Taking Aim at Oregon Archery
John Strunk dreams of carving the perfect bow from the perfect piece of wood as he gently draws a knife blade across the bark of a vine maple stick.
The paper thin curly-q strips of shaved maple rise, fall and float to the floor.
Strunk carefully crafts his next “tool” from the 6-foot long, lanky stick of wood, it’s clear that the Tillamook County resident has a master bow maker’s touch.
“When I start cutting out a bow, my hunt, my thoughts, my dreams are all generating at the same time,’ said Strunk. He added: “If you really try you can build a bow just like the Native Americans.”
For nearly forty years, Strunk has tried and succeeded in creating everything he needs just like native people might have: the bows, the arrows, quivers and broad heads.
The natural materials he prefers for bow making include: bamboo, maple, osage and the long popular and gorgeous yew-wood:
“Yew is probably one of the most used woods in archery in the northern hemisphere,” he said with a smile.
The native Oregonian said his passion for the bow was born as a kid – watching movies like “Robin Hood” that starred the then popular Hollywood actor Errol Flynn.
“I love to shoot a bow just to see an arrow fly and it gives me more pleasure to do it with a bow that I have made,” declared Strunk.
He’s a longtime hunter who is among the best in the country at building bows in a form called “Traditional” or “Primitive Archery.”
The retired Tillamook school teacher not only excels at building the bows and arrows, but at shooting with them too.
He admitted that an evening doesn’t go by when he leaves the shop behind and steps into the backyard to shoot arrows.
“You need to train the muscles that are needed for shooting and that is done only by shooting lots of arrows. To me, that’s the essential love affair that I have with this sport. If I’m not using what I create then I lose interest in it.”
By all accounts, thousands of folks have renewed interest in this ancient sport that puts each individual in control of their actions.
At Tigard’s Archers Afield – one of Oregon’s largest indoor shooting ranges - 28 lanes are jammed with youngsters learning how it’s done.
Manager Kris Demeter said that young imaginations are fueled by new movies like “Brave” and “Hunger Games” whose main characters discover independence and self-reliance with a bow and arrows.
“We have many teenage girls coming in that want to resemble or be like the main characters they see in those two movies. They want to wear the back quivers or shoot the longbows – it’s remarkable,” noted the longtime manager.
Demeter is an accomplished archer and she has been the archery instructor at Archers Afield for the past 27 years.
Newcomer Gabe Bolden said that he learned something new his first visit: “I learned that instead of standing flat square facing the target, it’s best to turn for a better aim – it’s true.”
Back at John Strunk’s Tillamook workshop, he agreed that the learning never stops, and that’s a good thing. It keeps the sport fresh, engaging and exciting. He remains motivated to build more bows and shoot more arrows.
“It becomes a passion and that’s what it’s all about for it helps to build lifelong friendships too – I’ve many brothers in archery. Who couldn’t have fun doing this?”
You can reach out to John Strunk’s “Spirit Longbows” to learn more about building bows and arrows. He teaches classes in the craft throughout the year.
Traditional Archery is more popular than ever and you can find clubs and shooting ranges across Oregon to give it a try. If you are interested in learning how to shoot modern bows, try the Oregon Bowhunters Assocation.
Crabbing 101 and Karla’s Carbs
When you try something new, it pays to go with the pros! Instructors, biologists and volunteers teach and assist students in the varied Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Outdoor Skills courses.
Crabbing is a popular recreation that requires some skill and knowledge, so the agency developed the daylong course to encourage participation.
ODFW spokesperson and instructor, Mark Newell, said that the students get all of the gear and assistance that they might need for a day of fun and excitement at Yaquina Bay in Newport.
“We want people to care about the environment and the only way to get them to do that is to get them out enjoying it. That’s what ‘Crab Class’ does for many students.”
The students kick off the affair at the South Beach State Park Activity Center, just south of Newport. Instructor Brandon Ford presented the basics of crab biology and explained the trapping techniques, the rules and regulations of the sport.
