Posts filed in: May 2012

Garden Grows

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I have been enjoying our little veggie patch so very much lately. I love being out there. I put my little garden bench in between the beds, put my feet up on the boards, and contemplate much. So far the slugs have been held at bay, thanks, I guess, to Sluggo and crumbled eggshells around the most heavily damaged beets. Everything is in the ground now, and I've planted a new round of spinach and lettuce in between other, slower growing things like the butternut squash and potatoes (though now that those have come up they are growing like crazy, so hopefully there will be enough sun for the lettuce planted around them). Some things, like the cucumbers and squash, look stunted; they seem happy enough, but they haven't gotten much bigger at all. My cabbage definitely has tiny holes, most likely from cabbage worms, though I haven't seen them or any evidence of them other than the holes; I may do something about it if they get worse.

People in the neighborhood have asked me why I put the little rock circles around certain plants. I put them there because I was too lazy to go up and get the wheelbarrow to collect the rocks after we used them to hold down those little paper tents a few weeks ago. I think they are expecting a different answer, but no, just lazy old me. They probably do offer a little bit of warmth and protection after all, maybe?

We planted ten more foxgloves this last week. They are one of my favorite flowers but they don't seem to ever reseed themselves for me. Apparently I have trouble with the whole "biennial" concept. Some of mine come up as rosettes of leaves with no flowers year after year. Or what seems like the one exact same plant flowers year after year. Could that be? I feel like I've been trying to grow them for ten years now and and am no wiser to their fairyland ways.

Woodland Birthday

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Oh, sweetest of summer afternoons!

After-Dinner Storm

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A little dinner party on Saturday night with our dear old college friend Kurt and his darling wife, Sheena, who were in town briefly from San Fran. For coffee and banana cake, we went outside to the chairs. Within a half an hour, the sky turned from beautiful, bright sunset gold to pewter gray, flat and lavender-ish. Kurt is a fellow Midwesterner — this looks like tornado weather, we all said. Within minutes, big drops started to fall. The boys ran around putting all of the pillows and hammock blankets away. A hole in the sky continued to shine a spotlight on our little pale green apple tree (just to the left of the hammock). Within a few more minutes it was pouring. Rain, thunder and lightning — the whole works. It was so thrilling. We sat in the doorway of the kitchen and watched it. We headed to the living room and lit a bunch of candles and opened all the casement windows. It was awesome. And so rare — it really almost never rains like that here. Very good end to a dinner party!

Thank you for all of your incredibly kind comments on my peony story. They made me feel really happy — thank you.

*** Today is my sweetest love's birthday: Andy Paulson turns 41! ***


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When I was a little girl there was a lady on our block named Mrs. Schleeter. (I have no idea how to spell her name, but that's what it sounded like.) She lived across the street from us and one house down. Her house was like a little brick cabin; it was very different from the other houses on the street. For one thing, it was small and only one story. It had a large side yard, and a winding path down to the sidewalk. The forested train embankment rose up behind the little house, the way it did for all of the houses on that side of the street. Mrs. Schleeter was old. Long black calico skirts and aprons, long white hair pulled into a bun, a men's plaid wool coat in the winter, men's boots, a cane in a bony hand. I remember my father telling me once that she had told him (possibly in the only conversation they had in the twenty-five years my parents lived there) that she and her husband had bought the house many decades before, when the street was still sparsely populated with houses, because her husband (who was long passed) worked for the railroad, and she liked the railroad. My dad liked the railroad, too, and so did I. Soo Line freight trains rode those rails above our street several times a day and through the night. It's still a sound that I love, and a sound that feels, along with the coo-coo-coo of the mourning dove, just like home.

I think my dad liked her and respected her. Mrs. Schleeter was not a friendly lady, and I think he liked that too. She didn't socialize with anyone on the street. She never said hello, never waved. If she was outside and other people came out, she would go in. We were told to give her her space, and leave her property alone, because that was what she wanted. Weeks would go by without a glimpse. There were probably twenty kids on our block. I think I can count twenty. We lived on a cul-de-sac, and we kids had free reign over the wide, quiet two blocks that made up our world. Oak trees towered from either side like flying buttresses and formed a vaulted ceiling of green. The houses were large and old and pretty but weathered; people lived here for a long time. Lilies of the valley, hosta flowers, rusty wire fences, long grass. The only cars we ever saw there were owned by our various parents and we knew each of them; if a strange car came down our street we all stopped at stared at it, wary, until it moved on. We knew everyone and everyone knew us. I had been in almost every house on my street (except Mrs. Schleeter's), and if I hadn't been in the house I knew the people who lived there.

