Rocky Butte - Winterlude 2021 - CycleBlaze

December 3, 2021

Rocky Butte

It’s hard to believe we have another cold but beautiful day here today.  I’ve only got a few hours, because Rachael and I are taking turns staying close to home so we can grab her much anticipated new bicycle saddle when it’s delivered today before someone walks out the door with it.

So where shall I go with my two plus hours?  Lots of options, but the Alphabet Quest helps narrow down the decision space.  I start with the short ride across the Broadway Bridge and north on Interstate to visit my favorite elm tree in town.

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In Overlook Park: Completely Defoliated Elm.
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It’s a surprisingly fine day, one that tempts me to bike east and up to the small park atop Rocky Butte.  When conditions are right it offers one of the best viewpoints in town.  I hadn’t really expected to get a day for it before we leave town in a few days, but this one looks like it might do.

I don’t bother mapping out a route because I know the general lay of the land in northeast Portland.  I just head east from Overlook Park after biking north to Skidmore to get across the freeway, and then look for a promising quiet street to continue east on.  Today it’s Mason Street, one not marked as a bike route and one I don’t believe I’ve ever ridden before today’s because it has several unfamiliar sights.

I’m not sure I’d ride Mason again, because it’s a little more challenging than the marked bike routes because some of the arterial crossings don’t have lights or crosswalks.  Fortunately though traffic is light this morning; and there’s enough of interest to have made it worthwhile.  For example, at the corner of Mason and Mississippi there’s the historic John Palmer House, now home to Heart of the Rose, “an intentional, nonprofit center for spiritual growth and community, promoting spiritual enlightenment, personal development, and deep healing, drawing upon many spiritual traditions and alternative healing methodologies.”  If we were planning on staying around longer I could enroll in their nine month long Shamanic Life Seminar.  Hmm - nine months biking in France and Britain, or nine months reprogramming myself for life as a shaman?  So many choices in life!

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On Mason Street: the Heart of the Rose.
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The Heart of the Rose.
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And, this being northeast Portland, this is a formerly primarily Black neighborhood in transition that is being gradually gentrified as the historic population is priced out.  Every other house has a BLM poster in the window or some other indicator of the current residents’ support for the Black community.  You can’t escape having mixed feelings as you bike through, here and there stopping to admire some beautifully restored home.

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On Mason Street.
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On Mason Street.
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Or, a few blocks further east there’s this curious small greenspace, the Sabin Community Orchard.  I’ve heard of and seen many community gardens of course, but this is the first community fruit orchard I’m aware of.  Fairly new, it’s cooperatively managed by the Portland Fruit Tree Project and Sabin Community Association.

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On Mason Street: the modest Sabin Community Orchard.
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On Mason Street: an A-frame Book Cupboard.
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Rocky Butte is an extinct volcanic cinder cone, a circular pile that rises about five hundred feet above the valley floor just south of the airport.  There are only two accesses to the summit by road - one that circles around the north side of the formation, and one that drops off the south side in an elongated double hairpin that crosses under itself through a short tunnel.  I decide to climb up the north side today because the hairpin descent is so much fun.  

I’m pleased to see I’ve found the right plan for the day when I come to the base of Rocky Butte, start circling its north flank, and get high enough up to see the northern horizon into Washington.  There’s a fog bank to the north, but it’s blue above and the layer looks thin enough that I imagine the mountains will poke through.

And I’m right.  It’s beautiful on top with great views of Hood, Saint Helens, and east along the Columbia.  One of the finest days I can remember being up here.  And I’m completely alone today.  It’s such a striking spot, but perhaps because it’s so small or enough out of the way it’s never very crowded up here.

At the top of Rocky Butte is the small Joseph Wood Hill Park.
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The view east from atop Rocky Butte.
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Lenticular cloud.
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Rich FrasierGreat Hood Image
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Rich FrasierThanks, Rich. It’s been a surprisingly good month for Hood shots. I imagine you’re feeling some mountain envy, stuck there looking at those puny eastern Pyrenees and Mount Caginou.
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1 month ago
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The practice shot, to get the framing and focus right.
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The view north.
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So that’s the ride.  I need to head home in case Rachael needs coverage for the saddle delivery so I make an efficient job of it, zipping down the hairpins and through the tunnel before heading west on Tillamook.  I do allow myself one brief stop crossing the Broadway Bridge to admire a pair of tugs in the river, but that’s it.  I could have taken my time though as it turns out.  The saddle delivery has occurred already, the saddle waiting on the table for me to install it; and Rachael is just stepping out the door for her own ride when I arrive.

Two tugs, from the Broadway Bridge.
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Suspension seat post, ergonomic saddle - all set for those mean streets of Tucson!
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Today's ride: 19 miles (31 km)
Total: 334 miles (538 km)

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