The session was followed by a short drive to Yaquina Bay Marina where the hands on action began.Once the students were comfortable with the gear, it was time to toss the traps from atop Yaquina Bay Pier that juts hundreds of yards into the bay.
The pier is open to fishing and crabbing anytime. Students learned how to measure a crab to make certain it’s legal (only 12 male Dungeness crabs are allowed and they must be 5 ¾ inches across the back) and how to tell the difference between the two species of crab that are present in Yaquina Bay: Dungeness Crabs and Red Rock Crabs.
“We show them how to crab from the pier,” said Ford. “But we also take them out on the bay in boats to drop traps in several places that our biologists have scouted. We try to take folks to the best places in the whole bay.”
The traps are checked, the crabs were counted and then it was time to cook.
It was a fine way to round out the day’s adventure.
Each student in the class must purchase an ODFW Shellfish License. The course costs $40 for adults, $10 for kids under 18. Students are provided with instruction, plus all of the gear including bait, traps and pfd’s.
“It’s a real good deal, added Ford. “Especially at lunchtime because no one goes away hungry from the class.”
So, what to do with the catch? I didn’t have to travel far to discover one delicious idea!
Karla Steinhauser can clean and shake out the meat from a limit of crabs faster than most people can boil a pot of water. She’s that good!
“It’s like shooting a free shot through a basketball hoop,” she said with a smile. You have a certain technique and it’s the same with these – it’s a touch.”
Karla has that “touch” for sure; a half-century of experience will do that.
You see, back in the 1960’s “Karlas Krabs” was a fixture in the coastal village of Rockaway Beach.
“My dad always said that during the depression there were two businesses that never go broke – the beer joints and the banks – so I thought, I don’t drink, so food is the way to go because people have to eat. I wanted a business that I controlled and one where I wasn’t likely to lose my job.”
So, the college graduate (she attended Portland’s Washington High School and Lewis and Clark College) who double majored in Art and Biology, created a “beachy” life for herself – one that offered independence and self-reliance.
Each week, starting in 1964, she cooked up boatloads of tasty Dungeness crabs.
Although she doesn’t cook and clean so many crabs anymore, she can still put on quite show. She averages a cleaned and shelled crab every three minutes and it’s a marvel to watch her work.
Two years ago, she decided time had come for a change! She wanted to slow down a bit and thought it would be good to share her secrets in a new book: “I Am Karla’s Smokehouse.”
In fact, folks will travel to Rockaway from all over to watch her when she puts on a crabbing clinic.
The photo-laden book shows and explains her varied processes of cleaning crab and smoking salmon, albacore and cod. The photos are by local photographer, Don Best, and they highlight many of Karla‘s seafood prep techniques.
The book also offers Karla’s own colorful art that captures whimsical moments that will make you smile.
“I make myself look ridiculous with a long spiked nose and a great big belly and skinny legs. I am really a satirist and make fun of myself. It is expressing the real me to people and giving them the proper techniques. I want to be a teacher!”
Karla said that you can keep fresh crab in the refrigerator up to four days, but who in the world could ever keep it that long? Not me!
“People love to see an artist of any kind at work,” she explained. “In the food industry people also love to see how you do something and my goal is to pass on what I know to the public.”
“I always wanted to pass on what I knew to the public, which is ironic because when I was young, customers scared the dickens out of me. I was so scared of people that I asked the hired help to wait on the people. I was so shy and I had to overcome that. It took a lot of time, but eventually I did and writing a book was much the same for me; a big challenge!”
So stop in @ Karla’s Smokehouse and say “Hello!” Chances are good that Karla will be there with her friendly smile and easygoing manner as she tends the counter or the smoky fires. It’s a warm and welcome place where “class” is always in session.
Opal Creek Wilderness
If you wish to beat the heat during a late summer hot spell, consider an easy to reach getaway that offers an escape into a cool and refreshing Cascade Mountain wilderness.
