Friday, July 29, 2016

A Walk Around Lost Lake

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

When the weekends roll around, I like to vary my daily walk by driving a little further afield.  Recently, I discovered the beautiful, serene Lost Lake on the northern side of Mt. Hood in Oregon.  The walk around the lake is an easy one and only 3.2 miles.  But be forewarned.  Arrive early.  By 10 am at the latest; otherwise, there won't be a parking spot available and you'll find yourself parking outside the entrance and hiking an additional two miles in.

  The lake is very beloved by families.  There are picnic areas, camping spots and kayak rentals.  The General Store is a popular hang out for many a parent and kids,  Ice cream is a big draw!  But as I walked around the lake, I also saw many a child foraging for marionberries and splashing in creeks looking for newts.  My boys would have loved this place!

A very accessible boardwalk takes you through an old growth forest on the eastern shore.  As you turn and go up the western shore, the trail gets a little rough and you have to scramble over slippery scree and big puddles.  But this is also the side less traveled and this is where we stopped to have our own picnic of bread, cheese and freshly picked cherries.

The big draw is the magnificent view of Mt. Hood.  The best view is found at the North Day Use area and it is said to be the most photographed image in Oregon.  On a still day, the great mountain is reflected in the lake.  What a picture that must be.  

It was a bit too windy and cloudy for me to see a double mountain that day but I'll be back.  But you know what?  These pictures aren't half-bad! 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Herbert Hoover's Birthplace

The Presidential Libraries

West Branch, Iowa, a small town near Iowa City is devoted to Herbert Hoover, our 31st President.  The museum is fascinating, but allow a full day here (There's a Days Inn with a bar in the basement.) because roaming this little gem of a town is lots of fun.  There are antique shops and good restaurants that serve wholesome, delicious and abundant meals.  Walk off the calories with a hike through the entire Herbert Hoover Historic Park.  It will take you by many historic buildings and to his birthplace, a modest two-room cottage.
So many of our presidents have come from humble beginnings.  Hoover's father was a blacksmith and they were devout Quakers.  They died, however, when Hoover was a boy.  He stayed with his grandmother for awhile, but then moved to Oregon to be raised by an uncle.  The rest of his story is history.

Because he lived into old age he was able to see his birthplace become a National Historic Landmark.

"This cottage where I was born is physical proof of the unbounded opportunity of American Life."

Herbert Hoover:  An idealist.  An optimist.  A misguided Republican. A great humanitarian.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library

The Presidential Libraries

Once again, while being entertained by the presidential conventions, dinner conversation is focused on politics.  I say "entertained" because this year the political arena has been one long humorous (and disturbing) reality show.  It bothers me that we get our current and historical events capsulized in headlines, tweets and short You Tube videos.  Delving deeper into issues takes time, energy and focus.  I worry about widespread ignorance.  And laziness.  I am guilty of this myself.  I rarely read a newspaper anymore.  I get my information from daily online recaps.  The articles are short and often biased.

Looking back, even the history classes I took in high school and college were filled with word associations:  Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Nixon and Watergate.  Truman and the Atomic Bomb.  FDR and the New Deal.  Hoover and the Great Depression.

At the end of our visit to the Herbert Hoover Library in West Branch, Iowa, my travel buddy and I were embarrassed by our ignorance and in awe of the brilliance and humanitarian reach of this man, the 31st President of the United States.
It is unfair that people blame all their problems on the man who lives in the Big White House.  Presidents leave office with a far lower popularity score than when they entered.  But poor Herbert Hoover.  Because "Black Tuesday" happened the first year he took office, he didn't have much of a chance to shine.  This is why I love touring these presidential museums.  They help set the record straight.  They educate and help us to understand the broader picture.  No one person can really change things.  Or cause things.  The world is far too complex.

This particular museum focuses more on Hoover's non-presidential years.  Why? Because these were the years the man did shine.

The rooms take us through his childhood, his education at Stanford and his successful career as a mining engineer in Australia and China.  It was during World War I in Europe when he helped many stranded Americans get home and then stayed behind to organize massive relief campaigns that the accolade "The Great Humanitarian" was bestowed on him.  Clearly, the man was a leader.
During the Harding and Coolidge presidencies, he shone as Secretary of Commerce and as the museum pointed out, "Undersecretary of Everything Else."  It was during this tenure as a cabinet member that he became a household name.  He was often more visible than the presidents themselves.  Under his leadership the Department of Commerce became the most dynamic agency in Washington D.C.

It is interesting to note that as early as 1925, he warned President Coolidge that stock market speculation was a "crazy and dangerous" issue.  Wall Street and banks were gambling with people's savings.  He urged the president to promote the purchase of bonds instead of stocks.  But Coolidge ignored his concerns.  It was the Roaring Twenties.  Life had never been better.  And it was good for Herbert Hoover, too.  He won the presidential election in 1928 with a sweeping victory.
But because "Black Tuesday" happened on his watch his name will be forever linked with the Great Depression.  On October 29, 1929, the stock market collapsed and $30 billion vanished into thin air.
It's not that he didn't try to "right" things, but the scope of what was happening wasn't immediately apparent.

