Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Washington Park-Hoyt Arboretum Hike and Oregon Holocaust Memorial

Portland has a ton of cool parks.  Washington Park and the Hoyt Arboretum are no exception.  There are so many cool things to do in this vast expanse of space that you could come here a hundred times and not see it all. 

The week before my birthday my good friend Ann guided me on a super sweet Portland hike that included Washington Park, Hoyt Arboretum, and the Oregon Holocaust Memorial.   We didn't follow the same route described in my hiking book, but we still managed to get in over four miles of super cool hiking.

Ann (I call her Annabelle and she calls me Jodiata) met me at Zuppan's on Burnside and 23rd.  We walked a handful of steps up the sidewalk to a paved trail that led right into thick, beautiful woods drenched in mysteriously beautiful fog.  It was hard to reconcile how lovely it was with the fact that we were blocks from the urban core of a major metropolitan city.  Portland is SO SO SO cool!
Just steps  off a busy city street and blocks from the urban core.
Annabelle has lived in this area for years and she knows her way around the Portland trail system.  She told me the trail we were hiking on used to be the main road into the city and the round, metal rings embedded in the pavement were what patrons used to tie up their horses.  
Cool staircase on our hike. 
We hiked our way through the foggy forest and into the famous Rose Gardens of Washington Park.  The view of the city and mountain peaks was obscured by the fog, but I loved it.  It felt like we were walking through an enchanted garden.
Washington Park
Washington Park
The Rose Garden Offices looked similar to a stone bathroom house we saw earlier on our hike - beautifully maintained and repurposed.  Just lovely.
Rose Garden Offices
We hiked out of the Rose Gardens and along the fringe of the Japanese Gardens.  I came to the Japanese Gardens on a field trip in fifth grade and it made a huge impression on me.  I followed our tour guide around, committing to memory all the interesting facts.  When I got home I insisted that my family go see this gem of the city and toured them around, regurgitating every last piece of information from the field trip.  Annabelle and I opted not to tour the gardens, but we were able to walk around the outskirts and get a taste of how lovely they still are.  I'd love to go back this spring and meander through them with my camera.
Japanese Gardens
Japanese Gardens
After the Japanese Gardens we walked into a quiet residential area.  Annabelle knew how to navigate through the neighborhood and back out into the Forest Park trail system.  We followed the Wildwood Trail up into the main entrance of the Hoyt Arboretum.  Hoyt Arboretum means "tree museum" and the trails around the museum are named for the types of trees planted in each segment.  We wandered around on some of these trails then jumped back on the Wildwood Trail to head to our cars.
Hoyt Arboretum
Hoyt Arboretum
**NOTE:  I think the trail system in Forest Park is really complex and complicated.  There are signs at most trail junctions, but unless you know where you're going and have a general sense of direction, it's easy to get turned around and head the wrong way on the right trail.  I wouldn't venture into Forest Park without a trail map or a friend who knows the trails.
Gosh do I love this woman!
On our way back to the car, we stopped at the cute public bathroom, located in a small landscaped park.  While there I noticed a sign for the Oregon Holocaust Memorial so I followed it.  I nearly tripped over a bronze statue of a violin laying on the walkway.  It honestly took my breath away and I stopped in my tracks.  As I looked around, I got goosebumps.

A bench, framed by bushes, sat on the edge of the memorial. The bench represented a town square.  "During the Holocaust, many Jewish families were gathered in town square before being loaded onto trains and taken to concentration camps.  The square contains scattered bronzes of shoes, glasses, a suitcase, and other items to represent everyday objects that were left behind.  A European style cobblestone walkway with inlaid granite bars, simulating railroad tracks, led to a wall of history panels that offer a brief history of the Holocaust and quotes from Holocaust survivors."

I snapped this photo on my iPhone, but left my real camera in my backpack.  For whatever reason, I didn't feel right taking photographs in what felt like a sacred place
I followed the path to the rock wall.  As I read quote after sobering quote, I felt myself start to silently cry.  What a tremendous loss of life.  And for what?  Grief overwhelmed me.

At the end of the wall is a soil vault panel.  "Buried below the panel are interred soil and ash from six killing-center camps of the Holocaust.   The back of the wall is engraved with the names of people who died in the camps, followed by the names of their surviving relatives in Oregon and SW Washington."  

For the first time in my life, a small portion of the weight of unfathomable tragedy of the Holocaust rested on my shoulders.  It was suffocating.  Sobering and oh-so important.  If you are in the area, this memorial is worth your time.

Annabelle and I walked back to our cars in quieter conversation, mulling over what we had just seen. We finished our hike off with coffee from Barista on 23rd and lunch at Papa Hayden's.  It was absolutely wonderful.

I highly recommend taking a day to enjoy all the best that Portland has to offer.  Great hiking.  Beautiful parks.  A moving memorial. Delicious food.  And of course, some of the best coffee in the country.

What I can't offer you is time with a woman was wonderful as Annabelle.  THAT - you will have to find on your own.

Happy hiking!

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