Friday, April 28, 2017

The Belmont District

Exploring Portland

Everyone I meet seems to have a favorite Portland neighborhood.  I've covered most of downtown and the Pearl District; it's now time to go further afield.  Two weeks ago I accompanied my travel buddy to his Mazamas Climbing Class, which happened to be . . . yes . . . in this charming area of Portland called the Belmont District.  It's in the southeast area of Portland, roughly bordering SE Stark Street, SE Morrison Street and SE Belmont Street between SE 12th and 60th.  I had a whole afternoon to explore the shops, parks and restaurants of Belmont.

And I must say, I had the best falafel of my life at a little food truck called Aybla's Mediterranean Grill.  Freshly deep fried and stuffed into a doughy pita pocket. Smothered with tahini sauce, thinly sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.  Absolutely delicious!

Then I bought a funky pair of red-rimmed sunglasses and set off for a long, long walk.

I got lucky with the sunshine, blue sky and flowering shrubs and trees.  With all the rain we have gotten this year, Spring has brought an over-abundance of blossoms.  Ornamental trees, heavy with blooms, were around every corner.  The colorful "painted ladies" and outsider art completed this chromatic mosaic.  Let me tell you . . . I was one happy shutterbug.

Being a Saturday afternoon, the streets were filled with people.  There are numerous coffee shops and bistros and bars along Belmont Street.  And they were all packed. Even a self-serve growler re-fill station, which had me intrigued.  It was very tempting to stop for a second lunch at one of the many Thai restaurants, but I behaved and opted for a chai latte instead. I think Portland rivals Seattle for coffee shops!

I'm not sure who got the better workout that day:  me or my travel buddy.  Walking aimlessly around city streets is my favorite kind of cardio!

I can't wait to explore more of Portland's crazy neighborhoods.  

Keep Portland Weird

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Colonial Style Carnegie

Collecting Carnegie Libraries
Goldendale, Washington

People in Goldendale, Washington (Population: 3,452) are very proud of their stately Carnegie Library.  When we were there a few weeks ago, the place was filled with folks of all ages.  There were even groups of teenagers!  I chatted with the librarian who had been there for 30 years and she beamed when I told her the building was a real beauty.

"We're doing another remodel this summer," she told me.  Back in the 1980's, this little town had a series of fundraisers to add the two modern wings.  The additions blend in well with the original classic style, which was opened in 1914.  In 1985, the library was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

She also told me that Carnegie insisted on stairs leading up to all of his libraries--something I did not know.  "They lead up to learning," she said.  A wonderful metaphor.
As I continue my search for these original Carnegie Libraries, I become more and more fascinated by their history.  For one thing, many of them were started by women's groups and this was back before women in America had the right to vote.  The local women belonging to the Women's Association of Goldendale raised $800 to purchase the lot.  They then applied for a grant and Andrew Carnegie came through with a whopping $8,000.  The very first free library in Klickitat County was erected.  When it opened, it contained 400 precious books.

These stories are very uplifting and I am beginning to think the remaining Carnegie Libraries in America should be protected.  I wonder if anyone has ever nominated them for World Heritage Site status.

Hmmm.  Something to look into.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Big Ole Log Cabin

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

When we first decided to move up here to the Pacific Northwest, we looked at several log cabins tucked away in deep dark forests.  We envisioned ourselves sitting by a roaring fire at night.  While kneading my daily bread, I would look out my window and see deer and bears.  Maybe even Sasquatch.   (Get a Pulitzer!) My travel buddy would get a hunting license.  Become a master craftsman.

 But our fairy tale burst once we started thinking about upkeep and snakes and other unwanted critters.  Weeks of being snowbound without electricity.   And  . . .okay, days upon days without seeing another soul.

We bought a nice, new condo instead.
So when we drove by this old abandoned log cabin in Appleton, Washington, we screeched to a stop.  All those romantic notions returned big time.  What a beauty this woodsy palace was.  Huge logs stacked up to form four solid walls.  A moss covered roof.  Charming dormers.  Who had built such a place?
A community of people, that's who.  Back in 1912, Appleton had big plans.  There was an apple boom.  The little town was going to get rich.  Grow and prosper.  They needed a town hall.  A place to gather and make plans.

Today, Appleton is not a ghost town but almost.  Someone (Thank you Someone) took the time and effort to put a fence around this beauty.  There's a playground behind it and down the street, a tiny post office.  But not much more.  Its population has dwindled to a mere 264.

During my travels, I've seen many such towns implode like this one.  But there's always something worth saving and that something still has the power (a hundred years later) to make people like me stop and look.  Admire.  And keep on dreaming.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Who the Heck was A. J. Bolon?

. . . and why does he have a monument dedicated to him?

This post is about connecting the dots.  It's what makes traveling so much fun.

On a recent road trip through Klickitat County in south central Washington, we stopped at a Heritage Marker, west of Goldendale.  There was an interesting map and comments about an old military road that traversed these parts back in the mid 1800's.  There used to be a fort here where the cavalry were garrisoned and which served as a resting place for the many immigrants who were making their way to the west coast territories.

