Every time I go back to visit friends and family in Portland, I go to one of my favorite places to walk. An upward stretch of trail along the Wildwood Trail between NW Cornell Road and The Pittock Mansion. If you have never been, I suggest it. It is lush and green and spectacular. There are hidden gems of color caught in the spider webs between the trees, mottled sunlight, ivy and ferns galore and at the end, a stunning mansion surrounded by lovely gardens.
I remember this particular place so well because when I first discovered it, it was an unexpected adventure. A little more than 14 years ago my brother and I were driving in my old, unreliable Ford Taurus, Norman. Norman was a temperamental beast with a tendency toward overheating. We were driving along NW Cornell Road, the temperature gauge was starting to go up and it would soon be time to pull over. Then I noticed a seemingly random trailhead and immediately pulled the car over and turned it off. Norman could cool down and we could explore this new location. My brother and I started walking. And it started raining. This is the Pacific Northwest, after all. But this didn’t stop us, nor did the mud. I wanted to know what was at the top and encouraged my brother onward. And you can only imagine how amazed we were to emerge from the forest to find a parking lot? It seemed strange and out of place. It was empty. We walked across it and for the first time caught a glimpse of the Pittock Mansion. Had there not been some commonplace items of our era it would have been like stepping back in time. Cautiously we got closer and examined the dark windows and grey terrace, almost certain we were trespassing. No one came out and yelled at us. So we stayed a little and walked around the garden before heading back to the trail to head down to Norman.
After some research, we learned that the Pittock Mansion was accessible to the public, open for tours and basically a museum. It had belonged to a business tycoon and is supposedly haunted. All very cool. But for us, that wasn’t what made the place so incredible. It was that moment of sheer delight. A spontaneous adventure that led somewhere, we had discovered the mansion ourselves with no prior knowledge of its existence. And each time I complete the little hike and emerge on the mansion grounds, I remember that feeling and I cherish it.
There was also that time when we hiked up to the mansion in the POURING rain to find a catered, formal event occurring on the grounds. Our dog, a dopey red Doberman named Ember, began to run around, into the tents and proceeded to get men in suits and ladies in dresses muddy. Cue Yakety Sax. Once we wrangled her, we booked it. Surely we would be yelled at that time. Didn’t stick around long enough to find out. We can only hope the people were dog lovers, as most Oregonians seem to be.
(Ember chewing on her (Nyla)bone. I cannot, for the life of me, find a picture of her looking at the camera! She was a little cross-eyed, so cute. Much sweet, less brains)