“FREE RIDING” IN A STATE PARK
There’s nothing like cruising along the miles of bike trails at Stub Stewart State Park on a warm and breezy fall day.
Stub Stewart offers one of the friendliest state park trail systems you’ll ever explore.
Now there’s something new to entice folks who prefer to roll on two wheels at a popular park when “free riding” rules the day.
They are a breed of cyclist who seeks a two-wheel challenge and a freedom in a bike riding recreation called “free riding.”
It takes split second timing on narrow trails at high speeds and the riders love to get “big air.”
Each weekend at Stub Stewart State Park in western Washington County, the time comes to trade in mountain bikes for shovels, rakes and trail tools called ‘mclouds.”
They are members of the Westside Trail Federation and they’re building a new recreation future.
They shovel and scrape the dirt, pound it down and rake it smooth.
Steve Kruger, Stub Stewart SP’s Trail Manager, said that the all-volunteer army is sculpting new “free riding” trails across the state parkland.
“This is really the first opportunity for a mountain bike club to partner with Oregon State Parks. They came to us and said, ‘we want a place to officially ride with safety that is sanctioned by the land owner.”
Ryan McLane, WTF President, added, “We told parks department that we’ll design it, we’ll build it and we’ll maintain it! Now, we have to prove it.”
Riders are looking for a place like “Black Rock Mountain;” a famous Polk County free ride area that was built in partnership with Oregon Dept of Forestry.
Black Rock is unique for it’s miles of downhill trails, jumps and tightrope like riding challenges across skinny rails and boards. Back at Stub Stewart State Park, WTF members Stephanie Yao Long and Debbie Causey agreed that Black Rock has it all – except for one thing:
“We like to ride at Black Rock but it’s two hours to get there versus a half hour to get here, noted Causey. “That’s a huge motivator to get trails built closer to home.”
Less than a mile away there’s another unique and quite different trail building effort.
Joe Rykowski is the man in charge of a remarkable trail building machine called the “ST-240.”
The machine contours new trails that flow with the landscape and the best part of all is that it leaves the standing trees behind.
“It can go as narrow as 24 inches,” noted Rykowski. “So you can squeeze thru trees that are have grown up and that ‘s important because in this park there’s a lot of dense tree growth.”
The ST240 is a blader, a grader and a backhoe too. In fact, Rykowski, President of the NW Trail Alliance, was so impressed by the power and effectiveness of the ST-240, his non-profit cycling club bought the $80-thousand machine.
He noted that the machine’s remote control feature is a huge plus on the parkland’s steep terrain:
“I can do the work of 10-20 people depending upon the terrain and at the end of the day I am not dead tired.”
Whether by machine or by hand, all of the free ride cyclists agreed that it’s critical to be involved and ‘walk the talk’ for their outdoor recreation. Ryan McLane is certain that if they build the trails more people will come to the park:
“It is a dream come true because state parks will bring new riders to the park and it’s a bonus for us because we will have a new place to ride.”
Steve Kruger agreed and added, “We cannot do anything without the help of volunteers. We wouldn’t be developing this really cool attraction if it wasn’t groups willing to build it and maintain it for us.”
The new free ride trail construction at Stub Stewart State Park continues through fall and winter and park managers hope to have the trails open to the public by early June.
THE ALL OREGON BOAT
When you sit between the oars of an Oregon classic called the “Driftboat,” you slide across rapids, slip past boulders and leave all of your troubles behind.
For local boat builder Ray Heater, you also touch Oregon history.
“Oh, the drift boat is really a special type of boat the represents the state of Oregon.That has always attracted me – why don’t I build something else? Because I’m a fisherman and I love to float rivers and I’ve never seen a craft that can perform as well as this simple boat.”
Heater builds wooden drift boats in his Welches, Oregon shop; a business called Ray’s River Dories.
He’s the last to make a living by cutting, drilling and hammering doug fir and cedar into boats that take people down rivers.
Heater’s career spans more than four decades and it has been built upon a boat design that’s all Oregon.
