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 eight 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.”
She also notes many details about the cache on the website like available parking, whether it’s pet friendly plus the latitude and longitude coordinates that she will plug into her GPS so to guide her family to the cache.
Cathy noted that when she began in 2001 there were hundreds of caches in the Portland area – today, there are tens of thousands in the city and surrounding metro region – plus, hundreds of thousands of the hidden treasures across the state.
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.
A watertight container like an ammo box or plastic container is preferred for caches because they need to be watertight.
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.”
On a recent adventure, the Rice family followed directions to a starting point in a nearby public area and then hunted the brush for more clues.
In this case, latitude and longitude coordinates were the clues. They plugged the numbers into their GPS and then the unit guided them to the site of the hidden cache.
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.”
Cathy added, “ I love it and think that there are always new places to discover so why wouldn’t you want to do that?”
KAM WAH CHUNG STATE HERITAGE SITE
If you know where to look across Oregon’s vast high desert landscape, there are powerful human stories found in small, quiet places.
Grant McOmie takes us to a “time capsule” of sorts at Eastern Oregon’s John Day, where a unique and memorable chapter of the Oregon story comes to life.
There is a timeless feeling at some places in Oregon’s high desert – not just the across the vast landscape – but with imagination, you can also experience it on the back roads or neighborhood streets where life passes by as it did a century ago.
So it is with the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day where imagination and Judy Bracken’s description may sweep you back to an earlier time.
“Chinatown was all around us, noted Bracken – an Oregon State Park Ranger. “The laundries were all along one side of the street and over in the corner was a brothel and a bar – and then we have Kam Wah Chung.”
The Kam Wah Chung or “Golden Flower of Prosperity” – was a general store and herbal medicine shop that operated for more than half a century – including a time when more than Chinese laborers worked in the region.
Bracken added that Kam Wah Chung was the social center for more than 2,000 Chinese: “They had baking powder, rice, sugar, flour, beans – everything you might need but there was so much more! This is where you would come to find a job – you could have letters written home because a lot of the miners were illiterate. You could come here and gamble, smoke, drink – have a nice relaxing time.”
What comes into clear view inside this tiny, dim-lit shop was a big business that once flourished on the western frontier beginning in 1887 when two young immigrants, Ing Hay and Lung An, bought the Kam Wah Chung.
In addition to food for the stomach and solace for the soul, you might also find a cure for what ailed you.
You see, “Doc” Hay was the most famous herbal medicine doctor between Seattle and San Francisco – Christina Sweet, OPRD Curator, added that Hay served both the Chinese and the white communities:
“He took your pulse, told you what was wrong with you, gave you Chinese medicines and herbs, and made you better. Doc Hay cured influenza, blood poisoning, even broken bones with a thousand different herbs.”
Even more remarkable - the shop was locked up for twenty years, and when it reopened in 1969, perfectly preserved artifacts were revealed.
From a box of Wheaties - the Breakfast of Champions - to marshmallows sealed in a can - the stone and brick structure protected the building’s contents from blistering heat or frigid cold.
Sweet added that we also know much about the men and their place from the records because Doc Hay and Lung An kept everything: more than 20,000 letters, accounts and correspondence.
“They provide a detailed picture of the Chinese in Oregon,” noted Sweet.“The letters and the records go everywhere, so we are learning about the Chinese in John Day and what they did here and also what happened in the community and the Chinese in different areas of the state.”
Like everything in this wonderful state park time capsule, all of it is perfectly preserved! Just as the story of the unusual men who ran a business that became a legend.
“These men changed the community, added Sweet. “They made this area what it is today – initially, they were very much the outsiders but then each really became a part of the community. They were well loved by hundreds of locals and this is a part of our Oregon heritage. We want to celebrate it and preserve it through Kam Wah Chung.”
OREGON HISTORIC CEMETERIES
History runs deep across Oregon with fascinating, colorful and surprising stories.
Grant McOmie takes us for a history hike thru some surprising local sites: Oregon’s Pioneer Cemeteries that are heritage sites and offer a peak through “Windows of Time.”
Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery is as much a celebration of life as it is a resting site.
Frank Schaefer, Chair of the Friends of Lone Fir said, “This cemetery was established before Oregon was a state, so we have mayors, politicians, policemen, firemen, criminals and the pioneers who came from the east to the west – all are here.”
It’s a pioneer cemetery in the middle of Oregon’s largest city and it recently made big news when “National Geographic” announced that it is one of the “Top Ten Cemeteries” in the world.
The site dates to 1846 and it boasts remarkable ornate architecture, gigantic trees and famous people.
Schaefer added, “That combination makes it very unique and very special.”
Lone Fir Cemetery holds on to its heritage in unique fashion according to Metro’s Rachel fox:
“It’s our keynote cemetery; a 30-acre arboretum that’s loved by the community.”
Metro manages Lone Fir’s park-like setting that wasn’t always so rich with natural beauty.
More than a century ago, the cemetery was largely barren with just a scattering of trees including the namesake Doug Fir that’s now 150 years old.
