I read a fair amount. A one or two books a month. Nothing compared to my ethicist friend Emmi, but way more than a lot of people I know. There is one book I recommend to people at least once a month. Over and over again, the best book for any one who loves Portland or wants to learn to love it, is Portland Hill Walks: Twenty Explorations in Parks and Neighborhoods by Laura O. Foster.
Simply, it’s 20 guided walks in the City of Portland. (She has a new book, Portland City Walks, that covers the entire metro area, but I haven’t done many of those yet.) Each includes driving directions, a map, and beautifully written, thoroughly researched descriptions of the neighborhoods.
From the type of rocks on the side of the road, to the past owners of local homes, she knows it all. You are guaranteed to learn something. Here is my favorite bit of trivia I’ve learned from the book:
When they built the road to the Rose Garden (flower garden, not the basketball stadium) they did not have equipment strong enough/big enough to plow and flatten the road so they borrow the elephants at the zoo, hooked them up to plows and put them to work!
If they did that today people would freak, but it’s a fun story now. Another thing Ms. Foster can give you that any old guide book can not, is secret passages. Little public pathways, staircases and narrow passages hidden from view, she takes you through them.
The best walks for hidden staircases and trails are Walk 5: Goose Hollow & Walk 6: Council Crest. If you buy the book, do those first. Some other favorites of mine are Walk 18: Alameda Ridge Loop, that zig-zags you up and down a ridge filled with beautiful homes and Walk 20: Willamette Cove to St. John’s Bridge where you tour the very cute town of St. Johns and walk through Portland’s superfund site (now cleaned up). Sorry no photos. Go take your own!