A Busy Day: Minto Brown Park, Wild Pear, Linda Ronstadt and Radio Room

She Said

Today’s Agenda:  Hike at Minto-Brown Island Park;   Lunch at The Wild Pear;  Linda Ronstadt Tribute Concert to Benefit Parkinson’s Resources  of Oregon;   and Radio Room for cocktails 


One of the earliest memories I have while dating my husband is him jubilantly declaring, “You have hiking legs!”   To Mark, an Oregonian male, that was the greatest compliment he could bestow upon a woman and was equivalent to a marriage proposal.  But to a girl from Minnesota, whose siblings always jokingly told her she should run for Pork Queen (Ya, I went though a chubby phase in high school), he might as well as just called me Thunder Thighs.  But these Thunder Thighs have taken me on many great hikes over the years and those hikes  have provided us with some of the best moments of our relationship.  Today’s hike at  Minto-Brown Island Park (MBIP) was another of those great moments.  

Located in Salem, MBIP is the largest park in the city and includes 19 miles of paved and dirt paths.  While we hiked about 5 miles, it seemed less since the path is mostly flat and the natural surroundings constantly grab one’s attention.  I have always preferred hiking near water because of more birds, wildlife, and vegetation.  At MBIP, one is surrounded by water.  Our hike started along the Willamette river (every bit as difficult to spell as the Mississippi river), then took us through a pleasant jaunt through the woods, before eventually landing at a slough with herons seemingly awaiting our arrival. We saw trout, hawks, and osprey ( with nests almost as big as a house). The park includes footbridges, an off-leash dog park, and we plan to return this summer with our bicycles to explore the paved bike paths.

Minton Brown

Minton Brown

Minton Brown

Several hiking calories burned, we figured we had earned the right to go out for a late lunch.  The Wild Pear is a bistro we happened upon driving around downtown Salem. Any restaurant named after-and owned-by  a “wild pair” of sisters has got to be good and it was!  It is housed in one the the many cool old buildings we discovered in downtown Salem.  The Wild Pear prepares Northwest cuisine  with local ingredients and scratch-made soups, dressings, and decadent desserts. Here dishes are all kicked up a notch with tasty additions and original takes on a  bistro-type menu of soups, sandwiches, and pizza. The service is friendly and attentive. They serve a cocktails, cater, and will prepare box lunches—great for a picnic in the park. The caprese sandwich was perfect and the chocolate stout cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting knocked it out of the ballpark.  ‘

wild pear 3

We dashed back to Portland for the Heart Like a Wheel  Linda Ronstadt tribute concert to benefit Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon.  For those unaware, Ronstadt has lost her ability to sing because of Parkinson’s disease.  As one of my favorite female vocalists, I have been fortunate to have heard Ronstadt live, about three different times in my lifetime.  The concert was held at the intimate Alberta Rose Theater.  The staff who produced this fun evening were great.  As soon as we entered the theater we were personally escorted to our seats by one of the producers (first time we had been escorted in, rather than out of a venue), Tonya DeCroce, who was a hoot and made the evening a lot of fun with her vivacious personality and extemporaneous humor.  Several musicians were on hand to render their interpretations of some of Ronstadt’s classics.  While all of the musicians were very capable at their craft, it was vocalist, Bre Gregg, whose pipes could blow all the toxic fumes out of Southeast Portland. That woman can sing.  

It had been a full and eventful day, giving us an excuse to wind down for cocktails at Radio Room on Alberta Street.  Outwardly, Radio Room has kind of a contemporary vibe;  its structure appears as a compilation squares and rectangles.  Inwardly, it feels like a comfortable, yet hip, neighborhood haunt with standard amenities and cool artwork on the walls.  Upon our arrival, we ran into some friends, who bravely invited us to join them.  Since I was still feeling guilty about eating the chocolate stout cake earlier in the day, I opted out of eating and was forced to consume only alcohol;  these are the tough choices we have to make in life.  Cocktails here average around $8 and are worth every penny.  I ordered the Ste. Julie’s Gimlet with hibiscus flower gin, rhubarb bitters and lime—a gardener’s dream.  I am a sucker for a pretty drink.  Seeing this lovely cherry hued drink arrive almost—I said almost—caused me to pause, not wanting to liquidate (pardon the pun) its beauty.  But, alas, who could resist this intriguing balance of sweet and tart flavors.  Any cocktail menu dotted with magical fruit bitters and infusions will have me coming back for more.

