Discovering The Hemlock Trail

When I first moved to the west side of Portland almost two years ago, my new neighbors proudly told me all the places I could walk to via the Hemlock Trail. Apparently zoo concerts, the Hoyt Arboretum, and Forest Park were all within my reach!  While I had been to all these places during my nearly 35 years of living on the flat lands of the east bank of the Willamette, I have to admit–I was intimidated! Trail walking didn’t seem to fit my idea of city life. But eventually one kind soul actually showed me a route, and so began my trail adventures. I was hooked.

Forest Park

I discovered Marcy Houle during her introductory presentation to Forest Park, and decided to purchase her book, One City’s Wilderness: Portland’s Forest Park. She personalized the front page with the message ‘Happy Trails,” and I promptly signed up for her next walk through Forest Park. Marcy is a truly amazing woman who has worked over many years to map out walking routes, name watersheds, and identify history in this wonderful area. If you need an introduction to the forest, there’s no better place to start.

My newfound knowledge from Marcy made me bold. When I found out Hoyt Arboretum was looking for volunteers, I signed up–but it didn’t take long before I realized I was WAY out of my league there. I found myself sitting next to tree geeks rattling off Latin subspecies, isolating branch divisions and tree buds, and leaving me feeling bewildered at best. But I remained hopeful that I might find a place in my new neighborhood to belong. Maybe there are some kindergarten classes that needed a guide?

Lucky for me, Portland Parks and Recreation works with the Hoyt Arboretum. I just found that out a couple weeks ago, when they put on their Winter Tree Identification Workshop. The City is actually looking for neighborhood tree stewards!  And they are willing to teach you! Who knew?!

Another spark of hope arose for me last week at another volunteer meeting at Hoyt Arboritum. This year, they plan to try to help new volunteers with special days for each of their sectioned tree collections.  A volunteer need only learn TWO trees, and they’ll provide a list of facts!  Your tree is identified, and a table and chair are provided for you out on the trail! WAHOO!! Look out for me on the trails this coming year!  Come for a class, or maybe volunteer yourself.  As I’ve come to realize, it’s all a part of the city life. At least in Portland.

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Randy Gragg’s Bright Lights

It’s been a long time since Randy Gragg left the Oregonian.   I remember looking forward to his column every Sunday — he told beautiful stories about local architects and our architecture, and managed to weave history and politics into each story.  When he announced his last column for the Oregonian had been written, I was one of many Oregonians who wrote to him professing my shock at the impending loss.   As a result, his heartfelt response came back to us – how surprised and delighted to know what a loyal following he had – and he promised to keep in touch as to his next move.

In 2009, Randy became the new editor of Portland Monthly, after first coming on board at the sister publication of Portland Spaces.   In typical Gragg fashion, he’s cleverly spawned yet another Portland marvel – Bright Lights.

“Bright Lights: Discussions on the City” is a monthly series presented by Portland Monthly magazine with City Club of Portland (you can also see the old ones on vimeo). The City Club explains that the series “is designed to bring the region’s thought leaders to the stage in an informal, conversational setting.” With past guests ranging from Congressman Earl Blumenauer and advertising guru Dan Wieden to the Portland State University president Wim Wiewel, it’s always an engaging discussion, and often quite an eye-opening experience.

Bright Lights DiscussionFor me, one of my very first Bright Lights was in September, 2008, when my experience with Portland was changed forever.  Randy gave me a profound new awareness of our community when he introduced me to Time Based Art and the work of Lawrence and Anna Halprin, who’ve had a huge impact on our city. Through this, I was introduced to dance – which most of you know has been significant in my life indeed. Thank you, Randy. Since then, I’ve tried to never miss another Bright Lights event.  Who knows where Randy will take me next?

What’s your favorite Bright Lights experience? Who would you like to see there?

Francene has over 30 years in the home mortgage business, and she loves being part of the Portland community. If you’re interested in homeownership or refinancing, give her a call today to schedule a consultation or find out more about Portland mortgage options. 

Fertile Ground and My Favorite February Festivals

Festivals abound in our wonderful City of Roses, and some stand out above the crowd. Remember when I declared the PICA Time Based Art my favorite event(s) of the year?  Well, duh. It is still definitely amazing. Thing is,  I just didn’t really know how very much was out there!! So, based on a new season and new discoveries, I do believe I’m going to have to declare some new favorites. Fertile Ground Festival just wrapped up their 4th anniversary show, and folks? We have a winner.

Fertile Ground Festival

Launched in 2009 by the Portland Area Theatre Alliance, Fertile Ground provides a platform for Portland theatre companies to showcase the newest of new works.  Regional and national artists, artistic leaders and arts aficionados alike are invited to discover Portland as “fertile ground” for creativity, innovation, and daring acts of performance. However, unlike a typical fringe festival, FG features fantastic new work from LOCAL artists only, so all the benefits (financial, artistic, and otherwise) of this fine festival stay within the bounds of Stumptown. Pretty cool, right? Right.

While I was overwhelmed by the show of talent throughout the festival, a couple of my favorite performances included International Falls at the COHO, and The Huntsmen at the Portland Play House In the past, while I have often pondered the meaning of the performance at length, I’ve never really been inclined to stay in the theatre for the “after-shows.”   Following International Falls, however, I decided to stay for the post-show discussions with the cast. The audience was able to express their own sentiments and ask questions of the actors, and all I can say is–wow! I might have to make this a standard for my theatre nights! If you get ever the chance to stay on after a performance, I’d highly recommend it. The amazing conversation and learning that goes on is an enriching sort of thrill. To those who shared, bravo for being so open and honest with us!

Now that Fertile Ground is over, though, what’s a festival-lover to do? Well, like I said, festivals abound in this city. To help you out, I’ve made a handy-dandy list of what’s happening this month (February) in Portland. Did I miss an event? Leave it in the comments! I’m sure there’s even more out there, and I’d love to hear about it!

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Portland Jazz Festival, February 15-24 – Past acts have included Regina Carter and hometown sensation Esperanza Spalding, putting this jazz fest at the top of the game.  Performances in venues throughout the city, some free.

Wurstfest in Mount Angel, February 15 -16 – Did you miss Octoberfest?  Wurstfest serves another round of German sausage, family fun, and first-rate German beer.

Zwickelmania, February 16 – A one day event to hang with and learn from Oregon’s brewer.

Chinese New Year, February 10 – 25.  Fifteen days to find a way to celebrate the incoming Year of the Snake.   Last year I spent several afternoons in the fabulous Lan Su Garden in Old Town. But don’t stop there!  We have even more going on at the Convention Center on February 9th.

Great Balls of Fire Fundraiser, February 10 – 28.  Ever promise yourself you’ll return to Salvador Molly’s for the King of Heat contest?   Here it is!  They’ve raised over $45,000 for Oregon HEAT, a non-profit helping low-income Oregonians pay their utility bills in the past 16 events.

Portland International Film Festival, February 7-23.  The largest film fest in Oregon, it premieres over 100 international films. 

And if you’re so inclined, I would love it if you shared your favorite festival experiences with me on my facebook page or in the comments below! Happy Fest-hopping!