A few weeks ago Mr Husband and I took advantage of a string of dry days and headed out for a little local adventure (and for a walk somewhere besides the neighborhood). Little were we to know the trouble we’d be stirring up with Finn McSpool.
A Little Mansion to Start Your Day
Our planned day out was a hike in Forest Park along a portion of the (almost) 30-mile long Wildwood Trail and rather than start at our “usual” spot by the zoo, we headed up to the trailhead at Pittock Mansion.
Now, ever since I got to go there on school trips, I have wanted to live in this little mansion (a mere 46 rooms), but until the City of Portland decides to gift it to me, I have to make do with strolling the grounds and peeking in the windows of this historic home that overlooks the city from its hilltop location.
Quick Fact: Pittock Mansion was the inspiration for Eury’s home in my book The Trials of Hercules. I’m sure this bit of trivia will one day be added to the mansion’s history page on the Pittock Mansion website.
Gawking complete, it was time to hit the trail.
Down Down Down
From the mansion it’s a long, steep walk downhill for about two miles. And yes, the whole time the fun thought of, “I’ve got to walk all the way back up” danced in my head. Ugh. But we did passed this group of cute men in funny hats on the way down.
Eventually, the long descent dumped us out at MacClay Park where we spent a little time checking out the resident birds at the Audubon Sanctuary before continuing down the next steep descent (in the mud, the slippery slippery mud, mind you) to Balch Creek Canyon.
Due to its steep and narrow sides, the canyon barely sees any sunlight. This and the moist conditions make perfect growing conditions for clumps of moss and baby ferns.
And doesn’t this look like the perfect limb for Finn to explore?
Uh-oh. Yep, in our hurry to get out and about, we forgot our favorite Beastie. Ah well, he’s probably not going to be very upset.
Love and Murder and Witchy Ways in the Old West
Once we’d played slip and slide down the muddy slope, the path leveled out along the creek. Our legs were grateful, but something had our spines tingling. Wait, do you hear something? Was that someone cackling? Could be, because we’d just come upon the Witch’s House.
The only cackling you’ll hear these days from this little stone house is that of drunken teens on Friday nights, but the Witch’s House has the perfect history for a haunting.
Back before Oregon was officially a state, Danford Balch (who the creek was named after) bought this land and wanted to develop it. Well, this isn’t exactly mow-the-grass-and-slap-up-a-house kind of territory so he hired a worker with the appropriate name of Mortimer Stump to fell some trees and clear a potion of the property.
As will happen when you bring a hunky lumberjack into your home, one of Balch’s daughters, Anna, got all googoo for Mortimer. Old Morty was an upright fellow and asked Balch if he could marry Anna. Sweet, right? Nope! Dad said, “No way Stumpy Boy.”
In total Shakespeare/romance novel fashion, Mortimer told Balch that he and Anna would just elope. I know what you’re thinking…if you’re going to try to elope you probably don’t want to be announcing it to your future father-in-law.
Balch clearly had some anger management issues to sort out and told Morty that he would murder him if he eloped with Anna. After a threat like that, you’d think Mort might either back down, or (in true Shakespearian/romance novel fashion) steal off with his lady love and begin a new life far away from psycho dad.
Since real life is always more interesting than fiction (and the characters in real life far stupider), Mort and his new wife Anna return from their elopement. Does Balch realize his errors? Does he jump for joy that his daughter has returned to him? Hell no. Batch has been on a bender since the couple fled. He greets Morty not with open arms, but with a shotgun blast to the face in true Old West style.
Balch doesn’t get away with murder, but here’s where the Shakespearian tragedy takes on a Keystone Cop aspect. The authorities put Balch in a wooden jail cell. In little time, he escaped from his half-assed prison. The officials must have been aware of the fault in their jail design because they quickly caught Balch and executed him.
What’s the stone house in the pictures got to do with this story? Um, nothing. It happens to be built on Balch land sort of near where the homestead was, but the stone house itself was only built in the 1930s as a station for park rangers and work crews.
But hey, that doesn’t mean the land can’t be haunted, right? Except for the fact that both Morty and Balch were killed/executed miles away from the actual homestead site. Ah well, it makes a good story, nonetheless.
Soothing the Savage Beastie
We managed to make it away from the “haunted” Witch’s House and back up those steep slopes, but we feared what we might come home to. Maybe Finn had been sleeping the whole time and didn’t even realize we’d been gone.
The minute I opened the door, I knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. You could almost feel the chill of Finn’s displeasure. Even my toucan whistle was giving me the evil eye.
Luckily monsters are easy to divert from their anger. I took Finn by the paw and led him outside where he delighted in the sight of the crocuses that just popped up…and in Finn’s favorite colors!
How about you? Any slippery hikes lately? Any haunted houses or angry monsters near you? Thanks for popping by. I’ll be back next Wednesday with some writing news, and Finn will be back in a couple weeks with another at-home creation! See you then!!!