A Hike from Balch Creek to The Pittock Mansion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Photo by Frank Paris

The Balch Creek Canyon is one of the most beautiful urban canyons to be found anywhere. The transition from crowded city streets to peaceful canopied trail and flourishing canyon happens so quickly that you’ll find it hard to believe a bustling city is just steps away. Located in the Macleay Park section of Forest Park, the trail begins at the Lower Macleay Park Trailhead and soon joins up with the Wildwood Trail. Although the diverse trail system of Forest Park can take you on a number of unique adventures though the 5,100-acre park, one of my favorites is the heart-pumping trip through Balch Creek Canyon up to the historic Pittock Mansion

Leaving from the lower trailhead at the terminus of Northwest Upshur Street, the trail begins smooth and paved as it enters the canyon. But the concrete soon ends, and the surroundings become more wild and lush as the canyon walls rise. The largest Doug fir trees in Portland are in this part of the park, as well as native cutthroat trout. Discovered in 1987, the small population of trout that reside in the creek helped solidify efforts to restore the health of the entire watershed.

BalchCreek-Castle-webPhoto by Adam Sawyer

After 0.85 miles, you’ll come to a junction with the Wildwood Trail. Just past this turnoff you’ll find the Stone House, also known as “The Witch’s Castle.” Despite its medieval appearance, what remains here is the stone framework of an elaborate rest station, once with bathrooms, that was originally erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s (though what you tell the kids about the mossy, fern-covered tribute to spookiness is entirely up to you).

Continue straight along the path that follows the creek, cross over a footbridge, and soon the trail ascends up three long switchbacks to the Upper Macleay Park on Cornell Road, .54 miles from the Stone House. Follow the path around the parking lot and use the crosswalk to cross Cornell Road and pick up the Wildwood Trail on the other side. The trail continues steadily up hill to the Pittock Mansion parking lot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Frank Paris

The Pittock Mansion holds historical significance, and the visual magnificence of the mansion and its grounds, including views of Portland’s skyline and Mt. Hood, offer a generous reward for your efforts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Frank Paris

Touring the grounds is free, but for an extra treat, I highly recommend paying the small entrance fee to tour the inside of the mansion. The exquisite artifacts, furniture, art, and every other piece of the house has been carefully preserved, and the moment you step into the mansion, you feel as though you’ve stepped 100 years back in time.

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Once you’ve satiated your Downton Abbey fantasies, head back the way you came, and enjoy the lush forest as you descend back down the trail, across Cornell road, and down through the Balch Creek Canyon. The total hike is approximately 5 miles round trip, with about 900 feet of elevation gain. 

How to get there by bus:

From downtown, board Line 15 at SW Washington & Broadway stop ID 6137. Alternatively, you can also take line 77 from the rose quarter transit center stop ID 2592. Whichever bus you choose, you’ll get off at NW Vaughn & 27th stop ID 8802To get to the trailhead, walk east on Vaughn St., turn left on 26th Ave, right on Upshur St., and walk a short distance to the Lower Macleay Park Trailhead. Visit trimet.org‘s trip planning page and enter your starting location and use the ending location of stop ID 8802 to get your specific route and scheduled departures/arrivals.

Collaborative article by Adam Sawyer and Stephanie Paris

Restaurants on the Route: Bus Line 4 – Division/Fessenden

The TriMet line 4-Division/Fessenden route is a long one. It connects and travels through Gresham, SE Portland, Portland City Center, Old Town/Chinatown, Union Station, the Rose Quarter, NE Portland and St. Johns. As you can imagine, there are a great number of restaurants worth exploring along this route. As I find ones I love, this page will be updated with the addition of newfound hot spots. As of now, these are my top 5 restaurants on the Line 4 route.

1. Butterfly Belly 6036 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97206

Photo by Stephanie Paris

4.5 Stars on Yelp. $

“As butterflies selectively collect nectar and pollens from all over, Butterfly Belly’s selection of many popular dishes from all over Asia strides to please our guests with warm and colorful ambiance, uncompromising hospitality, fresh, healthy, and most importantly tasty food.” ~Butterfly Belly

Nearest Line 4 bus stops:

Click here to read my feature post on Butterfly Belly.


 

2. Tangier 221 SW Pine St, Portland, OR 97204

SpinachPiePhoto by Stephanie Paris

5 Stars on Yelp. $$

“A warm and welcoming family restaurant conveniently located in downtown Portland near the water front, noted for serving the finest msot traditional Moroccan and Mediterranean available. Our casually elegant atmosphere and exquisite cuisine will enhance any dining or celebration experience.” ~Tangier

Nearest Line 4 bus stops:

Click here to read my feature post on Tangier.


