Powell Butte Nature Park, Portland OR

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A whimsical expression, embedded into the path, greets us at the entrance to the trails around Powell Butte.

 

Ever determined to put some muscle into my flabby hind end, I decided to heed the advice of a lovely member of one of my groups.  Reggie is an inspiration to everyone she meets.  She has been walking with the Volkswalking group for 28 years.  It’s interesting all the little worlds out there that we don’t know anything about.  There are 14 Volkswalking clubs in Portland, with many more around the state and literally thousands around the world.  They offer the amazing opportunity to get out and walk – at your own pace.  Do it alone, in pairs, in groups…..whatever works for you and your tootsies.  Best of all, the walks cover a range of time.  You don’t have to be there at dawn, shivering in your shorts with 600 other strangers (all looking better in spandex than me), clutching a water bottle in one hand and a Starbucks coffee in the other.  I love the casual, yet organized, atmosphere of these folks!  The easiest way to find out all about their walks (and others) is to visit http://walkoregon.org/

For months Reggie has talked about Volkswalking.  Deciding to get off the couch and onto the path is a big step for some of us.  It can take days, weeks, even years to turn off the television and go for a walk.  It’s no problem to get up, drive to the store, buy ice cream and return to the couch; but go for a walk?  Now that takes so much effort!

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Reggie, the Volkswalker. How can you resist that smile?

Reggie’s giant smile and gentle persuasion finally got to me, and out loud I committed to the walk at Powell Butte.  Granddaughter Ellie was enthusiastic to accompany me and husband George rolled his eyes, released the lever on his recliner, and agreed to go.

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The entrance Powell Butte Nature Park is located at SE 162nd & Powell in Portland, Oregon. Follow the signs up the hill and there is a parking lot at the Welcome Center.

 

The club sponsoring the walk had a tent set up in the parking lot of a nearby church.  The walk was free, but donations were gladly accepted.  We filled out a registration form, the copy to be returned when we completed the walk.  This was reassuring; if we got lost or had a mishap, they could report us missing.  I had heard that a cougar had been recently spotted in the park.  If I am honest, facing down a full grown mountain lion in his own neighborhood, does make me a bit nervous.  Okay, I made sure to have a Poise panty liner, in case it happened.  Part of me wanted to clutch the club ladies legs and make her swear it wouldn’t get us, but my granddaughter was there and I didn’t want to scare her.  So, I casually mentioned that I had heard about it.  A volunteer laughed and said with all the people on the trial today, we probably wouldn’t be lucky enough to see it.  Lucky….?  Laughing, I replied “What a great way to put it” I replied.  Inside, I was thinking it was easy for her to say, sitting at the base of our extinct volcano park, far away from the cougar’s lunch location.

George’s feet were bothering him, so we opted to do the 6K walk, over the 10K.  A free shuttle drove us up the side of the old volcano to the Welcome Center.  There is a great display of the history of the area.  It is still used as a underground water storage (what do you do with an old volcano?  Fill it up with water for the city, of course!).  There was also a nice warning sign:

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I love the part about staying calm while you are about to be eaten. And don’t forget to hold those portable lunch items, like pets and children!

But enough of the fear factor!  The chances of being eaten by a deranged sample lady at Costco are way higher than being attacked by a cougar.  At least I hope so!

The trials were wonderful, packed gravel and very well-maintained.  This was the weekend, and there were a lot of folks, but the expanse is large and we never felt crowded.  In fact, I took comfort in being able to view fellow walkers in the distance, it decreased the opportunity to see a mountain lion.

George’s feet betrayed him, and he made it as far as the first resting bench.  Fortunately, it was shaded and he had his beloved cell phone with him.  We had forgot his book in the car, but this is a man who is never happier than checking out Facebook and keeping current on the latest governmental shenanigans.  Ellie and I hiked on, ready to enjoy the stupendous views.

At the top of the butte, there is a lovely spot called Mountain Finder Circle.  From this vantage point you can see five snow topped mountains in the distance, including Mt St Helens and Mt Hood.

Ellie, aged 14, is an enthusiastic hiker/jogger, who kept encouraging me to jog with her.  My winter couch potato legs were not in shape to jog more than 50 yards at a stretch, but she stifled her disappointment, and cheerfully walked at a more sedate pace.  I call it “Spirited Senior Stride.”  She probably calls it “Old Fart Amble,” but she is too sweet to say it out loud.  She contented herself by taking amazing photos of the park.

