Tag Archives: outdoors

The Best of Oregon Camping


-Rache’ll Brown

In the past two decades I’ve had my fair share of bug bites, sun burns, Big Foot sightings, and campfire stories. I’ve caught fish, made s’mores, polar-beared, and had my tent tipped. Some of my best childhood memories were spent in the great outdoors, and as an Oregonian born and raised, I have spent most of my time in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Students and locals alike should experience a night or two in Oregon’s natural beauty, and these are a few places that I think are worth a visit.

Moonshine Park

Growing up on the Central Oregon Coast, an appearance of the sun meant a trip to Moonshine, not the beach. A mere fifteen dollars grants campers an overnight stay at Lincoln County’s most popular park. Plus: the people-watching is prime on a nice day.

Paulina Lake

Central Oregon is so beautiful, and although the weather can get excruciatingly hot for this coastal girl, Bend and La Pine are some of my favorite spots in Oregon. For fourteen dollars, campers can be right next to the lake, which means fishing and rock skipping.

Coldwater Cove

I am terrified of lakes and deep bodies of water, mainly because I have no idea what lies beneath the surface. At Coldwater Cove, this isn’t an issue.  For eighteen dollars per night, campers can hang out in my favorite body of water, Clear Lake.

Yukwah Campground

Twenty dollars per night for a camping plot, but the timeless memories come free. This camping ground located outside of Sweet Home, OR is one of my favorite. It’s right across from the South Santiam River and is encased by beautiful Douglas Firs. This spot is the epitome of the Pacific Northwest.

Link Creek Campground

For sixteen dollars a night campers can experience one of my favorite places in Oregon: Suttle Lake. The first time I drove through the Santiam Pass and saw this lake I was blown away, and getting up close and personal with it was breathtaking. It truly is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

The Cove Palisades State Park

Growing up, lake stories didn’t count unless they took place on Billy Chinook. At twenty dollars per night campers get to experience the lake and the beautiful red cliffs surrounding it. The best part is the diverse range of outdoor activities: hiking, swimming, fishing, and sunbathing are some options that can please all.

Flying High


– 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.”

Against the Grains

[deck]The story of a professional sandboarder and his life on the dunes.[/deck]

[cap]F[/cap]or miles in any direction, mountains of sand, many standing over 200 feet tall, are all that can be seen. The blue streak of the Pacific Ocean near the horizon seems unreachable beyond the bare expanse of dunes rising and falling for miles in between.  Here, atop the highest pile of sand, a solitary figure leaps onto the slope — a small wooden board attached to his feet — and accelerates down the dune. As he picks up speed, the skinny, shaggy-haired rider begins to carve a path back and forth across the dune face in an effortless motion. Almost at the hill’s base, he launches off a small jump.  He reaches down through the sand that sprays in all directions and grips the edge of his board for a brief moment while suspended in the air. A split second later his board crashes to the ground and spins to a graceful stop, a goofy grin plastered across Joey Peterson’s face.

In the past four years, Peterson has turned the 29.6 mph journey from the top of a sand dune to its base into the major focus of his life. Introduced to the obscure sport at the age of sixteen, Peterson, who lives just outside of Florence, Oregon, admits to being skeptical at first.

“A friend wanted me to go for quite a while, but I thought he was talking about skimboarding. When I told him I didn’t want to get all wet and cold, he looked at me like I was an idiot,” Peterson says.

His friend explained that sandboarding is a dry sport, similar to snowboarding, in which the rider stands in the bindings of a waxed, wooden board and carves down a massive sand dune. Peterson decided to give it a try.

 Peterson placed first in the Sandmaster Jam. He has been invited to a sandboarding exhibition on the dunes of Cairo, Egypt and will also compete in Mexico this coming February.

Peterson placed first in the Sandmaster Jam. He has been invited to a sandboarding exhibition on the dunes of Cairo, Egypt and will also compete in Mexico this coming February.

Since then, he has taken every opportunity to hit the dunes with a love for extreme sports running in his blood. He started out racing motocross, but quit after several years to focus on skateboarding. Peterson remained an ardent skateboarder for several years before being introduced to sandboarding. He says it didn’t take him long to make the decision to quit skating and put all of his focus into sandboarding.

“Falling on sand is much less painful than falling on pavement, or even snow for that matter,” says Peterson. “I was sick of always skinning elbows and knees and banging myself up while skating.”

