Up, Up and Away
In early morning, when the light is soft and the air is still, there’s a sense of peace in the world.
But as dawn approaches at the Sportsmen’s Airpark near Newberg, Oregon that serene silence is all too quickly broken.
For this is where Roger Anderson gathers folks who travel from all over the world to let their hearts soar on one of his unique adventures.
Anderson’s Vista Balloon Adventures has been based in Newberg the past ten years.
Anderson and his wife, Catherine, specialize in giving people a bird’s eye view to a corner of the greater Willamette Valley that stretches across Yamhill County.
As Catherine noted, “People come with high (pardon the pun) expectations and preconceived notions of a flight in a hot air balloon, but the fact is that first timers cannot really compare it to anything they’ve ever done because it’s so unique.”
The balloons are huge – big as houses. Each balloon requires five or six “crew” (volunteers who lend a hand) to assist with each morning’s launch.
First, powerful fans blow cold air (the process is actually called a “cold-air inflate”) into the nearly 200,000 cubic feet of nylon fabric.
How big is that?
“Visualize 180,000 basketballs,” offered Roger Anderson with a wink and a nod.
Once the balloon has been filled to its limit, ignition occurs as powerful propane gas burners light up and heat up the air inside the balloon.
It’s what gives the craft its lift.
It’s really a rather simple premise based upon the fact that hot air rises, but it gives passengers who ride aboard a different point of view to the landscape.
Catherine offered, “When you get up there, the overwhelming sensation is total quiet. It’s really pretty cool!”
Our balloon was guided by Roger Anderson, a veteran pilot with more than two decades experience in lighter than air flight.
Roger noted, “The conditions for flying are perfect this morning. A light breeze and clear skies – so we’ll be traveling across the Willamette River first and then head south towards Dayton and the wine country.”
Within moments of our easy lift off, we are two, four, then six hundred feet up in the air and the other “giants” soon appear as tiny, thimble-sized floats on the ground below.
Roger said that he learned about the wind and the weather (critical for balloon pilots) as a sailor. He logged more than 50,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean as a boat-sailing skipper.
“One of the reasons I like to fly balloons is that they can get you into places you can’t get any other way. Plus, you don’t get in a balloon to go to a particular place, but instead you get in a balloon to be in a balloon. There’s no ‘have to get there quick’ feeling, you just get to look at the world.”
One of my fellow passengers, Brian Clapshaw, nodded in agreement and said, “It’s quite amazing! I’ve never, ever had any experience like this ever before. I feel like I’m floating above the sky – I feel like I’m in a glass bubble.”
As we soared across the valley, sometimes mere feet above the ground, Roger pointed out something that I might never have noticed if my feet were firmly planted on the soil below.
“This part of the Willamette Valley was once a lake – Allison Lake – an ancient body of water that dates to 10,000 years ago and the time of the Missoula Floods era.”
Allison Lake was five hundred feet deep – and then the lake became a river – and from the balloon basket I could see how the ground rose and fell, just like a river bottom.
That wasn’t all – it was easy to see how the valley near Newberg was ringed with hills – hills that grow grapes – in fact, wine grapes!
“There’s the Dundee hills, Chehalem Ridge, Eola Hill; you can see it all and all of it produces some of the best wine in the world,” said Roger.”
Roger added that there are hundreds of unique wines produced by scores of wineries and each is easily reached within fifteen minutes of Newberg.
With a wry smile he added, “It can be even quicker by air.”
But not on this fine July morning for the wind was building and the ground was heating up. If we waited too long, a soft landing could be – well, challenging!
And so, after an hour of delightful touring, the time had come for us to come back to the ground.
Catherine and her “chase crew” with their trailers in tow were a short radio conversation away to determine and co-ordinate on the best landing area.
Roger told me, “In twenty years of flying I haven’t had two flights that have been the same. Once in a while people will ask do I like to fly by myself? I tell them not at all, because I have a skill set that’s great to share.”
We touched down on a recently cut “seed-grass” field ever so softly, without even a bounce to the remarkable landing.
“Welcome back to Mother Earth,” cheered the proud Anderson.
Hot air ballooning is a lovely and magical way to see a beautiful corner of Oregon and build lasting memories through a unique outdoor adventure.
Whiskey Creek Hatchery
If there’s a more exciting fishing moment than hooking and fighting a chrome bright chinook salmon fresh from the sea, I surely don’t know what it could be.
That’s especially true on Tillamook Bay where an early morning May flood tides brings a rush of spring chinook – fresh from the ocean – in a rush up the estuary where anglers wait – with baited lines.