But why had it been built in the first place?  There's nothing out here, but trees and rivers and elk.

Because of A. J. Bolon, that's why.

And then something I had read at the Oregon Historical Society a few weeks ago, jarred a memory.
I grew excited.  "Bolon had something to do with the Indian Wars," I said.  "We gotta go find this monument."

But finding it was not easy.  The above map is over-simplified.  There are back roads upon back roads out here in the boonies.  We flagged down a mail carrier for directions when we couldn't find Cedar Valley Road.  She gave us a funny look and finally said, "Well, it's pretty far and the road is pretty rough."

"That's okay," I said.  "We've come this far."

So she pointed us down an unnamed dirt road and told us to keep going straight until we crossed Pine Forest Road.  Then follow Cedar Valley Road which turns into Monument Road (duh) where we would find the marker.  (Note to the Klickitat County Historical Society--You really need a more accurate map!)

But we first came upon this:
A gravestone type monument informing us that Bolon was killed 4 1/14(!) miles from this spot.  Uh.
Very peculiar.

Then, as luck would have it, a woman on horseback showed up and we asked her, "So where's the actual monument?"

She looked at us (in the same funny way the mail carrier had) and then looked at our van.  "Sorry, guys, there's no way you can make it up there.  It's another five miles up on a steep, muddy, icy dirt road.  Your van won't make it."  She said this with such conviction that we believed her, and for once in our lives decided the prudent thing to do was to turn around.
Even so, we've been talking nonstop about the history of this region and the huge, huge gap in our American History textbooks.  Native Americans inhabited this area for thousands of years before their land was suddenly taken from them.  In the Oregon and Washington Territories, treaties were reluctantly signed by the Yakama Nation and other tribes.  In return for recognition of U.S. Sovereignty they were awarded money and provisions, reserved lands where white settlers were prohibited and half of the fish in the territory in perpetuity.  This treaty was signed in the summer of 1855.  But many of the Indians were unhappy.  Skirmishes resulted and finally, a full on war erupted. It lasted for three years.

And A. J. Bolon was the spark.

For one thing, white settlers were not honoring the treaty.  They were encroaching on reserved lands because gold had been discovered.  These miners were a rough lot.  They abused the native women and the Yakama took their revenge.  Many of the miners were killed.   And so Indian Agent A. J. Bolon set out alone from Ft. Dalles to try to find out what was going on, but he never returned.  Rumors started to fly.  Panic ensued up and down the Columbia River.  The Cavalry was called in.

It was later discovered that Bolon had indeed been killed by a couple of hot-blooded young warriors; he had been stabbed, his horse shot and his body and personal effects burned.  There is a stone marking where this happened up on a muddy, icy road in the middle of nowhere.

Yes, it's a sad story and perhaps he should be honored.  Very quietly.  After all, this was a tumultuous time in our country's history.  There were wrongs committed on both sides. But where are the monuments to massacred Native Americans?  Where can their stories be found?

I'm not here to judge.  Just to learn the facts.  And that's why I love traveling down these forgotten roads, going to museums, stopping at Heritage Marker signs.  It's all about connecting the dots.
Next on my list is the Yakama Nation Cultural Center, located in Toppenish, Washington, to hear their side of the story.  And who knows?  Maybe I'll find another obscure, but fascinating monument to a fallen martyr.  A Native American one.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Glacier Lilies

Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest

The lemon-colored Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) is another early Spring bloomer.  Like the daffodil, as soon as the snow melts, it finds its way through the cold earth to welcome the new season.  I found patches of these bright yellow beauties along the trail to McCall Point in the eastern Columbia River Gorge.  I love the way the pedals swing upward toward the sun to form a cup around its stamen.  Easy access for bees!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Elfin Shooting Stars

Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest

"Is this flower for real?" I asked aloud to no one in particular.  And then I laughed at myself, amused by my own childlike wonder of this new world I am exploring up here in the Columbia River Gorge.  I've always loved flowers, especially wildflowers, but I had never taken the time to really study them, learn their names, take photographs.  My vocabulary might have included poppies and yellow mustard, but usually it was, "Oh, look at those purple flowers.  Aren't they pretty?"

So enamored by this explosion of color after a long white winter, I find myself hiking every single day in search of a new bloom.  I bought Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest by Mark Turner and Phyllis Gustafson and it has become a staple in my messenger bag, along with wallet, cell phone and camera.
So diminutive, unless you get a close-up look, you might not register their unusual shape--a star pointing downward.  The name is apropos.  And utterly charming.  Shooting Star.

This time of year there are fields of them on the Washington side of the East Gorge and yesterday, I saw more on the Oregon side.  They love moist soil, rich in humus and fine sand which is deposited aplenty by the fierce winds that blow in these parts.
On a side note, Spring is arriving a bit late up here, not like the rest of the country.  But that's fine with me.  I hope that Spring lasts long into the Summer; that the flowers keep blooming and blooming and blooming.  Shooting up from the earth and aiming for the sky.