 

3. Samurai Blue 3807 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227

Photo by Adam Sawyer

4.5 Stars on Yelp. $$

“A tantalizing variety of hot and cold dishes, sushi and sake.” ~Samurai Blue

Nearest Line 4 bus stops:

Click here to read my feature post on Samurai Blue.


 

4. Sidecar 11 3955 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Adam Sawyer

4 Stars on Yelp. $$

“Sidecar 11 is perfect for celebrations, joining friends with food and beverage in a small bar setting. The food menu emphasizes simple creation small plates and the bar creates unique and classic style cocktails with a dedication to the art of mixing drinks.” ~Sidecar 11

Nearest Line 4 bus stops:

Click here to read my feature post on Sidecar 11.


 

5. Signal Station Pizza 8302 N Lombard St, Portland, OR 97203

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto by Adam Sawyer

4 Stars on Yelp. $

“We pride ourselves on serving a delicious pizzas at a fair price. Our goals are to provide both a quality product and and friendly service. Our menu offers artisan pizzas, calzones, sub sandwiches and salads. We also serve sodas, beer by the bottle and on-tap,  and a fine selection wines by the glass or bottle.” ~Signal Station Pizza

Nearest Line 4 bus stops:

Click here to read my feature post on Signal Station.


Article by Stephanie Paris

Pickathon Indie Roots Music Festival

The Pickathon Indie Roots Music Festival at Pendarvis Farm in Portland, Oregon is like no other music festival you’ve been to. When I began to write this article, I sat for a long time staring at a blank page, wondering how I could possibly translate its awesomeness into a few-hundred-word blog post. And I’ve come to realize, I just can’t. This event more than others is something that you simply must experience to really get it. Hopefully the words I did come up with will suffice, and leave you wanting to go out and get the experience.

Here is a list of the top seven things that make Pickathon the greatest music festival I have ever attended.

1. The Vibe:

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While I am no stranger to music festivals, I am also not a music festival junkie. Sometimes when I think of the term “music festival,” I get visions of thousands of college-aged kids in a large field in the sun, drugged out of their minds, trance dancing, and drinking booze out of plastic cups. While those kinds of music festivals certainly exist, Pickathon is an entirely different breed. There is definitely alcohol consumption, but the collective consciousness of the folks in attendance somehow manages to keep everyone respectful of others, and the overall vibe of the group is unparalleled. It feels safe, because it is, and the people there are people that you actually want to hang out with. This is just one factor that helps this festival be the most family friendly festival around.

2. Kids are FREE:

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Another way Pickathon welcomes families is that children 12 and under get in free. And once they’re in, children’s itineraries can be just as full as any grownup’s, with organized craft projects, circus classes, performances geared especially towards kids. Here’s an example of the Kids & Family Schedule from 2014.  There’s even a designated quiet and family camping zone (silence not guaranteed). Oh, did I mention that this is a weekend festival with the (strongly recommended!) option to camp?!

3. Camping:

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Purchasing the weekend ticket gets you camping access for the whole weekend. Music takes place all day long and into the wee hours of the night on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. With an early bird pass, you can camp Thursday night, which helps ensure you have your pick of the campsites. Monday morning campers must leave, and most are already longingly looking forward to doing it all again next year.

4. Sustainability:

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Pickathon is the nation’s greenest music festival. It’s the first festival in the country to eliminate single-use plastic cups and containers from their vendors. They have been replaced with reusable Klean Kanteen stainless steel cups, and have used Bambooware dishes and utensils. Both are available for purchase at Pickathon, and they’ve even got a cool token system for the dishes so you don’t even have to clean them yourself. Alternatively, you can also bring your own reusable dishware, and they have convenient dish washing stations to make things easy. Here’s a great infographic about how it works. Pickathon makes great use of solar power. They have a permanently installed solar array on the rooftop of the Galaxy Barn (one of their stages is located inside). According to their website, “the energy generated during the year offsets 100% of the energy used during the festival in the Galaxy Barn plus 100% of the electricity used by the food and craft vendors.” They also host three portable solar power generators throughout the festival to help with their electricity needs, including powering a cell phone charging station for festival-goers. They also offer free drinking water all weekend long. Have they really thought if everything? I think they have.

