It broods on what will become the Portland skyline. Sometimes the ground trembles, smoke-like steam rises, lava flows, but eventually it succumbs to the inevitable -- it dies. Today, it sits, tree shrouded, a constant reminder of forces shaping the landscape in which we live. Mt Tabor Park is one of only two US city parks (the other in Bend, Oregon) with an extinct volcano. This beautiful park encompasses the whole of this volcanic hill.
Mt Tabor is younger than most other regional volcanoes, and as such, died in geologic childhood. The land had been a park 3 years; bits scooped from the cinder cone atop, crushed, even used for park road surfacing, before the true nature of that topographical feature was realized. A staggeringly surprising fact to me. Today, a plaque commemorates remnants of this cinder cone, part of the Boring Lava Field. [John Boring was the first postmaster in the nearby community of Boring, Oregon.]
The OLA Map (indicating the dog off-leash area location) shows the 195.66-acre park’s road layout. Enter on the road at the very top, turn right, and proceed to the large parking area. The squiggle of lines represents the scooped out cinder cone. On the ground, it’s behind the basketball court and outdoor theater, with a large picnic pavilion and playground across the road to the left and behind you. The plaque is actually embedded into a chunk of lava. In fact, if you keep your eyes open throughout the park, you’ll see bits and chunks of lava all over, in retaining walls for instance.
Crisscrossed by trails, the elevation changes also make the park a good workout for joggers or cyclists. Other facilities include a playground, five tennis courts, a volleyball court, a horseshoe pit, and other picnic areas.
My last visit to Tabor was a slightly misty afternoon, where the mist creates a closed world of intimacy between the moistened air and anybody coming within its influence. There is also a late December chill. The summit access road was closed (it is occasionally), but steps climb the hillside from where that road diverges (the point where those roads merge has parking) and the climb is worth the effort.
A much larger-than-life sized statue of Harvey W. Scott, conservative editor (1866-1910) of The Oregonian tops one end of the summit, his colossal right hand pointing west like Horace Mann. The last vestiges of blossoms clinging tenaciously to rose bushes at his feet.
The 600-foot tall Mt Tabor is covered in tall trees effectively blocking the view, adding an insulated feeling to the hilltop. Periodic view notches created in the tree line open much anticipated gifts: sweeping views of Mt Hood and Portland. Lake-like reservoirs add to the park’s picturesque quality. Occasional benches allow you to linger comfortably.
Location: SE 60 & Salmon Street
ODOT has PDF maps of Portland, including the Mt Tabor area.
Hours: 5am to midnight
Portland Parks & Recreation: 503-823-PLAY, email@example.com