READY, SET – SURVIVE!
The Pacific Northwest can be a harsh, dangerous place if you’re caught unprepared in the great outdoors.
KGW’s Outdoor Reporter, Grant McOmie, recently learned that fact the hard way.
Grant traveled into the wilderness and got lost! He did it on purpose to learn how simple, inexpensive yet essential gear can keep you safe in the woods.
There wasn’t an inch of daylight left when a US Coast Guard helicopter tried to rescue lost hiker, Phil Borcyens.
The 26-year old had strayed off a trail above Horsetail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge on a winter’s day-hike last February
He ended up on the narrow lip of a ledge and spent 10 hours holding on for dear life.
Help came the next morning when the man admitted he did everything wrong: “Not hiking with a partner, not having a map and compass, not really having a good plan.”
He carried no supplies, wore a cotton shirt and warned others not to make the same mistakes that he had made: “Please, if you’re hiking anywhere – have a plan!”
It was one more wintertime event in a string of lost – then later rescued hikers, climbers, skiers and travelers who either made poor decisions or were caught unprepared by fast changing, difficult circumstances.
It got me to wondering, when you get lost, does preparing for the worst really matter?
On a recent drizzly winter afternoon I found myself cold, wet and running out of daylight.
I was part of a Search and Rescue exercise led by veteran searcher, Sharon Ward, who works with Pacific Crest Search Dogs and owns a search dog named “Kunga.”
Hours earlier, Ward told me of the varied circumstances where she had found people during the course of her job: ”People in creeks, people in trees, people buried in caves, people hiding themselves, people walking and yelling, people grabbing the dog – you name it, I have found folks for every different type of scenario.”
On this cold winter’s day, my scenario was to play a lost victim.
But getting lost on purpose can be serious business as I tried to duplicate the same conditions and circumstances that many people find themselves in when they get lost for real.
It meant trading in warm fleece, synthetic and wool clothing like rain pants, jackets and Gore-Tex parka for cotton - head to toe – plus lightweight shoes (not waterproof) and leaving any other safety gear or equipment far behind.
Like most of the victims that Ward has found over the years, I wouldn’t carry any of the ten essentials that could keep me safe – even comfortable.
Ward said that list begins with a map and compass: “They are inexpensive, widely available and everybody knows that they should have a compass but most people have no clue how to use one.”
Or a water bottle – Ward showed off a nalgene bottle that doubled as a storage container (until it’s filled with water) and from inside of it she pulled out more essentials:
There was a flashlight with fresh batteries, a space blanket, a candle to help light a fire and a metal whistle, a small pocketknife and a packet of waterproof matches.
From inside a small pack Ward pulled out a zip-lock bag with a first aid kit that contained medication, anti-biotic cream, tape and band-aids.
Finally, another small plastic bag carried an array of food items like candy bars, power bars and the like.
Ward advised that everyone should carry something similar – she assembled hers for less than twenty bucks – you might do better.
The point is to simply do it and then carry the ten essentials with you – even if they are stuffed into a bag and stored in a corner of your truck or car.
I didn’t carry any of those items for my “getting lost on purpose” exercise and I knew I’d pay a price later for my lack of preparation.
My scenario was to play a hunter – on my way back to camp – when I decided to take a short cut – trouble was, I’d never tried the short cut before.
I wandered the woods at sunset and soon found myself miserably wet, shivering from cold and waiting for a rescue.
But there was one thing that I did right!
Out of fear of falling in the steep, uneven terrain I finally parked myself next to a tree stump and decided to stay in one place.
It was just too dangerous to wander around in the woods in the dark.
From a distance, after what seemed hours of waiting, I heard shouting – and of all things – ringing bells!
“Grant – we’re coming!” It was Sharon Ward and her search team.
And about those ringing bells? The bells were attached to Kunga’s harness – you could hear that dog a mile away and I really felt better knowing the team was nearby.
Finally, Kunga found me!
I smiled as he wagged his tail and the search group slowly appeared – their flashlights pierced the darkness and the whole event left a mile wide smile on my face.
You see, once it’s dark, your mind starts playing tricks on you. You may even hear things – a snapped branch here, an unfamiliar sound there. All of it is unfamiliar and a bit scary.
Certainly, I knew my rescuers would find me, but I really didn’t know when.
I did know that if I had even a few of the ten essentials – like fire for warmth and light or water to quench a thirst – I’d have been far more comfortable while waiting for rescue.
There were quite a few lessons learned on my exercise – lessons learned the hard way. I hope you do better when you head outdoors.
