Cathy Rice lets her fingers "do the finding" of her family's next outdoor adventure!
Cathy Rice and her family live in Wilsonville, but have explored much of Oregon as a part of a growing group of savvy internet users who've discovered that the great outdoors is but a finger tap and electronic link away through a new sport – (or is it recreation?) - called "Geocaching."
“It’s fun for people of all ages,” noted Rice. She and her family have been avid Geocachers the past nine years:
“For the kids it’s like a treasure hunt because they get to discover new places to see – it’s just a great activity to do while you’re enjoying the Oregon outdoors.”
Geocaching is a rewarding blend of high technology that uses computers and hand held GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers and take you on an old fashioned treasure hunt.
Cathy says "fun" is the byword at Geocaching.com
At home, she simply enters her zip code and then the distance she would like to travel from her home, and soon a lengthy list of adventures appears on her screen.
Cathy explained, “Sometimes it’s a cute name that intrigues me – sometimes it is just the location – a lot of time it’s the cache size.”
In fact, “Rice’s Raiders,” as the family nickname implies, are real pros at finding caches. These days, they even create their own caches to hide for others to find.
Since Cathy’s favorite rock group is “Styx,” she included a variety of related items inside her latest cache: “We’ve added chap sticks…glue sticks, something to sharpen your writing sticks,” she noted with a laugh.
She added: “Now, not everyone will trade within the theme and that’s ok too – but if you can it’s kind of fun.”
So far, the Rice family has hidden over a dozen caches across Oregon and she said that they’ve discovered a lot of locations they’d never have known about were it not for Geocaching:
“Many people say, 'I had no idea this place even existed', so it really does get you into different areas of Oregon's parks, forests and open areas."
In fact, more and more people are have discovered that Oregon State Parks are popular Geocaching sites because they’re convenient, safe and allow for a longer camping stay.
But at Stub Stewart State Park in Washington County, Park Ranger Heather Currey said that if folks choose to hide caches in a state park, be sure to get permission from the park managers:
“We think it’s fantastic that people want to recreate on state park lands and Geocaching is a wonderful way to explore the parklands, but many of our parks have sensitive plants, habitats, cultural resources that we’re protecting for the future. So, it’s nice for us to know where these caches are intended so we can identify those areas and maybe find an area on the other side of the trail that would be a little better.”
The caches vary - and usually consist of small souvenirs that you can choose from - perhaps even a camera and a log book to capture and relate your moment of discovery.
But Cathy insists, (and etiquette demands,) that if you take something from the cache, you should leave something in exchange.
Aside from the fun of just looking for something that's been secreted away in the woods, Ken and Cathy Rice agree that one of the bonuses of Geocaching has been the way the entire event brings the family together.
Ken noted, “Probably family time has been the real bonus – it’s an activity that we can all do. Time we spend together.”
Dinosaurs With Fins and Other Giant Discoveries
There is an ancient critter living in Oregon that is pretty well known in some circles.
Care to guess what species it might be?
Let me offer you some hints: this species lives in rivers but it also migrates to the ocean. It doesn’t have scales, but it does have fins. It can grow to a gigantic size… up to 18-feet long.
It’s also a dinosaur of a fish species with fins whose history reaches back nearly 200 million years!
In fact, you can see them alive and well on a “Grant’s Getaway” at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Bonneville Fish Hatchery in the Columbia River Gorge.
It’s an Oregon fish hatchery with a front row seat into pre-history.
In fact, history so close it seems you could reach out and touch the fish in the sort of place you could linger for hours.
Greg Davis, ODFW’s Bonneville Hatchery Manager, told me, “You are literally face to face with really big sturgeon; as close as six inches away, separated only by a thick piece of glass. We consider it our little aquarium.”
At the Bonneville Fish Hatchery’s Sturgeon Exhibit, you will slow down to enjoy the show. A show of fish that is!
Davis noted, “There isn’t another opportunity that I know of in Oregon where you can view a sturgeon quite like this - underwater – it’s a unique opportunity to see a large 10 or 12-foot long sturgeon up close and personal.”
Best of all, it is also free!