The fish are special and what many call Oregon’s ‘premier’ salmon. The salmon are prized for their high oil content and rich, buttery taste.
In Tillamook County, a dedicated group of Oregonians recently rolled up their sleeves to join a labor of love at Netarts Bay.
On a recent Saturday morning, over 400 volunteers showed huge heart and commitment to help Oregon’s all volunteer fish hatchery called “Whiskey Creek.”
Located in southern Tillamook County and hugging the shoreline at Netarts Bay, the Whiskey Creek Salmon Hatchery raises more than a quarter million Spring and Fall Chinook salmon each year.
“We’re all volunteer and always have been and always will be,” noted Jerry Dove, a longtime hatchery supporter who has been at the helm of the operation since it began in 1987.
The Tillamook Anglers Association has owned and managed the hatchery since the late 1980’s. Memberships and donations keep the operation afloat while the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife supplies the fish.
“It’s a great partnership!” said ODFW Biologist Rick Klumph. “We provide the technical oversight and they do all the physical manpower of raising the fish. It’s a productive partnership with our agency.”
Each spring, Dove guides hundreds of people who roll up their sleeves, put on gloves and carefully grab a fistful of slippery, wiggly baby salmon.
They must carefully clip the adipose fin from each of 105,000 spring salmon.
The fin clip distinguishes the fish so anglers can tell the difference between hatchery and wild salmon.
“The fish are asleep! Each one of them rests in an anesthetic bath before we clip the adipose. The scissor clip is quick and easy,” added Dove.
The adipose fin is a small half moon shaped fin that’s just behind the dorsal fin and just in front of the tail fin. It’s a fin that the fish doesn’t need to survive.
“There’s a lot of mentoring and we try to hook up a newcomer with a veteran,” added Klumph. “It’s not difficult but there’s a definitely a technique to it.”
Volunteer Alvin Saul has been helping the Whiskey Creek Hatchery from the start and he said he likes the chance to catch up with longtime friends who feel like they’re making a difference for other anglers.
“They need the support and if I stayed home and nobody showed up, we’d end up with thousands of fish that wouldn’t get clipped. So, we make a difference.”
Whiskey Creek Hatchery is two miles from one of Oregon’s finest parklands: Cape Lookout State Park, where there is always something new to do.
You may enjoy a beachside stroll or an overnight campout in a yurt or take a hike to the end of Cape Lookout where – this time of year - the gray whale migration north to the Bering Sea is at its peak.
“We are a tourist attraction,” said Dove. “We’re so close to so many activities and we draw more that 125,000 visitors each year.”
“It gives folks a good feeling to lend a hand to the hatchery operation,” added Klumph. “Plus, in a couple of years they can go out and try to catch an adult salmon from Tillamook Bay, so it’s a great program all the way around.”
Whiskey Creek Hatchery is on Netarts Bay. Drive to Tillamook and follow the signs to Cape Lookout State Park. The hatchery is two miles north of the park. More information is available from Jerry Dove at 503-812-1572.
Oregon’s Secret Garden
The beauty of an Oregon spring is the chance to strike out on new adventures where the scenery is never twice the same. So it is this week as Grant shows off two striking sites for the price of one stop.
Be prepared for something special along Oregon State Highway 38 near Reedsport on Oregon’s southern coast: what appears to be dancing antlers across grassy fields at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area.
On some days, elk antlers are all you spy from the refuge viewpoint in the tall, wavy grass that obscures the large animals that lounge across the habitat at Dean Creek.
The site encompasses 1,040 acres and it is jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
It is managed for public viewing and education with information kiosks at the O.H. Hinsdale Interpretive Center.
The covered view site offers information about Oregon's elk and the environment of the Dean Creek area as well as spotting scopes to enhance viewing.
There are also free brochures that tell you the story of the elk and the surrounding area.
BLM Manager, Bob Golden, said that it’s a reliable photo opportunity because the elk are so close at hand – often, the big animals (some elk tip the scales at 600 pounds) are but a few yards away so you’ll want to have your camera at your side.
“We offer visitors a great educational experience and you do get to see the wildlife up close. On any given day you can come out here and see the elk.”
The elk have lived on the Dean Creek Elk Refuge since the 1930’s when historic salt marshes were drained and fresh water was allowed to feed the site’s grasslands.
The herd of 120 Roosevelt elk roams freely on protected pastures, woodlands, and wetland areas, sharing their habitat with other wildlife including bald eagles, Canada geese, beaver, and black-tailed deer.
