Portland, Oregon — City of Roses: June 25 – July 2, 2011

(Editor’s note: All of the pictures are thumbnails. Click on each to view it. Then be sure to click the back button to get back to the text or the next image. Don’t “close” the picture — that will cause the whole travelogue to close!)

When Francis William Pettygrove, of Calais, Maine, arrived in Oregon in 1843, Asa Lovejoy had already traveled west, then back to Boston and out again. Lovejoy was involved in Oregon’s first telegraph company and in railroad development in the Willamette Valley. Pettygrove, a successful New York merchant, was dispatched west to establish a store. But first he established a trading network. The two men purchased adjacent 320 acre tracts in the area that’s now downtown Portland. As they jointly platted the city, they argued over its name. In a famous coin toss (actual coin, left), Pettygrove won. Thus, the new seaport city became Portland rather than Boston!

Our campground in northeast was just a couple of blocks from the Columbia River, which travels east and west over the top of the city. Just west of us was its confluence with the Willamette, which flows through the city and divides it into east and west halves.

One of our first orders of business was our promised trip back down to the eastern section of The Columbia Gorge. Piling the pups in the truck, we took off one morning to drive the stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway between Troutdale and Dodson. And therein lies some additional history. After earning a Harvard degree, Samuel Hill, a North Carolinian won several lawsuits against railroad baron James J. Hill. J.J. was so impressed that he hired Sam, and Sam was incredibly successful. They were not related until 1888, when Sam married J.J.’s daughter. After Sam left J.J.’s employ several years later, he increased his fortune many-fold through wise investments in the new territory. He had a consuming interest in good roads, and in consort with Samuel Lancaster, engineer and landscape architect, the Columbia River Highway was launched in 1913. Stretching 70 miles from Portland to The Dalles, it is America’s longest scenic highway. It was built during the era of cliff-side construction, when roads like the Highway to the Sun in Glacier National Park were built by the National Park Service. But the Columbia River Highway was built with state, county and local funds — with a bit of help from Sam Hill. Later superseded by a modern highway, it fell into ruin. But interest was reborn in the 1980’s, and the stretch from Troutdale to The Dalles was restored and now carries thousands of tourists through The Gorge.

By 1916, Lancaster’s road had reached Crown Point, a promontory rising 733 feet above the River, formed by a lava flow of basalt. Lancaster envisioned an observatory there, from which one had majestic views of The Gorge in both directions. Multnomah County, which ran out there from the city of Portland, funded most of Lancaster’s dream, with private contributions providing the balance. Vista House was opened in 1918; it was designed by Edgar Lazarus, a prominent Oregon architect in what has been described as German Art Nouveau. It’s 44 feet in diameter and 55 feet high, glazed with a green tile roof and heavily adorned with marble inside. It is now maintained by the state, the city, and the Friends of Vista House. The lower level documents much history in story panels, like the left picture in the second row. Next to that is Mrs. Henderson, owner of the Crown Point Chalet. The right hand picture features a 1928 magnetic street sweeper that scoured the streets of nails, screws and other metallic threats to the new pneumatic tires.

We visited several of the waterfalls, including Latourell (249 feet), Wahkeena (242 feet) and the crown jewel, Multnomah. Multnomah Falls drops a total of 620 feet in two stages. I last saw it when I was about 8 years old; my dad took us all to visit his brother in Portland. I remembered the spray! Believe it or not, there are 77 waterfalls on the Oregon side of The Gorge.

We spent parts of two days visiting with Schipperke owners. Marge Grospitch, whom Dot “met” some time ago on one of her Schip chat lines, invited us over to Vancouver, first city across the Columbia River on the Washington side. She has one Schip, Bean, and a recently adopted Minnie Aussie, Austin. Marge also invited Drinda Lombardi Holroyd, another Schippy person from Portland with two Schips, Roca and Andy. Then Drinda, in turn, invited us all over for a delicious backyard buffet the following evening, where we got to meet her husband Mike, a retired fund raising professional currently working with a youth services group. Of course our whole gang got to participate in these mini-Schipnics. Did they get along? Check out the first two pictures in the second row below.

