Ken II, the (New) Oak Tree

Dear Liza,

Last summer I told you about the new oak tree planted in Laurelhurst Park. It was planted right at the roots of a huge oak that had fallen in a spring storm the previous year.

We watched as this new tree, which we named Ken, took root, got green, lost leaves during the fall, and came back this spring. We celebrated his new leaves.

Then, a few weeks ago, an unknown person, for unknown reasons, ripped the top off young Ken and threw the leaves to the ground. We were heart broken. I didn’t tell you about it at the time because it was just too senseless and sad.

I am telling you now because I have a happy turn in the story to tell. Ken’s sturdy roots have sent up new shoots to replace the damaged top! Look there, right at the bottom of the trunk. Oak leaves sprouting up!

I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. Amid all the petty lawlessness, war and climate change, it is nice to know that this tree has not given up.

Way to go, Ken!


Grandma Judy

Spring Sundowns

Dear Liza,

Portland weather doesn’t do anything by halves. When it is cold and windy in mid-February, it is dishearteningly grim. When it rains for a solid month, like this past April, it is a soggy mess.

And when the sun finally comes out, like it did this week, it is dazzling.

On an after-dinner walk to see the sunset, I caught these shots of the last rays of sunshine lighting up the treetops in Laurelhurst Park.

As your Grandpa Nelson often says, we live on a pretty planet.

Out for another adventure in the sun tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Ken, the Oak Tree

Dear Liza,

You know how much I love walking in Laurelhurst Park. I feel very close to some of the trees, especially the younger ones that I have gotten to see grow up.

This past Spring, several of our old giants fell in a big windstorm. This is a natural way for a tree to die, but it is still sad to see. This oak fell over with some of its roots still in the ground. The City cut most of the tree away to keep the paths safe and the dog park clear.

And someone decided that the remaining set of roots should protect a NEW tree, and planted one, right there. We named it Ken.

This summer we have enjoyed watching Ken grow. He has gained about a foot in height. He is growing almost as fast as you are!

And now it is Fall, time for Ken to change his leaves and have a nice long rest for winter. I can’t wait to see his new leaves pop out come March!


Grandma Judy

Willie the Dawn Redwood Update

Dear Liza,

One of the many things I love about our Laurelhurst Park is that it is always changing. Old trees die or are damaged in storms and need to be replaced, so we get to meet the new babies.

Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson, and Willie, Summer of 2018

Just after we moved up to Portland, this young Dawn Redwood was planted near the dog off leash area. We named it Willie, after my Mom.

Fall of 2018

Every time we walked through the park, we would check on Willie. That first autumn we were very worried. Willie’s thin, soft needles began to dry up and fall off! We looked up Dawn Redwoods and discovered that (whew) they are deciduous. That means they lose their leaves in winter. Willie wasn’t sick, she was just hibernating!

Winter of 2019
Summer of 2019

After a long nap, Willie woke up in the spring and looked fabulous! She was a good foot taller. She apparently liked where she was.

Summer of 2021!

And she continues to thrive. This summer she is three years old and growing like a weed. In ten years or so, she may take on the look of her elders, which look sort of like the scary apple trees from “The Wizard of Oz”.

Elderly Dawn Redwood

I love watching things grow.


Grandma Judy

Signs of Spring

Dear Liza,

Yes, the snow is barely melted in the neighborhood, but the sun came out yesterday and showed us some signs of spring.

A mighty Laurelhurst tree, down in the storm

At Laurelhurst Park, the totally saturated ground and heavy ice from our last storm caused another great tree to fall. This is on the edge of what I call The Ravine, and has been in many of my photos of this part of the park. It was angular and leaning and beautiful.

It is sad to see such a fine specimen down. This cusp between winter and spring can be difficult to navigate safely.

The same tree a few winters ago….

But there are more gentle signs of spring. Tiny crocuses coming up beside napping angels.

Early blooming trees cheering us up and letting us know that winter doesn’t last forever.

The list of folks getting vaccinated grows every day, making us all safer. And when we get ours, life will get more mobile and more fun. Then I will get to come visit you. And that will be very sweet.


Grandma Judy

Hand Rails for Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

First section of rails is in!

As I have told you, Laurelhurst Park is my favorite place in Portland. It is 26 acres of grassy slopes, majestic maple trees, picnic areas, a lake, paths for walking and biking, and even places to hang out with dogs.

Auntie Bridgett and Willie




In our short year here we have seen old trees fall or lose branches,  and new ones get planted. We have gotten quite attached to some of them. Auntie Bridgett has a favorite, a young fir tree she calls Oliver. She gives him a “high five” whenever we go past. He recently got his lower branches trimmed, so she has to reach higher for the five!

A High Five for Oliver

There is a new tree, a Dawn Redwood we have named Willie because he has a snake-like wiggle near the top. He is still young and we look forward to watching him grow.

And Laurelhurst Park is now getting even better! The wonderful brick steps that lead from the deepest part of the ravine up to Ankeny Street are getting hand rails.

Last January, when I chatted with a fellow working on the plants near the steps, he mentioned that handrails were in the plans, but that I shouldn’t hold my breath.  Now they are becoming a reality.

Leveling the new rails

A few weeks ago we noticed holes cut in the edges of the steps. Tuesday, Grandpa Nelson noticed the caution tape as we walked home from the movies. Wednesday, I met some of the men installing the beautiful rails. It is quite a complicated process.

Inside each hole is a steel sleeve, so the rails won’t put stress on the old bricks. Then the rails are set 4 feet into the sleeve with concrete and pea gravel and leveled in all directions. The concrete is smoothed and then painted with sealant so it won’t crack.

When I asked when the rails would be ready to use, the man answered, “Depends how hot it gets. We can’t pour if it’s over 100 degrees.” I will drop by the park later today to see what’s up, so I can show you!

Always looking for more goodness around here…


Grandma Judy