Summer’s Gone: Dive and Dash Until the Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Ducks like swimming.

Nothing reminds me of what’s great about a Portland summer than the end of a Portland summer. I hold out, hoping the season lingers. The late summer heat inspired us to hit the sometimes frigid, but swimable area rivers and lakes. We had been making late afternoon runs during the hottest part of the day for quick dips to cool off. Then summer had an abrupt end despite more plans to swim. A wind storm blew forest fire smoke into the area creating unhealthy air that was less than ideal for breathing much less swimming. I’m left with memories to share of the spots we managed to visit which created the kind of summer feeling that has to last until the next one.

Poet’s Beach

The sign says it all.

We’d know about Poet’s Beach since it opened. The city’s public relations staff must have got the word out. It’s felt like a tradition to make at least one visit each summer to this make-shift beach under the Marquam Bridge. It was also the end point of the Portlandia Mermaid Parade allowing the assembled mermaids a place to take a dip. The lines of student poetry inscribed on the rocks leading to the beach have faded somewhat but the beach area is wide for a steady stream of visitors. The river is clean, thanks to the big dig project making a rare occurrence out of the sewage overflows that used to make the river unswimable.

Mermaids and more at Poets Beach.

The Willamette River is shallow around the beach that offers a sandy river bottom. The constant boat traffic is either annoying or scenic depending on your disposition. Unless your free parking game is strong, you’ll have to pay to park in the inner SW area. The beach is listed as being part of the South Waterfront City Park. I associated it with its proximity to the Harbor Marina area where the anchor business is a McCormick & Schmidt’s. If the goal is to get wet this is as good a place as any within the city limits.

Henry Hagg Lake

Dog days at Hagg Lake.

This lake is out there if you are looking to get out of town. The nearest barely-a-town-town is Gaston. The boat heavy waters carry the essence of diesel fuel. Then there are the indignities of having to pay seven bucks and weed through a State Park indued traffic jam. Still there’s the uniqueness of the lake’s squishy, muddy bottom along with the antics of the boaters and swimmers that provide entertainment on a summer afternoon. It’s worth at least one visit for the escapism factor and the wide open views of the lake. 

Audrey McCall Floating Dock

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This was our most focused dive and dash experience. What else is there to do besides hang out on a dock or jump in the water? I was surprised to learn that the Vera Katz Esplanade is named after Rich Reece’s cat. The dock offered a shimmering view of downtown and provided a ladder for those unable to heave their bodies out of the Willamette River and back onto the platform. People weren’t concerned about drinking laws. I’m unsure of OCC regulations but I saw at least one guy enjoying beers. The dock may be an unregulated autonomous zone. It was easy to get there from the Eastside industrial area with free parking if you’re up on zone parking regulations. This is an essential spot for however much time one can spare for sunshine, swimming and dog paddling.

Cedar Island

How to make an island.

Who could resist a visit to an island off the coast of West Linn? It’s about as much status as anyone could hope for. In my possibly misguided geological knowledge, it’s a kind of jetty created by the Willamette River where a swimming pond has formed. We found parking outside a gated mansion although there’s boat ramp parking too. It’s necessary to walk through a river side beach area and over a bridge to get to the island. Once there we had the rocky beach to ourselves. The water temperature was fine but you wouldn’t know it from my wade and squat technique for getting in the water.

The author in island waters.

Cross Park

Rocky, not roaring.

You can go to High Rocks Park or Cross Park. Either offers access to the Clackamas River. Cross Park seemed to be more accessible when we dashed down to the Gladstone area for a Friday afternoon happy hour swim. The river wasn’t crowded in the area where we parked. A guy standing in the water told me I’d get used to it if I ever got brave enough to get wet and I did. Minutes later he got in a kayak and paddled away. Our dog had a blast swimming until he was scolded for chasing ducks downstream. The river bed was rocky but despite the current and the mountain run off it wasn’t too treacherous or cold. The water was just right for cooling off after a hot week.

*****

Special thanks to Ronna Craig for her photographs minus the duck and mermaid photos that I took.

Cruise Your Illusions 1: The Painted Wagons

Sure it’s unconventional to take a perfectly good car, glue junk on it or paint it up to create an art car. At that point it becomes a a public service because it breaks the monotony–so many cars, so many drab shades. There’s an audience, often a captive one. I know I’ll stop what I’m doing and take a picture. There’s also the stuck-in-traffic crowd who say, “Look at that car!” Diversions in a traffic jam can be exciting.

I document art cars when I see them mostly while they’re parked. There usually isn’t a way to track down the owners to find out what inspired them to decorate their cars. I gained a sense of the art car phenomenon when I wrote about the Space Taxi and interviewed Marcie MacFarlane, coowner of The Trophy Wife which satisfied my curiosity somewhat. It’s helped me appreciate people breaking out of the norm to offer the world something beyond a run of the mill paint job.

Unfurl the swirl.

With colors and lines flowing within a wind storm, this wagon noticed in Northeast had a Van Gogh high on psychedelics while painting in the garden quality. Curly Q’s and puffy clouds are all I need most days.

What you wonderin’ about?

More woman than you.

Three summers ago Will Simmons and I rolled past the Wonder Woman Art Car parked on North Williams Avenue. This is hardly a comprehensive exhibit of this design. Two pictures don’t do it justice. Someday I hope to meet the owner or owners. Without the full story, I’m left to admire the big, bold, cartoony paint job that’s moving, or in this case parked, pop art. I’ll leave you with the Wonder Woman Theme Song that’s playing in my head on a loop.

Out back.

The best of Australia.

These cars seem more at home in the Outback and I’m not talking Subaru models. I’ve spotted and admired Aboriginal Art on a couple of different vehicles. While reminiscent of all things down under, it takes me back in time before there were cars. These side panels are a modern twist on a rock art tradition.

Over mountains, over seas.

The majestic mountain subject matter always caught my attention when I saw this car in my old Kenton neighborhood. I tended to find it parked up the street in the middle of the day when the light was at its harshest. The art might not be great but I would still live in the mountainous landscape it depicts.

Comments on comets.

This sleek, smooth, daring comet design screams movement. It’s doubtful that the blazing space rock helps the car move faster. Is there any wonder that I saw this reflection of the cool crowd in Steve’s neighborhood, somewhere in the blurred border of the Kenton and Portsmouth neighborhood?

Heading’ out!

Sometimes cars, like this one spotted in the Mississippi neighborhood, need help. Face it, with this model of car painting anything on it, including a funky face and head light eyes, is an improvement.

In dreams.

Float downstream.

Until I saw this car I never thought about Yoga Dreams or even considered what it would be like to have one but those who have them or live them inspire me by choosing their car as a means to broadcast their lifestyle choice. The hood illustration is a mobile billboard when the car’s parked. The sunny design is an added bonus. I spotted this car in the Humboldt neighborhood and I can appreciate how the blue on the side panel creates a dream effect, floating yoga within watery confines of primordial art disguised as advertising.

I recall the owner of this van was in the popcorn business, not that this would be the only reason to be inspired to have a corn motif painted on ones vehicle. This creation, with its mismatched kernels, is authentic enough to make anyone who noticed think they’re being chased by a giant ear of corn.