I mentioned in an earlier section how countless Chinese crossed the Pacific and contributed to the cultural heritage of the area. It was reflected in Lan Su, the exquisite Chinese Gardens in the middle of Portland’s Asian section. Lan Su was built in the manor of Portland’s sister city, Suzhou, one of the more opulent sections of the country. It was completed in 2001. Lan Su can be translated as Garden of Awakening Orchids. It describes itself as “an authentically built, powerfully inspiring experience based on a 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition that melds art, architecture, design and nature in perfect harmony.” And so it does – it just oozes contentment. Traveling through its rooms, across its bridges and through its gardens, you forget that a bustling American city breathes outside its walls. Halfway through your travels, you come upon a café with an artist playing a traditional erhu, or Chinese violin. In the central pool floated a modern dragon boat belonging to the Wasabi Paddling Club of Portland, promoting the Club and their charitable works. The last room through which we passed was the replica of a cabin aboard a Chinese junk.

One of my favorite exhibits was a collection of Shadow Puppets and the story they told (last pic above). The characters were the Monkey King; Hsuan Tsang, the monk; Sandy, the sea serpent; and Pigsy, the lazy one. They tell the story called Journey to the West, written in the fourteenth century, in which Hsuan Tsang travels to India to bring Buddhism to China.

The next stop was the Oregon History Museum, located downtown in the Historical Society headquarters. The museum was not as dramatic as other state presentations we’ve visited, but it had nice features. The top floor is an award winning exhibit called Oregon My Oregon that highlights the growth and development from the first Native American residents through the 19th and into the 20th century. A major Native American exhibit involves basketmaking, something I was of course very interested in but will bore you with only two unique examples. Of more general interest was a reproduction of a Indian canoe. The Oregon tribes, especially those near the Pacific and Columbia River confluence, outpaced everyone in canoemanship. William Clark, while pinned down at Dismal Nitch (more in the next chapter) watched them paddle by in ferocious weather and marveled at their skill.

Other exhibits told the story of the migration and its purposes. There was a religious influx, mostly Methodist, with a goal of Indian conversion. Seekers of a new life plied the Oregon Trail through great hardship. Others came both by land and by sea to develop the riches of the new territory. Of course, both the French and British had developed trading routes over the sea and through Canada ahead of the Euro-American invasion.

Much emphasis is on the industries that quickly enhanced the area’s value. We’ve already talked about fisheries and precious metals. Copper and nickel, furs and lumber grew businesses and mercantile opportunities, and the railroad’s push west only enhanced opportunities further.

There was an extensive art exhibit. I took no pictures. I never take pictures in gallery settings unless permitted. But I just came across something strange. The brochure I’ve been reviewing as brain food for this section specifically says that photos and recordings are forbidden throughout the place. I walked in with camera in hand and started snapping right across from the registration. Nobody never said nuttin’!

Then there was the Benson. Niles Benson built the car in 1904 and exhibited it at the Lewis & Clark Exposition in 1905. Perhaps this was a portent of things to come; the pneumatic tires on the Benson came from Indonesia!

Finally, there was a temporary exhibit on the main floor called Pedal to the Medal, highlighting the contributions made by Oregonians to the motorsports industry. It opened concurrently with the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500. I walked in to look it over and suddenly my heart began to race. Just inside the door was a 1947 MG-TC in show condition. If I had the oportunity to own any car in the world, this is the one I would take. Why is a long story, but it dates back to my teenage years. Here’s an ironic twist. Shortly after I moved to the Boston area in the mid-sixties, a young neighbor stored his 1947 TC in my aunt’s garage. He had paid $400 for it, put $300 into it and wanted to sell it for $1200. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough money at the time to make a jingle in my pocket.

We got some good history out of the museum, but much of it was reinforcement lessons. The other downtown museum we visited, however, was a different story. The Oregon Maritime Museum is located onboard the Portland, the last steam driven stern wheel tugboat. It’s moored at a maritime park on the Willamette River in the heart of town. There are actually two aspects to a visit. One is the ship itself and its intriguing operation (it still can operate under its own power). The other is the collection of artifacts, photos and artwork of the River and the tug’s history as a workboat.

Actually there turned out to be three aspects. After signing in, a volunteer offered to tour us. He asked if which aspect we wanted first. I opted for operations. Bad choice for Dot; Joe and I got into heavy detail. But what made matters worse was this: he was about my age, came from Madison, NJ and worked at a leading ad agency in New York City fifty years ago. At the same time I lived 20 miles from Madison NJ and worked at the tenth largest US agency in NYC. To the exclusion of Dot and the artifacts, we talked and toured for over an hour, and it was time to go feed the puppies. It was incredibly interesting – for me, at least. Apologies to my wonderful partner.

