The Portland Heritage Tree Quest: Group 2 - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

September 2, 2019

The Portland Heritage Tree Quest: Group 2

The Urge for Going

And I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town / It hovered in a frozen sky and gobbled summer down / When the sun turns traitor cold /And shivering trees are standing in a naked row/ I get the urge for going . . .   

                 Urge for Going, by Tom Rush

It’s overcast this morning and comfortably cool as I bike across the Hawthorne Bridge on my way to a coffee date with Bruce.  It’s nowhere near our first frost, but the change of seasons is definitely in the air lately.  Tom Rush’s song, an old favorite of mine, pops into my head for the first time in ages and I whistle and sing it all the way to the coffee shop. We leave for Santiago two weeks from today, and I’m definitely getting the urge for going.  

We’re at another transition point in our fragmented Portland stay.  Tonight is our last night at the Empress, and tomorrow morning we leave town for a week on an excursion centered on the Sisters Folk Festival before returning to Portland for yet a third Airbnb stay before finally leaving town for the season.

The Empress has proven to be a much better stay than we feared at first, but we’re both ready to move on.  For one thing, I’ve been counting down the number of remaining times I’ll need to do the Elevator Shuffle, the odd little dance I’ve mastered to get into the peculiar, slow Empress elevator: 

Stand on the right side of the bike / wait forever for the elevator to arrive / open the outer door / prop it open behind me with my left foot / open the inner gate / prop it open behind me with my right foot / squeeze the bike in between me and the two doors / Move my feet and get free of the rapidly closing doors / select my floor / wait forever to arrive / repeat the dance, in reverse.

It took me several iterations of this to hone in on the solution that works best.  For some reason it brings to mind the waggle dance of the bees that Maurice Maeterlink described in The Life of the Bee, a book from my youth back when I still thought I might become a natural scientist when I grew up.  I’m oddly a bit proud of mastering this new skill, but ready to move on to a different challenge.  Once more performance tonight, another tomorrow morning, and done!

I’m meeting Bruce for coffee this morning because that’s what we do when we’re both in town, but also to retrieve the Jetta that he’s been hosting for the last two weeks for us since there’s no parking at the Empress.  Before turning it over though, he gave it a once over to strip off the layer of English walnut fragments sprinkled over it, shredded and dropped there by the pesky squirrels feeding in the branches above.

One of the many reasons that Bruce is no great fan of squirrels.
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The Tree Quest, round 2

The Ride

Yesterday, Labor Day, I got an early start for round two.  I learned a lot from the first round, and am better prepared this time.  The big improvement is that I clustered my targets, so the eleven species I’ve targeted for the ride are all reasonably close together.  I mapped out an itinerary in advance, and loaded it to the Garmin so I can navigate more efficiently.  With only a 20 mile route planned out, I expect to be done and home by early afternoon.

The zone I’m targeting today is in the south, on both sides of the river.  I’ll pick up a few trees on the west side and then drop down through Riverside Cemetery to the Sellwood Bridge and cross over to the Sellwood neighborhood to view the remaining trees on the day’s list.  I’m out the door before seven heading to my old favorite the JoLa Cafe in Johns Landing, picked because it’s in the right direction and because it’s one of the few places open early on this holiday morning.

It’s solidly overcast when I arrive at JoLa.  The clouds are due to break up by mid-morning and clear completely in the afternoon, so I stay around the cafe for about two hours waiting for a bit of sun to come through so the photographic conditions will be better.

The Willamette is very still, almost pond-like this morning.
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Finally, about 9:30 I start off again.  Heading south on Corbett, I come to one of my least favorite little climbs in town and work my way up the ridge to Terwilliger Boulevard.  I dislike this climb even going downhill because it’s so steep, and really avoid going the uphill direction.  I use all my gears and feel proud of myself when I reach the top, feeling like the hardest work of the day is behind me now.  Wrong, so wrong.