After only a year of riding, Peterson participated in his first competition: a big air contest in Florence called X-West Huckfest. Peterson decided to enter the event with less than a month to train and less than a year of riding under his belt. With such little time spent on the sand, Peterson recalls that his first competition was nothing short of a disaster.

On his first run, Peterson tore straight down a 200 foot dune, flying toward the big air jump at an uncontrollable speed. In his short time riding Peterson had not yet learned the essential sandboarding technique of speed checking, in which a rider carves through the sand in a zig-zag pattern so he doesn’t lose control of his board.

“I had no idea what I was doing. I just thought I did.”

“I didn’t know about speed checking and went straight-shot off the jump with no control,” Peterson says.

After hitting the jump at full speed, Peterson spun into an unintentional 360 and twisted sideways as he flew towards the ground.  While trying to recover, he plunged backwards into the sand in a wreck so painful and infamous that sandboarders have given it it’s own name: The Butt Torn, or BT. Peterson can hardly help but flinch as he recalls smashing into the dune with only the left side of butt.

The slogan, "It's not snow," is for those who come in with the mentality that sandboarding and snowboarding are the same thing; they quickly learn the dunes are not their snow-capped mountains.

The slogan, "It's not snow," is for those who come in with the mentality that sandboarding and snowboarding are the same thing; they quickly learn the dunes are not their snow-capped mountains.

“When just one part of you hits the sand, that part stops, but the rest doesn’t.  So if one of your butt cheeks hits–well that’s where the name comes from.” he recalls.

However, despite the numerous painful crashes into the dune, Peterson quickly discovered he had a natural talent for the sport. Within that first year of riding, he caught the eye of Lon Beale, owner and founder of Sand Master Park in Florence, the world‘s first sandboarding park. Beale is considered a pioneer of sandboarding in the United States. Since opening the park in 2000, he has discovered and coached some of the world’s best riders, including Josh Tenge, a four-time world sandboarding champion who holds three world records. Peterson began riding and training under Beale and has been hooked on the sport ever since.
For the past three years, Peterson has competed in the three major events that make up the Florence sandboarding season: The Sandmaster Jam, The NSA Railjam, and Huckfest.

This past summer, Peterson nearly claimed his first sandboarding championship. He dominated the Sandmaster Jam, an event featuring both slalom racing and straight speed competitions. Peterson finished second in the slalom and cruised to third place in speed with a top speed of 29.6 mph. The combined showings were enough for Peterson to finish first place overall.

“I kill it at the slalom. I think it’s from knowing how to skate and how to pump,” Peterson says while explaining how the Sandmaster Jam is his strongest of the three events. “We had practice the day before and I did absolutely horrible. Yet, I somehow came out the next day and killed during the competition.”

Peterson then took to the rails at the NSA Railjam, a rail grinding competition that he considers to be his weakest event. He complains that the rails are often buried too low in the sand to help younger, more inexperienced riders. In doing so, they become awkward to jump onto and easier for an experienced rider to lose his balance. Even so, Peterson was able to grind his way to a strong third place overall finish.

Peterson has had tumbles both on and off the dunes. An early morning car accident left him recovering for two months and prevented him from competing in a sandboarding championship. Had he competed, his friends and supporters tell him, he would have taken first.

Peterson has had tumbles both on and off the dunes. An early morning car accident left him recovering for two months and prevented him from competing in a sandboarding championship.

He stood in prime condition to win his first championship, trailing a good friend by just a few points with only the big air competition of Huckfest remaining in the season. Then one night, as he drove at 3:00 a.m. along a remote highway outside of Florence, Peterson lost control, rolled the car several times, and derailed his potential championship season.

Thinking back on the experience, Peterson counts himself lucky to have emerged from the wreck alive, much less riding again in just two months. He seriously injured his left shoulder and sustained numerous cuts and bruises. His injuries ended his sandboarding season, but Peterson believes that the fact he was able to recover and resume riding within two months was nothing short of miraculous.

Though Peterson says he’s not yet fully recovered, he has resumed his regular sandboarding training and hopes to make another run at the championship next year.

“Joey was our poster boy this past summer,” Beale says. “He was so close to being a champion [until his wreck]; but next year, he’s going to be our guy.”

Beyond riding in Florence next year, Peterson hopes to showcase his riding internationally in the near future. He, Beale, and five or six other riders from Florence were recently invited by the Egyptian government to showcase their skills in Cairo alongside riders from around the world, including Peru and Saudi Arabia.

