Category Archives: Outdoors

A Winter Wonderland in Spring

– Erin Peterson

The air was quiet and crisp, the only sound being that of snow falling upon snow. The trees looked as if they had been made of ice, and every inch of the mountain was covered in mounds of powder. The chairlift attendants kept reminding me that Mt. Bachelor’s spring skiing was its best skiing and, over this past weekend, I found that to be true.

Riding down the mountain was like gliding through silk, not a patch of ice in sight. The easier runs on the front side of the mountain were well groomed, the more difficult Northwest runs were covered in tracked powder. The sun made an appearance several times throughout the day, but it wasn’t too long before it hid behind the fog and clouds again. I would have gone up to the summit, but with the wind biting my face already at the middle of the mountain, I decided against it. After riding my snowboard, Blue, named for its Blue Jay print, through the powder for at least five hours, my legs started to give in and I decided to call it a day.

Luckily, there was still plenty to do in Bend for the night. The Deschutes Brewery & Public House is one of my favorite spots in the city. Order the Inverted Pale and the hop-infused hummus platter and I can gaurantee you will be happy with your night.  Or if you’re feeling more like a seafood that night, order a comforting bowl of New England clam chowder and a glass of Merlot at High Tides across the street.

Although is was hard to leave the fresh powder, the views on the drive back home made it almost worth it. The snowy tops of Three Sisters, the carved summit of Mt. Washington, and the three peaks of Three-Fingered Jack made it difficult to keep my eyes on the road.

It was hard to leave my winter wonderland, but I was happy to find spring in the air when I made it back to Eugene.

Taming the West

-Laura Lundberg

Two hundred years ago, the West was still an uncultivated property in an untamed world. Today there are only a few pieces of that world left, and one species taking advantage of that are the wild mustangs that roam free on the plains of Nevada. But these creatures may not be around for much longer. While there are about 33,000 wild mustangs to date, the Bureau of Land Management has been rounding up thousands of mustangs yearly in order to move them off of public lands and onto long-term holding lands in the Midwest. These roundups have been called inhumane, leading into much discussed controversy.

Each year, thousands of mustangs are put up for adoption, where they can be sold to families, ranches, barns, and more morbidly, slaughterhouses and glue factories. Other lucky ones are sent to grazing territory where they are safe. Susan Pohlman, owner of Whispering Winds Animal Rescue & Sanctuary in Roseburg, Ore., purchases horses from the roundups that the Bureau of Land Management conduct and keeps them on her ranch.  “Currently we have 36 horses – 14 are domestic horses (QH, Arabs, Paints, Thoroughbreds, Appaloosa) and 24 of them are mustangs from different herds – Paiute Indian horses, Virginia Range horses, Sheldon horses, and BLM horses,” says Pohlman.

Pohlman has had a deep passion for horses since she was a little girl. When she attended her first auction for roundup mustangs, she was heartbroken to see the mustangs stripped of everything they had known. She immediately modified her property and began purchasing horses that were going to be sent to the slaughterhouses. Pohlman worked on gentling the horses and treating them of any illnesses or injuries that they had. She then worked to find suitable homes for the horses.

“I love the animals that reside at the ranch.  It is a very comforting feeling knowing that they are safe from slaughter and have a home where they can just be horses,” Pohlman said. For her, Whispering Winds Animal Rescue & Sanctuary is a small piece of home that many of the horses that she takes in aren’t accustomed to.  She hopes to is to expand the compassion for the mustangs and horses that have been hurt or traumatized and combine it with children who are dealing with the same issues. “We would love to take some of the rescued, long term horses, and have underprivileged and/or at risk kids come in once or twice a week with their counselors to care for their “assigned” horse – a therapy type of environment for both,” she explained.

Pohlman also hopes to continue educating the public about wild horses and the challenges they face. However, since the facility is fairly new (established in 2007), the ranch still has a lot of work ahead of it. While she does have plans for the future, she’s focused more on the present and the horses that she is working to rehabilitate, as she explains, “Right now, it’s one day at a time.  We try not to make too many plans for future things because they always seem to change when the sun comes up.”