There was a school yard at one end of the street, down near our house, and that was our school. The other end of the block butted up against the elevated Metra train tracks, which went downtown to Chicago (another world), and that end of the street had a slightly more refined, more cosmopolitan air. Our end was the woolier end. We were wild kids then — the minute we finished dinner we were outside until dark. It was the '70s, and, as everyone will tell you, things were different. No one watched us. We knew to come home when the street lights went on. If we were late, my dad would come out onto the front porch and call for us. That was not preferred; he would not be happy if he had to do that. We almost always came in before we were called. If one person got called in, the whole group would disband. Fireflies lit the humid air. Every seven years the sound of cicadas sizzled, constant and frenzied. We had many societies, most of which were focused on fighting with each other, competing with each other, or generally doing things we weren't supposed to: going up into someone's crumbling attic, sitting on the roof of the Miller's garage (their parents were divorced, and their mother was never home) with a pack of cigarettes, climbing over the fence to the railroad embankment behind the school yard and throwing rocks at stuff. Every summer there was a new, very competitive game: Kick the Can, Running Bases, Rummy 500. Fall was miserable, as it was always Acorn Wars. There were tears, tattling, and bruises during Acorn Wars. We spent the time after school collecting hundreds of little nuts in dozens of coffee cans that we'd hide from each other (it was usually boys against girls, which got complicated if you had brothers, which I didn't), and then after dinner we'd race back outside, excavate our cans, and whip acorns at each other for hours, until someone went home crying and someone got in trouble. I hated Acorn Wars, was pummelled mercilessly, and was usually one of the ones who went home crying.

Mrs. Schleeter's house was in the middle of all of this. But we never walked on her lawn, never congregated on her sidewalk, never played Ghost in the Graveyard on her part of the street. There were rumors that she shot squirrels and ate them. There were rumors that she had kidnapped kids, or at least had yelled at them which, as someone who was scared of getting yelled at, I thought was almost as bad. In spite of the fact that I had once wiped out on the sidewalk in front of her house (it was winter but there was no snow, I was getting over a cold and my legs were wobbly, I was running past her house and faced-planted in front of it, resulting in a long scrape and subsequent string of scabs running from my forehead to the tip of my nose to the space above my upper lip [scab mustache] to my chin for the Christmas picture — see, I shouldn't have been near her house!), I had secretly always liked it. I thought it would've been perfect for me. My own cabin. Rust-colored brick. A little tremble of smoke constantly coming from the little chimney. A big front window made up of rectangular panes, the skinny trim of all of those panes painted black. Crooked, ancient-looking apple trees in the side yard. A raucous, old-lady's vegetable garden out back (rhubarb, rutabaga, cabbages, turnips?). The edge of the weedy driveway was lined with two dozen blousy, blustering peony bushes, white, light pink, and dark burgundy wine. She, and it all, seemed like they had been there for a hundred years. A fairy tale crone-cottage on Forest Avenue. I liked it, and looked at it a lot.