“We have a unique variety of trees and habitats within the cemetery and it actually serves as a community park,” noted Fox. “I call this place the ‘family album’ of Portland and that’s what sets us apart. Even though it’s a place set aside for remembrance and there is death here, it’s full of life and it’s a comfortable, warm place to visit.”
Kuri Gill, Oregon State Parks and Recreations Heritage Cemetery Program Manager, agreed and noted: “These places give the long history of the community – the surrounding community, so it’s very local history and people appreciate that.”
There are more than 750 Oregon Pioneer Cemeteries that have been officially documented, according to Gill. There may be another 500 that have not been identified yet.
Many, like Washington County’s small “Harrison Pioneer Cemetery,” have volunteers like Judy Goldmann who take care of them.
Gill added, “We encourage people to do that in a friendly way with good stewardship to really go out and be in the cemeteries. Of course, be respectful when you’re there, but it’s great to have people here because it protects the sites from vandalism.”
Goldmann has no family in Harrison and yet she’s been tending the site over 30 years. She is proud to take care of the past:
“Oh yes, to preserve it and to make it known that there were these people who came way before and built the foundations of what we now have in this beautiful land.”
Just off Stafford Road near Lake Oswego, the Oswego Pioneer Cemetery is a beautiful hillside setting, but when you dig a bit deeper discover a story you’ve likely never heard.
The story of the ironworkers who worked, lived and passed on in long ago Lake Oswego.
This was a time long before it was known as a suburban residential community.
Local historian Susanna Kuo, (Lake Oswego Preservation Society,) explained: “They had the water power, they had the forests for charcoal and they had the iron ore. It all added up to a promising business plan in the 1800’s.”
The Oswego Pioneer was once a “company cemetery’ and it was a part of a company town. Workers came from across the country to work at a so-called “Iron Plantation” that was located in what is now downtown Lake Oswego – right next to the Willamette River.
The company owned the post office; a general store and they built cottages for their workers,” noted Kuo. “They platted neighborhoods and they operated the cemetery for nearly 42 years.”
They mined the iron ore from the nearby hills, smelted it and cast the molten iron into all sorts of items – including pipes that that delivered Bull Run water to Portland residents.
Kuo added that the mining work was dark, dirty and dangerous.
“They had zero safety equipment and it was very hard work with 12 hour shifts. The furnace ran around the clock because you don’t turn off something that’s 2800 degrees and expect to relight it and get full power the next morning.”
A new “Heritage Trail” is underway that will link the important historic industrial sites with the Oswego Pioneer Cemetery where 90 iron workers are buried.
Information plaques will tell the largely unknown story.
In fact, you can check out an original iron foundry furnace too. It rests intact and restored by local folks at George Roger’s Park in Lake Oswego.
Steve Dietz, member of the Lake Oswego Preservation Society, added: “The furnace and the stack for the furnace have gone through a recent rehabilitation and restoration and it is now a one of a kind in Oregon.”
That’s the nature of Oregon’s Heritage Pioneer Cemeteries – each offers unique stories and they are open to visitors too.
Oregon State Park managers ask that when you visit, be a good steward and become a fan—visit the cemeteries in your community and if you see vandalism, report it.
CRABBING IN THE COLUMBIA RIVER ESTUARY
It is a time of seasonal change when the weather can “turn on a dime” from fair skies to wet, windy and downright crummy.
But on those wonderful “blue hole” days when the sun plays a peak-a-boo game with coastal visitors, Grant McOmie takes advantage of every opportunity for a new adventure.
He recently enjoyed a big payoff for his efforts as he learned the tactics and techniques for catching the Oregon seafood delicacy called Dungeness crab.
When you’re lucky enough to go fishing with a good friend who knows the water well, you’re sure to learn something new.
That’s especially true when the Columbia River us under your keel and carries you toward new adventure.
Steve Fick first explored the Columbia River estuary as a kid, so he knows his way around the vast waterway where the river meets the sea.
He and his longtime friend, Jim Dickson, intended to teach this greenhorn how to catch his supper from the sea.
For Fick, the first lesson is simple enough: always wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device.) He insisted it’s a personal lesson in life and safety:
“You always wear it Grant, because if you fall overboard, particularly with heavy rain gear on, it’s very difficult to survive. The water is always cold and can sap your strength in a matter of minutes.”
We left the snug harbor at Hammond, Oregon and slowly motored the short distance downriver to an area just off Clatsop Beach.
Fick had prepared five large crab traps with varied baits – a strategy he often used so to “see what the crabs prefer.”
Sometimes he’ll use turkey legs, chicken wings, shad or salmon carcasses – even a can of tuna for crab bait. Anyone say, “lunchtime?”
“Oh yes, a can of tuna fish is perfect bait, exclaimed Fick. “All you do is perforate the can so that the scent comes out – you can also buy canned sardines or mackerel too – both work well. As long as they have a high oil content, it seems to fish well – the scent is what draws the crab into the pot.”
Each Oregon crabber must carry an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Shellfish License. Each crabber is allowed to use up to three crab traps.