He Said

It is remarkable how much fun can be had in a single day in the NW.

The morning started cool and cloudy, so a good day for a hike. As I get older the criteria have changed for a hike. 6 miles maximum. Flat is nice, but if there are hills, I want to finish the hike on a downhill course.  Hikes should parallel life.

I have a book, The Creaky Knees Guide Oregon: The 80 Best Easy Hikes, which kinda sorta meets those criteria. Not every hike looks “easy’ to this 413 year old (in dog years).

But the book suggested Minto Brown Park in Salem and it looked like a good geezer hike. It was.

On old farmland and forest, the hike wanders along the Willamette and adjacent sloughs with multiple opportunities to add or subtract miles as you walk around the park. Unlike most parks, every junction has a sign (sign. Not signage. Anyone who says signage needs a spankin’) so you know where you are and where you can go. I have never been in a better park for signs.

The hike itself is varied, with rivers, sloughs, lakes, grasslands, forests and a variety of plants and birds. We walked the dirt path loops, but there are also paved paths for good biking and if I read the information signs at the parking, there is going to be a pedestrian/bike bridge connecting Minto Brown to Riverfront Park in Salem, making for a great biking trip.

We walked for about three hours, so maybe 6 miles (I tend to overestimate, Kerry to underestimate.  I’m the optimist, she the pessimist), the highlight being osprey nests. It is one of those parks that is in transition from cultivated land to wild, so it is interesting to see the variation. Some of the plants and the way they were arranged suggest a nursery that has run wild. A great geezer hike with lots of variation to keep you occupied.

Who knew birds made ladders?

Who knew birds made ladders?

Minton Brown

Minton Brown

Minton Brown

Minton Brown

Minton Brown

Minton Brown

Minton Brown

Minton Brown

Minton Brown

Minton Brown

We finished the hike early afternoon, time for late lunch. We wanted to see what historical Salem has to offer.

Like the park, old Salem seems in transition from nearly abandoned downtown to gentrified shopping and eating area. It seems about halfway there. For a Saturday afternoon there were no crowds or parking issues, but enough people to suggest an area on an economic upswing.

There are some cool old buildings from the 1800’s in Salem, one of them now a restaurant, the Wild PearThey call their style as Asian influenced American food and it was excellent. I had the

Kahlua Pork Sandwich: House smoked pulled pork on a onion cheddar bun with a ginger-lime slaw & a marionberry BBQ sauce on the side. Served with mixed russet & sweet potato fries

that was messily delicious.  I need to lick my fingers, hands and forearms when done

We shared the

Chocolate Guinness Cake. Our dark chocolate cake is baked with Guinness stout, giving it a rich added tang & frosted with our vanilla whipped cream cheese frosting.

for dessert that was rich, moist, and came with a free cardiac stress test. Well, the last part isn’t true.

A delicious lunch. But wait. Or after the cake, butt weight.  There’s more.

wild pear 2  wild-pear-1

Kerry is a Linda Ronstadt fan. Ms. Ronstadt has Parkinson’s and the Portland Parkinson’s had a fundraiser at the Alberta Rose theater with a band that would play all Linda Ronstadt songs.

It was a good way to rest the legs after a hike, listening to live music, a tribute to Ms.Ronstadt. The singers and musicians were excellent; there are so many good musicians in Portland, and it was a pleasant show. The biggest problem with the show is I could not get her songs out of my head for the next three days.

This was evidently the second year of the fundraiser and they, as well as us, will be back next year.

After the show? Cocktail time. My brother had suggested the Radio Room,  (see David, we do listen to your suggestionsO where we ran into some friends from high school.  Hard to believe Paul is now 56.

There was a bachelorette party were they were drinking out of a pigs butt (don’t ask) that added to the festivities.

The atmosphere is Portland: wooden booths, tattooed waitresses, and smiles all around. Comfortable but neither unique for Portland nor a feeling of a Applebys. The drinks were almost as good as the unexpected company. I had a

Minsky’s Manhattan. Elijah Craig 94 proof bourbon, sweet vermouth, Burlesque and Angostura bitters served over a big rock with an orange twist and a bordeaux cherry

followed by

Tom Waits. Old Olverholt Rye whiskey, orange, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, & Grand Marnier. Gravelly voice not included.

while we talked and watched the bachelorettes get increasingly loud and drunk. Good company, good drinks and good times.

The food that passed us by looked delicious enough to come back and reminded me that I need to study the Trader Joes mailings to learn how to better describe food. They have it down to an formula.


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