There were two other adventures. I crossed the bridge again into Washington to visit Fort Vancouver, which was right on the Columbia River across from us. It is still an active fort (and historic army airport). On the waterfront, it hosts a reconstruction of the original fort that housed and protected the Columbia Department of the Hudson’s Bay Company, encompassing Washington, Oregon Idaho and British Columbia. The Fort had many functions. It was a dispensary for supplies and equipment for over thirty operations, from military brigades to settler/Indian trade. It also represented British business and government interests in the U.S. It imported trade goods and manufactured as many items as possible in its trade shops. When I visited, the fur warehouse, blacksmith shop and carpenter shop were busy. Across from the kitchen was a separate bakehouse, whose primary purpose was to bake biscuits (hardtack) for sailors. A large house was the residence of the Chief Factor. No, I didn’t know what a Chief Factor was until the lad docenting the kitchen told me and I did some further research. A Chief Factor is “ a person who professionally acts as the representative of another individual or other legal entity, historically with his seat at a factory (trading post).” In addition to running a company, the Chief Factor was responsible for protecting his allies, including Indian trade customers, from the lawlessness that often existed.

The Counting House was critical. The building was also the land office of Thomas Baillie, commander of HMS Modeste and defined as a man of war who kept the peace. The palisade was surrounded by gardens and vineyards, representing the self-sufficiency that existed there.

Our last Portland adventure was, according to its brochure, Awesome! We drove about 50 miles farther up Rte. 5 into Washington to the Mt. St. Helen’s Visitor Center. Approximately 30 miles west of the actual dome, the center tells the story of the fateful day in 1980 when the mountain released 24 megatons of thermal energy and changed the landscape of Washington forever. The center is comprehensive and extremely well done.

We started with a documentary movie. We moved on to a series of exhibits that began with the earliest signs of danger through the calamity and beyond. There was a model of the volcano that one could walk through and visualize what went on inside the mountain. There were photographs and artifacts galore. And there was hope – a chronology of the natural enrichment and human-supported rebuilding of the region that has gone on continuously since. In fact 7% of the mountain’s height has grown back!

There were 57 known human victims. Four are pictured at left; probably the best known was Harry Truman (second from top). Harry, 84, owned a lodge for many years on Silver Lake, and he refused to leave. Even a conscientious written plea by schoolchildren in the area didn’t sway him, and he eventually got a permit to stay. He was never found. Estimates are that 7,000 big game animals and untold birds and small animals perished, save for those like burrowing rodents and swimming creatures under ground or water. The pix below are from the Visitors Center, followed by the mountain today. In the first picture, the St. Helen’s May 18, 1980 blast is the tiny one in front of the explosion of Mount Mazama that created Crater Lake in 4850 B.C. Yet it was the most economically destructive volcanic event in U.S. history. For starters, it destroyed 230 square miles of forest in three minutes.

The eruption was lateral. It blew off the top 1,314 feet of the mountain in the process, reducing it from 9,677 to 8,363. The blast sent a cloud up as much as 80,000 feet, and the fallout traveled across the U.S. in 3 days and around the world in 15. The earthquake, rated at 5.1, began more than a mile underground.

I was fascinated to learn that in addition to lava, three distinct types of outflow occurred. The first is defined as a Debris Avalanche. Debris Avalanches are gravity-driven slides, often rapid, of a mass of rock and soil that evolves into a chaotic tumbling flow. In the case of Mt. St. Helens, the Debris Avalanche spewed 3.7 billion cubic yards, covered 23 square miles, buried the North Fork of the Toutle River to average depth of 150 feet, and traveled at 70 to 150 miles per hour. The second outflow is a Pyroclastic Flow. A Pyroclastic Flow is a mixtures of hot gas, ash and volcanic rocks travelling very quickly down the slopes of volcanos. They travel at such speeds that they cannot be outrun. In the case of Mt. St. Helens, the Pyroclastic Flow spilled 155 million cubic yards, covered 6 square miles, created cumulative thicknesses of deposits reaching 120 feet, traveled at 50 to 80 miles per hour, and measured 1,300 degrees in temperature. The third outflow is Lehars. Lehars are mudflows formed by the mixing of pyroclastic flows and water creating a cement-like compound and carrying logs, boulders and other debris with it. At Mt. St. Helens, they traveled from 25–50 miles an hour, damaged 27 bridges and 200 homes, destroyed 185 miles of roadways and 15 miles of railways, and reduced the channel depth of the Columbia River from 40 to 14 feet, stranding 31 ships.

Enough detail. Let’s move on to Astoria!

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