We timed our trip to fish our traps the last hour of the incoming tide and through the high slack period, (that’s often the best crabbing time.)
Steve said it’s the safest time to crab in the estuary:
“There is no reason to be out here on the ebb tide – that’s the out-going tide.It can be the most dangerous part of the tide cycle and this river can change so fast. You just don’t take chances out here.”
Fick said that each trap should “soak” for 15-20 minutes – that allows enough time for the crabs to locate the bait and enter the trap.
Each crabber is allowed a dozen male crabs apiece, and in Oregon they must be five and three-quarters (5¾) inches across the back.
Females are protected to preserve the breeding population of crabs. A crab gauge or other measuring device is essential gear since some crabs miss the mark by only a hair’s length.
Jim and I pulled in the last of the five traps. “Oh, man look at that, I screamed. “It’s mother load and I think they’re all legal.”
Steve showed me how to safely hold each crab so not to get pinched.
“Watch me Grant – see how I place my thumb on the underside and my other four fingers across the back. You can hold it safely and not get pinched. This is a dandy crab. That’s great!”
Within a half hour, we had landed and checked each of our traps and we were fortunate to retain 18 legal Dungeness crabs; plenty to go around for our small but hearty crew.
As much fun as it was to catch these crabs, the best part was yet to come when Steve motored back to the dock in Astoria and we carried our crustaceans up to his shop to learn the proper way to cook our crabs.
Fick dropped a pound of salt into ten gallons of boiling water and then placed each crab into the pot. The crabs must cook approximately twenty minutes.
While we waited, I chatted with Oregon Fish and Wildlife Shellfish Manager, Matt Hunter.
He explained that the crabbing in the Columbia River estuary had been exceptional this year.
“We’re seeing darn near a limit per person and when we don’t see a limit it’s because of weather or that people just don’t want their dozen crabs.”
The reason for this year’s remarkable catch rate?
“Well, the crabs molted in early summer so they’re coming off the molt and they’re hungry and looking for food. At this time of year there’s plenty of food: baitfish die offs, natural salmon spawning events so there is plenty of available to them.”
As we chilled our catch on ice, I asked Fick what he enjoyed most about the adventure that’s just off his front door step:
“Oh, it’s simple and everyone can be involved in it. It’s easy to catch a dozen crabs per person with lots of action for kids. And – you never really know until you pull the pot up what you got…you know and that is fun!”
It is a lot of fun and continues in the kitchen where Steve shares three of his favorite Dungeness crab recipes.
“You can do a lot of different things with crab meat – you can make a chowder, fritters, salads – sandwiches – so many different things. You can mix it with fettuccine, other seafood, so it’s very versatile.”
Recipe number one was new to me and called a “Stuffed Crab Sandwich”
Steve mixed one cup of grated swiss cheese with two cups of crab and added one teaspoon each of Worcestershire sauce and lemon pepper before he mixed in on cup of mayo and half a cup of sliced olives.
The mixture was then stuffed into each half of a hollowed-out sandwich roll.
Steve then spread a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese across the top of each roll and slid the tray of sandwiches into a 375-degree oven for seven to ten minutes.
“This is a filling dinner,” he noted. “You need to be in the mood for something rich and robust – it works well on a cold winter’s night.”
While we waited on the sandwiches, it was time for recipe number two that Steve called the “Fick Crab Cakes.”
Steve began with a pound of crab meat – he added one egg, one cup of Panko, one cup of mayo and a couple of teaspoons of mustard – a generous cup of diced onions and a tablespoon of seafood seasoning followed and the ingredients were mixed and formed into small cakes.
The cakes were placed in a fry pan with a quarter inch of hot peanut oil with Steve’s words of caution:
“You don’t want to overcook these or you’ll get pieces of crab cardboard and that doesn’t taste too great.”
Fick’s recipe number three is called “Crab Louie Salad” and it is one of his favorite because he can make it as elaborate or as simple as he likes.
He insists, never ever hold back on the crab. He used it atop a bed of sliced lettuce and then again atop all of the ingredients.
Salad fixings include onions, cucumbers, celery, sliced olives, tomatoes, a sliced egg and a cup of shredded cheddar cheese.
“It’s a light meal,” he noted. “But it can be a heavier meal if you want it to be with the ingredients – especially the cheese.”
Our seafood feast was topped off too – with a glass of Oregon white wine (Fick prefers Pinot Grigio) and a local microbrew. The table was set for a couple of kings who volunteered as official “Getaway Food Tasters:” Jim Shores and Birt Hansen.
Each was eager to sample our efforts and offered their reviews:
“Excellent, excellent, excellent and what surprised me was so many ways to fix it,” said Shores. “The taste is something you don’t get in upper Minnesota where I come from, so let me say that and I love Oregon crab.”
Birt nodded in agreement and then with a chuckle he offered, “This all looks outstanding for Jim and me, but what are you guys going to eat? There won’t be any left over for you.”
It was a perfect way to round out a Dungeness crabbing adventure and then bring the day’s activity full circle: from the estuary to the dining table.