5. It’s relatively small:

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Pickathon only sells a limited amount of tickets, which means that between ticket-holders, volunteers, staff, and children, the festival caps out at about 7,000, as opposed to the 20,000-person capacity that they could accommodate if they wanted to cram people in like what happens at other music festivals. The smaller crowds makes the festival more intimate, clean, safe, and overall a much more enjoyable experience.

6. Great Music:

One of the countries greatest music festival isn’t great without talented musicians! One of my favorite things about Pickathon is that you won’t find just one genre of music. In the past I have seen folk, blues, rockabilly, African, funk, indie pop, bluegrass, and so much more. They’ve had lineups with musical greats like The Avett Brothers, Andrew Bird, Feist, Neko Case, Mavis Staples, X, and Nickel Creek. Besides the more well known performers, each year I discover new bands that I’ve never heard of, but that blow my mind when I see them live at Pickathon. After 11 years of attending this festival, I absolutely know without a doubt that I will enjoy the music, even if I’m not familiar with many of the bands in the lineup.

7. Public Transportation:

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Pickathon makes alternatives modes of transportation a breeze. They want as many people as possible to leave their cars at home, and have made this easy by providing frequent EcoShuttle service between Clackamas Town Center (near the MAX station) and the Pickathon at Pendarvis Farm. Clackamas Town Center is served by the MAX Green Line, and bus lines 28, 29, 30, 33, 71, 72, 79, 152, 155, and 156. Alternatively, if you don’t want to pay the EcoShuttle fee, you can take TriMet line 155 from the Clackamas Town Center TC, get off at SE Misty & 162nd, and walk just under a mile to the festival site (16581 SE Hagen Rd.) For assistance in getting to the Clackamas Town Center, just visit TriMet’s trip planner, and enter in your starting location, use Clackamas Town Center TC (Stop ID 13247) for your ending location if you’ll be using the EcoShuttle, or use stop ID 13159 if you’ll be bussing then walking. Pickathon also encourages commuting by bike, and even offer gear shuttles. Check their website for more info.

I am genuinely elated when it’s time for Pickathon each year. Those of you that have been before know exactly what I’m talking about. And for those of you that may be going for the first time, whether you go for just one day, or camp the entire weekend to get the full experience, I am certain that it will be one of the best things you will do all year.

Pickathon is an annual event that takes place the first weekend in August. For more information, including this year’s musical lineup, please visit the Pickathon.com.

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All photos copyright Stephanie Paris

Beat the Heat: Cool off in Portland’s Interactive Fountains

Whether you’re a parent or a caretaker, one of the perks of caring for children is that you get to play. We end up doing things that we most likely never would have done otherwise, not because they’re not fun things to do, but because our grownup minds don’t as often think of them… until we find ourselves in situations like needing to quell our rosy-cheeked children when their own valiant efforts to tolerate the apathetic summer heat are not enough. Portland my be rainy and cloudy 9 month out of the year, but when it’s summer, boy, it’s summer! And one of the greatest ways to beat the heat is by getting wet.

Portland is known for its remarkable fountains. Lucky for us, many of them are interactive, meaning you can join the spritzing, sprinkling fountains with your own splashing and frolicking.

Some safety tips to keep in mind: don’t drink the water (it is often recycled for conservation purposes), keep a watchful eye on your children, and be cautious of slippery surfaces.

Whether you have children or not, get yourself out into one of Portland’s many interactive fountains. Chances are you may not have had this much fun playing in water since you were a child in your own backyard sprinkler.

SW Portland

Salmon Street Springs

Location: Waterfront Park , SW Naito Parkway at SW Salmon St

Hours: 6:00 AM – 10:00 PM spring/summer/fall

Accessibility:

Ira Keller Forecourt Fountain

Location:  Keller Fountain Park, SW 3rd Ave & SW Clay St

Hours: 5:00 AM – 9:00 PM spring/summer/fall

Accessibility:

Courtesy of Stephanie Paris

Teachers Fountain

Location: Director Park, SW Yamhill St & SW Park Ave

Hours: Typically 9:00 AM-10:00 PM, Check events schedule for closures: Director Park calendar

Accessibility:

Bill Naito Legacy Fountain

Location: Waterfront Park, Burnside Bridge & SW Naito Parkway

Hours: All hours, except Fridays from 3:00-11:00 AM, upper fountain is turned off during Saturday Market hours

Accessibility:

SE Portland

The Rose Petal

Location: Stark Street Island Park, SE 106th Ave & Stark St

Hours: 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM spring/summer/fall

Accessibility:

North Portland

Peninsula Park Rose Garden Fountain

Location: Peninsula Park Rose Garden, N Albina Ave & N Ainsworth St

Hours: 5:00 AM – 10:00 PM spring/summer/fall

Accessibility:

McCoy Fountain

Location: McCoy Park, N Trenton & N Newman Ave

Hours: 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM spring/summer/fall

Accessibility:

NE Portland

Holladay Park

Location: Holladay Park, NE 11th Ave & NE Multnomah St

Hours: 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM spring/summer/fall

Accessibility:

NW Portland

Jamison Square Fountain

Location: Jamison Square, between NW Kearney St & Johnson St, and NW 10th & 11th Aves

Hours: 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM spring/summer/fall

Accessibility:

The 4T Trail: A Quintessential Portland Experience

Portland’s 4T Trail is quite possibly the coolest city/forest/transit adventure in existence. The T’s of the 4T Trail stand for Train (MAX), Trail, Tram, and Trolley (Portland Streetcar). When combined, these T’s create an approximately nine-mile loop and a quintessential Portland experience. The 4T highlights some of the city’s best assets: urban parks and trails, stunning views of volcanoes and cityscapes, a tram ride, and our legendary public transportation. For all these reasons and more, the 4T makes for an excellent outing for adventurers of all ages.

There are four different trailheads, one for each T of the trip. And although you can begin the trip at any of the trailheads, I prefer to start and finish downtown, making the Train the first T segment of the trip. Before you begin your journey, you’ll want to purchase a TriMet Day Pass at one of the fareboxes located at any MAX stop. Put your ticket in a safe place, as it is valid on the Portland Streetcar as well.

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Hop on a westbound MAX train, either the Red Line towards Beaverton or the Blue Line towards Hillsboro. Both will get you to your stop at Washington Park/Oregon Zoo. If you’re travelling with children, you might want to alert them of the awesomeness that you are about experience as you enter a tunnel that takes you deep beneath the zoo. At 260 feet below the surface, the MAX station at Washington Park is the deepest transit station in North America! Get off here and take the elevator up to the zoo parking area where you will begin the second T of your trip.

highway26     4t trail sign

The Trail segment of the loop departs from the Washington Park MAX station and takes you on a 4.5-mile hike up to OHSU. Begin the hike by walking over to the zoo entrance, but not into the zoo. We’ll save that for another trip. Follow the sidewalk as it leads you downhill and out of the parking area. Remember to watch for the 4T signs. The sidewalk will lead you over Highway 26. Cross the eastbound onramp to the shoulder and take a left, hiking east down the onramp a short distance. Don’t be fooled by the unmarked boot path off to the right. Wait until you see the sign marking the 4T Trail and begin hiking up the Marquam Trail towards Council Crest. Even though you’re within city limits, you’d never know it by the lush beauty of this forest. Once you reach the summit of Council Crest, the highest point in Portland proper, soak up the views and take a well-earned breather before descending into the Marquam Nature Park. Follow the 4T Trail signs, which eventually lead you to Fairmount Blvd where you will turn right to take the Urban Shortcut to the Tram.

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The Tram from OHSU is the third T segment of your journey. Hours vary, but the ride is free since you’re heading down. The ride is brief but breathtaking, especially on a clear day when the volcanic peaks are visible. Although the tram’s main purpose is the daily commute of hospital staff, it sure is a fun 5 minutes for those of us that don’t get to take the ride every day!

Once you exit the Tram, the OHSU Commons streetcar (Trolley) stop is just steps away. The streetcar signifies the end of hiking or standing, and your final T segment of the day, so take a load off. Enjoy the ride for ten full stops, exiting the streetcar at the Central Library (SW 10th & SW Yamhill). I love finishing at this downtown location because it is an optimal spot to grab lunch or dinner. If you’re looking for a tasty bite, Elephants in the Park, located at Director Park (SW Taylor and SW 9th) is a crowdpleaser. If you want a sweet treat, try TartBerry for delicious self-serve frozen yogurt (SW 9th & SW Taylor). There are a number of options here, including the food cart pod at SW 9th and SW Alder, so you should be able to find many tasty ways to reward your day’s efforts.

TartBerry

For maps and detailed directions, please check out the 4T website.

(Original story by Adam Sawyer, adapted with permission by Stephanie Paris)