Tuesday, 27 November 2012

SCHOLARSHIP DAY 89: Mount Tabor- My walk on an extinct volcano cone

I thought it was time for some more volcanoes on this scholarship; the last ones I came across were travelling from Seward to Homer, in Alaska, way back in early September! Portland is very lucky to have an extinct volcanic cinder cone on its doorstep, so I awoke early this morning, and decided to hike to it. I use the word hike, because I had to trek 5 miles uphill to it from Portland city centre. There was a bus incidentally going there, but I refused the comforts of public transport. After all, it was another gloriously sunny day, and one should take advantage of these moments of sunshine; you never know what's going to happen tomorrow!

My walk to Mount Tabor, this site of special geological interest which has taken the name from the Tabor in Isreal, took me into all corners of Portland's diverse cityscape. From the bustling monday morning business taking place in the central district, I weaved my way in between entrepreneurs to reach the Morrison Bridge. It just so happened that the bridge was going up (again) to let another over-sized boat through, which made me wonder how many times a day do these bridges have to stop traffic and cause brief lapses of irritating traffic congestion? Once I had crossed, my next stretch on this mini marathon to Mount Tabor was actually underneath it. Some steep steps led me down to the bleak and dirty understory of the city, and no more than half an hour after I was dodging people in suits with briefcases, I was now making my way passed the homeless. Cardboard laid pavements led me to a small shack with what looked like the meeting centre for all these unlucky residents. It was once again like walking through another country, as if this little stretch of Portland was dismembered from twenty-first century civilisation. How many people who were crossing the bridge above realised what they were passing over?

I soon found my way back to what looked more like Portland. It was now a solid one road stretch to Mount Tabor, and I had 60 avenues to go through. I calculated that it would take me no more than hour to do this bit, and I was right, arriving at Mount Tabor Parkland in good time. It's amazing the distance you can make out if you put your best foot forward. Mount Tabor has now been made into a park, so I wasn't surprised to suddenly find myself positively engulfed by lush vegetation. Trees, hundreds of years old, towered above me, watching my every step up the steep slopes of this special site.

A few things caught my eye, as I made my first exploratory movements through Mount Tabor. It seems that Mount Tabor has gone all out to attract as many people as possible to it, setting out three walks of differing difficulty for those like me who like to hike. For those more into the sports, a basketball court had been constructed. There was also a playground for the younger and a picnic area, and even a car park! Beside the car park, I came across these granite boulders, originally from the cinder cone before it was converted into a park area for all. They showed signs of succession; pioneer species such as moss and lichens had made these large historic rocks their home.

I also came across these Tibetan Cherry trees, just another asian tree that Portland allows to thrive. I love the Tibetan Cherry and how it peels these glossy copper brown strips.

One last little word on the tree front. (This blog I reckon sometimes should be called Trees with Dan, but it's actually quite interesting, and can tell you a lot about an area's climate, both past and present.) I noticed this contortioned tree trunk, that was obstructing the path around the basketball court. This is intraspecies competition; members of the same species fighting for the same resources, and in this case, the trunk's contorting shape could suggest it's trying to find the most light as possible.

The soil here on this cinder cone is typcially red in colour, and I didn't expect anything else. The red shows a presence of Iron, very typical in volcanic soils. If you look carefully, there's evidence of some geological uplift here, as the soil horizons are sloping slightly. Humus and a thin organic layer then makes up the litter horizon which supports the vegetation above.

I moved on to the other side of the cinder cone, with views looking east towards Mount St Helens and Mount Hood. Ah, my first proper sighting of Mount St. Helens. Here's a famous stratovolcano! I couldn't get the best picture of it, but Mount Hood was right in my viewpoint, so I took many oppotunities to capture this equally impressive mountain on film. The people who live with views towards these giants are extremely lucky.

Walking round to the western ridge of Mount Tabor, I realised that this park was even more diverse than I first thought. Here was true resourcefullness. A couple of reservoirs that serve the city are maintained here. By no means are they large, but their elevation over Portland city centre, must ease the worries of hydraulic pressure and the such. I decided to find myself a sun-drenched park bench, and I stroke lucky, finding one that not just overlooked the park and the reservoir, but offered fine views of Portland.

I realise now that I have made several trips to city parks over the last week or so. Is this the wilderness-loving part of me that misses Alaska? I think so. Regretfully, I made the long walk back to the city. My long walk back to the hostel was rewarded with a parcel; my laptop charger has finally arrived! You have never seen someone so happy to see a piece of post!

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