Good Earth: Home, Garden & Living Show Promotes Sustainable Living with Fun, Interesting Exhibits

– Mike Munoz

www.eugenehomeshow.com

Two weekends back, residents from all over the Northwest visited the Lane Events Center to learn about sustainable living, organic foods and chicken farming.

For the 6th year in a row, the Good Earth: Home, Garden & Living Show came to the Eugene to teach residents how to lead more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyles. The show featured over 250 exhibits and 65 seminars as well as live entertainment and art. The event center was broken into several sections, including home improvement, gardening, food, and recycling.

The south side of the event center featured the home and gardening sections, where companies introduced eco-friendly home improvement tools, varying from window installations to recycled yard furniture. The companies Rexius and Willamette Graystone had large models on site that showed off their environmentally friendly landscapes. Another company, named By the Yard, displayed lawn chairs and tables made entirely out of recycled milk jugs.

The gardening section was also home to one of the more unique displays of the show. An exhibit, simply titled “Chicken Farmer, had custom chicken coops and garden beds on display with live hens and rosters. With the roosters making their presence known to the entire convention center every 10 minutes, the display certainly drew a crowd. The purpose of the exhibit was to raise awareness about some of the advantages of raising chickens in an urban environment, including free eggs and free fertilizer.

The show also featured a fairly large food section, in which vendors displayed dozens of organic coffees, spices and wines. A local Eugene company, The Divine Cupcake, offered featured tower displays of their organic and vegan cupcakes. This cupcake café offers a delivery service as well as custom options for their cupcakes such as gluten free or soy free. The Divine Cupcake is home to some strange and unique flavors such as the “Thai Me Up” cupcake, where they use peanut curry for flavoring the cake. Or try the “Swizzle Stick” which is topped with cayenne pepper.

Finally, the north section of the event center included art, live entertainment and food. Children and parents flocked to the Cascades Raptor Center’s (see a FLUX article on the center here) exhibit on birds of prey, where kids had the opportunity to get up close and personal with hawks and falcons.  The north hall also featured various art exhibits, including large sculptures made out of scrap metal by Ian Beyer Metals.

With hundreds of helpful exhibits on sustainable living and entertainment for all ages, the Good Earth: Home, Garden & Living Show proved to be a success for the 6th consecutive year.

Flying High

http://www.eraptors.org/about.htm

– Laura Lundberg

Nestled in the lush forested area of East Spencer Butte Park lies a small refuge for those that have had one of the things that they rely on the most, flight, taken from them.  The Cascades Raptor Center is this refuge, taking in any bird that has been injured and providing a home for them until they can care for themselves once again. It is a non-profit center that was started in 1987 by Louise Shimmel, who believes that all birds deserve a second chance.

Each year, the Cascade Raptor Center takes in about 200 birds. The staff devotes hours of hard work in order to rehabilitate them, eventually releasing about half the birds back into the wild. Currently there around 60 different birds at the center, and about 30 different types of species. “We have both Bald and Golden Eagles, Osprey, Turkey Vultures, eight kinds of hawks, five species of falcons, and eleven types of owls,” said Shimmel, who currently serves as Executive Director of the center.

The Cascade Raptor Center also works to educate the Eugene community about these magnificent birds of prey. Their mission, written on their website, states:

“Through wildlife rehabilitation and public education, Cascades Raptor Center fosters a connection between people and birds of prey. Our goal is to help the human part of the natural community learn to value, understand, and honor the role of wildlife in preserving the natural and cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest.”

The facility works to raise awareness by allowing people from different schools to volunteer at their facility so that they can learn about how birds and how important they are to our ecosystem. Their purpose for public education is that the program is, “Designed to enhance the awareness, respect, appreciation, and care of the earth and all its inhabitants so critical for a balanced and healthy planet.”

Recently, the Cascade Raptor Center celebrated its 20th anniversary. They worked to raise $20,000 dollars in order to help their facility, and to match a $10,000 grant that they were given by longtime supporters of the center. They raised an amazing total of $36,000 dollars in contributions. Louise was pleased with this, stating that those funds raised will be a key tool in continuing operating the center. However, the Cascade Raptor Center does hope to extend their facilities in the near future. “We would like to move our education side – our education birds and all their aviaries – and build a visitor center with classroom, office, and a much larger clinic,” Shimmel explained.

