Wildwood Trail: Pittock Mansion (F) - Portland, OR 8.21.18


This summer the boys spent most of their time on the East Coast.  We had been looking forward to August when they returned, so that we could get them out hiking and see all that Oregon has to offer.  As nature would have it, the residual smoke from the Northern California fires had blanketed the skies of the Pacific Northwest the week the boys returned.  These Northern California fires have burned over 400 thousand acres to date, compromising our air quality, scenic views, and forcing many people indoors.  

Alexis and I have been working hard and needed a break, so we decided to bring the boys on a quick local hike.  We packed our water, a few snacks, and hit the road.  I felt the excitement pulsing through my body as we set out on our newest adventure, The Wildwood Trail.

The Wildwood Trail, located in Forest Park, totals 30 miles. It is considered America’s longest Forested Urban Trail.  We chose a 2.7-mile loop which began on NW Cornell road, at the base of Forest Park.  When we started the hike, I got a little nervous because the inclines were steep, making me breathe heavily. I wondered if the boys would make it to the top.  They didn’t stop once on the trial as they fought off different imaginary beasts on their “beast quest”. Beast Quest is a children’s book series that the boys have been reading since their return. On our hike the brought a shield and a bow-and-arrow so that they could fight off any imaginary beasts encountered. As I watched them race up the mountain on a their “beast hunt,” I knew this hike would be fine for kids their age.  With enthusiasm they ran up the hill and through the switch backs.  During the first half hour of the hike we weaved along the main road and could hear the cars rushing below.  Further in, the sounds of the road faded away and we were surrounded by the peace of nature.  It was mostly just our family out in the woods with the occasional passersby.  The others were moving fast so their presence was barely felt. At one point I caught a glimpse of Alexis slyly reaching down to pick up some rocks.  She convinced the boys to lay down on the ground with their ears to the dirt to see if they could hear any Beasts.  Jameson quickly laid down with his head in the dirt while Kelly was a bit more skeptical. Alexis tossed the rocks which ended up rolling down the hill, making for a lack luster beast noise.  We both had a good laugh as the boys rose with dirt covered faces.

They slowly started exploring and before we knew it they were off the path and climbing all around.  There were short cuts throughout the trail and the boys grappled trying to make it up the side of the mountain.  Sporadically we would look back to see Jameson sliding down on his belly grabbing on to sticks with one hand.  He would not give up and hopped back up and tried again until he made it to the top broken arm and all.  

We neared the top of the trail and came out to a parking lot that lead to the Pittock Mansion. We picked this trail for the view, which overlooks all of Portland.  While I was writing about our adventure I began researching the history behind the mansion.  I became enthralled in the story of the Pittock Family and found many similarities to my own life. Henry Pittock was born in England but grew up in Pennsylvania.  In 1853 he headed west on the Oregon Trail.  His wife was born in Missouri and headed west with her family in 1854.  Henry found work as a typesetter at The Oregonian at a time when the newspaper industry was financially risky and fiercely competitive.  In 1860, Henry and Georgiana married and within five months he was given ownership of the paper in exchange for back wages.  Henry went on to transform The Oregonian into a successful daily newspaper that is still printed today.  While he is most known for his work with the newspaper he also had a very adventurous lifestyle.  He was among one of the first groups to climb Mount Hood and was known to be an avid outdoorsman. Georgiana Pittock was known for her successful work with charities as the founder and fundraiser.  Together as a couple they were dominate in the PNW as entrepreneurs and explorers.   In the early 1900’s Henry set out to build his Mansion on the hill that overlooked all of Portland.  The Pittock Mansion was under construction from 1912 to 1914. The Pittocks were only able to live there for approximately four years before they passed away.  The mansion eventually sat empty for several years during the early 60’s and was near destruction when it was hit by a storm.  Developers expressed interest of tearing it down and building a subdivision around it.  Thankfully Portland residents rallied and raised funds to purchase the property.  In 1965, after months of restoration, the mansion was open to the public as a historic museum and the legacy of Henry and Georgiana Pittock has lived on.  My path to Oregon mirrors the Pittocks; my journey after college begins in England.  I lived in England, while pursuing a soccer career and eventually came back to the US, settling in Pennsylvania. I remained in Pennsylvania for 10 years where I eventually met Alexis, my future wife.  In April of 2018 my father and I set out on an adventure that would take us on a modern-day Oregon Trail trip from Pennsylvania to Oregon.  Today I am working hard to become an entrepreneur and influencer in the Pacific Northwest.  While we set out to find another adventure for the family, I have stumbled across a story that has provided me the inspiration I needed today. 


We made our way around the mansion to the overlook.  The city of Portland was barely visible, and the boys spent more time playing with the puppy nearby than taking in the view.  While on our break at the top we discovered that Jameson likes granola bars.  This may seem like a needless fact in the story, but he is our picky eater, so this feat seems greater to me than reaching the top.  We can add a new food to his very short list.  


After a few minutes we turned and made our way back to the trail.  The boys took off as the “Beast Hunt” continued!  They flew down the switchbacks stopping occasionally, to allow Alexis and I to catch up.  We walk quickly but lightly as we discuss life.  This summer the boys spent a significant amount of time away and it seems like much of that time was spent on technology.  It is a constant struggle especially in today’s culture to moderate technology use with kids.  During our walk we see the boys light up with enthusiasm as they race around in the forest.  We smile at each other and hope that this passion can be passed on to them during our weekly outings.  It is hard to find time away from our busy lives to slow down, spend time together and put technology down.  Alexis and I are grateful for each other because we both truly believe in the importance of connecting as a family, spending time outdoors and exploring the world we live in.

Back at the car we dust off the dirt and smile knowing that we have another amazing adventure in the books.


Difficulty - Easy

Distance - 2.7 miles

Route Type - Out and Back

Elevation Gain - 518feet

Best Time - Anytime during the year

Jenna Szyluk