In early summer, on only one night (one very special night that I think now she probably waited for all year), she came slowly out of her house. She would wait until we kids were somewhere close, learning the Bus Stop in the Papienski's yard or playing volleyball in front of mine, and she beckoned to the closest one of us. "Come here." The child would drop the ball, and, walk, looking back nervously, across the street. "Come here" — a crooked finger gesturing toward the rest of us; a small herd of small sheep, we'd walk as a unit toward her house and our nervous friend. It was very quiet. She didn't speak. She had several pairs of big black scissors in her big patch pockets. She handed them to the oldest kids among us. Our little sisters and little brothers were close on our heels, wide-eyed. She walked to the long row of peonies and we'd follow. There must have been of a hundred enormous flowers, perfectly in bloom or bud. One by one, she'd point to exactly where she wanted the stem cut — that one, there. That one, there. This one, there. One flower, and one child, at a time. The stems were thick and crunched when you cut them. The scissors were metal, dull black, huge and oiled. The peonies were heavy and twitchy with ants. Blossom by blossom, kid by kid, she directed each cut until our arms were filled with flowers, and our little hands could hold no more. Those great bushels put my wedding flowers to shame. When she was finished, she collected the scissors and moved, in her long skirts, back off toward her house like a ship, until next summer. Chagrined, thrilled, still slightly terrified, we whispered our hoarse, peony-scented thank-yous and skittered away to bring the bouquets home to our mothers. Our mothers would say, "Did you say thank you?" and we'd nod, still nervous. I remember that my mom would put the bouquet in the middle of the dining room table. I'll have to ask her if she remembers. Along with fragrant handfuls of square-stemmed lily of the valley from next to the front stairs and billowing clouds of lilacs from under the dining room windows, peonies are the only cut flower I remember us having in the house, and only Mrs. Schleeter's, and only for that one week.

We have ten pink peony bushes, all coming into bloom just now. None of them seem like the right varieties to me, though when I bought them (as dried up little roots, in a box) ten years ago I was trying to get the same ones Mrs. Schleeter had. The smell of the bouquets in the house takes me right back. When I was in River Forest this past summer I saw that Mrs. Schleeter's house had been seriously remodeled, the yard tamed, the peonies gone. If I see some big black shears at an estate sale, I'll get them.

Beet It

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Do you want to just throw up right now? I know, me too. Turns out my garden forager wasn't exotic at all; I staged a reconnaissance mission in the rainy dusk of Monday night and caught one of these gelatinous blobs in the act of slurping up my Chioggias. Six are completely gone, two more are almost done for. BEAST! My neighbor came out just as I found the marauder: two grown women, four rows of beet seedlings, and one slug. You would've thought I had encountered a piece of plutonium. The screaming (mine). The frantic pointing and prancing in place (mine) (as if on hot rocks). The gagging (mine). It was truly embarrassing. Not a native Oregonian's reaction. I couldn't believe myself myself. Fail.

So, Sluggo. Organic. I may also consider putting the copper tape or waterproof sandpaper around the top edges of the beds. Or hermetically sealing them.

Ah, such is the life of a dilettante gardener. There's nothing like gardening to make you appreciate the farmer's market, I tell you.


In other news (thank gosh there's other news), I have all of the fabric for the new quilt. The new cross-stitch just came back from the framer. The new web shop is in progress (it's slow — steep learning curve on this for me — but it's going to be really cool). My new yarn should be arriving any day. And sweet potatoes, marigolds, cosmos, dill, camomile, and tomatoes are now in the ground.

Homemade Pantry

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The weekend before last, Andy and I went to the farmer's market to get some stuff and then we spent the rest of the day making things from The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila. It was super fun. We made rhubarb-ginger syrup with lemon verbena (for pouring into seltzer water and making sodas), mayonnaise, ketchup, and hamburger buns! And I made another rhubarb custard pie (that thing is really good). We took turns whisking the olive oil into the egg yolk to make mayonnaise. I seriously don't know how one person could have the muscle strength to do this; our arms were yakisoba noodles after I don't even know how long it took (and we were also actually sitting down the whole time). Pffffft! The hamburger buns were seriously amazing. I couldn't stop looking at them. Our neighbors came for a cook-out later that night. We had burgers and sweet potato oven fries I sort of made up. I think they liked everything. They also thought we were kind of cracked but we're used to that. Then they had a neighborhood potluck party this past Sunday. (We have a lot of great neighborhood parties.) I spent almost the whole party talking to someone about suburban sprawl and someone else about window replacement and cedar shingles and I had a great time. I thought, "Ah. I must be in my forties."

After Dinner

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We're having an early summer, I think. Today it's raining, but the weekend was busy with outside things. The garden is almost entirely planted. My back yard container plants seem happier than ever. It's been neither too hot nor too cold; it's been just right. Friends visiting, late nights, food carts, pinball, bike ride, tomato planting, piano recital, fabric shopping, neighborhood potluck, eclispse watching. And something ate all of leaves off of about a third of my beet plants. It doesn't look like insect or slug; it looks like . . . something with teeth or beak? They went from one plant to the next plant, to the next plant in the row. Cafeteria style. Losers!