But Dean Creek’s elk herd is just the start of this wild adventure.
The real show-stopper is just up the road at Spruce Reach Island where you see thousands of rhododendrons and azaleas and camellias – over 300 different species. Stroll in and discover what some call, “Oregon’s Secret Garden!”
“It was a bit of a secret garden for decades,” said Bob McIntyre – member of the American Rhododendron Society and a Friend of the Hinsdale Garden.
“You see all of that and more here: white, cream, pink, reds, oranges, yellows and purples. There are rhodies of every imaginable color, size and texture.”
It’s a public place built by a private man!
Howard Hinsdale was a successful Oregon businessman who began transforming his 55-acre Spruce Reach Island right after World War II.
“It is unlike any garden you’ve ever visited,” noted Megan Harper – a BLM staff member. “Most people familiar with more manicured English garden styles, but you come here and it’s like a wild garden. Hinsdale spent a lot of time planning and putting this garden together in a very specific way.”
Hinsdale imported rare rhodies and giant spruce trees from as far away as England too. He barged them thru the Panama Canal and had them delivered them to his island.
Harper said that he even ‘strolled and shopped’ through many Portland area neighborhoods.
“If he found a rhodie that he loved, he’d knock and the door and start peeling off bills and say, ‘How much would it take to give me that plant?’ And then his crew would take shovels and dig it up right on the spot.”
Hinsdale created an oasis of calm on his island but it took 20 years of hard work to achieve.
“You must understand,” added McIntyre. “This was swamp land! He had to dredge the Umpqua River through this stretch and deposit the material – 28,000 cubic yards of silt – onto his island. Plus, the scores of old spruce trees that you see rising above it all - he bought them all and planted each one here.”
But when he was done, here was Hinsdale’s escape from the hectic hub-bub and stressful business life.
“Oh, he was a driven man to be sure,” said McIntyre. “Just imagine trying to do this work. He was probably driven in his business, but he could come here and leave all of that that way out there.”
Hinsdale’s secret garden lasted until 1994.
“And then the government bought it,” said Stephan Samuels, BLM Archeologist. “When we found out what we had, we went to work on it and began to open it up because that’s what Mr Hinsdale did.”
Samuels added that through the decades, Hinsdale had shared his garden with friends and family who loved the place in spring - that tradition continues today.
“It is here for people to enjoy,” added Harper. “You don’t honor the place by keeping it a secret or not letting people enjoy it!”
The BLM has recently teamed up with a local “Friends of Hinsdale Garden.”
They plan to open the place throughout the spring and summer so more visitors can see and appreciate one Oregonian’s vision for peace and solitude.
“We hope to open it from April-October,” added Samuels. “Even when it’s not blooming, people can come here, relax and have a nice lunch while they enjoy a beautiful spot on the Umpqua River.”
“It was a secret garden, but now it’s a spectacular place for anyone to enjoy, said McIntyre with a smile. You walk in here and oh-my-gosh, it’s awesome! That’s what Hinsdale was after and I think he achieved it.”
Some believe that Oregon’s coastal rivers are filled with more than water as they flow to the sea. Oregon pianist and music composer, Jennie Logsdon Martin, believes that if you listen closely, you will hear “river songs.”
Jennie Logsdon Martin is an Oregon native and classically trained concert pianist who has played in palaces and in front of presidents. She was born with perfect pitch and a gift for performance and she loves to write original pieces of music like her “Kilchis River Song.”
She called it a “romantic melody” that pays homage to the river in her own backyard and to her home state: “It’s true! Sometimes it’s hectic, sometimes peaceful and sometimes it’s rapid, just before the calm that also matches long tail outs. Each phase of the river plays out like a song.”
She is an Oregon artist who also learned long ago to prize the practical. During a recent visit at her Kilchis River home, she said with a chuckle: “I paid for my groceries many times by playing the piano at places like Salty’s on the Willamette River, Portland-area golf clubs and even taverns. But no matter the setting, it was always fun.”
Jennie’s fingers have danced across the ivory keys for more than three decades and that may have prepped her well for the computer keys when she created the popular website IFish in 1997.
She admitted that she was driven toward technology by curiosity plus a lifelong passion for fishing. At the time she wondered: how might the two mix?
“I have enjoyed the outdoors – always – and it’s remarkable how it has touched or affected my life. So, I wanted to find a way to encourage others – who might be too caught up in daily life – to make time to smell the roses and fish the fish that Oregon offers.”
