I have a tiny confession to make. There were a few years of my life when I was obsessed (with a capital O) with Laura Ingalls Wilder. If I remember correctly, it was less about Michael Landon or Melissa Gilbert and more about the Little House books. I had the box set. My mom started reading me bedtime stories before I can even remember. In a house full of kids, chaos and busy schedules, that time that my mom and I spent reading before bed turned into our special one-on-one time that I looked forward to all day. We savored those moments well past the transition when I became the reader. I remember taking turns and Laura’s stories of pioneer days on the prairie hold those magical memories for me of laying in bed reading with my mom.
I vividly remember Laura’s description of the prairie and the way the wind blew the tall grass. I’m sure those images are mingled with the TV interpretation of the prairie where Laura lived. What I didn’t know until recently is that there’s a meadow that looks exactly the way I imagined Laura’s prairie looking right here in Portland. Powell Butte Nature Park is one of my new obsessions. A hike through its nearly 610 acres of meadowland and forests will do your soul some good – and, if you’re anything like me, leave you looking for the Ingalls’ sod house.
The park is about a 15 minute drive from our house, straight out east on Powell to 160th. Brent took me there for the first time earlier this summer. He’d been raving about how cool it was. I have to admit that when we pulled into the parking lot, I was skeptical of his assessment. The dusty picnic area was overrun with kids eating lunch. The day was hot and after an uphill walk on a paved path in the beating sun, I was sweating and concerned that our “fun hike” was feeling a lot like exercise. I beat down my bad attitude with the promise of what I could tell was going to be a spectacular view of St. Hellens and Hood. Thankfully, I was right. After a short walk, the paved path ended and the trail opened up into an awesome meadow at the top of the butte. A loop around that meadow boasts spectacular panoramics of the city to the west, St. Hellens to the north and Hood to the east.
The meadow itself has that blowing tall grass that channels the little house. And when we were there earlier this summer, there were literally thousands of daisies dancing in the breeze. The more you walk, the more there is to see. I took tons of photos. There is a money shot of Mt. Hood to be had there, but the summer haze has been my nemesis. I’m looking forward to clear blue skies this fall, so I can capture the mountains in all their awesome glory.
Over 600 acres is a lot to explore and in our few trips there, I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface. Each path seems to hold its own set of secret marvels. It’s difficult to believe that such a gorgeous natural oasis exists within the city limits.
Add Powell Butte to your list of PDX parks to visit. I can guarantee that this isn’t like any other urban park you’ve romped through. Bring your camera and your hiking shoes and prepare yourself to explore a scenic haven. Let me know if you get the Little House vibe as strongly as I did. If nothing else, it inspires thoughts of a simpler time in a beautiful setting.