It really doesn’t look that bad here, does it? What am I whining about? It’s deceptive though - the street on the left is sloping pretty steeply uphill also.
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The first two trees are only a few blocks apart from each other, in the Burlingame neighborhood.  I’ve biked past this neighborhood countless times going along Terwilliger, but have never veered off through the neighborhood itself.  It takes about one block of this to realize that it’s hilly as the Dickens.  It also doesn’t take long to realize that having the route loaded to the GPS doesn’t speed things up all that much because the trees aren’t marked as waypoints.  I’m on the right street, but I can’t actually find the trees without multiple stops to pull out the iPad again to look at the tree map.  It’s nearly as slow as it was the first time.

And, it’s a bit irritating to climb a few blocks up a steep street, and then pull out the iPad only to discover that the tree you’re looking for is two blocks behind you, back at the bottom of the hill you just labored up.  Slows things down a bit.

Finally, we’re at tree no. 1 for the day, a European beech. Like many we’ll see today, this one is on private land. I feel just a bit odd skulking around eyeing and taking photos of it.
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#106, Fagus sylvatica (European beech) height 94’, circ. 14.7’, listed 2014.
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#129, Platinus orientalis (Oriental plane tree) height 85’, circumference. 9.6’, listed 1997.
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We don’t get a very good look at our oriental plane tree, because it’s in a back yard surrounded by a solid wooden fence. Good thing I’ve got a zoom camera.
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The next tree is over in the Multnomah Village area, another part of town I’m not too familiar with.  Looking at my GPS though, it’s no help.  Somehow I left this tree off the route I had premapped, so I’m on my own again to pick out a route on the fly.  It’s a confusing neighborhood, hacked up by arterials, so this goes slower than it might have.  It’s not helped by the fact that this neighborhood too is quite hilly.  And the ride is now going to be longer than I’d expected, because this two mile detour wasn’t part of the original plan.

Still though, it’s worth the ride to see this beautiful Japanese cedar / Japanese redwood / sugi.

#52, Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese cedar) height 62’, circ. 9.2’, listed 1995.
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This is a member of the cypress family, but isn’t really a cedar. It’s the only member of its species, Cryptomeria. Also known as a sugi, or Japanese redwood.
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I like the way these needle clusters bunch up.
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The final tree on the west side, a silver maple, is quite a ways off from any other tree in the inventory.  It’s a couple of miles to the southwest in the Arnold Creek neighborhood west of Tryon Creek Park, just north of Lake Oswego.  I failed to include this one on my GPS route too, so the ride keeps getting longer than I’d expected.  And hillier.  This neighborhood is the worst of all, carved up by two steep sided routines.  By the time I make it back to Terwilliger again, I’ll have climbed nearly 2,000’ in the last 12 miles, most of it very steeply.  A good workout, but I had been thinking of this as sort of a rest day.

Very pretty. I make a mental note to appreciate it, because I may choose not to pass this way again.
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#263, Acer saccharinum (Silver maple) height 118’, circ. 20’, listed 2004.
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This is another tree you can’t get up close to because it’s in a fenced in a back yard. Fortunately, the fence has a knothole I could exploit.
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The silver maple gets its name from the silvery underside of its leaves.
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Bruce LellmanGorgeous shot. I'm a big fan of leaves of all sorts.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanI was really pleased with it too - it’s my favorite take from the day. I don’t think to look down at my feet often enough.
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3 months ago
Looking back west, before dropping steeply into the trough of Arnold Creek. Beyond that is another like it, Tryon Creek, before finally topping out back on Terwilliger.
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Dropping down Lancaster Road toward Tyron Creek. It’s hard work, but I’m glad the quest brought me this way. It feels like a place deserving of more exploration.
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Finally, twenty miles into the ride I’m dropping down through Riverside Cemetery toward the Sellwood Bridge.  This is more like it!  The rest of the ride goes smoothly and easily - I’m out of the flats, the trees are all close together and easy to locate, and I make quick work of the remaining five on the list.  By now it’s midafternoon, it’s getting hot, and I’m hungry.  Enough.  Time to go back for my penultimate performance of the Elevator Shuffle and to grab a bite to eat.