As he and I recently stood admiring a pair of boats currently under construction in his shop he told me: “These are steelhead drift boats that can go in the back of a pickup and they really are a part of a tradition that began a century ago.”
Drift boats were spawned on the McKenzie and Rogue Rivers in the early 20th century and at first, the boats hauled supplies.
By the 1940’s anglers paid big money to fishing guides like Woodie Hindman who would take fishermen, called “Dudes,” down rivers to catch fish.
Heater noted, “It’s really a floating platform for your camping and fishing gear – that’s really what it’s all about.”
Heater added that the all Oregon boat was distinct because it safely rode atop the waves.
“Oh man, they can provide a piece of ballet – water ballet! Those guys between the oars would just dance across those waves with the oars – it’s a rush – a real rush…I mean I like to fish, but I like to run that whitewater.”
Ray Heater is not alone in his quest to protect and preserve the “All Oregon Boat.”
He explained: “People will say, 'you should write something down about this.' And I say, 'Oh boy, that's going to be a tough one for me, I’d rather build a boat than write about one. Well, then along came Roger Fletcher, who walks into my shop one day and says, ‘I’m writing a book about the river boat. I thought, 'You are the man.”
Roger Fletcher never thought of himself as the man to save a chapter of Oregon history – he just likes the shape and feel and history of wooden drift boats.
He builds them too – models - that are scaled down versions.
“They basically require the same technique of a person building a traditional drift boat – just smaller. There isn’t anything fancy about it, but when you look at the lines of a Mckenzie River drift boat, there isn’t a prettier set of lines
Fletcher has had a love affair with drift boats since a boy. Today, he is the author of a new book called “Drift Boats and River Dories,” that tells the story of the earliest boats that were developed for Oregon rivers.
He calls the drift boat design a “unique contribution to the boating world” and adds that few people know about them although they’ve likely seen them and perhaps been lucky enough to even fish in one.
“It’s the crescent shape and a fellows like Hindman, Veltie Pruitt and Prince Helfrich who designed and originally built them. They all fell in love with the design because it assumed the crescent shape of the waves. Plus, people fell in love with the ride.”
And who wouldn’t? Today, drift boating’s popularity has spread across the country. The “All Oregon Boat” can be seen on rivers across the country, wherever there are rivers waiting for adventure.
Now, thanks to Roger Fletcher, more people will know of the boat’s important past.
“My hope,” he added, “is that more people will see more of these traditional and highly functional and beautiful boats out on the rivers. It’s tough not to fall in love with this boat. If a person hasn’t been in one – gets in one, has a day’s experience in one – he’ll be back.”
Each spring, there is an annual gathering of wooden drift boats and their builders on the banks of the McKenzie River. It is held at Eagle Rock Lodge and offers newcomers a chance to learn more about the boats and their lasting place in Oregon boating history.
HIGHER EDUCATION IN BEND
It’s funny how some of the best surprises are often found right in your own backyard.
So it is from the eastern Cascades point of view where elbowroom is measured by the wide-open vistas of snow-shrouded landscapes; the kinds of scenes that capture your heart and may lead you to wonder aloud: “Why have I never traveled this way before?”
It is a question on many visitors’ minds at a place where the answer is easy to find and higher education is center stage at the High Desert Museum near Bend.
You’ll agree with the staff’s adage that this remarkable complex of displays, demonstrations, and hands-on events make the museum “more like an expedition than an exhibition.”
According to museum spokesperson Dana Whitelaw, the museum examines and explains the natural history and the special qualities of high desert life:
“They may have seen the sign on the highway for years and finally stopped in and people on a regular basis are blown away by how much is here. They experience so much of the west through art, cultural and natural history and the wildlife. We are proud that we can be that relevant.”
From birds of prey, such as hawks and eagles, to river otters and porcupines, this is a place where you can see and learn about the arid Intermountain West, which includes portions of eight western states and the Canadian province of British Columbia.
The museum spreads across 150 acres filled with exhibits and demonstrations. A mile-long trail goes through twenty-five acres of trailside exhibits, including a trout stream, otter ponds, porcupine dens, and historic interpretive displays of frontier life and industry.
