Portland’s SW quadrant (which is really a five-parceled city, but never mind that) is perhaps the most maddening one to navigate. The West Hills (more properly the Tualatin Mountains) slither down to the Willamette River, I-5 pushes its way through the space, the street configurations are dictated by the landscape, and the landscape is higgledy-piggledy, up-and-down-and around. Many, perhaps most, of the streets are discontinuous, and some disappear, like dry riverbeds, only to reappear a mile or so later, at what looks to the novice like a most unlikely place.
I am the navigator for Jer’s park pursuits, and Albert Kelly Park, in the southwest, flummoxed me. I had a Mapquest Map, which made finding the park seem easy. I had it marked on my Portland Street map. I knew the address. But we circled and ran into wrong turns, dead ends, apartment complexes out of which one could scarcely find one’s way, wild drivers on blind corners who were on their way to cocktails — oh, it was ugly. Even Jer, whose sense of direction seems innate, was bewildered. But finally, finally, we went down a street, turned this way and that, took the dead-end road with the trails sign, and there it was. Or there we thought it was. We had to ask a young courting couple if this was really the Albert Kelly, and while they didn’t know, they did know where the sign for it was.
The delight of this kind of landscape is obviously not in its navigability, but in the ways the parkland refuses to be rectangular.
We started at the playing fields at the park, but found ourselves down over a hill, circling a knoll, which looked like a magic savannah in the golden light. The path kept circling around to the playground, far out of sight of everything else, but tucked in beside a tributary of Fanno Creek, called Restoration Creek. It was such a small stream and so covered with foliage that it couldn’t be photographed, but the playground made a pleasant contrast to the greens of the surrounds.
One of the graces of this park are the large trees that the savanna-like space allows for. I was impressed by the size of the oak tree below. The groves of trees in Albert Kelly weren’t all evergreens, as they tend to be in the close-in parks in Portland. This tree, at least in my experience, is an extraordinary species.
And oh yes, these park photos were taken before the rains started. Obviously.