Peterson was also recently approached by the editor of Sandboard Magazine who offered to pay for him and fellow rider Matt Walton to compete in Mexico this February.  Peterson can hardly contain his excitement at the prospect of traveling abroad to showcase his talent alongside some of the best international riders in the world.

“They’re both such great opportunities. I’ve never left the country and have barely even been out of the state, so to be able to go across the world is just amazing,” he says.

Above all, it’s the atmosphere and culture surrounding sandboarding that Peterson has grown to love about the sport. He so enjoys the variety and openness sandboarding offers people of all types that last year he began working for Beale at Sand Master Park, primarily instructing new riders and sharing his passion for the sport with anyone who will listen.

The dunes at Sand Master Park in Florence, Oregon are part of the world's first sandboard park

The dunes at Sand Master Park in Florence, Oregon are part of the world's first sandboard park

“With other boarding sports like skating or surfing, the riders tend to stick to their little cliques and create their own culture. With sandboarding, everyone is welcome and people are so friendly,” he says.

Peterson sees all sorts of new riders, young and old, coming to Sand Master, including families completely new to the sport and extreme sports enthusiasts wanting to try something new. He especially enjoys seeing experienced riders from the similar sport of snowboarding try riding the dunes for their first time.

“Snowboarders often come in expecting this to work exactly the same. I try to give everyone pointers and I catch them completely ignoring me. Usually they come back in later complaining that their boards don’t work right. That’s why you see the stickers reading ‘It’s not snow’ all around here,” Peterson says.

Though it’s now the off-season, Peterson stands atop the forty foot dune preparing for another trip down. He’s demonstrating to some new riders how to properly wax their boards.

“Rub the wax in vertical lines across the board like you’re back in second grade learning to color,” he explains to the onlookers with a smile.

“I just love the sport,” he says.

“No matter what time of year it is, I always want to be out here. I will take every chance I can get to come out and ride.”

As if to punctuate his words, Peterson slips his feet into the bindings, hops onto the slope, and begins to carve a path down the dune. His movements on the board are as natural as walking as he smoothly rotates his back foot in the usual S pattern of a speed check. Completely at home on the sand, he drops into a quick crouch and launches himself spinning gracefully through the air.

Julie Jones shares an article about the debate raging around the land near their home. The Oregon Resources Company plans to begin mining in January within miles of the Joneses and the other 160 households in their area. The community has spent the last three and a half years fighting the corporation for fear of groundwater pollution, environmental damage, and other degradations to the pristine Bandon dunes in their area.

The Heavy Weight of Chromium

“I just think this can be done better,” says Jack Jones as he looks over a stream trickling across smooth pebbles into the Pacific Ocean, backlit with the blazing sun in the final hours of daylight.

Squawking seagulls glide over the rumbling surf. Jones walks farther down the stream toward the ocean, pointing out black grains that top the ridges formed by swirling eddies. The grains have been carried from the ancient dunes that extend south down the coast. Topped with a forest of Douglas fir, the dunes are a natural habitat rich with wildlife and vegetation. Elk herds migrate through dune residents’ backyards. Streams extend far into gullies to the beds where endangered Coho salmon breed.

Jones has lived in the Bandon Dunes for twenty-five years enjoying the natural peace, but soon the rumble of industry will fill the salty air.

Jones serves as Bandon Woodlands Community Association president, a group formed to represent the 160 individuals who live on the land between Coos Bay and Bandon. The locals reminisce about hiking through the woods looking for mushrooms and listening to the gobbles of wild turkeys. Now, their activities have turned towards preserving the quiet environment. During the past four years, the Australian-owned Oregon Resources Corporation has been applying for permits to mine the dunes.

The black grains found on the beach contain chromite, plentiful beneath the Bandon Dunes, and shaped perfectly for industrial casts. With only one permit left to obtain, Oregon Resources Corporation is about to start the first mine operations and become the only source of chromite in North America. While nationally significant, the company remains much more important to the county and its citizens; the chromite is an economic hope.

The Bandon Dunes are part of Coos County, a county experiencing a 13 percent unemployment rate created largely by the collapse of the once-powerful timber industry. In the last year, the county has had to whittle away public works to balance a dwindling budget that reflects a region with few job opportunities.

Other sectors have suffered with the timber industry.

The port authority no longer handles a few hundred ships laden with logs that used the deep-water port in the nineties. Rusted tracks run along the water’s edge of Coos Bay, parallel pieces of steel nearly abandoned until the port authority moved to purchase the rail line.

