Urban Adventures in Portland

Portland is a fantastic place with a wealth of fun, exciting, unique activities that require little planning, little money, and little time. The weather was absolutely gorgeous this past weekend so we embarked on a couple of these “urban” adventures.

On Saturday my wife and a friend joined me to take on the newly inaugurated 4T Trail (map). The loop weaves though southwest Portland by trail, tram, trolley, and train, revealing some of the most beautiful scenery and views in the city.


We hit the trail at Washington Park making a moderately steep, but relatively easy climb about 2 miles to Council Crest Park. The park is Portland’s highest point and on a clear day offers incredible views of the surrounding area to the southwest, and Portland International Airport to the north.

At the center of the park lies a great compass made of inlaid stone. The compass has a unique acoustic effect; while standing at the compass’ midpoint, even softly spoken words reverberate all around you.


After enjoying the views, we were off down the other side of the park, over trails through some of the prettiest forests and neighborhoods in Portland.

Completing the second half of the trail, we emerged at the northwest side of OHSU and made the short walk a couple blocks to catch the tram. The tram took just a few minutes to carry us down to the waterfront offering a little time to enjoy a view of the cityscape to the north, and surrounding areas in all directions.



At the bottom of the tram, we waited a short time to board a Portland Streetcar and make the 10 minute ride to SW Morrison and 10th.

We were pressed for time so we headed straight to the stop to catch our train back to our car; otherwise, this would have been a good time to grab lunch. After just a few minutes, our train arrived and we returned to the parking lot at the Oregon Zoo.

The 4T Loop was incredibly fun and made for a wonderful 3.5 hour adventure on a wonderfully sunny and warm afternoon. Total cost was a whopping $2.00 for the public transit segments.

Sunday evening the whole family visited Northwest Portland to watch the Vaux Swifts roost in the old brick chimney at Chapman School. Each year during the month of September, these little birds return to Portland on their way to the warmer climates of Central and South America.

We arrived about an hour before sunset, and found parking a few blocks away from the campus and neighboring Wallace Park. There was a huge crowd gathered on the field and grassy area at the southwest corner of the school, where there is a clear view of the chimney at the rear of the building. It’s really quite a spectacle with a couple food cart vendors and kids with cookie stands serving the lively crowd.

Within a few minutes of arriving the birds began to appear, resembling dark, moving clouds or swarms of bees. Every couple of minutes a group would approach flying erratically, dive toward the chimney, and then dart away as if testing whether it was time to go in.


The groups began to combine making larger, and larger swarms, circling the chimney like a tornado. A hawk appeared, swooping into the middle of the birds, trying to grab a small swift for dinner but was repelled and chased by a flock that by this time consisted of thousands of birds.

Just a few minutes after sunset the large flock swirling over head, as if cued by someone or something, began diving into the chimney like they were being poured from a pitcher. It is a truly incredible site. And the hawk? He found his opportunity, returning twice to pick off a little bird just at the top of the chimney.

Video featuring the few last minutes of the swifts pouring into the chimney including the hawk assault.

Fabulous weekend in the Rose City.

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Thank Goodness for Smart People

It's amazing what creative, smart people come up with. Learn how CAPTCHAs are being used to digitize books; if you don't know what a CAPTCHA is, the video explains (you probably have used them many times). This clip is a little long, but very interesting and actually kind of entertaining, in a geeky sort of way!

How important is this technology? Google recently acquired reCAPTCHA for an undisclosed amount.

Posted via email from meanderings