STUB STEWART STATE PARK
The scale of Oregon’s newest state park campground called Stub Stewart State Park is huge, the sights are spectacular and the convenience of it all makes the parkland hard to resist.
You’ll find spectacular views, spacious wooded campsites and intriguing trails to explore – whether on foot, a bike or on horseback.
Located just twenty miles from Portland, the park sprawls across 1700-forested acres of Washington County.
“What’s special about this park is the natural environment,” noted Park Manager, Dan Lucas. “The serene surroundings that we enjoy include second growth fir and hemlock trees, several streams and amazing vistas of the Oregon Coast Range Mountains.”
Lucas added that Stewart Park offers a full service campground with over a hundred campsites – many with full hook ups for trailer or RV – and more primitive sites for the hike in or bike in camper.
“They are more private, wooded setting with doug fir trees; really isolated and separate campsites with picnic tables and a central fire ring too. If you want to get away from the vehicles and the main activity of the park, that’s the place to go camping.”
If you like to camp but don’t own a tent or trailer, Lucas said that the 14 rental cabins offer campers a home in the woods for a change of pace at an affordable price.
“Twelve of the cabins are one room and three are two room cabins; each with a bunk bed, futon couch that folds into a bed, table and chairs. Most of the cabins have beautiful views of the coast range too.”
The park has become a drawing card for hikers, bike riders and especially, horseback riders. Riders come from all over to enjoy million dollar views and some of the finest facilities in the region.
Pamela Garza and Lola Lahr are campers at Stub Stewart and they are also longtime members of Oregon Equestrian Trail.
The two love to ride their Norwegian Fjord horses across the park’s many trails. They also take great pride in the fact the OET club helped design the horse camp layout, built corrals and donated materials to make the area a remarkable success.
Pamela Garza noted: “Oh, the conveniences are great with hook ups at each site, water at each site and of course – hot showers!”
OET Vice President, Frank DeWeese, also a longtime horseback rider, added that “Oregon State Parks had a vision for full service camping that including a horse camp. So, our organization committed from the beginning to put up a state work party. We drew from our 1500 members and provided enough people to put together work parties and we’ve got several thousand hours of volunteer hours at the campground. It’s remarkable success for a recreation user-group.”
There are 24 distinct trails in Stub Stewart Park that total 14 miles in length, plus another 3.5 miles of the Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail courses through the park.
Lola Lahr noted that adds up to plenty of miles of trails to explore for all levels of experience.
“I have always loved the outdoors and this park – plus my horse will get me into the outdoors. So, it’s outdoors and horses – a double whammy and it works for me.”
It is a parkland that may just work for you too; especially if you enjoy peace and quiet that’s close to the greater Portland Metro area.
TIP OF THE WEEK – WINTERIZE YOUR BOAT NOW
The recent one-two punch of wind and snow should serve as a wake up call to every Oregon boat owner: winter has arrived and your watercraft needs to be prepared for the worst that nature can dish out.
Nature has hit the region with several storms that blew in and dumped buckets of rain --- even snow and it’s only a matter of time before the sustained freezing temperatures arrive – and a critical question for boat owners – have you winterized you boat?
If you don’t, Rick Galbraith, Steven’s Marine Service Manager, said that you could pay a big price: “The water will be trapped inside the block and when it freezes, it expands and then the block cracks. At that point, there’s no repair. It’s all garbage and we throw it away and install a brand new one – and they don’t come cheap.”
Scary prospect, huh?
That’s especially true when you consider how easy and affordable a few small steps can be to protect your watercraft investment.
Galbraith’s motto at this time of year is simple enough, “Get the water out,” are words to live by when it comes to properly winterizing your boat.
Products include fuel additives that are added to the fuel tank, plus products that prevent corrosion and also lubricate the internal engine parts.
Winterization service for an inboard engine coasts $145 at Steven’s Marine in Tigard.
You can also purchase the products and do it yourself for around $60.
Either way you do it, the important thing is just that – do it!
Galbraith notes that if you don’t winterize your boat and we have a long, hard winter: “Come spring, when people start up their engines and oil comes billowing out in the bilge and creates a big mess and the engine quits: it could be all over for the boat owner because a new engine could cost as much as $8,000. Winterizing the boat can be pretty reasonable insurance that the boat will be ready to go next spring.”
It’s also important to remember that water problems for the boat owner are not limited to the engine alone.
