Crystal Rhodies


Geese are not known to have the sweetest dispositions. Despite its idyllic surroundings, this one, only a couple feet away from my bare leg, eyed me with fowl intent.

The goose in question makes his home at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens in Portland, Oregon. We had come on a pilgrimage to this site, not so much to visit the geese and their cousins, but to take in the Rhodies, which at this time of year should be in their full glory.

Canadian Geese and Gosling

Every year on Mothers Day, especially when the weather is as sunny as Mom’s smile when the kids are being cute, the filial mob descends on the gardens to treat their mothers to a feast of flowers. Knowing this, my wife and I skipped the worst of the crowd and went the Monday before.

We had another motive as well: although Mothers Day is usually perfect timing for perfect blossoms, the weather this spring has been unusually warm and everything is blooming early. Five days of record high temperatures in April will do that.  I heard something about global warming somewhere…

Although we were a week ahead of the usual peak, this year that was already a week late. There were still plenty of flowers in fine fettle, but there were also some that were shriveling, and a few more that had closed the show and let their petals flutter to the garden path.


The Portland Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society created the original garden in the early 50’s, in conjunction with the City of Portland. It sits between liberal arts bastion Reed College and the Eastmoreland golf course in southeast Portland. It has grown over the years, and now includes over 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas, and companion plants.

B_20160502_145921-2.jpegThe garden is a city park, but is maintained by volunteers from the Portland Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society, the Friends of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, and the Master Gardeners program. They are also responsible for education programs and special events. Because of its special nature $4 admission is charged in prime season, March through Labor Day.  Even then, Mondays and Tuesdays are free.
So what’s the crystal part? The grounds include Crystal Springs Lake, which, as you might surmise, are fed from an underground spring. This makes the waters highly filtered and clear enough to see bottom.

It also attracts ducks, geese, and those who feed them. It is not uncommon to see folks wandering about, baggy of crushed corn in hand, often with kids on one side and critters on the other, both with looks of expectation.


My wife and I had not been to the garden for several years and were happy to see them healthy. I was looking forward to getting good photos, digital SLR in hand, alternate lens stashed on the side. After cresting the higher of the two bridges and attempting an overlook shot, I learned an obvious lesson.

Apparently, digital SLR’s don’t work too well without an SD card. I’d left it at home, plugged into my laptop.

So once again I fell back to the cell phone camera. Little did I know, a year ago  when I broke down and got a smartphone, that the little bugger would be so useful.
As for that goose we met early on, his intent was more fowl than foul and I was not risking battle scars on my shins by wearing shorts. Perhaps if I’d have ventured closer to his mate’s gosling he’d have wielded his beak as a broadsword, but he was more interested in wielding it as a shovel, hoping I’d lay a pile of crushed corn in his path.

And the walk through the gardens among the flowers and reflective ponds provided both serenity and diversion – a lovely way to spend a spring afternoon.


39 thoughts on “Crystal Rhodies

    1. It was lovely. Although in hindsight, maybe I should have gone early in the day. I’m taking a photo course, and it keeps reminding me the best light is closer to sunup and sundown.

      Guess that’s one reason I’m not a pro photographer – I don’t like to get up before the sun.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and the ducks and other creatures too. We even saw a raccoon on the side of the lake which surprised me a bit – in our neighborhood they tend to be more nocturnal.


    1. We see wild rhodies in the Cascade range as well, although I understand they’re more common in southern Appalachia. I have the impression they originated in Asia, around Nepal/Tibet – if that’s really true I wonder how they got over here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, you can be sure I am going to look that up! One of the first things I noticed on my trek in Nepal was that there were rhododendrons everywhere. I told everyone who would listen that the early parts of the base camp trail reminded me of Appalachia! Now I am going to look into this connection!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. pinklightsabre

    The smartphone, well yes: me too, I use that camera much more than the good one. It’s so easy! Can even soft boil an egg, mine can!

    I know that Reed College you mention here — had a nice walk there with my friends one time, came around the corner and bumped into some girl who was just like, enjoying nature — in a very pure, Portland way. Do you know what I mean by that, how it seems to me that some people in Portland just have this glow, like they’re so happy and healthy? It kind of makes me irritated, makes me want to make fun of them. But that’s my blog, not yours. I’ll take my dirty shoes back home now Dave. — Bill

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually find the good camera much easier to use. Focus and exposure is more reliable, glare on screen while framing isn’t an issue (rangefinder), composing is much faster and easier to see in strong light. As far as I’m concerned the only advantage to the smartphone camera is it’s light and much more portable.
      Seems like Seattle types would be like Portland types as far as the nature thing. Or are they just always grouchy because of the traffic?


      1. pinklightsabre

        I think we’re just grouchy because, well, I don’t know. It irks me to think about but I find joy in being irked. Maybe that’s it……there’s definitely a difference though, and I’m a bit envious of what you’ve got going down there. It’s really good. How about that Fort George beer, speaking of really good? We have the Fremont beer here though, and that’s hard to beat (and not exported out if state, so I understand). Bill

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks like a beautiful park. Nice the geese decided to let you enjoy it. Down here in the SF Bay Area, the geese in some areas are more of a public nuisance. Goose droppings everywhere, and walking on a lawn becomes an exercise in tiptoe ballet at times.
    Like you, I prefer real cameras but have to admit that for many things, the cell phones work very well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have a few ballet stages like that around here too. I was actually wondering if they have staff to sweep up the nasties, I saw little of it. Or maybe they’re potty trained.


  3. Fantastic photos and look at my home sweet home ~ actually from Pendleton, OR and live in Seattle when I am back in the States – but Portland tops most cities I’ve ever visited. Your shots of Crystal Spring Lake are fantastic, makes me want to check out this park when I am next in town. Cheers to a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know much about Hong Kong. It seems like one of those places that would be interesting to visit, but I don’t know that I’d want to live there. Too big and chaotic. But I bet it brings you interesting stories.


      2. Step into the outer areas of HK, and it is another world. Many islands (I live on one), hills to hike, the empty grasslands of the New Territories, marshlands…another dimension that I’ve fallen for 🙂 For me the PNW and HK offset each other yet compliment each other so well.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a soft spot for Canadian geese, and the goslings are so cute. Unfortunately, they’re regarded as something of a pest here. Interesting to hear you’re having an unusually warm spring; we’re having an unseasonably warm autumn.

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. The photos from your Smartphone look like Hollywood stills next to the amateur unrecognizable shots I capture with my stupid, clam-shell phone. Yeah, I’m still in the age of dinosaurs when it comes to phone technology. I even have a land line, if you can believe that.

    Idyllic spot. Wish I was there!

    Liked by 1 person

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