Crossing the Sellwood Bridge, I was surprised by the huge traffic jam. The whole neighborhood is snarled by folks trying to get to the big Labor Day festivities at Oaks Bottom.
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Ron SuchanekPeople are dopey. Getting in their cages and into a traffic jam to enjoy a holiday. Especially after sitting in traffic all week going to and from work.
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3 months ago
Jen GrumbyGood thing you encountered this traffic snarl on the new Sellwood bridge and not the old one!
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Ron SuchanekIsn’t that the truth though. I was thinking along the same lines myself as I rode past them.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYou’re right, that would have been awful. I just take the new bridge for granted by now, and haven’t thought of what a nightmare the old one was in quite some time.
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3 months ago
#136, Tilia Americana (Basswood) height 77’, circumference. 8.1’, listed 1997.
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I was surprised to see that basswood is in the same family as the linden (lime tree). Maybe this is the tree I saw in Irvington that I misidentified as a lime tree.
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Bruce LellmanI had a plastic gun when I was a kid that shot dried peas a few feet. My mother would get mad at me for using her peas but there were a few basswood trees on our property and I used these seeds in my gun. They weren't quite the right size but I'd use anything to fend off my brother.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanSeems like they could be effective against other varmints as well.
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3 months ago
The mockernut hickory, a tree I’ve never heard of, is probably my favorite discovery of the day.
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#32, Carya tormentosa (mockernut hickory) height 84’, circ. 9.3’, listed 1994.
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Towering. Also, full of squirrels although I wasn’t able to capture one here.
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Bruce LellmanThat's right, "capture" is the right thing to do with them.
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3 months ago
It’s an odd name, but apparently it’s a true hickory, with edible fruits. May live up to 500 years and grow to 100 feet. Native of the southeast United States.
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#16, Fagus sylvatica (copper beech) height 88’, circ. 18.1’, listed 1994.
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This copper beech was another tree I couldn’t get next to without trespassing. The swing gives a good sense of its size though.
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Jen GrumbyOh, I would love to swing on that swing .. and look up into that wise tree.
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3 months ago
Copper beech. Remember these leaves, because there may be a test at the end, three years from now.
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#115, Junglans cinerea (Butternut) height 34’, circ. 13.2’, listed 1996.
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Butternut leaves and bricks
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The butternut, like the hickory, is a member of the walnut family. Also a good squirrel magnet.
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Bruce LellmanI grew up on a beautiful piece of land in Minnesota called Butternut Ridge. I collected the nuts and cracked them for my mother to put in cookies. But none of our trees were this large. Back there they would get a fungus that would eventually kill them before they got huge like this one.
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3 months ago
#115, Castanea dentata (American chestnut) height 182’, circ. 10.7’, listed 1998.
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Sellwood is a pretty nutty neighborhood! These three nut trees are all within a few blocks of each other, along with English and black walnuts and horse chestnuts.
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Chestnuts have the most beautiful leaves.
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Keeping Score:

Round 1 (7 species):  grand fir, willow oak, hedge maple, Douglas fir, incense cedar, tulip tree, sugar maple.

Round 2 (9 species): silver maple, Japanese cedar, oriental plane tree, European beech, American chestnut, copper beech, mockernut hickory, basswood, butternut.

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Ride stats today: 27 miles, 2,000’

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Bruce LellmanI like your new project, Scott. But I'm very much a tree person too. I figure I've planted well over 100 trees in the various yards where I've lived and some on city land in the middle of the night.
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3 months ago
Ron SuchanekThis is a great quest. Very enjoyable to read while sitting here in our mall home in the sweltering suburbs of tree-challenged Denver.
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3 months ago
Jen GrumbyIf you haven't seen them yet, definitely check out Bruce's Stealth Mimosas.
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3 months ago