Trey Carskadon, Chairman of the Oregon State Marine Board, says that temps don’t have to drop too low to create real problems with the boat’s upholstery:
“If you have water sitting in the boat, it can cause mold problems – in the floor and on your seat upholstery. It’s a smell that you never get rid of either. So, always take your drain plug out and tilt your boat up so the water can run out of the boat. Never cover your boat with a plastic tarp – that just doesn’t work – it doesn’t breathe and holds the moisture in, and that creates condensation that leads to mold and mildew.”
Finally, Carskadon suggests that boaters not give up on their favorite recreation during the winter months – rather, use the time to plan for next year.
“Boating season doesn’t end when we put our boats away, in many ways it’s just getting started as we plan for next year. From late fall through winter, I take advantage of the time to plan my trips for next year; make reservations at state parks or lakes and reservoirs that interest me – plus the marinas that I’d like to use. Oregon has abundant water resources just waiting for us to enjoy.”
OUTDOOR LIFE AT THE PORTLAND ART MUSEUM
There are times when the lure of the great Oregon outdoors is challenged by cold, bone chilling conditions that may give you pause to consider your options.
On a day when winter’s bite seems to have arrived a bit early, consider ducking into a place that will take your breath away in a different fashion –
I’ve discovered there is outdoor adventure that can be measured by a monumental work of art that will capture your heart for its size, scale and beauty at the Portland Art Museum.
It is easy to believe that Oregon’s outdoors is never twice the same
It really is true!
The landscapes shift, beguile and lure you with power, grandeur and beauty.
Once you’ve tasted this place, you are left restless and hungry for more.
You simply cannot get Oregon out of your mind!
That is a treasured truth tested by artists who have tried for a long, long time, according the Brian Ferriso, Executive Director of the Portland Art Museum.
“If you’re an Oregonian, you absolutely embrace the landscape that you live, so the art that we have reflects that interest, that passion and admiration all at once.”
The Portland Art Museum can teach you much about the grand love affair that great artists have had with our region.
Ferriso noted that some iconic paintings – like “Mt Hood” by 19th century artist Albert Bierstadt …”put Oregon on the map” with an international community through an idealized vision of the great west just four years after the end of the Civil War.
“What we call the ‘romantic view,’ added Ferriso. “To bring that romantic view back to their east coast cities and homes was something very special.Europe had all the great cathedrals, the Greek and Roman ruins, but America had its great monuments in the landscape. A very special experience that is Inspirational as well as educational.”
Inspiration’s easy to come by when you stand before the latest masterpiece to grace the gallery’s wall: a monumental work called “Shoshone Falls of the Snake River” – it is awesome in size and scale at 6 feet tall and 12-feet wide.
“The significance of these panoramic paintings,” noted Ferriso, is that at 10- feet, 12-feet, 13-feet wide, they became theatrical in their approach. There weren’t movie theatres in those days so this became the theatrical spectacle of the age; ‘come see the great western painting by Thomas Moran.”
Thomas Moran’s “Shoshone Falls of the Snake River” is a grand painting that takes your breath away, especially when you consider it is the real untamed wild west of 1900 that is about western ruggedness, outdoor boldness and grandeur.
The painting demands that you slow down and savor a moment in solitude so that you may explore its colors and its forms, much as you would any great outdoor experience.
The massive painting is not alone – Moran’s watercolor sketches and drawings and even a panoramic photo from the day, accompany the exhibit, and when taken altogether, it is a marvelous experience and worth your time for a visit.
So, escape the great outdoors for a time so you might take a journey back in time to explore Oregon through the Portland Art Museum.
SHAFER WINERY AND CHRISTMAS SHOP
Tucked into a corner of the Willamette Valley, the art of wine making merges with art of the season just off the Gales Creek Highway.
The Shafer Winery and Christmas Shop is the sort of place that makes you feel good and makes you smile.
Not just from the fruit of the vine!
In fact, you won’t need a sip to enjoy Harvey and Miki Shafer’s spirit of the season:
“In the beginning we never really knew if we’d sell anything,” noted Miki who started selling varied holiday glass ornaments as a part of the winery more than twenty years ago. “But it made us feel good - we had absolutely no idea that so many people would buy Christmas and wine together…now we are the only Christmas shop with a winery and it’s been fabulous.”
The Shafer’s wine business has been fabulous for nearly forty years.
You can sample and buy their Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and more, but it’s the Christmas room that sets Shafer’s apart.
It’s a room where thousands of gorgeous glass ornaments from across the world are ready for your inspection as prized gifts for your home, your family or friends.