Since 1998, the Sturgeon Exhibit has given up to half a million visitors a year the chance to see a species seldom seen so close.
“We hear oooh’s and ahhh’s all of the time from the visitors,” added Davis.“Folks are so impressed to walk up and see something that huge that is slowly swimming past them – almost seeming to eye the visitors as they pass by.”
But let Bonneville Fish Hatchery be just the start of your journey to other gigantic discoveries in the Colombia River Gorge.
As you travel east on the interstate highway, make time to stop, learn and experience rich lessons in natural and cultural history at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Museum in The Dalles.
Since 1997, the discovery center has been the showcase setting and interpretive site for the National Scenic Area in the Columbia River Gorge.
The Discovery Center’s awesome entrance will captivate and leave you spellbound.
Spokesperson Roxie Pennington said, “We’re perched on one of the most phenomenally beautiful scenic outlooks in the gorge. As you walk inside our entrance and gaze up and through the pillars, you are drawn out of the glass wall to see the distant Klickatat Hills and even more sky than most people see everyday.”
Spokesperson John Connolly added, “ The Discovery Center is far more than dramatic scenery – the center links people to Oregon’s rich cultural histories too – framed by the beauty and immensity of it all – it’s a beautiful area to come celebrate and it’s right out our backdoor.”
A Gem of a Museum
In the vast Willamette Valley--with a little imagination--you can travel into a turbulent and tumultuous chapter of geologic history, when gigantic icebergs carried by floodwater that was more than four hundred feet deep floated across the broad-shouldered valley.
It may be hard to believe, but it’s true! In the blink of a geologic eye, a series of tremendous floods occurred, perhaps twenty times every fifty years for two thousand years--beginning nearly fourteen thousand years ago near the end of the Ice Age.
Gigantic, glacial Missoula Lake (in what is now Montana), backed up by an ice dam several miles wide and half a mile high, burst through its western wall and raced across the plains and valleys between Montana and the Pacific Ocean.
Geologists say some five hundred cubic miles of floodwater and icebergs roared across the Northwest, carrying away anything and everything in its path. As the ice flowed, it broke into thousands of pieces, and many of the pieces ended up stranded along the flood route.
These “erratics”--a geological term that describes a rock found a considerable distance from its place of origin--range from pebble- to baseball- to car-size boulders that still dot the Willamette Valley.
Near present-day Sheridan, off Oregon 18, one giant berg melted and tipped its load, a massive rock that is called the Belleview Boulder.
It is the centerpiece of Erratic Rocks State Natural Site and rests on the shoulder of a hillside overlooking the highway.
As you hike, notice the gently rolling landscape of the surrounding vineyard-laden hillsides. This landscape is a stark contrast to the Belleview Boulder!
Notice the smoothed edges and scratches across the boulder’s surface and its sharp angles compared with the rest of the valley.
It is a fine place for a picnic lunch and a pause to consider so much dramatic history.
There’s more geologic drama based at one of the most interesting historic homes of the Portland area; a home that houses one of the most magnificent collection of rocks and minerals in the region.
The Rice NW Museum of Rocks and Minerals has been a drawing card for rock hounds for more than forty years – it provides even the casual visitor a stunning visual treat.
Traffic speeds by at a shattering pace on Highway 26 in Washington County, while tucked away in the woods, just off Helvetia Road, time slows down.
It’s a home where and Oregonian’s spirit of independence lives, and Linda Kepford, the museum’s assistant director, can tell you much about the man who lived there.
“Dick Rice liked the quality of the materials he chose and this home was built to last – the construction was very good ---he wanted only the best.”
Rice was a self-made timber man who made himself a fortune in the forest also built a home in the woods that staggers the imagination.
Rice cleared the land, dug out the dirt and poured the foundation then built a sprawling 7500-square foot “ranch-style” home in 1951.
It was a gift to his wife, Helen – and a statement that hard work and self-reliance pay off.
The museum’s curator, Rudy Tschernich, explained that Rice built the home to house an amazing array of valuable gemstones and minerals that Dick and Helen collected from across the country.