Jobs are in demand in the coastal region, but there is nothing to support the skilled labor once hosted by the lumber and fishing industries.

Oregon Resource Corporation’s plan to operate a mine and a processing plant provides job growth to a declining economy. Huge capital investments, living wages, and seventy-five jobs have enticed the county commissioners into leasing county lands for mineral extraction. State representative Peter Defazio presented a $13.2 million grant to the International Port of Coos Bay to revitalize the rail lines that are essential to ORC’s shipments to the Midwest.

Industrial energy has started to awaken the sleepy coastal town.

Though a gleaming opportunity for county citizens, the locals who live near the proposed mine sites have spent the last three years placing obstacles in ORC’s permitting process. Fears of noise, dust, and groundwater pollution have driven them to critically question every detail of ORC’s mining plan. The greatest concern is the possibility that a toxic heavy metal called hexavalent chromium, the same material that was brought to the American consciousness by Erin Brockovich, could be introduced into their local wells, possibly introducing carcinogens into the local water supply.

In January, ORC will begin shipping the first sands from the Bandon Dunes to Coos Bay and a new economic era for Coos County will begin; but will it be the end for the people who live there?

Flux magazine plans to cover this issue as it progresses in 2011. While pushing the frontiers with new media, our writers and photographers remain committed to strong journalistic standards. As ORC’s processing plant comes on line, Flux will launch a detailed feature presenting the story with video, audio and text. Come back in the new year to experience this controversial topic explored through creative means only Flux can deliver.

Julie Jones shares an article about the debate raging around the land near their home. The Oregon Resources Company plans to begin mining in January within miles of the Joneses and the other 160 households in their area. The community has spent the last three and a half years fighting the corporation for fear of groundwater pollution, environmental damage, and other degradations to the pristine Bandon dunes in their area.

Julie Jones shares an article about the debate raging around the land near their home. The Oregon Resources Company plans to begin mining in January within miles of the Joneses and the other 160 households in their area.

The Mid-Week Hooky

[deck]The 40-year-old Berg’s Ski Shop shuttles skiers and snowboarders to Mt. Bachelor, upholding a years-old tradition.[/deck]

Dale Berg, owner of Berg's Ski and Snowboard Shop, coordinates the mid-week "Hooky Bus," a long-standing tradition of the shop.

[cap]T[/cap]hey huddle under dim street lights and chatter in the early morning night. The crowd is of the senior variety and they are more than well-equipped for the journey. With sleeping blindfolds, coffee thermoses, and neck pillows, this mountain ride is for the warriors—the seasoned riders looking for a mid-week kick. Some fidget with their watches while others look toward the road. The bus is ten minutes late and that means ten minutes behind fresh tracks. They’re getting restless.

Answering to the mob is Dale Berg, owner of Berg’s Ski Shop in Eugene and coordinator of this morning’s trip. He moves from patron to patron, reassuring each person that the bus is en route.

“Yeah, he’s just running a little bit late. He should be here any minute,” Berg says with a grin. “Any minute.”

He answers a flurry of questions about the daily conditions, new equipment, and whatever other odds and ends that life may throw at one. He concludes his replies with “Yep, yep, yep,” or “nope, nope, nope” as to echo his response for those that may have overheard the question but not the answer.

The snarl of a diesel engine silences conversation and all eyes direct to the street. Out of the fog roars a jumbo bus with “Experience Oregon” written in italics on the side. A small cheer is in order.

The popular 6:30 am rendezvous is called the “Hooky Bus”, a Wednesday bus ride to Mt. Bachelor for a mere 49 buck lift ticket. The event has been a tradition of Berg’s Ski Shop for the past 40 years and Berg, age 69, takes the bus every chance he gets.

“Every week that I’m in town I take the bus up to the mountain,” says Berg. “It’s a chance for me to relax and chill out with some good friends of mine.”

After securing the cargo in the cool twilight, Berg climbs aboard to the warm encomium of familiar faces. The trip to his seat is in small increments. His point and smile invites conversation and he only makes it a couple of feet before the next chit-chat ensues. Of the 53 passengers who pack the bus this early morning, you would be hellbent to find someone that didn’t know the man in some way, shape, or form.

