OREGON’S ORIGINAL DAREDEVIL
Oregon has long been a land of high adventure!
But few contemporary “extreme sport” adventurers can hold a candle to Oregon’s very first daredevil.
83-years ago, a man rode a 12-foot canvas boat over the biggest waterfall in Silver Falls State Park. The run was one of many foamy adventures the high flying whitewater-loving daredevil, Al Fausett, accomplished during his lifetime.
When it came to ‘Daredeviling,’ Al Fausett was one of a kind.
He never wore a life jacket, a helmet nor carried safety equipment of any sort in the heyday of early 20th century daredevils.
Fausett was originally a logger who tackled gritty, dangerous work in the Pacific Northwest forests.
But it didn’t take long for the young man to figure out another, albeit more risky, way to make a buck in the great outdoors
“By the time he became a daredevil,” noted his great grandson, Guy Fausett,
“His wife said she’d had enough and promptly divorced him. He said, ‘Well, I’ll show you, I’m going to be somebody.”
Whether jilted by the love of his like or determined to make more money than logging ever offered, Fausett started to run some of the region’s tallest waterfalls from inside wooden canoes or tiny canvas boats.
Guy added, “Daredevil Al’ was a bigger than life character perfectly suited to giant waterfalls.”
In fact, he became so well known for his acts that “News Reel” film crews followed his exploits and captured his runs and then played them at the silent film cinemas, so popular in the 19020’s.
His many runs included one particular death-defying ride over Willamette Falls.
“Willamette Falls was a very treacherous falls in the 1920’s,” noted his grandson. “No dams to regulate flood control back then and many people were killed going over those falls.”
In March of 1928, Willamette Falls was especially swollen from recent winter rain and snowstorms that had blown through Oregon.
While the falls wasn’t much of a drop, it was a huge, frothy cauldron of bone chilling cold.
“When Al went over those falls, his boat actually disappeared in the bottom of the main falls envelope, said Guy. “Reporters noted that he was inside that water for 6 minutes and when it appeared below the falls upside down, floating and bobbing in the whitewater – everyone knew he was dead.”
But Al wasn’t even scratched and he was just warming up.
Guy added, “Al managed to stay alive and folks couldn’t believe it.”
His next run was more ambitious and much taller: South Falls – tallest falls of the entire crown jewel waterfall region that is now known as Silver Falls State Park.
South Falls is 177 feet top to bottom – a gigantic distance by any measure but Fausett’s daredevil adventures had led contemporary sponsors to rally and support his runs.
First, “Hirsch-Weiss,” a Portland canvas tent company built him a boat and then the Portland-based “Columbia Knit Company” gave him a sweater for warmth.
On a warm July afternoon in 1928, thousands of folks paid a buck apiece to line the steep banks to see what might happen to Daredevil Al on his next waterfall jump.
Al’s plan was simple enough: build a ramp out over the lip of South Falls and then build a dam back up the creek.
When the time was right, his men would bust open the dam and a rush of water would carry him over the edge. It sounded like a simple plan.
His other so-called safety measures were fairly simple too. For example, he stuffed dozens of rubber inner tubes into his soft canvas boat (it was complete with a roof-top zipper that would seal Al inside) and so soften the crash nearly 200 feet below.
“It looked like a rat’s nest,” said Guy. “You could see all these tubes sticking out. It was so bizarre and then he nodded to all those gathered and said, ‘I’m set.”
But the dam busting failed and the big rush of water never hit.
Instead, two men pushed him over the falls.
And down, down he fell – nearly 200 feet – in less than three seconds.
Film footage shows the boat arcing into the pool and then landing upside down.
“And it hit hard like a belly flop at the bottom,” added Guy Fausett.
Al was unconscious, knocked out from the fall. He woke in just a few moments in agony with two sprained ankles, a fractured right hand, several broken ribs and serious internal injuries.
He was carried away from the scene on the arms of the crowd and even managed a feeble wave before he was rushed to the local hospital.
He was so badly hurt that it took him months to recover but the worst pain was yet to sting: all the money, Al’s big Oregon payday – not only the gate receipts, but the side-bets too – had disappeared with Al Fausett’s manager and neither manager or money were ever seen again.