A favorite part for me is the Earl A. Chiles Center and a walking tour through vignettes of life called “Spirit of the West.”
This timeline stroll covers thousands of years in the span of a few hundred feet. Along the way, you are invited into a Native American campsite to learn how hardy vegetation, abundant wildlife, and a mineral-rich terrain sustained generations of natives.
Then come the explorers and the fur trappers, the miners and sheepherders and sodbusters, and finally the immigrants, fresh off the Oregon Trail.
All of this is explained through sights and sounds that put you in the scenes from Stone Age to rustic dirt roads in a western frontier town.
Few places convey the story of humans on the desert as well as this experience, including how the mines, then the ranches, and then the railroads brought more and more people to the desert, so that by the 1880s, small cottage industries began to sprout and, in many ways, forever change the face of the desert.
A new large-scale exhibit called “Sin in the Sagebrush” serves up sights and sounds and role players in costumes to put you into a scene from Oregon’s most recent past.
Museum curator Bob Boyd told me that cowhands, buckaroos, trappers and miners enjoyed a brief escape from the drudgery of daily routines inside the Frontier Saloon:
“For many thousands of people, going west in itself was taking a chance – and if the weather killed your sheep or if your mining claim wasn’t paying off – you were a risk taker just showing up. So, perhaps one more turn of the card or spin of that roulette wheel and things might turn around for you.”
Other “risk takers” of the same era included countless “homesteaders” like Mrs. Blair, (portrayed in full costume by local volunteer Linda Evans) who help you to see and understand how tough life was in the high desert as you stroll through her replica farmstead from the 1880’s.
She admitted that t hardest part of all was, “Loneliness, because we’re forty miles from Prineville and it takes two days to get there. I go maybe four or five times a year. So, we do get lonely and the children keep us busy, but I dearly love to have visitors.”
You’ll love seeing the many wildlife species on display at the museum too.
Hawks, eagles, and turkey vultures are frequently seen soaring over the wide expanse of the desert, but at the museum you can see them all close at hand and learn about their special adaptations for survival.
“When it’s behind a screen or behind glass, you’re so removed,” noted wildlife curator Nolan Harvey. “But when you’re up close you can see the feathers move, you see the bird move and pay attention to you – that captures your heart and hopefully makes you want to know more about the animal and gives you that bond.”
The close connection with wildlife is a lasting legacy message from the museum’s found, Donald Kerr. Kerr owned a passion for wildlife and he was a big believer that animals can connect with newcomers and perhaps change attitudes about the high desert.
“We’re very proud that all the animals you see here were either captive born or they have been through rehabilitation and cannot be released, added Harvey. “Our wildlife get a second chance at life to educate the rest of us.”
Whether education or recreation, the High Desert Museum will capture your heart and bring you back time and again.
“It’s a real jewel,” noted Whitelaw. “A true treasure of Central Oregon!”
FOSSILS IN FOSSIL
Oregon offers a treasure trove of interesting places and fun activities that can reveal much about our region’s past.
In fact, one Eastern Oregon town offers fascinating lessons in “pre-history,” that – with a bit of imagination and some handiwork – can transport you to a quite different Oregon.
In Fossil, Oregon all you need are some simple tools, keen eyes and curiosity to learn more about the state – as you dig into Oregon’s past.
Eastern Oregon’s gigantic landscape holds on to memories – old homestead sites – where families once worked the land and carved out their livelihoods across the high desert.
Time has passed most of them by and what often remains today are small reminders in a big country that are worth a pause to consider.
Fossil, Oregon is worth more than a pause! Especially if you enjoy history, like to get your hands dirty and really dig buried treasures!
“You take a rock, crack it open – and there’s a fossil or two,” noted Wheeler School District Superintendent, Brad Sperry. “It’s that simple! Our entire area contains fossils. So, it’s really a matter of how much work and time you wish to spend digging then slicing open shale rocks that determines the quality of the fossil that you collect.”
