Photographers, it seems, cannot be hurried, but the stairs of Mt. Tabor had their part in his birth soon afterward.
We moved away from Portland when our son was small, and he recently observed that he had never actually seen Mt. Tabor; his view on that winter day had been somewhat obscured. So it was that he and I returned to the end of 69th Avenue on a chill January afternoon to observe his twenty-second birthday. Side by side, we climbed the stairs once again.
This 197-acre park is a Portland landmark, a tree-covered hill situated in a mostly-level residential southeast neighborhood. It is, in fact, a volcano, dormant but not necessarily extinct. It is part of the Boring Lava Field, named for the nearby town, not for the level of interest it generates. Put simply, Mt. Tabor was formed when a small amount of magma squeezed up through a fracture in the earth's crust; in fact, part of the cinder cone can still be seen inside the park.
Portland's connection with this hill officially began in 1888 when part of it was designated as a park. Over the years, city reservoirs were built on the hillsides and additional parcels of land were added. Specimen trees planted over 100 years ago still flourish in the rich volcanic soil. Our stairs were built in 1914, paved roads were laid down, and the growing population enjoyed their weekends in this pretty park. In the 1930s, visitors could rent horses to ride on the trails, and an old soapbox derby track remains on the slope above the reservoirs.
|Reservoir 5 and the soapbox derby track
|Cut-away section of the cinder cone
Before your visit, check out the Friends of Mt. Tabor Park's website. This excellent resource has information on everything you could want to know, from how to identify trees to how to adopt a park bench. Our stairway is only one small entrance. As seen on this map, Mt. Tabor is an easy place to find; in fact, it is visible from miles away.
Of course, the photographer lingered long in this bit of urban forest, just as he did 22 years before. The park invited us to stay and remember a part of Portland's history that had become part of our family's history, as well.
|Perhaps the world's most charming restroom