Portland Washington/Forest Parks Summer Solstice
Friday 30 September 2016 — Category: Outings
For the past year or so I have been trying to be more intentional about doing something special on the summer and winter solstices, as well as the spring and autumn equinoxes. Perhaps being positively passionate about Portland — with all of its weirdness — is having an effect on me, but I’m definitely not turning Neopagan!
Still, God created the earth and its seasons, and I feel a deep desire to celebrate these quarterly celestial events by going on some sort of photo outing on those four days. Details of my past solstice / equinox outings can be found through this article listing.
For the 2016 summer solstice I planned a grand, two-day outing. The first part was a 7.4-mile hike through Washington Park and Forest Park in Portland. Because it was the earliest sunrise of the year, and I had a busy day, I wanted to get an extra-early start. Besides, the early Byrd gets the silence and solitude!
So I got up at 3:00 AM, left the house at 3:45, had breakfast at one of my usual McDonald’s at 5:00, parked at the Sunset Transit Center and caught a MAX Blue Line train at 5:25, and arrived at the Washington Park MAX Station at 5:30. What a great summer solstice start!
No, this isn’t Willy Wonka’s Great Glass Elevator pictured on the right. Rather, it’s the metal elevator at the Station, located 260 feet below the surface of the Tualatin Mountains. Portland’s only completely-underground subway station is the deepest in the country, and the fifth-deepest in the world. Impressive!
Once the elevator had zoomed about 27 stories up to 693 feet above sea level, the door opened and I exited at ground level in Washington Park. My trail north led me past the Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial and along the western edge of Hoyt Arboretum via the White Pine Trail. Before exiting the Arboretum I arrived at the 30-mile Wildwood Trail, the southern terminus of which is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
When crossing north over West Burnside Street, I left Washington Park behind and entered the 5,172-acre Forest Park. I had passed by this dangerous crossing once before, during the autumn equinox of 2015, when I had walked the Burnside portion of this intersection, and took this photo to document it.
After walking a bit over two miles from the MAX station and taking a fair number of pictures along the way, I arrived at the gorgeous grounds of Pittock Mansion around 6:45. Situated about 900 feet above downtown Portland, it afforded a breathtaking panoramic view of the entire metro area, as well as the 11,249-foot Mount Hood (the highest peak in the state), about 50 miles to the east.
The 16,000-square-foot, 46-room mansion, slightly over 100 years old, was quite impressive as well. It was a great time to be there. Not only did I have silence and solitude in abundance, but also golden light from the early-morning, summer solstice sun, combined with dark clouds in the west, provided a dramatic photographic ambiance.
Seeing that Pittock Mansion was not my final destination for the day by a long stretch, after soaking up that wonderful ambiance for about 20 minutes, I continued north on Wildwood Trail. Hiking 1.75 more miles brought me to yet another photogenic location around 8:00.
The ruins of the Stone House — an 87-year-old former restroom facility in the Balch Creek Canyon / Macleay Park section of Forest Park, just north of NW Cornell Road — feel like they are from another place and time, far, far away.
Once again I was breathless, and it was not from the hiking! My photographer’s eye was delighted, and my photographer’s heart was beating with excitement! From every angle there was another great view and another wonderful shot! In my photographic bliss I was completely oblivious to the dark side of the so-called Witches Castle.
Apparently there is a huge problem with idiots defacing Stone House with graffiti. An OregonLive.com article dated May 19, 2016 documented the problem. On June 15, 2016, a follow-up article recounted the difficult process of removing the graffiti.
On the summer solstice I photographed the pristine-looking ruins, ignorant of the ugly mess which had existed only a week before. But not long thereafter, a third OregonLive.com article dated August 4, 2106 showed how the bastards had struck again.
I am SO grateful that I was able to photograph and enjoy the beauty of Stone House without experiencing the mindless destruction committed by depraved souls.
Most of the accounts I have read state that this former restroom facility was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA, formed 1935), around the same time that they built Timberline Lodge (1936–1938) on Mount Hood.
Digging deeper, I came across documented proof on the PDXccentric Web site (same link as Stone House above) that this structure was actually commissioned by the City of Portland, and built in 1929 — more than 5 years before the WPA even existed.
Because of the persistent urban myth that the WPA built Stone House at the same time as Timberline Lodge, I wanted to include this short history in order to help propagate the true account.
Ten minutes and 27 photos later, I tore myself away from this enchanted spot to continue my hike and my day. Another 2.25 miles north on Wildwood Trail, passing the junctions with the Aspen Trail and the Birch Trail, brought me to the intersection with Wild Cherry Trail around 9:00.
Along this section of the trail I had felt some raindrops starting to fall on me through the forest canopy. I just couldn’t believe it! In the Pacific Northwest, you can have rain even on the longest day of the year! Fortunately, it didn’t last long, and the trees provided pretty good cover.
After continuing generally east on Wild Cherry Trail, Leif Erikson Drive and NW Thurman Street for a bit over a mile, I arrived at the end of my hike at the TriMet Bus 15 stop at NW Gordon Street. About a minute later the bus arrived at 9:34 to whisk me away to downtown.
At West Burnside Street and NW 23rd Avenue, I changed to a Route 20 bus to take me back to my truck at the Sunset Transit Center. Along the way I stopped at the West Hills Shopping Center for a few modern conveniences: a refill of my wallet with cash from a Chase ATM, a refill of my stomach with a blueberry scone and hot black tea from Starbucks, and last but not least, an emptying of my bladder in their restroom.
With all of that vital business taken care of, I was eager to continue the rest of my two-day summer solstice adventure. Unfortunately, the stories and photos of the next stages will have to await future articles.
During this four-hour hike I took 140 photos. The best 55 are now on display in the new Portland Washington / Forest Parks Summer Solstice album.