“Al never saw a dime of it,” noted his grandson.
The missing $5000 was a princely sum for the king of Oregon daredevils who had stared down death from hundreds of feet overhead and according to his grandson, held on to a sobering secret to his very end:
“He really wasn’t even a swimmer. In fact, he was afraid of the water.”
Last month, Mike McLaughlin headed out on a hunting trip of a lifetime in the Jefferson Wilderness Area.
Mike McLaughlin and his partner, Brett Yeager (who happens to be his son in law) planned every detail for a trip into rugged and remote central Oregon mountain wilderness.
“I had applied for the hunting tag for three years…and I finally got it and wow, I was pretty excited," noted McLaughlin.
“I wanted to get to a place where there’s no one around,” added Yeager, an experienced hunter in Oregon’s most remote areas. “To be able to sit back and enjoy nature is the real pleasure – this trip gave give us a chance to get away from people.”
After a seven-mile hike, the two reached the heart of a truly remote region and an extremely difficult area to access.
That’s because much of Jefferson Wilderness Area is marked by charred snags from the devastating “B and B Complex Fire;” a devastating blaze that burned nearly 100,000 acres in 2003.
“You can’t see much for the blow downs and tall under brush that’s grown up since the fire,” noted Yeager. In fact, there are areas lot of places it’s three feet over your head – ten foot tall – can’t move, you can’t see it is just some nasty, nasty country that has grown up but the animals seem to like it.”
The wildlife are right at home here, but it’s hard for people to access the terrible terrain.
After hours of hiking across steep, brush choked country, Mike climbed a downed tree – and then, the unthinkable happened:
“I lost my balance,” said O’Laughlin. “I reached back with my left leg to try and gain my balance, but wrote a check my body couldn’t cash…I went on over – landed on my pack and screamed.”
Yeager added, “ I heard him yelling and screaming behind me. I knew we had a problem.”
As Mike hit the ground holding his knee, the pain instantly rocketed in his left leg from zero to ten.
He had torn the tendons that hold his quad muscles in place.
His leg went limp as a noodle! It was a one in a thousand injury and it was followed by a sobering truth: Mike wasn’t walking out of the wilderness.
“I realized that I’d really blown it out,” said O’Laughlin. “Now, the question was – what are we going to do?”
Mike needed medical help quick before his leg got worse, but cell phones didn’t work and there was no radio contact either.
Yeager, a Newberg, Oregon volunteer firefighter, said that had only one option:
“It was an easy decision and it was a quick decision: I can’t do this, but I know who can.”
Yeager had to race back the way the team had come – a hike that took them hours – and he had to leave his father in law alone - perhaps for days.
First, he carried Mike to a nearby lake, set up a tent and left him in a sleeping bag.
Despite the agonizing pain, Mike wasn’t in a panic.
In fact, he admitted, he felt just the opposite.
“I could rest knowing that we hit every contingency possible. That’s everything! Preparation is everything.”
The two had planned for the trip with plenty of food, water and shelter.
“It causes you to relax, so you know – all things being equal we’re going to get out of this and I will be okay.
Meanwhile, Brett – already tired from a long night and day of hiking and hunting – raced back to the trail head and cell phone range where he called the Jefferson and Linn County Rescue Teams.
Within a day, they responded, organized and made the long arduous trek to reach and rescue Mike O’Laughlin.
Mike was able to ride – on horseback – out of the wilderness.
It is an experience that provides a valuable lesson: how to stay safe in Oregon’s most remote areas.
“Anyone who travels in remote country – for a an afternoon, a day trip or longer should ask ‘what’s the worst case scenario that could happen and how are you going to get out if that happens?’ said Yeager.
“Take a lot more equipment than you think you’re going to need,” added O’Laughlin. “If this happens on a day-hike, seven miles back in the wilderness and you’re not prepared – it could be horrible! At the very least, you must have sleeping bags, tarp, a tent, water and food.”
“Having all those things stacked in your favor makes a difference in getting you out,” added Yeager.