On a blistering summer day, all it takes is a simple leap of faith to find a cool moment in the gorgeous and refreshing pools of Opal Creek.
The thirty foot drop from the high rocky bluff into the cold creek Opal Creek pool below is a draw for thrill seekers but it’s also place shrouded and shaded by towering, ancient Doug fir trees.
When you walk among the giant trees you’d swear someone left a freezer door open – it’s that cool - for the visitors who journey the less traveled trails into Oregon’s Opal Creek Wilderness.
Refreshing to be sure – even bone chilling at a reliable 42 degrees - but the creek is one of many small treasures you’ll discover across the huge 35,000 acre Opal Creek Wilderness and National Scenic Recreation Area.
Opal Creek, in the Willamette National Forest, is more than 100 miles from Portland. It is a watershed that was once center stage for one of our country’s most publicized old growth timber battles of the past century.
Oregon Sen. Mark Hatfield capped his career by getting Congress to protect Opal Creek as a scenic recreation area and wilderness in 1996.That action ended the debate over the watershed’s ancient trees that date to the middle ages.
“Everywhere you look you have 450 year old trees, but many are a thousand years old, plus the many pristine streams,” noted George Atiyeh, a longtime forest activist.
Back in the 1970’s and 80‘s, Atiyeh was a miner who worked a decades-old mining claim “not for gold, but lead, zinc and copper.”
He grew up near Opal Creek so watershed became his backyard and he grew to love and admire the place. Atiyeh became a supporter and central figure in promoting and publicizing the features and benefits of protecting and preserving Oregon’s fast-disappearing ancient trees.
So, it is no surprise that today he works with the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center at a small wooden village called “Jawbone Flats” in the Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area.
The collection of cabins and classrooms is where education and tourism collaborate in a unique partnership that draw the curious and the dedicated alike who wish to learn more about the values of an ancient forest setting.
“This forest was what the whole west side of Oregon looked like all the way down to California,” noted Katie Ryan, the Center’s Executive Director. “There’s very little of it left but here you get a chance to immerse yourself in it.”
Oh – and in case you’re wondering – Atiyeh added, the name “Opal” was not out of special recognition for the creek’s color, but rather a woman’s beauty:
“An early US Forest Service Ranger (Elliot) saw Opal Creek and said it was almost as beautiful as his wife. So, he named it Opal Creek (it had been called “Boulder Creek”) for his wife.”
Today, the popular trail requires a three mile hike to reach “Jawbone Flats.” You may also choose to link with many other trails that reach across Opal Creek Wilderness or the adjoining Bull of the Woods Wilderness.
The hike into Jawbone is “fairly mellow with only 200 feet of elevation gain in that whole distance” added Ryan.
When you arrive, you will discover rustic rental cabins that are available for an overnight stay (reservation only,) an education center, a general store and even a restaurant.
“It’s a great place for families to bring little kids because we have all the amenities of home but you feel you’re in wilderness, said Ryan. “Many people stay here for a night, go out on a backpack trip and come back and stay for another night.”
The Opal Creek Ancient Forest Education Center offers a varied curriculum suitable for adults and children about the values and the science of the land and water found in an old growth forest.
Visitor Zoe Edelen Hare has returned each summer ever since she was a college student in the early 90’s. She said the hands on learning experiences bring the kid out in everyone:
“It’s serene and quiet – and completely off the grid so no one is looking at their cell phones, looking for text messages. It’s nice to slow down, plus our children know that we’re focused with them and not trying to do our own work. There’s something about this place – it’s magical and we like to come back here.”
Katie Ryan agreed about the magic of the moments at Opal Creek. While it may take a bit more effort reach, it is worth each step of the journey.
“The reason our water is so clear is because the trees are still on the banks holding the landscape in place and all of this functions the way a forest is supposed to; it’s not managed and that’s becoming harder and harder to find.”
Oregon Century Farms and “Gerry Frank’s Oregon”
The seasons are changing – that’s what the calendar says – but Grant shows us another sign of Fall: harvest time for Oregon’s abundant and locally produced fruits and vegetables at longtime family markets that are also distinct “Century Farms.”
