See Portland As Never Before

Jan 24, 2013 by

See Portland As Never Before

by Heather Cassell

I have been to Portland several times to visit one of my best friends who moved there a few years ago with her husband. The number of times I’ve visited didn’t equate knowing the Rose City. It was simply a place, with the world’s largest independently- and woman-owned bookstore, Powell’s Books (I confess I’m a bibliophile), not a city that I started to really get to know up until my last visit. My eyes were opened by my escape artists Jeff Pietka, a true Portlander born and raised in the Rose City, and Kieron Weidner, a Midwest transplant, of EverGreen Escapes who introduced me to the true history and current trendiness that makes Portland so hip and weird in the coolest way.

EverGreen Escapes is a Northwestern tour company started in Seattle with a new location in Portland lead by Kieron. EverGreen Escapes offers a variety of traditional guided tours, such as city and wine tours, but it prides itself on its outdoor adventure tours. Many of the escape artist, what the company calls its tour guides, are local to the region or are transplants who fell head over heels in love with the Northwest’s charms.

That means that each escape artist is well versed in Portland, Seattle, and the surrounding regions within Oregon and Washington states.

From the moment EverGreen Escapes’ escape artist picks you up in the company’s signature Mercedes Sprinter van it is all about you and making your day the most enjoyable day possible. Another classy signature of EverGreen Escapes is that it never matters if one person is signed up or if the tour is sold out, an escape artist will arrive on time to take you on your adventure.

So much fun is at Porlanders and visitors’ fingertips in the Northwest. In a single day visitors can hike, surf, or ski, and go wine tasting and more and still be back in Portland to enjoy a relaxing dinner, says Kieron.

Guest can enjoy a traditional wine tour to the Oregon’s wine country on the Willamette Valley Wine Trail or mix it up with an outdoor adventure, like the Columbia Gorge Wine and Waterfalls.

Visitors seeking to get active without the imbibing can check out the plethora of guided outdoor adventures EverGreen Escapes tours also offers.

Escapists heading out on a kayak excursion with EverGreen Escapes. (Photo: Courtesy of Kieron Weidner)

Escapists heading out on a kayak excursion with EverGreen Escapes. (Photo: Courtesy of Kieron Weidner)

Getting to know Portland

I decided to get to know Portland better. I arrived outside of Starbucks in downtown Portland’s Pioneer Square bright and early for my tour of the Rose City with Jeff. Before heading out to see the city, we picked up another couple at the historic River Palace (1510 Southwest Harbor Way, Portland, Ore. 97201; 503-228-3233;;, that recently became a Kimpton Hotel. The hotel is located just off of the Hawthorne Bridge, one of Portland’s eight bridges that cross the Willamette River – one of two rivers that divide the city – at the entrance to downtown Portland.

Jeff immediately took us to the historic Pittock Mansion (, to tour the late Mrs. Georgiana Pittock’s famed rose garden, long before the city got its moniker, she was the inspiration for the Rose Festival and visionary behind becoming the testing grounds for the world’s roses during WWI, with the support of her friends at the Portland Rose Society that produced an annual show. European rose growers were searching for a place to protect their prize roses and hybrids and Portland came up smelling, well rosy. It was a great success, so much so that after WWI Portland kept the rose garden that continues to be the testing ground for the world’s roses.

Mr. Henry Pittock was Portland’s media mogul. The Pittocks are the epitome of the American success story of their time – when they came to the area from different parts of the world, Henry from England by way of Pennsylvania in 1853 and Georgiana from Missouri 1854. The couple matured with the city as it and they grew from being a diamond in the rough into a dazzling jewel. Henry died in 1919, a year after Georgiana.

The mansion was completed in 1914, after a decade-long process the mansion was a symbol of opulence boasting not only modern technology, success, but also highlighted the best of Oregon’s artisans and craftsmen who left their mark in every crevasse of the mansion that they worked on.

Situated at the top of the West Hills, the mansion’s grounds also provided an overview of the Portland valley encircled by 10 hills making the city the largest forested municipal park in the U.S. and possibly North America, Jeff tells us. The hills are linked together by a network of 50 miles of biking and hiking trails easily accessed by residents and visitors at a moment’s notice.

Portland is a city of inspiration for television, movies, and animation. Jeff took us through by Klickitat Street, which was the inspiration for many of Beverly Cleary’s children’s books. We drove past Matt Groening’s, the creator of the “Simpsons” and “Life in Hell” comic books high school. Portland is also the home of TV shows “Leverage” and “Grim.”

We explored many of Portland’s 95 neighborhoods stopping in only a few and at the famed Rose Gardens and the volcanic outdoor concert hall on Mount Tabor that make up the city’s unique and ever evolving charming character from arts to culinary delights to outdoor adventures.

At lunchtime I departed the tour in the Mississippi Avenue neighborhood to meet up with Kieron. I grabbed a quick $10 lunch at ¿Por Que No? (3524 N. Mississippi Avenue; 503-467-4149;, a popular classic Mexican eatery on the strip that quickly filled up soon after I arrived.

Kieron Weidner with escapists at Northstar in North Lake Tahoe, Nev. (Photo: Courtesy of Kieron Weidner)

Kieron Weidner with escapists at Northstar in North Lake Tahoe, Nev. (Photo: Courtesy of Kieron Weidner)

Kieron, who is openly bisexual, and I were going to explore the quirkier and queer side of Portland. We traveled through the bike-friendly neighborhood’s with bike boulevards where no cars are allowed, spotted food trucks, strolled through art galleries, before stopping off for coffee at Jazzkatz Coffee (1925 Northeast 42nd Avenue, Ste. E; 503-249-0686;, a lesbian-owned coffeehouse in the Hollywood neighborhood that is emerging as a Haight-Ashbury / Mission vibe, two popular San Francisco neighborhoods, with a queer bent.

Whitney Baskins, owner of the coffee shop is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, welcomed us offering coffee and treats before showing us local artist’s works displayed on the store’s walls and talking about the local coffee produced by Blue Kangaroo Coffee Roasters and the vegan delights created by the coffeehouse’s menu chef Heidi Lovig.

Whitney then took us around the corner to Ritual Arts (2005 NE 42nd Avenue; 503-384-2551;, an eco-friendly tattoo and piercing studio owned by Jesse Enz and Shane “Seven” Wolfe, a queer transgender business and life partners who are in their 30s.

The couple has enjoyed a great deal of success since they opened their body art studio a year and a half ago, due to the overwhelming support of the community Seven says, as he removes a piercing explaining each step to the client and why he is doing what he is doing and asking questions.

Fueled up Kieron and I took off to Hip Chicks Do Wine (4510 SE 23rd Avenue; 503-234-3790;, a lesbian-owned winery located Portland’s warehouse district, and back to downtown passing through Chinatown, which is also the location for the city’s oldest drag show and gay bars, to Portland’s famed Pear District. We ended our adventure there as I met up with my friend Erica for happy hour and dinner at Irving St. Kitchen (701 NW 13th Avenue; 503-343-9440;

Kieron’s custom tour for me is another unique aspect of EverGreen Escapes. They are able to create custom tours based on individual’s interests if asked.

To escape with EverGreen Escapes call 866-203-7603 or visit

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