“Perhaps you have a wedding or important dates - the birth of a child,” said Harvey Shafer. “Or just about any other holiday events – we have something for every significant event. Most aren’t terribly expensive, but they are unique and beautiful.”
Uniquely prized gifts that are worth your time for a visit.
The Shafer Winery and Christmas Shop is open (March-December) Thursday-Sunday, 11am-5pm.
SHORE ACRES HOLIDAY LIGHTS
The Oregon coast is a many splendid place boasting unique sights and sounds that will amaze you anytime of the year.
In this week’s “Grant’s Getaways,” Grant McOmie takes us to Shore Acres State Park along the southern Oregon coast for a unique holiday light extravaganza.
The park’s “Holiday Lights” offers the very best in community service and a wonderful holiday gift for you to enjoy.
It’s safe to say that most holiday lights don’t hold a candle to the ones the Friends of Shore Acres State Park put up each year.
The folks who show up each weekend beginning before Halloween and go the extra mile to light Oregon’s only botanical garden state park.
If you’re quick enough to keep up with the woman who started it all, Shirley Bridgham can tell you how it all began – more than two decades ago:
“We started with 6,000 lights – just 6,000 lights and one Christmas tree. And then we doubled that each year until we got up to 150,000 lights,” said Bridgham. With a chuckle, she added, “Then we started going up by fifty thousand lights at a time.”
Back in those days, Shirley and her husband David Bridgham enlisted a dozen or so of their friends to help out. But now, with more than five miles of electric cord and 275,000 lights, the job requires organization and direction.
Shirley’s figured that out too – with a three-ring notebook that is crammed with pages and maps and photos of the park.
“Well, this book shows me what we start with: that is, all the kinds and styles of lights to use and then every single shrub gets a tag. The text that I’ve developed tells me how many lights, what color to use on the bush and so forth.”
She’s not kidding – every shrub, bush and many of the trees get a tag and eventually one or more string of lights.
Shirley boasts that one time she logged more than eight miles of walking across Shore Acres sprawling seven acre garden – directing, advising and motivating her volunteer troops.
Like holiday elves, fifteen hundred volunteers now follow the Bridgham’s lead –while a small, dedicated group of twenty-five or so will spend all of their free time on weekends, putting up the park lights and displays in time for opening night on Thanksgiving Day.
They will stretch 3400 strings of lights and it is hard, painstaking work to get them to look and to work just right. Many say it is also the sort of work that makes them feel good and puts a smile on their face.
David Barnhart (he travels all the way from Seaside on the northern Oregon coast each weekend,) said: “I just enjoy the people and the camaraderie. There’s quite a group of people out here; usually the same ones every year and it’s a lot of work so we couldn’t get the job done without them.”
Del Willis said that he lives in an apartment in Coos Bay and so putting up the holiday lights in the park is something that he looks forward to each year: “This is for the community, a great thing for Oregon and for the world. Let’s face it - it just makes you feel good to do this for others to enjoy.”
Preson Philips, the state park manager in charge of Shore Acres, agreed that people feel good lending a hand to get the park ready. In fact, he said that all the work, all of the expenses – even the electric bill – are all paid by the “Friends of Shore Acres:”
“I don’t know if I can explain it,” noted Phillips. “ I believe there is something about this site, this garden, this community where pure volunteerism from the community comes out each weekend to make this happen – maybe it’s just pride in the park.”
“Pride” resonates across the seven acre park, despite uncertain times, tough economic times in a county with one of the state’s highest unemployment rates, note David Bridgham.
He said that the worst of times seems to bring out the best in people who want to brighten their park, support their community and show visitors that they care about the place they call home.
Bridgham believes that by giving so much of their time and energy to make the “Holiday Lights” come to life each year, local folks get even more back in return.
“This event is a touchstone! This place is where the community comes together and it’s a tradition. People know it’s going to be here every year and they can be a part of it.”
Shirley Bridgham agreed and added “It’s magic – for 36 nights each year – it is magic come true. Especially if you are here are the sun drops out of sight across the ocean out there – the magic that begins at dusk is amazing.”
David added, “What thrills me is that there are so many adults who don’t know the Christmas or the holidays without coming out here to see the Holiday Lights and that’s s touching, even rewarding. It puts me in the Christmas spirit.”
The Holiday Lights – a magical gift for you from the good friends of Coos County who keep the lights burning in a special place by the sea called Shore Acres.
The Holiday Lights continue through New Year’s Eve, the park is open daily and closes each night at 10pm. There is no entry fee, but there is a three-dollar state park parking permit required.