Shimmel hopes to continue doing what she is passionate about, which is taking care of the birds that find compassion at her facility. When asked what she loves most about working at the Cascade Raptor Center, she said, “The birds; working with them is like a meditation.”

Sweet Creek Falls

-David W. Moody

Sweet Creek Falls is such a beautiful destination, I thought a video blog might be more enticing than words. Located off highway 126 in  Mapleton, Oregon, this easy, 2.2-mile round-trip hike should be on every Eugenean’s adventure short list.

Here it is: Sweet Creek Falls

To get there, take 126 west toward Florence. Just before the Mapleton bridge, turn left onto Sweet Creek Road and follow its twisty asphalt for 10 miles. Watch for deer and hairpin turns while enjoying the scenic pastoral valley. Just past mile post 10, watch for the Sweet Creek Falls Homestead Trailhead on the right. There’s a small asphalt parking lot, one picnic table, and a restroom.

This green canyon of cascades and waterfalls is one of Oregon’s outdoor gems. And don’t let the winter rains stop you. The falls of Sweet Creek become all the more impressive in the rainy season.


Nature in the City of Angels

 

-David Moody

When I think of Los Angeles, I think of traffic jams, smog, and urban sprawl. I think of population density and the enormous sea of concrete and asphalt geographers refer to as a megacity. Los Angeles boasts a population of 3.83 million, but the greater Los Angeles area includes a staggering 14.8 million inhabitants. And yes, it’s true; LA’s traffic jams are the stuff of legend. If you’re getting on the freeway, gas up first.

But as I recall growing up on the edge of Los Angeles, I also remember dazzling sunsets over a blue ocean and the silhouettes of palm trees along Pacific Coast Highway. I remember standing, at night, on Mulholland Drive and looking down on the electric sea of jewels that stretches so far beyond the horizon. I remember Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, Venice Beach and the Sunset Strip–places so unique one cannot deny that at least some of LA’s mythology is founded.

A colorful restaurant, illustrating LA’s funky-fun style.

 

The truth is, I miss LA. It’s a city with tons of culture, a fast pulse, and some beautiful pockets of nature–if you know where to look.

Last weekend, I flew to LA to visit my family. I visited many of my favorite places like Neptune’s Net, Olvera Street, Sycamore Cove, and the City of Santa Barbara. But, the highlight of my visit was a 9-mile hike in Big Santa Anita Canyon. With my brother, Dan, as guide, we drove one hour from my parent’s home in Ventura County to the trailhead at Chantry Flat, just six miles off the 210 freeway.

The parking lot at Chantry Flat fills up early. This is, after all, Los Angeles. If you want a spot, you’ll need to do a dawn patrol. But if you get there later, just park safely along the side of the road after buying an “adventure pass” from a docent in the upper lot. Apparently, you’ll be ticketed by the forest service if you don’t put this pass in your window. And don’t leave anything visible in your car. If you live in downtown Eugene, you probably already know this one.  

On to the hike. After a short, steep descent down an asphalt road, we became immersed in a deep, cool canyon, thick with trees and a lovely stream. And though I’ve been in similar canyons in the Santa Monica Mountains, I was still dumbfounded that we were only twenty miles from downtown Los Angeles. Nothing but the sound of flowing water and wind in the trees for the next three hours.

Looking up from the bottom of Big Santa Anita Canyon.

 

The historic trail winds along Santa Anita Creek, passing many small cabins, some built as early as 1890. These are the survivors of an era of hiking and trail resorts in the San Gabriel Mountains in the early 1900s. All the cabins are privately owned and are only accessible by foot or pack animal. Adam’s Pack Station at the aforementioned Chantry Flat is still a fully functional pack station serving the cabins and campgrounds of Big Santa Anita Canyon. Supplies only make it in by mule or horse.

Less than two miles in, a side trail branched off the main path and we followed it to the primary destination of most hikers, Sturtevant Falls. This gorgeous, 55-foot waterfall rivals many of Oregon’s finest, with clear water cascading down sheer rock into a large, oval reflecting pool. It was a bit crowded, but was a cool, scenic place to rest and have a snack before continuing on our way. After backtracking to the junction, we continued on the upper trail toward Spruce Grove Campground.