As the owner of Berg’s Ski Shop for more than five decades, Berg has had the opportunity to watch several generations of skiers shop at his store. “The best stories come from people who have been customers for a long while,” says Berg. “They bring their kids in and say ‘this is the stuff I use to ski’, and then they bring their grandchildren in and get them started in the sport, and I have two or three generations of skiers that walk through my doors.”

The brown and red brick mega-shop located on the corner of 13th Avenue and Lawrence Street is equipped with everything from avalanche shovels and wigwam socks to snowshoe rentals. It’s a 12,000-square-foot gear utopia with ruby red shag carpet, retro couches, and handmade signs dangling from the wood panel ceiling. In the workshops in the back, employees fill scuffs and scrapes in skis and snowboards, giving the place a slight haze and the smell of wax.

Although it is the largest ski merchandise store in Eugene, Berg’s Ski Shop arose from a humble beginning. Before its transition in 1955 to a Nordic shop, the building took the shape of a small gas station owned by Berg’s Norwegian father, Alfred Berg. Alfred ran the Shell gas station with his two sons, Dale and Paul, until one day when he had an idea.

“My dad came home one morning and said, ‘we just bought the house next door and I think it would be a good place to put a ski shop’,” says Berg.

With a strong client base from his dad’s service station, which he’d operated since 1940, the ski business took off right away. Because demand was so high for both businesses, the ski shop and gas station operated in the same space until the family eventually decided to stop selling gas in 1985. “It was booming from the get go,” says Berg of the shop when it opened. “People would go up to Willamette Pass, to Hoodoo, and there was a pretty good population of skiers at that point.”

The shop specialized in what little downhill and cross-country ski equipment was available at the time. Alfred’s employees consisted of his two boys and his wife. Dale and Paul, who were 16 and 13 at the time, both worked at the shop after school. They sold goods like skis, and boots while Emma, Dale’s mother, would fit customers with winter outerwear.

To this day, brothers Dale and Paul still work together. Along side them are their sons Svein, Jarl, and Tory, who continue the tradition of a family owned and operated business. Old traditions die hard at Berg’s Ski Shop and the annual Wednesday “Hooky Bus” is the holy grail of traditions. Where credit is deserved, Berg fills in the blanks. “I didn’t come up with it,” Berg says to a man sitting in the seat ahead, “The idea came from five attorneys’ wives who wanted to go skiing but didn’t really have any way to get there, so they put together this bus.”

After three hours on the road, we are almost there. Fifteen minutes before arriving at Mt. Bachelor, Berg jumps to action. He gets on the loud speaker to give the newbies the rundown—times, where to be, where not to be, how you may be subject to a boo if you choose to suck. He spouts out numbers and temperatures, but the story is unfolding out the window. On this Wednesday morning, Mt. Bachelor stands without a cloud in sight. The white and silver contours carve a majestic outline in the blue sky. The sun is giving off enough heat to make it slightly below 50 degrees.

Dale Berg with ski

“We’re looking at a beautiful day on Bachelor,” Berg concludes at the front of the bus.

Upon arrival, Berg funnels the crowd to the ticket line while keeping everyone smiling. He reminds folks to take full advantage of the continental breakfast, pointing to the tables right of the kiosk. “We’ve got quiche today!” Berg exclaims with a look of astonishment, “Get some quiche!”

After getting tickets, they cut everyone loose to bomb down the mountain as many times as possible for the next seven hours without killing themselves. Just meet back at the bus before four. It’s really a beautiful thing. The lift lines are almost nonexistent and there is no trail traffic. Weave and wonder with plenty of time and space to do so.  Most remember to pause a moment and take it all in.

As the sun-baked faces begin to trickle in at 3:30, some with shortness of breath and others with laughter, there is a shared sentiment passing through the crowd. The verdict is out: Today was awesome.  There are smiles and double high fives.

An old man with bottle cap glasses maneuvers through the crowded isle. Grant Sider, age 85, is the oldest rider on the bus. He has been riding the Hooky for 12 years and the last trip was almost the last day he skied. “I almost quit the last go round. It was too much. But I decided to come up today and things went pretty well. I’ll probably come next week,” Grant says.

With the descent back into town wine corks pop and beer cans snap—laughter, friends, and food. A locomotion of trays and Zip Lock bags debut time-honored recipes for all to enjoy. “Never have I had such impure thoughts about my day job.” said one rider with a chuckle. As we dip under the fog and head toward Bend, the sunshine fades and the dream that was Bachelor Butte is gone. From the back of the bus Grant chimes in “Looks like it was a kind of lousy day in Bend.”