It’s a much different slice of outdoor life for the visitors who stroll through the back gates at Fossil’s Wheeler High School – pass under the goal posts of the school’s football field and then take a step back in Oregon history.
It’s the only public fossil dig area in Oregon that offers surprises with each handful of dirt and rock that you turn over.
Sperry added that the area has been known to the locals for years: “Oh yes, it’s been kind of a local secret, the community has known of it and they come up and kick around in the rocks to pick up a fossil or two. About eight years ago, we were discovered and today, there are even websites dedicated to the Fossil Field – lots of folks come to visit.”
Today, the fossils that you dig reveal a much different scene in this part of Eastern Oregon.
In fact, 30 million years ago the region was more akin to today’s Oregon Coast Range Forest – a temperate rain forest with ancient firs and cedars and ferns and even prehistoric insects. All were covered and trapped by ancient mudflows born of volcanic eruptions that were a common geologic feature in this part of Oregon.
All of it adds up to a stark contrast to the high desert sage and juniper country that surrounds Fossil in the 21st century.
Just down the street, the new Paleo Lands Institute will teach you much about the fossils that you collect.
The Institute enjoyed it’s grand opening this past summer and Anne Mitchell, the Institute’s Director said the PLI provides a new way to look at the high desert.
“Many people come out to Fossil and say, ‘I want to dig up a fossil.’ Now, when they actually get here, they start learning about the fossil’s context in history. Our center was designed to be sort of a hands-on, get a little dirty and comfortable with ancient history location and I think it helps people see that history is real and not just something to read about in books.”
Sperry noted that fossil digging isn’t free – the district appreciates a small donation – and he emphasizes that there’s little need to take more than a handful of the fossils. He’d rather see more people coming back again and again instead of loading up by the bucketful.
He also said that simple tools, like a hammer and chisel – plus, a bucket – are all you need to get started.
“It’s all about kids and families and the excitement of finding fossils and realizing they’re 30 million years old. It is like Christmas morning and seeing what Santa brought you. Well, take the rocks, crack them open and it’s Christmas time. You never know what you’re going to find.”
It’s always a challenge to catch a big salmon, but on a recent trip with John Krauthoefer (Firefighter’s Guide Service/503-812-1414,) I landed a dandy twenty-pound chrome bright salmon.
So, what to do with the catch?
I didn’t have to travel far to discover one delicious idea!
Karla Steinhauser likes to say she hasn’t met a salmon that she doesn’t like – to smoke - the old fashioned way.
Nearly half a century of experience in the Tillamook County village of Rockaway, Oregon has led her to use alder and vine maple in a smoky fire.
Through the years, she has prepared tons of “sushi grade” salmon, sturgeon, cod and albacore tuna with a simple cure of two parts kosher salt and one part of brown sugar.
She cuts the fish into numerous small chunks and places each on racks inside her famous wood smoker.
I joined her in the smoking room as she pulled a fresh batch of golden hued salmon and tuna from the mammoth wood smoker that once had a life as a stainless steel crab cooker.
But Karla had a better idea for the piece and thought that if the cooker was turned on end it would make a better smoker.
She was right!
“I basically taught myself – the fish has to be done in the thickest part of the fish - I pick up each piece and look for color and feel for firmness. It’s a touchy sort of thing but 46 years of experience lets me know when time is right to take it out.”
She learned her way around a kitchen from her Norwegian grandmother and her business savvy father - “Karla’s Smokehouse” has been a fixture on the north coast since 1964.
“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.
This year, 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.”
“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!”
“I Am Karla’s Smokehouse” is an enjoyable and easy to read text that offers practical how to techniques in every phase of fish smoking.
The many photographs are by local photographer Don Best and show detailed pictures of filleting varied fish species, the proper application of the cure and fish appearance at the end of the smoking time.
The book also offers Karla’s own colorful art of whimsical moments that 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!”
So stop in and say “Hello!” Chances are good that Karla will be there with her friendly smile and easygoing manner as she tends the smoky fires. It’s a warm and welcome place where “class” is always in session.