After his rescue, O’Laughlin returned home safely. Extensive surgery followed and now – back at home – he faces eight to ten months of recovery.
So, will he ever go back to the wilderness?
“Oh, Ill go back,” he noted with a smile. “On horses. I won’t go back to the same area even if my son in law twists my arm. I don’t think I’ll go back to the same area on foot.”
ELKHORN WILDLIFE AREA
Winter rules the distant Elkhorn Mountains where the ice floes stack streamside and snow drifts line roadways and a sea of white spans the horizon.
It is bone-chilling cold that shows little sign of thawing!
But at Anthony Creek in Baker County, a Saturday morning warming fire chases the 20-degree chill away before you step aboard “T&T Wildlife Tours.”
Alice Trindle shares the reins of the operation with partner Susan Triplett while local horseman Mike Moore lends a hand.
“For 20 years,” noted Moore, “They’ve been taking people up and down this hill and get you up close to Rocky Mountain Elk as you will ever get in your life – a unique experience.”
It is the only horse drawn wildlife tour in Oregon…and Jed and Waylen, a pair of Percheron draft horses, are the heavy pullers.
“This is their third winter they’ve been here helping us out,” said Trindle.“Part of it is their temperament; they are probably the most petted horses in the county. They are our equal partners.”
Each weekend, all of the partners pitch in to feed the elk that make Anthony Creek a winter home from mid-December thru February; they will spread up to a dozen alfalfa bales to feed 150 elk.
“Scoop-loop is our biggest elk; a bull elk and he’s a seven by seven. That means he has seven points (the antler points) on one side and seven points on the other. Antlers are quite amazing – the fastest growing bone in the animal kingdom…They can grow as much as an inch in a day and weigh up to 35 pounds on these rocky mountain elk.”
T&T Wildlife Tours is an asset to Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Department that maintain nine other feeding stations across the 12,000 acres that make up the Elkhorn Wildlife Area.
For Ed Miguez and the other wildlife area staff it means traveling 145 miles each day.
The Elkhorn winter feeding program started in 1971 and today the feeding crew keeps 1200 hungry elk up in the forest rather than down on nearby ranchlands that are scattered across the valley floor.
Miguez is the Wildlife Area Manager and said that they will feed 850 tons of alfalfa hay each winter and the elk must be fed each day.
“We don’t miss a day! These elk know that there’s feed available on ranches for feeding the cattle in winter, so if we miss a day, there’s a good chance we’ll lose them. If that happens, it’s extremely hard for us to get them back, so we don’t miss a day.”
Most of the Elkhorn Wildlife Area is closed to the public in winter – except Anthony Creek, so it’s a rare and wonderful learning opportunity.
An open viewing area allows you a chance to see the herd anytime or bring the family and spend a few bucks to see Oregon’s largest game animal – up close.
“The younger bulls start some play fighting,” said Trindle. “Some sparring – but really isn’t too serious…pushing and pulling on each other really hard. They’ll also make that noise you just heard – that “mewing” sort of sound. That’s kind of his signal that ‘I’ll give up and you’ve won this round this time, but just wait until next time and another round.”
Triplet added that after twenty years, they continue to learn as much as the visitors. “I think it’s being able to do something you really enjoy! Alice and I joke that we’re going to call it quits when it’s not fun, but here it is 20 years later – we’re still having fun.”
“There’s always something to be observed with these elk,” added Trindle. “To be this close to these magnificent animals and to learn more about them is a real treat for everyone. That’s a real special thing that we can offer folks who visit.”
WILD IN THE CITY– EXPLORING THE INTERTWINE
Time in the outdoors can refresh the eye and lift the spirit and the beauty of Oregon is that you won’t travel far to find it!
“Wild in the City” is a new book co-published by the Portland Audubon Society and Oregon State University Press.
Mike Houck, MJ Cody and Bob Sallinger co-edited and wrote essays for the impressive collection of writings and practical nature-finding “ramblings.”
“The book is really educational for people who enjoy our parks,” noted Cody. “But if they lack a sense for the northwest – that life-long depth – that’s what we also provide in the book.”