Hikers resting and stretching below Sturtevant Falls.

 

We continued along the deep pools and cascades of Santa Anita Creek for a time, but then the trail climbed up the canyon wall and finally broke into the hot Southern California sun. We were now on a narrow path through yucca and chaparral and the trail was dry and dusty. Small birds and blue-throated lizards rustled through dry brush frequently and we began to get used to it. But about four miles in, something bigger rustled.

The yucca and chaparral of Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains.

 

Dan was ahead of me, and when we heard the loud, continued sound of dry brush compressing directly in front of him, we stopped instantly. Simultaneously, we both saw it. Just two feet from Dan’s bare legs was a fat diamond back rattlesnake moving off the trail toward the rocks. It stopped and began rattling its warning and pulled one S-curve into its body for a strike. We didn’t move a muscle. We looked at it and it looked at us and the sound of its rattle sent the hair up on my neck. Finally, it turned slowly and made its move for a crevice in the rock, rattling the whole way in.

Dan’s reflexes served him well, but he was also lucky. Had we been moving a bit faster or the snake a bit slower, things may have turned out differently. It was a sobering reminder that when in nature, nature is ultimately in charge. You can take precautions, but there’s no telling when you may have to deal with a very unpleasant situation.  

Needless to say, for the rest of our hike, we were edgy. After the rattler, every small bird and blue-throated lizard that chattered through the brush scared the piss out of us. We would jump like scared rabbits and then we’d laugh our asses off at ourselves.

We finally made it to Spruce Grove campground where we enjoyed water, energy nuggets and energy bars. We debated continuing on to the summit of Mt. Wilson, but my still-healing ankle was already calling out for painkillers, so we decided Spruce Grove was far enough.

Adam’s Pack Station at Chantry Flat.

 

We made good time getting back to Chantry Flat and enjoyed a cold Gatorade and snack from the refreshment stand at a shady picnic table. My brother, a three-time marathoner, talked to some trail runners who had passed us on the trail. They were at the halfway point of a 46-mile one-day run. Humbling.

Including our side excursion to Sturtevant Falls, we logged nine miles for the day. We completed our adventure with a 20-minute drive to Chinatown where we enjoyed delicious noodle bowls and a bit of LA culture.

As I walked and looked up at the red Chinese lanterns against LA’s blue sky, I realized that no matter how often I return to LA, it always seems to have a surprise.

Chinatown in downtown Los Angeles.

Crayfishing the Siuslaw

 

 

Cooling down the cooked crawdads.

 

-David Moody

It was ninety-five degrees and I was standing in the middle of the Siuslaw River about fifteen miles upstream from Mapleton, Oregon. With a small, green fish net in my right hand, I moved through the current, hunching over with my face just inches above the water. The sunlight was bright and reflected off the surface with blinding intensity. I peered through reflections of trees and clouds, scanning the edges of rocks, twigs and branches.

This was my friend, Troy’s, idea. He grew up in the Florida Keys and used to organize similar hunts with his brothers. I could hear the water swirling around his legs as he waded slowly behind me. Farther up stream, our other friend, Steve, overturned rocks with splashing ker-plunks. Beside us, the water in the central channel moved swiftly and a fast breeze tossed the trees on both banks. We were hypnotized. We had crawdad fever.

Troy readying the pot for the boil.

 

They’re called different things in different places: crayfish, crawfish, crawdads and mudbugs; but regardless of what you call them, these ubiquitous freshwater crustaceans are fun to catch and delicious to eat. There are over five-hundred crayfish species, but it is the signal crayfish that is most common in Oregon. Considered delicacies in some countries, they thrive in lakes, streams and rivers and are very abundant in the waters of Louisiana. Louisiana produces ninety percent of the world’s crayfish haul with most of the catch being consumed locally.

Another ker-plunk from Steve, then legs splashing wildly. “He’s on the go!” Steve yelled. “Troy! He’s coming right to you!” Without missing a beat, Troy took two giant steps and with his tiny net, scooped up the orange blur shooting past his legs. “Got him,” Troy said as he lifted up the dripping net. “And he’s a big one.”