Jennie called her initial adventure in web design a “business experiment” that resonated and then rocketed into the cyber-stratosphere with hundreds of anglers.
Powered by an eager and dedicated angling crowd, the website soon became the region’s most popular site to center on outdoor recreation. IFish now has 60,000 registered members according to its creator.
Thousands more “visitors” drop in regularly to learn something new about angling, exchange ideas with others and even meet fishing experts from a varied menu of topics that include salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and trout fishing. Plus, salt water fishing, warm water fishing and the latest developments in tackle, even hunting and more. The site is uniquely Oregon and highly successful.
More importantly, IFish reflects the founder’s comfy, home-spun attitude and her love for the outdoors that she admitted was born of fishing trips with her Dad.
“He took me fishing on the Sandy River. I would sit on his shoulders as he crossed the river and then scramble to play on the big rocks that were strewn along the shoreline. I’d also go with him on the Willamette River where we would sit in the hog lines and fish for spring salmon. I can still hear the rush of the river and I think that’s where this passion was born in me; my fishing time with my Dad.”
These days it’s time spent with her longtime partner, Bill Hedlund – plus, their new kid in the block; a springer spaniel pup named ‘Willie’- he was named for their longtime friend and northwest angling and boat building legend, Willie Illingsworth.
Hedlund, a longtime fishing guide, confirmed what many people may suspect, Jennie’s sixteen years as the IFish inventor and leader was the real deal: “Oh, she’s very intense and frankly she’s caught as many or more fish than me in the past three years. She really puts in her time.” Hedlund paused – and then added, “When she has time.”
Fishing time has been harder to come by in recent years. Jennie struggles with a muscular disorder called Marfan’s Syndrome that has meant major heart surgery, followed by multiple eye surgeries. If that wasn’t tough enough, she had breast cancer surgery a year and a half ago. The surgery was followed by treatments that took a toll on both her body and her soul.
“The chemo was tough and I lost all my hair,” admitted Martin - who quickly smiled broadly then added: “But – I have it all back now and through it all I made many new friends – interesting and awesome people who fight this terrible and awful disease every day. Their strength made a big difference to me.”
She will often share her health issues with her readers too – not only on her daily IFish blog, but the new and career-capping accomplishment, the IFish Magazine.
The magazine is available to read online or you can print it and enjoy the varied articles at your leisure. “Unlike IIfish articles,” she said, “the magazine furthers a specialty with more depth. I like the fact that you can sit down with it, hold it in your hands and learn from longer articles that are often written by professionals.”
When it comes to angling, whether professional or amateur matter little to Jennie – she relishes in all of the stories that people submit to the site and to the magazine.
Even though she recently handed over the ownership reins of IFish, she has held on to her role as editor in chief and continues to be a regular columnist. She said that both positions are critical to her as she embraces Oregon’s angling community.
“I think it is a community…a lot of like-minded people and I think we’re kind to each other or at least I want us to be – I really want them to be.”
During a recent gathering of those like-minded regulars – many of the so-called “moderators” who volunteer to assist Jen in keeping the peace and maintaining her family friendly standards - offered good reasons that IFish has endured.
“She has opened up the sport of fishing to a wide group of people who can now get involved in this sport and actually connect with each other and go fishing together,” noted longtime friend George Buckingham.
Longtime “moderator” and good friend, Pete Morris, offered, “It was Jennie’s baby from the start and she paid attention to it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She made certain that it became her living room – a place where fishermen could come and talk about fishing… so Jen’s passion turned into something that was many other people’s passion - it’s a remarkable thing.”
“If you want information, that’s the place to go,” said local fisherman Gordon Southwick. Len Clarke quickly added, “And you can do that from a million miles away! Few of us talk to Jen every day, but we know she loves our rivers – it’s just been a wonderful thing for the fishing community.”
“She is sort of the Mom of IFish,” added Buckingham with a broad smile.
That may be true – but for Jennie Logsdon Martin, the most wonderful and soul satisfying place to be is outdoors, alongside an Oregon stream, perhaps the one that flows through her backyard - casting her fly line to the rhythm of the river’s song.
Jennie Logsdon Martin’s contributions to the fishing community have been nothing short of remarkable – she has worked tirelessly on behalf of the angling community and she has created a site where everyone – no matter their depth or breadth of knowledge or level of experience – feels right at home.
“Such a beautiful place to be, a beautiful place to spend time and that’s why I do IFish,” noted Martin. “It is about bringing more people out here to enjoy life, see what I see, know what I know by being out here – just gives me goose bumps to think about it.”