Second Chances

[deck]Twenty-two years ago, Jean Daugherty broke the cycle of addiction, giving herself and her daughter a second chance. Today, as a Cascades Raptor Center volunteer, she does the same for injured birds—finding peace and spiritual footing in the process.[/deck]

[cap]J[/cap]ean Daugherty’s mother began treating her as a drinking buddy at age eight, starting a path of self-destruction. By age fourteen, she’d begun using marijuana and cocaine. Many years later, when Daugherty saw her three-year-old daughter step from a bedroom with a razor blade and a straw in her tiny fingers, she realized she’d become her own mother and had to break the cycle. She had to give herself and her daughter a second chance.

Now, 22 years later, Daugherty has reached the end of a busy workday at the Cascades Raptor Center, a wildlife hospital and nature center hidden in the shady woods of Eugene, Oregon’s south hills. Among the solace of these trees, the most prominent sounds are the restless screes and wing-flaps of healing raptors who peer out of shadowy enclosures with curious eyes.

People bring a variety of sick and injured birds to the mostly-volunteer staff with the hope that they’ll be made whole again. Daugherty is one of those volunteers. Every year, she helps treat up to 200 birds, rehabilitating and releasing more than half of them. “We give them second chances,” Daugherty explains. “There’s nothing like being able to release a healed bird back into the wild.”

For the first few years of her sobriety, Daugherty’s life revolved around a twelve-step program and a women’s support group. They parented her, taught her about being a woman and mother, about life—all the things Daugherty never had growing up.

But when her daughter left home for college at age sixteen, things changed for Daugherty. She moved to Eugene to remarry and to attend graduate school, but something was missing. Even when she found an enjoyable job as a social worker, she still couldn’t find her spiritual center. She was conflicted. Without her daughter there, her sense of purpose was gone. “I was lost at sea—completely,” she says. But that changed when she discovered the Raptor Center.

With a variety of responsibilities, including staff support functions, Daughtery puts in an average of fifteen volunteer hours each week at the center. Each shift brings something new and it’s not uncommon for things to get chaotic. “Some days here can be absolutely exhausting,” she says. “There is always so much to do. Making sure visitors are getting their questions answered and are having a good experience, keeping track of the volunteers, making sure we work with the birds and everybody gets fed.”

Daughtery’s voice becomes almost hypnotic as she explains how being here makes her feel. “When I come up here,” she says, “there is a serenity I have never found in my life anywhere. The pace is different, the air is different, the sounds are different, everything. When I’m here, especially working with a bird, the rest of the world ceases to exist.”

Daugherty explains that her purpose is to help humans and animals and to leave the world better than she found it. She wants to give the raptors the same second chance she was granted.

“Life isn’t fair,” she says, “but we don’t give up or wallow in it. Fix what you can, work around the disabilities, and embrace the joy. All of that happens for me up here.”

Down the Rabbit Hole

Jill Kimball, along with two Flux cohorts, hoped to embark on an adventure that would make her hiker parents proud. But soon after she saw the three inches of mud caked around her once-cute rain boots, she realized four years in the Northwest doth not an outdoor enthusiast make.

The mud made sickening squelching sounds under our feet as we made our way around branches and over logs, heading down what we hoped was a real pathway. I held a Global Positioning System in one hand and brushed bushes to the side with my other to clear the way, hearing occasional small yelps behind me as my Flux cohorts Ashlyn Gehrett and Melanie Johnson sank down into the quicksand-like earth.

“Do they make snowshoes for mud?” I asked. I only got more yelps in response.

We—Gehrett, Johnson and I—weren’t exactly a crack team. We liked city life, cable television and shopping. We couldn’t remember how to identify poison ivy. (Is it three leaves or three branches?) None of us owned a pair of hiking boots—in fact, I, ever the sartorialist, was wearing flower-patterned rain boots. And worst of all, none of us seemed to be able to make much sense of this elusive GPS, the only tool that would help us find what we were looking for.

It was our first foray into the world of geocaching along the Oregon coast, and it had gotten off to a rocky start. Sure, we’d found our first hidden treasure on a coastal cliff just off Route 101 within just a few minutes. But on our second try, we weren’t so lucky. After a steep downhill walk, we found ourselves at a vacant parking lot, staring at a forest and an old bridge and wondering where to go next.

