What to do, what to do?
On a typical Monday afternoon I do a volunteer shift at a local animal shelter, showing cats for adoption or doing a bit of socialization with them if things are slow. But this past Monday I had a quandary.
Winters in Portland are known for being wet. Grey skies are the norm and rain is not a stranger. This year, however, rain has become more than a friendly neighbor that waves as it drives past. It’s more like the prodigal son that returned to stay, spending its wealth freely on the local trees, streets, buildings, and dampened heads of all who dare venture out. February’s soggy bonanza has been especially rich; half way through the month we’ve already had 8 inches (20 cm).
So when Monday dawned clear the question posed itself. Do I pursue the do-gooder routine or do I pursue self-indulgence and take advantage of the weather, bringing my happy feet and camera to some local vista factory?
Chances are you’ve already guessed the result. The banner picture does not suggest heart to heart conversations about an orphaned cat. My wife and I chose instead to take a naturopathic treatment of vitamin D, administered via sunshine. Our clinic was Kelly Point Park.
First, a few random facts…
Kelly Point is in North Portland, at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. If you look closely, you can see the difference in the water color – the Willamette is muddier due to the rain runoff sloshing in from the Willamette Valley.
The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The river rises in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. It flows northwest and then south into the US state of Washington, then turns west to form most of the border between Washington and the state of Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. The river is 1,243 miles (2,000 km) long, and its largest tributary is the Snake River. Its drainage basin is roughly the size of France and extends into seven US states and a Canadian province.
The Willamette River is a major tributary of the Columbia River, accounting for 12 to 15 percent of the Columbia’s flow. The Willamette’s main stem is 187 miles (301 km) long, lying entirely in northwestern Oregon in the United States. Flowing northward between the Oregon Coast Range and the Cascade Range, the river and its tributaries form the Willamette Valley, a basin that contains two-thirds of Oregon’s population, including the state capital, Salem, and the state’s largest city, Portland, which surrounds the Willamette’s mouth at the Columbia.
As you could see from those gigantic floating bathtubs coming down the river, even though Portland is 65 miles (105 km) east of the ocean as the crow flies, we still get international shipping coming into town via the Columbia. The river route is about 80 nautical miles (90 statute miles or 145 km.)
With a name like Portland you’d expect some port land, and sure enough, next door to the park are terminals for shipping. All those cars with the white hats are fresh off the boat.
However, the port land isn’t the reason for the city name. But for a flip of a coin in 1845, Portland would be called Boston. Portland got its name when Asa Lovejoy, from Massachusetts, and Francis Pettygrove, from Maine, flipped for the naming rights. Lovejoy wanted to name the new settlement Boston. Pettygrove wanted to name the new town Portland. Guess who won?
But we weren’t there to eyeball the shipping, we were there to enjoy the sunshine and freshly scrubbed air, and wander on the paths and beaches.
We’re used to tall trees in the Pacific NW, but typically they’re variations of evergreen. Kelly Point’s forest runs to Black Cottonwood, some modest, some tall enough to make your cap fall off when looking up.
Mount Hood stands sentry over the region, and the recent copious rain had scrubbed off the haze. (See also the banner photo.)
Although the winter rains have seemed unending, signs of spring begin to appear. A giant floating bathtub provides a cherry background.
The mouth of the Willamette opens wide when meeting the Columbia, with silhouetted stumps providing an audience.
The mild euphoria from wandering around outside on a nice day, taking in the sunshine and negative ions from the flowing water proved the decision to shirk the cats and enjoy the weather was a good one. Even as the afternoon waned a new band of clouds began to creep in from the west, and the prodigal son’s rain returned.