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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