“It says ‘old road,’” Gehrett told us, looking at the GPS and reading off the clues that would help us find the hidden cache. We saw car tracks underneath the bridge and followed them to the banks of a river, our excitement building as we drew closer to the cache’s GPS coordinates; we were nearly 200 feet away when Gehrett stopped dead and stared at the GPS screen in disbelief.

“It’s pointing over there,” Gehrett said, pointing clear across the wide, shallow river, where a steep cliff rose up.

Johnson suggested I wade through the water in my rain boots. I contemplated telling her to go to hell. Before I got my chance, though, Gehrett suggested we try walking across an old bridge on the other side of the vacant parking lot.

That’s when we encountered the squelching mud, and that’s when we almost gave up. The GPS told us we were still 200 feet away when we reached a muddy clearing with no visible pathways in the direction we were instructed to go. The only sign of life was an old, abandoned camping tent caked in mud. I wondered briefly what crazy person would try to camp on the Oregon coast in February, then I thought how we may have been equally crazy to think wandering down a clearly unused road would lead us to the site of a hidden geocache.

Then, somewhere behind me, I heard Gehrett’s voice yell, “I think I’m on to something!”

I spun around and saw her walking down a narrow, steep path I hadn’t seen before. She fought through a thick of ferns until she was just on the cliff’s edge by the riverbank, then called out, “I found it!”

Johnson and I slipped down the path and through the ferns in excitement, and there we found the cache: a narrow, plastic camouflaged tube hanging on the branch of an unsuspecting tree. Inside it we found several colorful erasers, a note from the cache owner and a traveling plastic keychain in the shape of an Adirondack chair, which we vowed to transfer to another geocache location as per the instructions.

Minutes later, geocache back in place and deck chair memento in hand, we headed back up the steep hill and the good humor faded.

“Why did I agree to do this again?” Gehrett asked as we all breathed heavily.

It took a trip down the rabbit hole—literally and without hallucinogens—to remember why.

The last geocache we found that day took us to a seemingly uninteresting turnout on Route 101, where we hopped over the highway divider and scrambled down a narrow, steep hole, clinging to branches for dear life. Where was the shrinking potion labeled “drink me” when we needed it?

At the end of the tunnel we found a less absurd, but no less beautiful, version of Wonderland. Before us was a deserted beach, where waves broke against huge rocks and where the soft sand formed smooth dunes. And there on the beach, underneath some brush and a strategically-placed bunch of rocks, we found our last cache.

For another take on geocaching, Saul Hubbard has also written a piece about it: Geocaching Ten Years On.

Geocaching Ten Years On

[caps]T[/caps]he year was 2005 and Steve Card’s wife had just heard about an exciting new hobby that she wanted the family to try: geocaching. She thought that geocaching, a treasure-hunting game played with a Global Positioning System, would be a fun way to get everyone outdoors.

Card remembers thinking, “That sounds like a waste of gas to me.”

Despite Card’s misgivings about the idea, he dutifully went out with his two sons and bought his wife an $80 GPS from Fred Meyer for Mother’s Day that year. “We took it out and found some geocaches and I fell in love with it. That was about the last time she touched the GPS,” he says with a chuckle.

At the time, geocaching was still a relatively new creation, the by-product of the Clinton administration’s decision to allow civilian GPS users to receive unscrambled signal. Two days after the signal became clear – on May 3, 2000 – Dave Ulmer hid a black plastic bucket containing a logbook, some videos and software, a slingshot, $4, and other items in a wooded area in Beavercreek, Oregon. He posted the global positioning coordinates of the bucket online, inviting others to find it.

Geocaching was born.

Today, as geocaching approaches its tenth birthday, its popularity is at an all-time high. There are almost one million active hidden containers or geocaches worldwide. The location of each geocache (or just ‘cache’ in most participants’ slang) is tracked using its global positioning coordinates on the website that is at the center of it all, the all-powerful geocaching.com.

The “cache” itself is a container of varying size that usually contains a few trinkets and the all-important logbook. They can be hidden almost anywhere in the outdoors: under a park bench, near a landmark, or underwater, just not on private property or anywhere dangerous. Every time geocachers find one, they write their special geocaching.com nickname or “handle” in the cache’s logbook and add one to their total geocache tally.

On a windy overcast February morning, Card (geocaching handle: coastcards) hops out of a gray SUV, followed by Bob and Karen Bennett (yachatswalker and birkiehiker), Ivan Mangum (bostonmangum) and Mangum’s two young children. They have just driven ten miles down the Oregon coast from Coos Bay after a much longer drive to get to Coos Bay earlier this morning. Everyone looks happy to be out of the car.