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It was warm, but not hot.  Despite it’s urban location, it felt like we were miles away from the city.  This park covers an entire volcano – we aren’t talking a small neighborhood park.  The air was fresh and filled our lungs with the scent of flowers, grass and pine trees.  The terrain was easy to walk on and very well maintained.  Trails are well marked, and easy to navigate.  It was impossible not to stop and admire the blooming wildflowers.

 

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There are a lot of trails in the park, and we were following the Volkswalking route, using a printed sheet.  At one point, we misread the directions and took off down the wrong trail.  Up to this point, our route had been mostly out in the open and not down secluded trails.  Suddenly, our path started downhill, into the trees.  It became darker, and more private.  The sounds changed from meadow sounds to those of the forest.  It was lovely, and I was breathing deep the smell of the trees, when it dawned on me that this might not be the right path.  And we were very much alone.  Up to now, I had forgotten Mr. Cougar, out for his Saturday lunch buffet.

We stopped, looked at our map and wondered out loud if we had wandered off the route.  It’s funny how you can feel so relaxed at one moment and then nervous the next.  Having my granddaughter there made my old maternal hormones rise up from their wrinkled crevices, and they said “Turn around and walk out of there!”

As we walked back, I casually mentioned what to do in case we met Mr. Cougar.  I know it is extremely rare that a cougar will attack, but as a I showed Ellie how you can grab the ends of a sweater and pull it up over back of the head to appear large and menacing.  Easy for me, because I had a  sweater on.  She was wearing a t-shirt.  Ellie stopped dead, turned to me and laughingly said “I am not lifting up my shirt and have my stomach show!”  I explained it might not be the time to be worrying about making a fashion statement, and we just needed to appear large.  Later, I realized that she may have meant she didn’t want to expose her tender tummy to something with large teeth.  Need to ask her about that!

After a discussion about the probability of poking an eye out of a cougar who is actively  trying to make you lunch (see the Fight Back section in the poster), we decided we would just quickly walk back to where we had turned off. Even though “Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, oh my” from the Wizard of Oz that kept dancing in my head, we still were having fun.  Nothing like the little threat of danger to make the outing exciting…  We soon we were back in the open and happily enjoying the mountain views, once again.

We wound our way back down the friendly old volcano, gathered George up and headed back to our Volkwalking booth.  We checked in and thanked them for setting up the event and making it so easy.  This is a great organization!  Remember, you can check them out at walkoregon.org

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Pleased that we could now contemplate eating lunch, as opposed to being a lunch, we headed off for a culinary adventure.  Ellie has a pretty adventurous palate, so I suggested we try a new Somalian restaurant, called Salama International Bazaar.  It features East African cuisine and hosts a Somalian mini mart and restaurant.  English is not their first language, but the gents who run the place are friendly and the food is amazing.  Check them out at salamainternationalbazaar.com . It is located in a strip mall on the northeast corner of 122nd and Glisan, Portland Oregon.

Not only can you get Shaqlan (Calooley), which is goat stomach sauteed with garlic, onions, peppers, and Somali spices, you can get a hamburger.  Now that is international!  George had a chicken dish with spaghetti (an Italian/African fusion plate), Ellie had a tasty lamb shank, and I had salmon.  No takers on the goat stomach.  I kind of regretted this, when I ate meat I really loved a Mexican dish made from pork stomach, but I don’t think there is a vegan version readily available….

The prices are reasonable, their rice is amazing – and they definitely have large portions.  This made the consumption of rice difficult for me.  There was probably at least a three cup serving on the plate, and this did not make it easy to eat the 1/2 cup portion that works best for me.  I cannot tell a lie, I did not eat all of the rice on my plate…only half.  And I didn’t stop to calculate if I had earned enough activity points to cover the rice points!  Dipping into those weekly bonus points, I know!

I waddled slowly back to our car, feeling contented with our day.  Just as I reached a car, three men came rushing out of the restaurant.  They said “Wallet” over and over.  I knew we had paid the bill, and wondered if George forgot to tip.  I smiled, seriously wishing I knew one word of Somali.  Finally, one of the pointed to the door and said again, “Wallet.”  As I walked back to the door, it dawned on me that I had left my purse hanging on the chair at our table.  I grabbed it and we all looked relieved.  What nice guys!

On the way home we stopped and bought a flat of fresh Hood strawberries.  My granddaughter thought they looked over-ripe.  I pointed out that this was what a REAL strawberry looked like when picked ripe.  She tasted one and declared it delicious.  She is used to seeing them in the grocery store, and there isn’t any similarity.  We finished the evening with fresh strawberries sprinkled with cinnamon, almond slices and a bits of angel food cake mixed in.  A tasty end to a lovely day.

Map of Powell Butte Nature Park: