BOOK REVIEW: Wild in the City (and giveaway!)

And the winner is……. Christal!

Update: This review has been posted on the Portland Book Review‘s website.

In 2000, the Audubon Society of Portland published a new guide to the natural areas of the Portland region. Edited by Michael C. Houck and M.J. Cody, Wild in the City: A Guide to Portland’s Natural Areas provided the reader with descriptions of major natural areas in the region, along with short essays about natural history topics appropriate for the area by a variety of local naturalists.

When I moved to Portland in 2010, this was one of the first regional books I obtained – along with The Northwest Nature Guide by James Luther Davis. Knowing that my young son and I would be exploring most of the places listed in the book, I decided to use it as a guide for this blog, checking off each place as we explored it. I never got around to putting the whole list of natural areas on the blog, unfortunately, as some things just get pushed aside and forgotten.

I am glad that I had not completed the list, however, because now I have the shiny new edition of Wild in the City (OSU Press) to utilize for that purpose, which – subtitled Exploring the Intertwine: The Portland-Vancouver Region’s Network of Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas – adds over 12,000 acres of natural areas (such as Cooper Mountain and Graham Oaks Nature Parks) to the list since 11 years ago.

At the core of Wild in the City is The Intertwine, “the network of parks, trails, natural areas, and special places in the Portland-Vancouver region” that is “about providing people with connections to nature, to their communities, and to one another across urban and rural landscapes.” This book is all at once for walker and the hiker, for the paddler and the biker, for the beginning or seasoned naturalist, and most especially, as Richard Louv writes in his foreword, for families with children.

Peregrine Falcon - Lei Kotynski

Not only does Wild in the City describe with great detail the many places one could explore nature in the Portland region (over 90 locations), but it provides many short essays on far-ranging natural history topics, such as salamanders, Great Blue Herons (the city bird), pygmy owls, Peregrine falcons, “urban vermin,” coyotes, and salmon, and personal essays about particular spaces and their histories, like Forest Park, Sauvie Island, and the various watersheds. There are essays from the first edition, however, that are not repeated in the new edition, and that will afford both editions space on my shelf.

Otter - Elayne Barclay

A section of essays at the beginning of the book provides personal windows into the Portland region as a “sense of place.” I personally enjoyed Robert Michael Pyle‘s essay “No Vacancy,” where he looks further into why natural spaces, even “the little places, the corners and crannies and ravines, the urban greenspaces writ small,” must be part of our lives.

There is no better guide to make those natural spaces – weather a ditch along a trail cutting through your neighborhood or a banana slug-slimed trail at Tryon Creek State Natural Area – part of your everyday life then yourself, your family and friends, and a copy of Wild in the City.

Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine: The Portland-Vancouver Region’s Network of Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas, Second edition, edited by Michael C. Houck and M. J. Cody (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, copublished with the Audubon Society of Portland, 2011). 6 × 9 inches. Two-color maps. Line drawings. Index. 448 pages. ISBN 978-0-87071-612-6. Paperback, $24.95. Facebook

For this review, I was sent a copy of Wild in the City by Oregon State University Press. I thank them for the additional copy for the giveaway. Giveaway? What giveaway?

This giveaway:

To enter for a chance to win a copy of Wild in the City signed by Houck and Cody [Edit: and Bob Sallinger], please comment on this post telling me what your favorite natural area in the Portland region is and why. From the entries I will randomly pick a winner. The contest will be open until Friday, December 9th, midnight PST. If you would like to enter without commenting, you can send me an email at darwinsbulldog AT gmail DOT com. If you got here by seeing the contest announcement from Houck and Cody’s several book signings in Portland on December 3/4, please let me know. Good luck!

Houck, Cody, & Sallinger signing copies of Wild in the City at Portland Audubon, 12/3/11

This entry was posted in "natural history", audubon society of portland, books, hiking, intertwine, james davis, m.j. cody, michael c. houck. Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to BOOK REVIEW: Wild in the City (and giveaway!)

  1. Great book! So excited to see the new version.

  2. Cheryl Hart says:

    Michael, thanks for your review of the new edition of Wild in the City. We were just talking about this book at our “Store Committee” meeting at the refuge last night. None of us had seen the book yet, although Audubon has generously offered us a free copy for review which one of our group with pick up in the next week or so. We are especially excited to have Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge included in this new edition. And, of course, that is my favorite wild place in Portland. Thanks again.

  3. Erin M says:

    Our favorite natural area right now is the Camassia Natural Area in West Linn. With three small children (ages 2, 5, and 6), the trail is short enough that they can all complete it easily and long enough to still be interesting. We love the labeled points of interest, and my 5-year-old loves all the “bridges.” There’s something different and interesting to see in every season, and on clear days we are treated to stunning views of Mount Hood. The natural area may be small, but it’s a wonderful introduction to hiking in nature for very little ones!

  4. I’m so excited to see books like this! And of course I bought the first edition a week or so before the new one was announced so now I’ll have to get this one too, but I’m glad to hear that it wasn’t for nothing since some of the essays aren’t in the new one. We have a book similar in idea here for Seattle, but not anywhere near the depth or range of the Portland book. I’m curious though, does it cover additional green roofs from the previous edition? I know Portland has added a lot since then.

    • darwinsbulldog says:

      Kelly – Yes. A big part of the new edition is about urban nature and creating nature within built environments. I’m at work, so don’t have the book with me, but I believe there is a section devoted to touring ecoroofs in downtown.

      • Thanks Michael for the reply. I’m incredibly excited to hear that there is a lot of urban nature and even more excited (what’s more than incredibly?) to hear about the focus on creating nature within built environments. I really can’t wait to take a look through it.

  5. dan adams says:

    My favorite wild area in PDX is the former Vanport City area. I’ve seen deer and bald eagles there and my neighbors have seen coyote over by what is now the water treatment plant.

  6. CharonPDX says:

    My favorite natural area is the green space for Woods Creek that runs through my back yard. (That then runs into April Hill Park.) Haven’t seen a deer in about a decade, but they used to wander through. Have ducks and geese, coyotes, the occasional Blue Heron and Nutria (although thankfully I haven’t seen one in a while, they’re pests.) Even saw a Red Fox once.

    I’d love to get the Himalayan-blackberry-overgrown part of our yard properly nature-scaped to blend in to the green space properly, but it’s a lot of berries, and they’re tough to eradicate.

    I know my wife will love the book solely because it has otters on the cover. 😛

  7. t says:

    I really like hiking through the old grounds rocky butte. The site has a lot of history associated with it and you see pieces of the built environment in place even though it is being reclaimed by natural environment. It’s an easy walk from the gateway max station and even though it’s tucked in next to I-84 and I-205, the sounds of the freeway disappear as you stroll through. In the spring and summer it’s full of birds and flowers. I’ve seen deer, raccoon, and possum tracks. I’d imagine coyotes and maybe other critters are also in there. It’s like a secret garden in the middle of the freeway.

  8. Hmmm… Which natural area in PDX is my favorite? That’s a difficult decision as there are so many great areas. I guess I would probably say that Tryon Creek State Park is my favorite. The abundance of wildlife there is amazing plus they have Giant! giant salamanders. They also have a lot of great trails to explore. The staff is super friendly and they provide tons of educational programs for all ages. Oh and did I mention they have giant salamanders there?! 🙂

  9. Nathalie says:

    I love Oaks Bottom for its fine bird watching. I counted 20 Blue Herons sitting together once while walking through the area, an amazing sight! It is also fun to walk up to the cool, old mausoleum after a day of nature.

  10. darwinsbulldog says:

    The following comment is from Mike Houck, one of the editors of Wild in the City:

    This is Mike Houck, Co-editor of the first and second edition. First, thanks Michael for getting the info out to your audience. Your review is heartening to the production team (Martha Gannett, graphic design; Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director at Audubon Society of Portland; Bob Wilson, former Audubon Nature Store manager and long-time Audubon volunteer; Rafa Guiterrez, cartogopher; M J Cody, author and columnist; and myself). It took us two years to produce Wild in the City, Exploring The Intertwine. But the real story is the more than 100 volunteers who contributed essays, site guides and illustrations. This was truly a labor of love for everyone involved. We owe OSU Press thanks for working with us to get the book published.

    As for the otters on the cover, that image was donated by Tom and Marianne Nelson of Nelson Photograrphy. The rest of the photos I took from a houseboat on the Willamette and Martha Gannett created the “collage” effect. We wanted to carry forward the theme from Wild in the City I, which was a beautiful watercolor, but also had the same elements (otter, downtown skyline, Ross Island, etc). By the way my co-editor, M J Cody and I went to high school together, 50 years ago and her brother, Robin, well known NW writer, also attended EUHS. It’s so cool to work with M J and Robin, so many years later!

    The second edition is, indeed, virtually all new material. 85% is totally new and the other 15% has been updated. We debated among the production team whether we’d simply update Wild in the City, A Guide to Portland’s Natural Areas or produce a virtually new edition and chose the latter for a number of reasons, not the least of which thousands of new acres of natural areas have been added to the public land base in the intervening 11 years. Miles of new trails have also been added. And, to the point of the recent reply, Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, Clean Water Services and other agencies have launched an aggressive “green infrastructure” movement that was just nascent in 2000.

    I hope you all will agree that both editions belong in your nature library


    Mike Houck, Director
    Urban Greenspaces Institute

  11. Gail Achterman says:

    It is very hard to pick a single ‘favorite’ natural area in the Intertwine Region. Depending on available time, weather and season, different areas top my list. The two I visit the most often capture ridgetop to river: the Arboretum in Washington Park and Ross Island. I love the views, the winds, the colors and textures of the trees at the Arboretum, combined with the many loop trail variations. And at Ross Island it is all about the ever-changing river and wildlife–beaver, sea lions, herons, osprey, bald eagles, geese, ducks, salmon leaping, songbirds singing. Since I am often out on the river at dawn or dusk, the changing light enhances the entire experience.

  12. Laura says:

    I agree, it’s tough to pick a favorite natural area. Kind of like picking your favorite child! After all, that’s why we moved here- because there were so many, and because we were living in the 5th largest city in the country and my son’s exposure to nature was limited to city parks with cigarette butts and syringes lying around, and several manicured gardens built by millionaires which have opened to the public. Places not to be missed are Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in the spring when it’s filled with ducklings, Camassia Natural Area when the camas flowers are blooming, Smith and Bybee Lakes when the turtles are basking in the summer sun, any place you can see salmon in the fall, and Tryon Creek any old time. My son’s favorite place is Stub Stewart State Park. We saw a beaver there once, at dusk, in the Beaver Pond where hundreds of newts are always floating serenely in the water.

  13. Oh yeah, I love the collage look that echoes the original cover! So clever. Along with everyone else, I find it hard to choose but will claim Tryon Creek State Park, which is relatively close to my home and allows a choice of trails. (And a stop for take-out at Thai Orchid on the way back home! ;o) I was wondering if MJ Cody might be related to Robin Cody (love his “Ricochet River”)–so thanks for that info from Mike H.

  14. Angela says:

    I have two favorites: Eagle Creek in the Gorge and Forest Park in the city. Some of my best days have been spent on these trails and they are incredible sunshine or monsoon. Eagle Creek is great followed by a trip over the Bridge of the Gods to Stevenson, WA for a trip to Walking Man Brewery for post-hike pizza and beer. Great hikers brewery, full of cool people and old souls.

  15. I too have so many favorites that it is hard to choose…but given that I’ve spent the better part of my life over the last decade exploring Tryon Creek State Natural Area I’ll gladly claim it as my fav!

    Why?? Here are a few of my favorite things: Best Trillium display in the springtime hands-down, massive red rotting stumps (with evidence of springboard notches), Pileated woodpeckers galore, reliable nesting sites for owls, a creek abundant with beaver, trout and Pacific Giant Salamanders, Northern flying squirrels denning up in abandoned snags and best of all..really cool park rangers 🙂

  16. Great book! says:

    Great book!

  17. I have the first edition and I love it. I will definitely be getting the 2nd edition soon. Thanks for the review, Michael.

    My favorite natural area is Tryon Creek. I feel very lucky that there is such a large wild place in my backyard.

  18. It’s hard for me to pick just one place, but I’m partial to Tryon Creek. When I was in law school, I would walk the trails as much as possible, and would always pick a study room that let me feel as if I were studying in the trees. In the winter, I’d take breaks to watch the crows in the rain; in the spring and summer, I’d enjoy the tree canopy. And of course, in the spring, I’d enjoy the return of the trillium. Tryon Creek made for great memories even in the midst of the craziness of law school.

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  20. Jane Erwin says:

    If I have to choose o ne as a favorite, I suppose I’ll go with Forest Park. It’s so big with so many trails and roads that it’s easy to find a place that suits my mood

  21. Zane A. Manwell says:

    Hey Michael. You introduced me to Tryon Park , and it has become my all time favorite place to escape for an hour or so and take in the seasons while I run. Love that place.

  22. My favorite place, and perhaps the best hidden gem the area is Lacamas Creek Park.

  23. Eric Rosewall says:

    Many amazing places to choose from.. Excellent park Adam! I simply love Elk Rock Island – so much packed into such a small place, rewarding any time of year. Moulton Falls Regional Park is also one of the gems on my list – great swimming/rock jumping and hiking.

  24. joan says:

    In-town, I really love the dog park at Fernhill Park in NE. It feels like my pup, kids, and I are out for a walk in the woods when we go there.

    I’m pretty new to town so I’m not sure I have a favorite yet in the larger area. I’ve only just begun to explore Forest Park, Sauvie Island, etc. Smith Lake is pretty neat.

  25. Kristen says:

    In the summer, my daughter and I love the Audubon Sanctuary. Not too far, big trees, birds of prey to ogle. But very slippery once the rain comes. When we get the itch in the middle of a rainy day, Tryon is the go-to. Always. My daughter calls it “her” forest.

  26. I’m I allowed to list a “metro” area nature site? Don’t get across the bridge much, but we love Ridgefield NWR!

  27. Andy Van Oostrum says:

    I will echo many of the other folks, as Tryon Creek State park is my fallback. I have a couple young kids, and it is the perfect training hike to take stock of their stamina. Trillium, slugs, a hike down to the creek and getting to cross all the bridges, playing on stumps, in tree wells, an OWL nest, and chance to come across riders on horseback! Super bummed that they took out the art walk, but having the center onsite is great for the kids to come in, warm up, and checking out animals and books.

    I have schlepped many o kid on the shoulders back up that hill, but truely an oasis in the city.
    Cant wait to read the book, and expand to other areas in PDX beyond that park.

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  29. Marie Clay says:

    Ali McCart at Indio Editing, (my daughter 🙂 did a book review on your book and highly recommends it! Also how can I get copies whole sale to sell in our coffee shop?

  30. Robin Jenkinson says:

    I love to walk down to the Willamette River near the Sellwood Bridge almost any time of day or season. The calm waters and cottonwood forest, with the city skyscrapers rising above the Ross Island Natural Area and reflecting in the river is beautiful. Plus, I’ve seen beaver and all sorts of water birds (Mergansers, Ducks, etc.).

  31. This is going to be hard. Do I have to choose just one? I guess Sauvie Island .. but, I’ve seen the most wildlife on the trail behind our home. Portland is amazing.

  32. Maren Zieba says:

    Wow! Choosing one natural area … I am a Tryon Creek lover too! It has the creek, the hills, the accessible nature loop, and many entry points. It is a “get away” in the city.

  33. Julie C says:

    Rocky Butte Natural Area is lovely as well! I do love Tryon Creek too! Use to live very close to that area quite a few years ago.

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