Today I'm trying to get organized. I've cut everything for the new quilt but the house is kind of trashed so I think I have some chores to do first. Getting kind of a slow start today. But it will be good to spend some time inside, I think. I've got some projects to show you.

Nice Week

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Carrots and potatoes are up : : Tulips finished, peonies coming : : Antiquing for Shelly's birthday : : The best potato salad at Natalia's : : My hexie cheater quilt : : More friends in town tonight from Canada : : Climbing hydrangea covering the studio window : : Picking fallen leaves out of the vegetable garden by hand : : Meditative : : Peas look a bit yellow : : Good good good good dog : : Hollyhill was adorable : : Driving the back roads with Andy yesterday and this song (cool random video) : : Finished my cross-stitch, took it to the framer's : : Finished my cowl : : Next up is Quill, just waiting for the yarn (in Antler, again) : : Going to be working on a new web shop this summer : : Starting the new quilt : : Hard to think about work in this glorious weather.

My Spring Rain Quilt

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This quilt is so big I didn't even try to capture the whole of the design, but you can track its evolution here and here and here and here. It's soft and fluffy and puffy and warm and makes me happy. I am about to start another quilt now. This one will be a triple Irish Chain. Classic, with a creamy background, but scrappy and random (and small patches!). I have always loved the Irish Chain design and I've always wanted to make one. I thought I would do another very random patchwork, but then I felt I just needed a little more structure than that in my life right now. I may try to back all of my quilts in cotton lawn, like most of this one, from now on. It's really expensive (though I did find all of these pieces on sale and had been holding on to them for years; doubt that will be happening again, or at least not for a while), but you just can't believe how soft and squishy and light it feels. Also, the wool batting is seriously scrumptious. The whole thing sort of reminds me of a Pavlova. And the kitters is pleased, so there's that.

Things to Do in Portland, Oregon

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Should you find yourself in the Rose City, here are a few suggestions for you. No list could be comprehensive; I compiled this one from this blog's local reader comments (thank you!), and added several of my and Andy's favorite places and activities. If you have further suggestions, please leave them in the comments for others to find. For more photos and posts about outings we've taken, the Portland and Oregon category (on my right-hand sidebar) may give you some ideas as well. Enjoy!

Must See and Do:

Washington Park ::: Gardens, the zoo, the arboretum, tennis courts, playgrounds
Powell's Books
::: You must!
Farmer’s Market
::: Our favorite is at Portland State University on Saturday mornings
Saturday Market
::: Largest continuously operating outdoor arts and crafts market in the country
Multnomah Falls
::: Take the Historic Columbia River Highway and stop at Crown Point
Timberline Lodge
::: A great historic hotel on Mt. Hood
Cannon Beach
, and anywhere along the Oregon Coast ::: It’s all gorgeous
Clackamas County Fair
and Oregon State Fair ::: In August, though we wait all year


Ace Hotel ::: Hipster heaven, and right in middle of it all
RiverPlace Hotel
::: Fancy, perfectly placed on the river, and within walking distance of downtown
Kennedy School
::: Renovated 1915 elementary school, with a soaking pool and characteristic McMenamins’ flair
The Jupiter Hotel
::: Edgy, pet-friendly, green, and urban cool
Hotel deLuxe
::: Hollywood glamour, and home of Gracie’s restaurant, where we go for lunch during the Christmas season

Fabric stores:

Fabric Depot ::: The largest and most complete fabric store in the country
Mill End Store
::: The best wools, silks, and linens in town, in my opinion
::: A cutting-edge collection of contemporary sewing supplies and gorgeous fabric
Cool Cottons
::: Colorful, well-organized, perfectly chosen quilting cottons
Pendleton Woolen Mill Outlet
::: Wonderful wools in every color
Hollyhill Quilt Shoppe ::: Eeeeee! Cottons, gorgeously displayed
Pioneer Quilts
::: Tiny calicos!!!

