Etched glass bus stop shelter on Alberta Street

Before I begin four days of camping and hiking around Mt. Rainier I head to Portland, Oregon for the weekend, catching Amtrak’s Cascades train just a stone’s throw from Sea-Tac airport.

Artist with flowered hat on Alberta Street

The trip takes a bit more than 3 hours, the train is spacious and clean, and the route winds through great forest and waterfront scenery, ending in gem of a train station that’s right out of a ‘40’s movie.

“Art On Alberta” trailer studio

The first thing that hits me is how green it is here.  More shades of emerald green than anywhere else, speckled in August by the blooms of flowers and wildflowers.

The second thing is that there’s an economy to the layout of this town.  Almost no part of it much more than 20 minutes from any other, and the local light rail and bus service sets a standard.

The third thing is that Portland is an uplifting example of a community which has so passionately embraced the values of community, diversity, and sustainability that they’re woven into the fabric of the place.

To say that Portland is pedestrian-and-cycle-friendly is a gross understatement. This weekend there’s also a bicycle event that routes 20,000 local cyclists back and forth across every bridge that joins the city across the Willamette River, where windsurfers scoot along the river’s surface.

Jubilantly recycling!

There are more great neighborhoods, microbreweries, and wineries than I can possibly see in a weekend, but it’s my good luck to arrive during the annual Alberta Street Festival, which promises to pack as much of Portland as possible into a single event.

Wall mural

Muslim henna tatoo artist

This is not your typical neighborhood street fair. Originality rules here, and along the entire 20-block midway no two of anything is alike, with plenty of it likely to be seen absolutely nowhere else.

Co-op grocery

It’s hard to escape the feeling that the best of the ‘60’s counter-culture lives on here, if updated for the new century.

Faux flowers on sidewalk tree

The aura of jubilation here is nothing if not mellow, a celebration of an historic neighborhood revived and reinvented and a harmonious community.

People of every persuasion mingle comfortably and unaffectedly, and no age group seems to be unrepresented.

Black Cat Café

There are plenty of coffeehouses and taverns stocked with microbrews.

Caffé Vita

Bug-headed balloon sculptor

There’s hardly a block without some kind of street performer, and they run the gamut from jugglers to musicians.

Street musician quartet

Street jugglers

Island food truck

The foodservice here is nothing if not electic. Great eats from international cuisine to American comfort food is offered in everything from sit-down restaurants to food trucks.

The Grilled Cheese Gril


Pedi-cab taxis are are about as “green” as you can get!

Gargoyle…. purse not included

Vintage clothing and furnishings scream “recycle me” from resale shop windows

Art lamp chandeliers

Art and crafts in wood, leather, glass begs for a closer look at every corner, and the artists and artisans are engaged in animated conversations with passers-by.

You don’t have to be a shop-a-holic to end up buying something to take home.

Box-banjo player

Quirkiness is a virtue here, and if elsewhere it can be an annoyance here it’s almost always endearing.

The Hempress Café

The weekend runs out far too fast, but as I board the train back north I’m already looking forward to the next few days camping and hiking around Mount Rainier.