Hoover was a Republican, an idealist, a strong believer in free enterprise.  He put his trust in big business.  After all, he was a self-made man and a millionaire by the age of 40.  He summoned industrialists to the White House for a series of conferences.  He urged them not to lay people off; to even increase their wages, not reduce them.  As a public servant, he gave up his salary.  And although having the federal government step in was anathema to his beliefs, he recognized the necessity and ordered construction projects.  But joblessness continued to spread.  And to add fuel to the fire, there was a run on banks.  People were losing their entire life's savings.  Spending came to a complete and utter stop.
Hoover created relief committees and credit associations.  The museum outlines the many programs he instigated but it simply wasn't enough.  The rich were not going to help the poor because the rich were no longer rich. It took Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal projects and massive intervention by the federal government to finally get the economy strong again.  Hoover warned Americans that the New Deal would end peoples' freedoms.  He failed to understand that when a belly is empty, so is energy.  Dreams die.  The basics needed to be provided first.

In 1932, it was Roosevelt who won by a landslide and Hoover entered "the Wilderness years."  As the museum stated, "Few Americans have known greater acclaim or more bitter criticism than Herbert Hoover."

Yet, Hoover's story was far from over.  He continued to throw himself into public service.  He was Chairman of the Boys Club of America.  He helped found the children's welfare organization CARE and UNICEF.

But it was "The Odd Couple" relationship between him and President Truman that I found the most interesting. Here were two men from opposite political parties and ideologies, but they became fast friends.  Both of them took public service very seriously.  Truman called upon Hoover for advice and relied on him to help avert global famine after World War II.  He had done this task brilliantly before and he did it again. 

He and his wife are buried on the grounds of the museum in a beautiful, lush setting.  Their graves are surrounded by a tall grass prairie.  It is a beautiful site and a place for quiet reflection--something that is lacking in the current political arena.

All of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, need to take a closer look at this man and his idealism.  He truly believed that all men should strive to be the very best they can be.  He did not like the phrase, "The Common Man."  It is, of course, a lofty attribute, and one I applaud, but it is false.  Not all men can be great.  The world is too diverse and too over-populated.  To keep an economy running smoothly and efficiently, we need all levels of expertise.  Queen bees, yes.  But lots and lots of worker bees, too.  And who is going to feed them?  Educate them?  Keep them healthy?  Provide for them in old age?  The government, that's who.  I wish we could rely on Big Business or on the largesse of our fellow man, but we cannot.  

Give us those basic rights first.  Then maybe . . . just maybe, we will ALL have a chance to be the best we can be.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Tour of Pittock Mansion

Exploring Portland

After finishing an Amazon streaming binge of Downton Abbey, I couldn't wait to prolong my dream state with a tour of our very own aristocratic mansion in Portland, Oregon.  It didn't take me long to realize the humor in such a comparison.  What was Henry Pittock thinking?

I can only speculate, which is part of the fun.  This rags to riches man who made his fortune in publishing the Oregonian newspaper, was a well-traveled man for the time.  He had been to Europe.  Maybe he had even been to Highclere Castle in England.  Maybe he wanted to compete with William Randolph Hearst and his magnificent folly down south.

But 100 years later, we can thank the man.   Or better yet, thank the City of Portland for purchasing the estate in 1964 and opening its doors and surrounding grounds to the public.

Henry Pittock rolled into this muddy frontier town by wagon train and found work as a typesetter for the weekly newspaper.  By 1861, he had become the owner and publisher and transformed the Oregonian into a successful daily.  He was a pillar of the community.  He needed a trophy house.  To reward his hard work.  To stroke his ego.  And . . .oh yeah . . . provide shelter for his large family.

At any rate, I got a kick out of reading the documentation during the self-guided tour.  For one thing, he had a very hard time finding "servants" to maintain his castle.  After all, Oregon was the Wild West.  There was no Downstairs, Upstairs class mentality.  The women who came here on the Oregon Trail were tough and independent.  They wanted to work in offices, factories or shops.  Not mop some rich guy's floors!

But the Pittocks were Oregonians and Oregonians, no mattter how rich, climb mountains, hike trails and love the outdoors.   Henry helped found the Mazamas climbing club.  His daughters spent every free moment in the woods behind this grand house.  I doubt whether a uniformed footman was waiting for them with lemonade on a silver tray. 

And that's why a comparison to Downton Abbey made me laugh.  The Crawleys were witnessing the end of an era in the 1920's--one that the Pittocks tried to emulate but couldn't quite grasp.

By 1958, the mansion overlooking the now booming city of Portland, was in a state of neglect and near ruin.  The remaining family moved out.

Most of the Pittock possessions and furniture had been removed so what we see now is a museum of the decorative arts with fine examples of Federalist, Classical Revival, Rococo Revival and Louis XVI on display.  The mansion creates a mood and makes us long for a life of privilege and wealth, even if a delusion.  From original photographs scattered throughout the house, the rooms never reached a level of fine art that we see today. 

The views from the back of the house are spectacular.  There are many walking trails open to the public that lead down to Washington Park.  This is urban hiking at its best.  I wasn't dressed for a three-mile hike down a muddy trail that day.  I was dressed like Mary Crawley.  Or Lucy Pittock.

And dreaming . . .dreaming . . .dreaming.  Of a time and a place long gone.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Test Garden of Roses

Exploring Portland

Don't know what I enjoyed most yesterday.  The overwhelming beauty of the garden.  The delicate fragrance that lingered in the air.  The drops of dew on petals.  The names like Sugar Moon, Mercury Rising and Champagne Wishes.  Or seeing a big, burly man lean over and smell a single rose and come up smiling.

All of the above, I suppose.
Portland's Test Rose Garden is located in Washington Park and is one of only 24 test gardens that develop new varieties of American roses.  There are four acres to walk through with 10,000 plantings.  Floribundas.  Grandifloras.  Hybrid Teas.  Shrubs. Climbers. Miniatures.  They are all here.

As well as other flowers.  And those beautiful, beautiful trees.

Note to self:

Buy some rose-scented perfume.

And return.