More than 100 writers contributed to finding the ‘Wild in the City;’ authors who wrote the text, prepared the maps, sketched wildlife drawings and really provided the ‘nuts and bolts’ of locating the Portland area’s parks, trails and refuges.
From Washington County’s “Fernhill Wetlands” (located near Forest Grove) where flocks of geese fill the sky to the region’s eastern edge at Oxbow Park on the Sandy River that seems more wilderness than campground.
There are also well known wildlife areas – like Sauvie Island - that continue to fill us with “wonder and surprise,” noted the Audubon Society’s Bob Sallinger – a dedicated naturalist who enjoyed one particular essay.
“A piece called ‘Raptor Road Trip” is all about the different places you can visit on the island – whether you hike, bike or drive or paddle - around the island. It’s simply phenomenal wildlife viewing and winter is really a spectacular time of year to get out and see wildlife.”
Whether you are a long time resident, a newcomer or just passing thru Portland, you will fall in love with ‘Wild in the City.’
But it’s far more than a guide book for the text also presents a call to action and a new way to look at the expanding network of connections between the wild places that we prize: a network that is called the Intertwine.
“The Intertwine is a name for the region’s network of trails, parks and natural areas,” noted Metro’s Dan Moeller. Dan is Metro’s Natural Area Land Manager; the agency that manages much of the 14,000-plus acres of parks, trails and natural areas acquired thru two voter approved bond measures.
“You can find everything from beautiful wetlands to oak woodlands to prairies and upland forests,” added Moeller. “You can find a little bit of everything and it’s really magnificent land.”
The Intertwine is growing all of the time too.
In fact, recent additions include: Cooper Mountain Nature Park near Beaverton, Graham Oaks Nature Park near Wilsonville and Mount Talbert Nature Park in Clackamas County.
Each site is distinct, each offers special features and each is connected as natural space and outdoor environmental classrooms.”
“That’s exactly what the Intertwine is,” said Moeller. “It goes beyond bureaucracies and boundaries and it works among varied agencies, communities and cities to bring all of these parks and natural spaces together. Citizens can go out and enjoy them as seamlessly and easily as possible.”
Mike Wetter is Director of the Intertwine Alliance, a group of more than 50 public and non-profit agencies plus many private businesses.
The Alliance has created a new Intertwine website that provides maps, directions and tips so you can explore the wild places.
“You don’t have to drive an hour to get to nature,” said Wetter. “It’s right here where we live and we can enjoy it as a part of our everyday lives.”
SHAFER CHRISTMAS SHOP
Tucked into a corner of the Willamette Valley, the art of wine making merges with art of the season just off Gales Creek Road, west of Forest Grove.
Shafer Vineyard Cellars is sort of place that makes you feel good and makes you smile and not just from the fruit of the vine!
In fact, you won’t need a sip to enjoy the Shafer’s family spirit of the season when you spend a few moments with Mike Shafer and her daughter, Crystal Hausman.
“In the beginning we never really knew if we’d sell anything out of the little Christmas Shop, but it made us feel good and it’s been a great part of our business ever since, said Miki Shafer.
Shafer began selling handfuls of the hand carved wooden ornaments 22 years ago.
Crystal noted that It didn’t take long for the public to respond to the unique blend of holiday ornaments and Oregon wine:
“In today’s economy with so much unhappiness and uncertainty, people walk in here and feel a bit happier about the holidays to come.”
The Shafer wine business has been helping folks feel a bit happier for nearly forty years and while you can sample and buy their Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and more, it’s the Christmas Shop that sets Shafer’s apart.
“We’re the only Christmas shop with a winery or a winery with a Christmas shop, noted Mike with a smile. “It’s been fabulous.”
There are thousands of ornaments from across the world and many are made of wood while others are hand blown and hand painted glass – more than 2,000 different kinds – animals of all sort, angels and varied events ornaments too.
All of them have one thing in mind: the unique and time-tested traditions can create lasting family memories.
“It’s hand carved, hand painted and will last for generations,” said Shafer. “People want that tradition – something that they can pass down to family members from year to year and last forever.”