many volcanoes and lava domes in the amusingly-named Boring Lava Field (Others include Mt. Tabor, Kelly Butte, and Rocky Butte.) An article titled "The Catlin Gabel Lava Tubes of West Portland, Oregon" (which first appeared in the September 1974 issue of The Ore Bin, a journal run by the state Department of Geology & Mineral Industries) describes the area thusly:

The Catlin Gabel lava tubes occur among a cluster of cinder cones and associated lava flows of Pliocene to late(?) Pleistocene age (between about 5 and 1 million years old) that occupy an area of approximately 25 square miles on the west side of the Portland Hills (Figure 1). Lava tubes have not previously been described in Oregon lava flows older than Holocene (last 10,000 years). Mount Sylvania is the largest of the Pliocene-Pleistocene volcanoes in the map area, but at least four and possibly as many as eight other volcanic vents and associated lava flows lie to the northwest as far as Germantown Road, 12 miles north of Mount Sylvania, and one other lies to the southeast. These volcanoes are probably the westernmost of this age in Oregon. The area covered by lava flows and vents was first mapped by Trimble (1963), who assigned these rocks to the Boring Lava, a geologic unit first named by Treasher (1942) after a cluster of volcanoes around the town of Boring about 10 miles southeast of Portland.
While we're at it, the summit, or perhaps just the northeast corner of the summit, is the top end of the Arnold Creek Watershed, from whence the creek flows until it joins Tryon Creek, which flows into the Willamette, then the Columbia, then the Pacific Ocean. Which you can't quite see from here, even when it's sunny. Nansen Summit Park


Anonymous said...

Some shots I took from this summit in Feb 2012:

Tom M. said...

The HOAs ban political signs, even ones that are quite temporary and not really unsightly (except the ones for Republicans, obviously), to keep assholes with political biases from antagonizing their neighbors and making the street a miserable place to live.