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Located just a short drive from downtown, Mount Tabor Park might just be the crown jewel of the 200+ parks in Portland. As a 191-acre paradise, Mount Tabor offers everything you’d want in a quintessential getaway. Serenity. Calm. Panoramic views. Scenic meadows. Experientially, Mount Tabor actually bears more similarities to the surrounding mountain ranges than it does the rest of the parks in the city. Except, you don’t have to drive an hour and a half to get there. Remarkably, Mount Tabor is built on top of an extinct volcano, making Portland one of only six cities in the entire United States to have an extinct volcano within city limits. In short – Mount Tabor Park is breathtaking and to have a place like this a short drive away is an absolute treat. For all of us East Portlanders, it takes all of seven minutes to get to the park. For those downtown, you’re there in 20 minutes or less. What follows in this guide is an overview of all the different features of Mount Tabor Park. They are extensive and diverse, supplying you everything you need to build this getaway into your daily contemplative rhythms. It is the perfect place to stop, pause and reflect. A four-season retreat, the only question is whether you will frequent Mount Tabor morning, noon or night.

RESERVOIR LOOP

If you enter Mount Tabor Park via SE 69th Avenue and head up SE Salmon Way, it will take you straight to Reservoir Loop. Once you park and start walking, within moments you’ll be welcomed by Reservoir No. 5, one of four open reservoirs Mount Tabor has to offer. To the west, sweeping views of the mountain ranges surround you, which might appear close but in reality are hundreds of miles away. As you continue walking, you’ll pass No. 5 on your left as you make your way up the walking trail. What awaits is one of our favorite parts of Mount Tabor Park. Multiple spots to take in the views, plenty of open expanse to lay down a blanket and a large slope with towering evergreens providing shade over you. With no shortage of places to get into the quiet, this an ideal spot for reflection and contemplation.

LOCATION

SUMMIT

Next up on our list of getaways within Mount Tabor Park is the Summit. If you’re feeling active, you can hike to the Summit by passing through Reservoir Loop and SE Reservoir Loop Drive, right up the walking trail. But if this is a quicker trip to Mount Tabor or you don’t feel like working up a sweat, you can drive most of the way to the Summit via SE Tabor Summit Drive to the east of the park. Once you reach the top, it’s nothing short of paradise. It’s naturally the kind of place that fills you with wonder and makes you contemplate things that are bigger than one’s self. Multiple benches sit alongside the cliffs, allowing you to take in the mountain ranges to the west. You also can’t help but notice the folks who’ve set up hammocks between the evergreen trees. Highly recommended. You’ll quickly realize once you’re on top of the summit at Mount Tabor, there is certainly no shortage of places to make yourself at home.

LOCATION

EAST PICNIC AREA

One of our other favorite areas of Mount Tabor Park sits on the east end. As you pass the picnic area driving in to your left, you can park anywhere on the gravel road. On a clear day, heavenly views of Mount Hood await you. Sit down, take in the scenery. No matter what's going on, it's hard not to be grateful for the immaculate beauty that draws your mind away from your everyday problems and onto something much grander.

LOCATION

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SILENCE & SOLITUDE

The common thread between all of these spots within Mount Tabor Park is that they are lightly trafficked and off-the-beaten-path, providing an oasis from the city life. As we mentioned in the opening paragraphs, it’s pretty remarkable that Mount Tabor exists within city limits, given its resemblance to the mountains that are hours away. Mount Tabor provides the ideal environment to reflect, contemplate and be present with ourselves. As we previously discussed in our intro to Portland getaways, science has shown that getting at least two hours each week in green spaces is essential to our well-being. Concluding a remarkable report from Yale, we’re left with this telling statement: “the studies point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function.” Perhaps no one understood these rhythms better than Jesus, who we find often getting away into the wilderness, before returning back to engage the culture around him. He modeled what would later be known as silence and solitude. When we’re out in nature and captivated by its beauty, it often produces a wonder and heightened awareness of the world around us. How could such a beautiful place exist? That wonder can lead to an awareness of the One who created all the transcendent beauty that surrounds us. And here’s the transformative part — we can allow that awareness to drive us into connection with God. For Jesus, this is what getting away was all about. Being out in nature was about who he connected with whilst he was out there. When we encounter God in these environments of refreshment, we are able to acquire the strength and perspective we need to go back out into the world. We need this to love other people well. To create the change we long to see. To become the truest and best version of ourselves. These rhythms are essential for our well-being. As we see from the science, they are built into the very fabric of our existence. We benefit spiritually, mentally and physically from these environments of refreshment. For much of human history, these were our natural habitats. You could argue that the construction of modern city life is unnatural in this sense, as the constant busyness and distraction prevents us from getting perspective and moments of reflection. So especially living in Portland, modeling this “in-and-out lifestyle” will help us thrive amidst the rising tides of hustle culture and the pursuit of pleasure tend to wear on you over time. We’ll leave you with a few practical tips before you wander into Mount Tabor Park, which include:

1) Pick a time & place

Scheduling time to get away is essential. The hectic nature of modern-day life increases the need for intentionality. So consider where you will regularly visit Mount Tabor Park and when it's practical do that. Is it before work in the morning? Is it midday during lunch? Which part of Mount Tabor is most accessible to you?

2) Start small & build

Success is in simply showing up, nothing more. If you’re making the effort to get away regularly, you’ve already hit the goal. Also, habits are formed by starting small. Rather than saying we’re going to visit Mount Tabor for 90 minutes every morning, try retreating for 30 minutes at least 2-3 times a week. If you get in a rhythm doing that, maybe increase that to an hour in Mount Tabor for 2-3 times a week. And so forth.

3) Put your phone on silent

Smartphones breed distraction and will pull you away from being present in the moment. Try putting your phone on silent and resisting the urge to pull it out. Build up your tolerance over time.

4) Consider your wiring

Depending on your personality and temperament, you may want more of an active experience for your contemplative getaways. Mount Tabor Park is the perfect place to do that, which offers an endless array of opportunities to keep moving, yet still be present in the moment.

5) Bring a blanket

If you like being stationery, consider buying a blanket, particularly for the Summit or Reservoir Loop. Get comfortable as you enter a place of contemplation.

6) Bring a journal

Fight against the urge to stuff away your thoughts by actively processing them through this form of feeling prayer. How are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? Name the emotions coming up - envy, greed, sadness, grief, etc. Like Jesus, our emotions are a place to meet with God.

7) Contemplate scripture

This ancient practice, called Lectio Divina, involves picking a small passage to meditate on. Even if you haven’t read scripture in ages, this could be as small as a Psalm, a Proverb or the words of Jesus in the gospels. Let’s say a verse comes up about humility or loving your neighbor, we then pray for a greater understanding of how to model that in our lives. See what comes to mind. You can pick up a copy of the new Passion Translation here.

8) Practice gratitude

Gratitude is hard for us. Sometimes it feels like we suffer from chronic short-term memory loss, only able to see what we don't have or how our circumstances are less than ideal. And while there might be truth in that, this perspective causes us to miss the precious things of life that are sitting right in front of us each and every day. Take some time to write down prayers of gratitude, even for the smallest of things.

9) Be silent

Mount Tabor is so beautiful and diverse, that some days you might find yourself just wanting to be silent. Embrace this. Engage your breathing. Listen to the sounds around you. The birds. The breeze. The water, if you’re in front of the reservoir.

Whatever you decide to do with your time, take this opportunity to retreat from the hustle and bustle, opting to get away into the scenic paradise that is Mount Tabor Park.

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