Basket of Oregon crawdads.

 

But it was Steve who had the greatest haul. He flipped over rock after rock and scooped up giant after giant. The big ones are the best because you get tail meat and claw meat too. In the span of about two hours, the three of us caught about fifty keepers–enough for a respectable crawdad boil.

Again, Troy’s experience showed here. He set up a Coleman stove on the tailgate of his truck, quartered a lemon and threw it into a pot full of river water. He then added a giant pouch of cajun crawdad flavoring that floated around the pot like a giant tea bag.

Preparing the water with lemon wedges and a cajun seasoning packet.

 

Fifteen minutes later, we were dipping delicious, sweet morsels of crawdad meat into butter and cocktail sauce, eating pretzels, sipping beer and rehashing the funny moments of our endeavor. When the last crawdad was gone, we took a swim, sat on the warm rocks, and listened to the wind and river–embracing the Oregon summer we knew would end too soon.   

The sparkling waters of Oregon's Siuslaw River.

Bohemia Mountain: An Island Rock Garden in the Sky

 

A view through the trees of Diamond Peak from Bohemia Mountain Trail, one of many breathtaking views along the way.

-David Moody

It was the Fourth of July and I was flying solo. My girlfriend’s in Italy for the summer, so our tradition of fireworks in the park was a no-go. Friends from work had invited me to join them for bombs and BBQ, but I felt antsy for a new adventure, so I decided I’d figure out something on my own. 

I brewed coffee, made eggs and toast, and grabbed William L. Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades from the bookshelf. On page 204, I found Bohemia Mountain, an easy 1.6-mile round-trip hike that lands you atop an impressive summit 5,990 feet high. This trek involves a bit of a drive, but the summit of Bohemia Mountain is worth every mile and dollar. Besides, the drive is beautiful, and your friends can chip in for gas.

Winding along Brice Creek with the windows down, I knew I was entering some beautiful country. Almost every side canyon had a gurgling tributary flowing down into Brice Creek and the smell of the trees and rushing water filled my nose with sweetness.

53-foot-high Fairview Peak Fire Lookout Tower is staffed in July and August and can be rented in the spring and fall.

About thirty-five miles from Cottage Grove, I turned off the pavement onto gravel Road 2212 and my heartbeat quickened with both excitement and nervousness. I was by myself and was well aware of it. Before leaving my apartment, I sent my girlfriend’s mother a detailed email of my itinerary, including every forest service road on which I’d be driving, my time of departure, and my expected time of return. I said I’d call her around seven in the evening and that she shouldn’t contact the authorities unless I failed to call by ten. This of course scared the hell out of her.

The buddy system is always advisable, but I like doing things by myself too. I just try to cover my ass by limiting risk as much as possible. Sullivan recommends these ten essentials and I’ve put together a small pack that includes all of them: A warm, water-repellent coat, knife, first-aid kit, matches in a waterproof container, butane lighter or candle (to help start your fire), extra food, extra water, compass, flashlight, and a good map (topographic preferred) that includes forest service roads.

Bohemia Mountain is a mining area complete with a ghost town of Bohemia City. One of the town’s original buildings is still standing in the valley. There’s no trail, but you can walk to it by heading due east from the parking lot, but don’t wander onto private land and don’t crawl into any old mine shafts. Bad idea.

To get to the summit trail, walk down the road to the left about seventy yards watching the right side for a weathered, hard-to-see Bohemia Mountain trailhead sign in the trees. The trail has a 700-foot elevation gain through beautiful forest and jagged rock outcroppings with many photo-worthy vistas along the way. As I was getting near the top, I passed three hikers heading down. I said hello and the one in front told me I’d have to bushwhack around snow-fields to reach the summit. Cool.

Clumps of violet wildflowers dot Bohemia Mountain's jagged lava summit.

Sure enough, near the top, the trail disappeared into an impressive snowfield, but to the left I could see a snow-free route up to the lava cliffs and the summit. With only one leg scrape (lava is sharp) and two minor dings on the body of my Nikon, I made it up about twenty feet of steep rock to what felt like an island rock-garden in the sky. Patches of violet wildflowers and thick, low plants clung to pockets and cracks in the lava. Diamond Peak crowned the eastern horizon and Fairview Peak Fire Lookout Tower punctuated the skyline to the north.

