places to go

Trees of the Lone Fir Cemetery

Autumn is the perfect time for Lone Fir’s monthly walking tour – this Saturday Nov 13, 2010

By Kate Bryant November 12, 2010

A carpet of bronze leaves under the grand old beech tree at the Lone Fir Cemetery, November 2010

There are a million reasons to love the Lone Fir Cemetery.

Apart from being a historic resting ground for a wide array of Portland residents over the years, it’s of great value for the living – a lovely place to walk, jog, read a book, learn about early Portland history, admire moss and lichen up close and watch the seasons shift.

In spring, look for the glowing, chartreuse buds of big leaf maples and dusky red and pink camellia blossoms. In summer, the trees – three now designated historic – provide a cool canopy for naps and reading on a blanket. In fall, the chestnuts, maples, ginkgo, lindens and more drop blankets of gold and orange leaves, as well as nuts for the squirrels and enterprising human foragers. And in winter, it’s hands-down my favorite place to walk on a misty morning – and see the snow fall through the bare tree branches.

It’s also the only Portland cemetery on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Last summer, the City designated three trees in the Lone Fir Cemetery historic: the cemetery’s namesake Douglas fir; the General Joseph Lane maple; and a 100-foot incense cedar. Plaques commemorate the trees – it’s fun to hunt for the plaques.

The cemetery also contains the Pioneer Rose Garden , first created by the Pioneer Rose Association. The garden has seen some neglect over the years but is currently being tended and refurbished.

Burials still take place at the Lone Fir, although I understand there are no new plots available. When I was there today, there was a ceremony taking place so I kicked around the other side of the cemetery so as not to disturb. For a little while, I retraced my steps of the annual Halloween Tour of Untimely Departures, photographing some elements that seemed interesting from a horticultural perspective.

At that recent Halloween night tour, I learned that active use of the cemetery for recreation is encouraged by Friends of Lone Fir, mostly because pedestrians and visitors minimize the vandalism that has damaged many of the markers, structures and trees. The more people value, recognize and spend time in this special place, the safer it will be.

There is so much to see there, and so many interesting angles from which to explore the 30 acre, arboretum-like park (now administered by Metro, along with the Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery (on myspace, here). Click on the slide show (above) to get a bit of the flavor of the place’s trees, stone markers and structures. To learn more about this extraordinary and beautiful oasis, join the monthly walking tour, taking place this Saturday. The tour is primarily historical but tree questions are often answered, depending on the knowledge of the tour guide.

Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery Monthly Walking Tour
November 12, 2010 from 10 am to 12 noon
Lone Fir Cemetery (meet at the soldiers’ monument in the center of the cemetery)

Suitable for children.
Enter at SE 26th between Stark and Morrison Streets or on the south (Morrison Street) side. Bus riders, use Line 15.

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