Yarn store:

Happy Knits ::: Modern, airy, inspiring and always friendly
Close Knit ::: Warm and cozy collection in a great neighborhood for browsing
Yarn Garden
::: Lots and lots
::: The place for sock yarn!
Knit Purl
::: Small but right downtown and on the streetcar line
Northwest Wools
::: Nice selection in cute little shopping area

Craft stores:

Collage ::: A curated collection of encaustic, mixed media, paper and other crafts
::: Fiber crafts, wool arts, and Waldorf supplies
SCRAP ::: Creative re-use, education programs, and affordable materials
Knittn’ Kitten
::: Vintage fabric, patterns, notions, and supplies
Acorns and Threads
::: Cross-stitch patterns, fabrics, and supplies
Playful Needle
::: Needlepoint and crewel patterns, fabrics, and supplies
Button Emporium
::: Buttons and ribbons galore


Monticello ::: Big and beautiful, with an emphasis on Shabby Chic-type things and great garden accessories and furniture
and Stars & Splendid ::: Across the street from each other, both have a generous mix of great stuff
Dusty Tiger
::: I’ve found the best stuff at the best prices at this place, I tell you! Or maybe I shouldn’t tell you!
Antique Alley
::: Old school, baby.
Found on Fremont
::: Well curated collection of your favorites

Cool new little neighborhood restaurant:

St. Jack ::: Rustic French in a gorgeous space on one of my favorite corners anywhere
::: Industrial + beautiful + seasonal + delicious + recycled materials = gottaloveit
Toro Bravo
::: Spanish tapas
Little Bird Bistro
::: Doesn’t get much cuter, or much more central, than this
::: On a busy street, but still intimate
Pizza Fino
::: Neighborhood pizza and more
::: More neighborhood pizza. Probably can’t have too much neighborhood pizza.

Food carts:

Potato Champion ::: Andy’s favorite
::: Andy’s other favorite
Grilled Cheese Grill
::: Everybody else’s favorite
Koi Fushion
::: Korean-Oregon infusion
Big-Ass Sandwiches
::: Prolly needs no explanation
Khao Man Gai
::: Just one thing on the menu


Slappy Cakes ::: Make your own pancakes, and I really love the light here.
::: My favorite atmosphere and decor in the whole city. Especially wonderful in the morning, for some reason.
::: Classic neighborhood breakfast spot, complete with café curtains and eggs Benedict
The Waffle Window
::: Legendary in our house, and best on a day with no rain
Pine State Biscuits
::: With sausage or mushroom gravy, thick-cut bacon, fried chicken, eggs, grits, and preserves. I think you get it.
La Petite Provence
::: The best -- and best-priced -- French bakery/café in Portland. Don’t leave without taking home an éclair, seriously.
Helser’s on Alberta
::: Crowded but really wonderful

Outdoor restaurant dining:

Meriweather’s ::: Fancy date, or a lovely, grown-up place to take the in-laws
::: Uber swanky rooftop
Piazza Italia
::: My favorite sidewalk dining on Friday nights in the summertime
Por Que No
::: Mexican patio, and I seriously love their summer fruit juice drinks
Tin Shed
::: Playful and fun, kinda like being at great backyard party
::: Romantic and quiet grapevine covered patio

Burger and fries:

Little Big Burger ::: So simple, so perfect, and with truffle-oil fries: Andy’s requested birthday lunch
::: Slow food fast, and in Director Park, a great new location for people-watching
Castagna Cafe
::: This one's good
::: OH, this one is even better, but there is nothing I don’t love about Besaw’s. Stop here after hiking in Forest Park in the fall, and sit in the front room. Love love love.
The Observatory
::: A beloved veggie burger in an up-and-coming neighborhood
Café Nell
::: I haven’t tried this one, but it looks delish


Hopworks ::: And The Derailer is a great chicken sandwich.
::: Our neighborhood joint, so we love it.
::: It’s always good, and the pub is cool.
Captured by Porches
::: Definitely the best name

Coffee shop with a plug for your computer:

Water Avenue Coffee ::: Great coffee, great light, great colors, and not claustrophobic, which is why I love it
Caffe Pallino
::: Bright and streamlined, with gelato, food, and usually decent music
Cloud Seven
::: On a nice day you can sit outside, and this one even has good people-watching in Jamison Square, to boot.
The Press Club
::: With wine, crepes, and great magazines to boot.
::: I haven’t been to either location, but they got several mentions