“They built the basement so they could house their collection. They were very active collectors in both purchasing and going out in the field…their collection became world famous because of some of the very finest specimens that they have.”
The ranch-style home that Rice built over half a century ago was recently selected as the first of its kind to make the National Registry of Historic Places.
A stroll down a hallway can show you why the home is so special. Rare Oregon myrtlewood was used everywhere: the baseboards, the door jams, the window trim, the doors, the cabinets - - was used everywhere.”
It’s a very hard wood, substantial – sturdy and lasts a long time,” noted Kepford. “It’s absolutely gorgeous and the patterns in it are beautiful – and it is a durable wood and something that would last a long time.”
Rice traded his Doug fir logs for rafts of myrtlewood logs from timber owners in Coos Bay.
But there’s more – in the kitchen you’ll see cabinetry built from “quilted maple,” a unique and stunning wood that came from nearby Vernonia.
While Dick and Helen Rice passed away in 1997, after 63 years of marriage, Chester Epperson, a visitor and member of the Tualatin Valley Gem Club, said that the Rice’s legacy gives so much pleasure to so many people who walk through their home.
“The Rice NW Museum of Rocks and Minerals has always been a hidden treasure. The energy of the people who dug the rocks, built the displays, it’s so perfect and you’re just in awe – it’s in the top three museums of the west coast.”
Casting for Silver
Mark Anderson says the time is right to catch a salmon and he loves to cast lures from shore – especially the lures that he’s designed.
His Dad taught him much of what he practices today. It’s a technique called “jig fishing” that relies upon a weighted feathered jig that is fished below a floating bobber… and it works!
“When you can put it all together and your bobber slips under,” noted Anderson. “Then you come back and feel the weight of a heavy fish on there – that’s alright. It’s a great feeling.”
I recently caught up with Anderson along the Wilson River in the Tillamook State Forest where he told me that twenty years ago, he bought his first jig off a store rack.
Now, he makes the jigs and they are some of the finest around and in huge demand.
What do they look like to the fish?
Anderson said – try squid!
“When you see a squid moving in the water, it pulses,” noted Anderson. “That’s really how this looks. It pulses like a squid. Fish react to it like it’s something really tasty and they eat it.”
Anderson added that crafting the colorful jigs is an “addictive passion” and his love for the craft evolved by simply making them for friends.
“I’d give buddies 3 or 4 jigs and say, ‘Here, try these out.’ They’d come back and say, ‘Boy that one worked out, but this one here with this color, this tail or flange color, that really seems to out produce the others.’ That feedback has really made the difference.”
Now, after ten years at the helm of “First Bite Jigs,” Anderson said that he has more “friends” than ever --- across England, Switzerland, New Zealand and Chile – anglers who keep coming back for more.
He boasts that the jig making parts – from hooks to feathers and beads --- all come from Oregon. He even made a “how to” video on an Oregon stream:
“It’s called “The Art of the Jig,” he noted. “Probably the biggest project I’ve ever done: spotting a fish, casting to it and hooking it and showing people how it’s all tied together.”
“First Bite” has hooked thousands of anglers to a new technique for catching salmon and steelhead, but Anderson said a successful business is not enough for him.
He believes that he and the angling community can do more by giving back.
“Mainly it’s just the everyday trash that people leave behind.Tires, diapers, household plastics…everyday garbage that litters our rivers.”
Anderson leads by example and teaches an ethic of responsibility caring for Oregon’s outdoors. In fact, he has spearheaded an Oregon Adopt-a-River campaign the past 16 years and encourages anglers to clean the rivers they like to fish.
That often means getting his hands dirty too.
”Trash isn’t going away,” he acknowledged. “There’s a certain number of people that just don’t care… but my approach is a win-win because the trash is picked up, the landowner is happy and fishermen can walk down and fish the property. So, I pick up the trash so others can recreate because I love the outdoors.”
Mark Anderson believes most anglers love the outdoors too or they wouldn’t be out there. He also thinks anglers could do more to bring their sport full circle and he’s pleased that he can help point the way.
“Especially at this time of year,” he added. “We get those cool nights, the first rains that bring in those fresh fish. The cycle continues and it is my favorite time of year.”