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Playing the tour guide again Thursday, September 04, 2008

Peter and Alison Ginn read stories of the pioneers Sept. 1 at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City. The center teaches visitors about the six-month journey that tens of thousands of immigrants made from Missouri between 1843 and the 1870s.

After a couple weeks touring around Crater Lake, Redwoods National Park and the Oregon coast, my parents stopped back here for a couple more days in and around Portland.

We kept busy, filling both days with as many touristy things as we could.

Since Monday was Labor Day, we decided to postpone our trip to the Columbia Gorge until Tuesday, hoping that the crowds would be smaller.

Instead, we spent the morning at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Oregon City. It looks like they get a lot of school field trips through there, with plenty of hands-on activities for the kids. For the most part though, I found it a bit disappointing considering that it represents such an important part of American history. There were some artifacts there, but the exhibits were really text-heavy.

After we left the Interpretive Center, we found three geocaches near the center. I'll write more on geocaching in another post in the near future.

After lunch and a quick stop at home, it was off to the Portland Japanese Garden. That was definitely worth the price of admission.

Like most of the places I took my parents, this was the first time I'd been to the Japanese Garden. Before going, I guess I thought of Japanese gardens as those flat expanses of combed white sand.

That, of course, was there, but the five-and-a-half acre property has five distinct garden styles. And looking at them, you realize that they each look like Japanese gardens you've seen in a movie or on TV.

The Japanese Garden was designed by Professor Takuma Tono in 1963. According to the garden's brochure, a former ambassador of Japan to the United States described it as "the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan." The gardens use stone, water and plants to "realize a sense of peace, harmony, and tranquility."

The garden was pretty busy in there; not surprising, I suppose, for a pleasant holiday afternoon. Even so, the sense of tranquility was clearly evident. It would be a great place to go for some quiet contemplation on a weekday afternoon.

Once we'd seen enough of the garden, we wandered around the area looking for more geocaches. We found all three on our list, including one in the International Rose Test Garden, which is right next to the Japanese Garden.

I was impressed with the rose garden, considering that we were about two months past its peak season (June). Here's one of my dad's pictures of the roses.