You can meet some of the friendliest folks ---people like Gerry Frank ---down on the farm: “People come from all over to E.Z. Orchards because they know that this is a place that offers the freshest food. We’re really lucky – we’re in eating heaven here in Oregon country.”
Gerry Frank’s knowledge of Oregon’s people and places may be surpassed only by his appetite for locally grown products like the fresh corn and peaches he enjoys at E-Z Orchards near Salem; a family owned farm-market that’s been in business for more than a century.
Few can boast of a love affair quite like the one that Gerry Frank has with his home state. It’s a deep, long lasting and passionate affair that comes through clearly when you thumb past the cover of his new book, “Gerry Frank’s Oregon.”
“It’s Oregon’s stores, restaurants and hotels, attractions and interesting lore about various communities,” he said. “The book also includes places for kids to go and a lot of my family history - all of that stuff.”
The sort of “stuff” that’s been Frank’s bread ‘n butter in his Sunday Oregonian travel column and his radio and TV reports through the decades.
He is an Oregon man for all seasons whose roots reach back seven generations --- linked by birth and profession to the famed ‘Meier and Frank’ family retail business.
But Gerry insists that it was his 26 years on Sen. Mark Hatfield’s staff that really “put him in touch” with the people and places of Oregon: “We hit every nook and cranny in the state and I got to know Oregon very well,” he said with a smile.
So, you should not be surprised to learn that some of Gerry’s favorite places to visit are Oregon’s unchanged and timeless regions.
“Oh, I love to drive along the southern Oregon coast that stretches from Bandon to Gold Beach. It is my favorite part of the state for the uniqueness of the geography, the natural beauty and so many friendly people - there’s nothing in the world like that.”
Gerry Frank is also a self-proclaimed “choc-a-holic” and he has been the sole judge of the chocolate cakes competition at the Oregon State Fair for the past 53 years.
In addition, his popular restaurant in Salem, called “Konditorei,” is where pastries, pies and cakes rule the counters, although these days, book signings often rule the dining area. Gerry couldn’t be more proud of his new effort and hopes the book prompts many to say: “Gee Gerry, I didn’t know that!”
That takes us to what Gerry Frank calls one of the most interesting and least known Oregon State Park Heritage programs called “Century Farms.” In addition to E-Z Orchards, he likes to encourage folks to visit Bauman’s Farm near Gervais.
It’s a working farm and market and it provides a glimpse to an Oregon lifestyle that should be prized and encouraged.
“The Bauman farm has operated by the same family for more than a hundred years, noted OPRD Heritage Conservation spokesperson, Kyle Jansson. “When Century Farms like the Bauman’s invite you to come out they are sharing some of the strong values that come with the tradition of being close to the land. It’s a special opportunity and should be enjoyed.”
Brian Bauman is a fourth generation member of the family that began farming the fertile land in 1895. Today, Brian operates the business end of the market place where visitors purchase fresh produce that’s grown on the land.
“People come in and want practical information,” noted Brian. “For example, they want to know ‘when the corn was picked, this morning?’ Yes, I tell them – this morning and it’s great.”
Bauman’s grows scores of different fruits and vegetables across hundreds of acres and all of the produce is sold in the family’s full service market shortly after the daily harvest.
Brian said that he is proud of the fact that the family farm is part of the Century Farm program. He credits the family’s blending of tradition and an entrepreneurial spirit that has allowed their operation to endure.
“We must be doing something right for a hundred years to continue doing business,” added Bauman. “My name is on the products and I want to make sure that it’s good.”
Gerry Frank couldn’t agree more! Century Farms represent something lasting and solid and prove that the Oregon spirit is alive and well – family tradition is too. He said he enjoys encouraging visitors to explore and visit uniquely Oregon people, places and activities.
“I really do love this place - it’s all so alive and well and we have such abundance and that’s a good and important thing to see and experience.”