Happy trails through Happy Valley

by JOE LOEB

Sitting just outside Milwaukie and 20 minutes from Downtown Portland is a place of economic diversity known as Happy Valley.

Originally a sporadic-peopled farmland known as “Happy Hollow” (a better and cooler name if you ask me), Happy Valley has become a real estate and activity hotspot. It is growing more and more and new developments are on (almost) every corner going up Sunnyside Rd.

For some this is seen as an issue, as new developments can sometimes mean higher property value / rent increase. However, for a real estate investor or property / home owner, it’s a gold mine.

From the righteous events and summer concerts of Happy Valley Park to the nonstop entertainment of Clackamas Town Center, it has proven to be a place of growth and constant activity. 

This writer has a slight bias to the area, as I grew up here. I lived here during my teenage days (literally 13-19-years-old) and have seen it change throughout the years. I won’t lie, it can sometimes seem like the (not so) Happy Valley. There was a SWAT raid at my neighbors’ house and my fiancee heard her first drive-by shooting when we lived here. But, we don’t live in a house, we live in an apartment near a MAX line. So, it’s not exactly surprising— but convenience and connection to the city does have its drawbacks.

It’s not horrible where I live, but it’s not the suburbs either. One thing that comes from chaos though, is balance. And that’s exactly what makes Happy Valley so unique: its balance. But to truly learn this diverse area, you have to take a little drive. My area of coverage was from Clackamas Town Center to 82nd Ave and Sunnyside Rd to 157th Ave and Sunnyside Rd, over toward Happy Valley Park, then back to the town center. 

I began my journey at Clackamas Town Center (CTC). I knew I was going to need a little boost to begin so I stopped by and got a coffee at the Nordstrom Espresso Bar right by the entrance on the second floor. They seem to make stronger and better coffee there. I learned this when I was working as an employee there at the mall. During the holidays, these ladies and gents were mine and everybody’s best friend. Shout out to the Sean, John and the ladies at Nordstrom. 

CTC has changed drastically since the days Tanya Harding used to practice for the Olympics and ice skate on the first floor. Now it’s equipped with all sorts of random stores. Everything from a distillery tasting room, to an escape room (you read that right), to a virtual reality game center. In times of automation and retail establishment collapse, the mall is truly working to stay ahead of the game.

One of the places that stuck out the most to me was this old vintage candy shop called Lolli and Pops. This place is a diabetics’ worst nightmare. But, if you or your s/o need a sugar pick me up and you want to go beyond the Hershey bar or Reese’s, go to Lolli and Pops. You step in and immediately feel as if the worker is going to swing by on a ladder and offer you a regular Wonka Bar instead. There’s candy everywhere and from all over the world too. German chocolates, Mexican chili candies, Japanese fruit candies, and even chocolate covered fruit. They have it all. But the best part was when I looked in the cooler and then time traveled back to 1994.

After resisting the temptation to buy all the Jolt Cola and sell it on the street at a profit, I left the mall and decided to make my way to some grub. Right by the mall, there are all sorts of options. Dave and Busters, The Ram, California Pizza Kitchen, Olive Garden, Red Robin, it’s all there. I, myself, through was craving something more wholesome. So I made my way east on Sunnyside Rd. and cruised up to Happy Valley Station, the local food cart pod up near 145th Ave and Sunnyside Rd offering 18 great options from a variety of countries and cultures.

Happy Valley Station has some of the best food options in the area. It’s a great place to take the family as well because a lot of the vendors have kids menu options. There is a place on the inside where they have beers and ciders on tap, growler refills, as well as tables and a place for kids to play. I made the rounds and stumbled across this little gem:

Anybody that knows me, knows I like a good gyro. The lamb, tzaziki, tomato, onions, and feta? Fuhgettaboutit. So after much deliberation, for about 30 seconds, I came to a conclusion and ordered a regular lamb gyro and tore it up. I apologize I wasn’t able to snap a picture. Honestly when I saw it, I kind of forgot I had a phone. My hat’s off to the big homie up at Yaba Yabaa Lebanese Food at Happy Valley Station. I ate my gyro and made my way home with a tummy full of lamb and feta.

There are so many businesses around and places I could discuss, but I don’t think I would have enough hours in the day to cover them all. On Sunnyside there are tons of event centers, bars, churches, and the farmers market during the spring and summer (more on that in the future!). Then on the opposite side, you have the hill and all the houses therein. There is a plaza full of different establishments on 122nd Ave and Sunnyside Rd as well as some cafes and other retail spots. So, there is no shortage of things to do.

If you’re like me, then you like to get away from the city. The smell of the trees and fresh mountain air has amazing effects on your mood and well being. Right up off of Sunnyside road, only minutes from the Town Center, is Mt. Talbert Nature Park. Here, they have trails and small little treks that make you forget your only minutes away from the mall and 82nd Ave. If you’re feeling like going on a little jaunt and getting out of the regular environment for a while, this is a great place.

There are two trails you can do, one that loops the park and one that goes to the summit. Unfortunately this one isn’t pet friendly, and some spots are steep. So, it’s up to you if you would like to bring the kid or not. One cool thing about this place, though, is also the options to give back and volunteer at the park. You can find out how to get involved here.

There are plentiful resources in Happy Valley to give back to the community. Up at Happy Valley Park you can volunteer to help with events as well as cleanup and maintenance. There is an awesome initiative to preserve wildlife and vegetation up on Mt. Scott Creek at Happy Valley Park by planting trees and shrubs. This is a collaboration between an organization called Friends of Trees and the City of Happy Valley. There was an event on March 16th, and there will be more as the season progresses. For more information on volunteering for other plantings, visit the FoT website.

Within these little boundaries, all this wonder lies. With a ten-minute drive from one end to the other and you can be busy for weeks. Happy Valley is growing and growing and seems to be evolving into an amazing area.

Whether you’re looking for an awesome real estate opportunity, or just wanting sushi and a pedicure, I’m pretty sure Happy Valley’s got you covered.