There are cliffs on three sides of the summit–real cliffs–with dizzying elevation drops down into the surrounding valleys. And there’s a great view to the north, looking almost straight down, at the one remaining building of Bohemia City. I had the summit to myself for about forty minutes. I took some photos, ate lunch in the sun, and had a little catnap until another group of hikers arrived.

Tough, thick, ground-hugging plants are anchored in the lava creating a private rock-garden in the sky.

Bohemia Mountain can be a one-hour round-trip hike, but considering the drive, plan to make a day of it. There’s plenty in the area to explore.

Getting there (from Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades):

***Do not rely solely on these directions. Take a map that includes forest service roads and stop at every intersection to make sure you know exactly where you are. If you use GPS, make sure it includes forest service roads and bring a paper map as backup.***

–Take I-5 south to exit 174 in Cottage Grove and follow signs to Dorena Lake

–Continue on the main paved road through Culp Creek and Disston

–Continue straight on the main road along Brice Creek

–Around 30 miles from the freeway, the road name changes from 2470 to Forest Service Road 22 (you will cross a one-lane bridge to the left at this point)

–At a pointer for Fairview Peak, turn right onto gravel Road 2212 and follow it 8.4 miles to Champion Saddle

–There, turn left onto Road 2460 at another sign for Fairview Peak (road becomes narrow and rough)

–Continue 1.1 miles to a parking lot and four-way junction called Bohemia Saddle

–Park and enjoy!

Mt. Pisgah: Because Everyone Smiles Up Here

-David Moody

 

 

A view of the city from the top of Mt. Pisgah

 

Today is Saturday. I worked from seven to four in a bustling summer box store. It’s flower-planting season, deck-building season, and need-a-new-grill season. A very wet spring in Eugene, Oregon has finally surrendered to June’s vertical sun and the people have come out to get their due. I helped one after another with a sincere smile, but glanced frequently at the searing white light that poured through the front vestibules like the pigmented waters of some shattered baptismal font; it flowed across the floor and lapped at our ankles.

It’s now around 5:00 and I’m wiping sweat from my forehead on top of Mt. Pisgah. The suspicions I had during work were correct; it was a beautiful day for an afternoon hike. It’s one of the clearest I’ve seen in Eugene with sharp views of Diamond Peak and the Sisters from farther down the ridge. And even at this hour, the sun is still high in the sky.   

The photons come like yellow freight trains with a cargo of heat, of light, of life. They explode on my skin and illuminate wildflowers; charge into my eyes and down optic nerve tunnels. They power each piece of grass with potent frequencies so the length of each blade displays a hundred shades of green.

On the way up, I was startled by a deer on the trail. The encounter was quick. She paused, glanced briefly, then glided into the tall grass toward a stand of oaks with incredible grace and silence.

I rest near the summit’s bronze topographic sculpture and take in the 360-view to the sound of wind fluttering through the tail of a kite. Two boys steer it through a variety of maneuvers– dives and sweeps and corkscrews. They laugh and cheer each other on.

There’s a girl sitting on the rocks below me. She’s looking east at picturesque agricultural land with snow-capped Diamond Peak as a distant backdrop. She watches the kite and smiles, then closes her eyes and turns her face to the sun. 

Mt. Pisgah is located within the Howard Budford Recreation Area, a jewel of open space easily accessible from both Eugene and Springfield. The park includes 2,300 close-to-town acres and more than seventeen miles of trails for hikers, trail runners and equestrians. Located between, and near the confluence of the Coast and Middle Forks of the Willamette River, the park is also home to Mt. Pisgah Arboretum riparian forests, dense fir forests, and endangered oak savannas and prairies. 


But hands down, the best thing about Pisgah is its accessibility. Get off work at four, take a sweaty, lung-busting hike, and be smiling on the summit by five. Fly a kite. Write a poem. Get your cardio. Do homework in the shade of a majestic oak or soak up some much-needed photons. Regardless of what you do, one thing is certain: Like everyone else up here, you’ll be smiling.

Visit www.budfordpark.org for more information and directions.