Coffee shop with people watching:

Stumptown ::: Daily
::: Another several-times-recommended shop I have to try
Fresh Pot
::: Watch the comings and goings in some of our favorite neighborhoods (Hawthorne and Mississippi) here
St. Honore Boulangerie
::: So adorable, so French, so crowded, so expensive, but so delicious


International Rose Test Garden ::: If you do one thing. . . .
Portland Japanese Garden
::: Magical. Go on a weekday morning before it gets crowded, so you don’t have to hear a bunch of other peoples’ conversations. This is a place for quiet.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
::: So very beautiful on a cloudy day, especially
Elk Rock Garden of the Bishop’s Close
::: I love this place. It’s beautiful.

Outdoor fountain:

A walking map of local fountains is here.
Jamison Square
::: Really sweet little setting for kids, like a piazza with a tidal pool
Ira Keller Fountain Park
::: One of Andy’s favorites, an urban warren of waterfalls
Magnolia Park
::: In Hillsboro, with lots to do

Picnic spot:

Council Crest ::: On a clear day, this view is hard to beat
Wildwood Recreation Site
::: This looks gorgeous. Can’t even believe we haven’t been here yet. Will report back.
Commonwealth Lake
::: A suburban park with a lake that looks good for those with small kiddos
Pittock Mansion
grounds ::: I always pretend I’m going to a wonderful party when I’m here. Except that I’m paying to get in. But still – the lawn is free.
Skidmore Bluffs
::: Sometimes I feel claustrophobic in Portland. Not up here. Love the view, and the neighborhood. Always feels like a different town to me.

Day hike:

Anywhere in Forest Park ::: The book Portland Hill Walks by Laura O. Foster is awesome.
Cascade Head
::: The mountains at the edge of the sea, with wildflowers
Angel’s Rest
::: A heavenly view
By the way, the Portland Hikers Field Guide web site is spectacular.

Bike ride through the country:

Springwater Corridor ::: We love to go from OMSI down to Sellwood, or from SE 136th out to Gresham.
Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail
::: Totally wanting to do this from Tooth Rock to the Bridge of the Gods trailhead
Champoeg State Park
::: Such a cool place, with a little of everything

Swimming hole:

Opal Creek to Opal’s Pool ::: Oooo, oooo, oooo – I wanna go here!
Dougan Falls
::: Very pretty, very cold
Eagle Creek Trail
to Punchbowl Falls ::: Quintessentially, gorgeously, lusciously Oregon
Oxbow Park
::: Close to town but feels like it’s a million miles away
Dabney State Recreation Area
::: Close to town, kinda scruffy, but if you find a good spot you’re good to go for an afternoon

Wildflower meadow:

Catherine Creek ::: Go in April or May, even if you’re in a wheelchair – this is a universal access path (yay!)
Mollala River State Park
::: I love this area
Tom McCall Nature Preserve
::: Oh this looks beautiful – a bit past Hood River in the Gorge.
Cairn Basin from Vista Ridge
::: A difficult hike with a creek crossing, but looks incredibly beautiful and includes lupine fields (sigh).
Dog Mountain
::: Another difficult (steep) hike, but wow.
Sauvie Island u-Picks ::: Oh, now these are easy! Try Bella Organic, Kruger’s, or Sauvie Island Farms for flowers.

Rented canoe ride:

Blue Lake ::: Close to town, and such a fun way to spend an afternoon together
Detroit Lake
::: Lots of things to do here: swimming, boating, camping, hiking, too.
Trillium Lake
::: On Mt. Hood, doesn’t get more beautiful

Waterfall hikes:

Trail of Ten Falls hike ::: Here are 10 falls, including the majestic and wonderful Silver Falls, in 8.8 miles.
Pool of the Winds
::: Short and pretty
Wahkeena to Multnomah Falls
::: Described as a waterfall lover’s paradise
Horsetail Falls
::: Family-friendly, low-elevation, and only 2.6 miles roundtrip
Oneonta Falls
::: Challenging to get to (you’ll be in the water), but it is my dream to figure out how to get my bad foot to this spot someday. Someday.

About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at