Each week, WW writer John Minervini brings you the latest in book reviews, author Q&A's and Portland literary gossip. Click here to join the Tome Raider mailing list.
Six-word Summary: Have Your Hike—Read It, Too
Any disgruntled former Lehman Brothers hack
can see that Portland is cupped by mountains, bristling with conifers. Hiking is the logical next step.
But combining a tour of our conspicuously rugged terrain with its less visible—although no less absorbing—human history…well, that takes a writer.
A writer like Jim Thayer. In his new book, Portland Forest Hikes (Timber Press, 179 pages, $16.95)
, Thayer details twenty lesser-known treks within twenty minutes of downtown Portland, offering frequent digressions into the history of the land. We're impressed. It's a glove compartment companion dedicated to the proposition that you can have your hike and read it, too.
Thayer is no stranger to walking in woods: he's been tracking game since age eight. That's when his father, State Department legend Charles W. Thayer
, moved Jim's family to Germany and set about managing two hunting estates. Thayer returned to the US in 1971 to attend Reed College, and he's been fascinated by Oregon's forests ever since. As an example, the author estimates he's logged over 250 miles of hiked reconnaissance solely in researching his two most recent book projects.
The author as a young boy in Europe. Admits Thayer, "In my passionate teen years I was given to reciting 19th century romantic verse from the top of mountain peaks."
Tome Raider recently sat down with Thayer to discuss a hike from his new book that incorporates a little-known element of Portland history. We have tentatively titled it "What Not to Do With a Flume."
Directions and Map: Click Here.
Hike Name: Fire Lane 1 Loop
“Despite being close to town, this trail is quite remote and looks out over the northern parts of NW Portland with great views of Mt. Hood. A steady climb brings you up to Leif Erikson Drive and the Nature trail featuring diverse scenery, with a wide variety of forest environments.” – Jim Thayer
One need only visit North Mississippi Ave. or SoWa to witness the undesirable excesses of large-scale residential developers. But it will surprise many to learn that Portland has been plagued by such bottom feeders for over a century. On this hike, you can actually see the remains of an illegal flume built by a developer in 1905.
[No Permit? No Problem]
In 1905, Denver transplant and developer Lafe Pence, who owned land adjoining Macleay Park, petitioned the board of directors of Portland Parks and Recreation to allow him to build a system of flumes on publicly-owned land. His intent? To divert water from Balch Creek and use it to level (by sluicing) a large tract of his land for residential development. The request was promptly voted down.
Not to be deterred, Pence went ahead and built 6000 feet of aqueducts and ditches
on public land without PP&R's permission
. To supplement the flow of Balch Creek, he even tunneled under Skyline Ridge
to tap streams flowing down the western slope. But when a neighboring landowner discovered that 900 feet of his own property had been cleared for another of Pence's flumes, the game was up. In 1906, Portland mayor Harry Lane led a group of police officers armed with sledgehammers
in destroying a key juncture of Pence's illegal flume. Remnants of the ditch system can be seen along the Wildwood Trail just a mile north of where the Wild Cherry Trail intersects with the Wildwood Trail.
It just goes to show: We are such stuff as flumes are made on.
No, no, that's not it. How about...
Flume wasn't built in a day.
Hmm. It's still missing something...Ah, yes.
He who flumes last, flumes best.
Portland mayor Harry Lane (1855-1917)