Ever since he got hooked on geocaching in a way his family couldn’t keep up with, Card has found this group of kindred spirits, whom he met at a geocaching meet and greet event in Newport, to share his hobby with. They go out together every two months or so during the year, and about once a month in the summer.

“Some geocaching is more casual and some is more about building your numbers. This group is a bit like that,” says Card. “We’re out to go geocaching. I mean we enjoy it a little bit while we’re there, but we won’t go to an interpretative center or something like that, we’ll go to the next geocache.”

The group walks briskly down a small concrete path that takes them right to the land’s edge with both Card and Mangum closely monitoring the screens of their $200 handheld GPS systems. A hundred feet below them huge waves crash into the dark cliffs and seals’ heads bob in and out of the water. From this spot, you can see for miles down the coast in either direction.

But the small metallic plaque that adorns this vantage point is the reason for their visit. Each member of the group is holding a foldout pamphlet with a series of questions. Each question is attached to a series of GPS coordinates. The first set of coordinates has led them here.

“What is the name of the island the seals hang out on?” Karen Bennett says, reading the question aloud.

“Shell Island,” says one of the children, reading off the plaque.

They all jot down answer, and now only have twenty more locations to visit in order to complete the Adventure Coast Challenge, a geocaching style challenge linked to today’s Coos Bay Geocaching ‘Meet and Eat’ event.

Challenges like this one are just one of numerous spin-offs or offshoots of traditional geocaching. There’s “Virtual Geocaching”, with no physical cache at all but requires you to answer a question about or take a picture of the location, “Earth Caching”, which includes a task that teaches the cacher about the earth science of the location, and “Night Caching”, with caches that can only be found at night using reflectors or flashlights, among others.

Another facet of geocaching is geocoins, small coins with both generic and customizable designs that are also tracked online. According to Ivan, “about five percent of geocaches contain geocoins” which makes every find that much more exciting. The idea is for geocachers to move the coins around from cache to cache. “I’ve got a couple in Czechoslovakia right now,” says Karen Bennett with obvious excitement in her voice. “A German couple were over here visiting a few years ago, and they found a couple of my coins and took them back to Europe with them.” Bennett has about 200 active geocoins in circulation, and she closely monitors their travels online. “Us girls, we like shiny things. These and jewelry,” she says laughing.

The Adventure Coast Challenge takes the group all over the countryside surrounding Coos Bay. They visit a monument in a small coastal town dedicated to local fishermen lost at sea, a wine-tasting business, a statue of a fireman outside a private home and, much to their surprise, Steve Prefontaine’s grave.

“One of the really cool things about geocaching is if you’re traveling to an area you have never been to before and you go looking for geocaches, you discover little trails, little scenic vistas in towns that you’d never see if you were just traveling through,”Card says. “But because someone put a geocache there, you find all these cool surprise spots.”

The group completes most of the challenge before heading back to Coos Bay for the Meet-and-Eat held at the local Red Lion Inn. In a private banquet room, two hundred geocachers crowd around thirty tables.

There’s a buffet, a raffle, and a trade table covered in geocaching-related items: flashlights, new empty caches, camouflage spray paint, logbooks, batteries, reflective trail tacks, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching. Signal the Frog, geocaching’s official mascot, who distinguishes himself by the GPS antenna sticking out of his head, even makes an appearance.

The geocachers are dressed casually, and all sport a nametag with their geocaching handle, the name others will most likely know them by.

“The first year we did this, thirty-five people showed up. This is our fourth year and we’ve got 200,” says Steve Wilcox, the organizer. “It’s just a social event. You see all these names online, and you have these meets to put the face with the name; a lot of these people have never met before.”

These types of meet-and-greet are becoming more and more common throughout Oregon, and insure that the geocaching community, which refers to non-geocachers as “muggles”, remains extremely tight-knit.

“It’s funny, I notice people geocaching all the time. I’ll see them near one of my caches or someplace else and I’ll watch them” says Card. “Sometimes they don’t know that I know what they’re doing, so they’ll try to hide it,” he laughs. “Even if you have no idea who the person is, it instantly makes you feel closer to them. It’s like you have some kind of silent bond.”

For another take on Geocaching, Jill Kimball and Melanie Johnson have put together a piece of their own: Down the Rabbit Hole.