BONNEY BUTTE RAPTORS
On a clear day, the view from Bonney Butte onto southern flanks of Mt Hood is brilliant and awesome.
Raptor specialist Dan Sherman said that his camouflaged blind is the “best seat of the house:”
“Well, there aren’t many offices that have a view out a window like this one. I look straight in front toward Mt Hood and then off to the west as well and as I look, I pick out all the little black dots.”
Sherman is part of Hawkwatch International’s ‘Raptor Banding Team’ and those “little black dots” will take your breath away when they become big raptor birds that soar right overhead.
Sometimes they do more than soar – they also attack.
That’s what happened when a large red tail hawk swooped in to Sherman’s site and with its razor sharp talons became entangled in a fine mesh fabric called a “mist net.”
The net panels surrounded a feathered prey called a ‘lure.”
Sherman wasted little time removing the big broad-winged raptor.
He carefully bundled up the bird’s legs, talons and wings and held it close to his chest.
“Most red tails are not biters,” he noted. “But occasionally you’ll get one that will lunge at you. I am sure that if I stuck my finger in its face it would bite it. Well, that was the hard part, now let’s process her.”
Sherman and fellow team member Jade Ajani quickly and quietly weighed, measured and banded the captured bird.
“It can be pretty exciting when you're working with hawks,” whispered Sherman – a 12-season veteran at the stunning locale called Bonney Butte.
He added with a smile, “These birds can really make the adrenalin flow!”
Bonney Butte is on a ridgeline that runs north and east of Mt Hood toward the Columbia River.
It is a place where the raptors would rather soar than flap their wings.
“The birds are migrating south and looking out for other birds,” noted Ajani. “They look to see if other birds have good lift from thermal updrafts that are created off the ridges. Plus, you often have westerly winds that hit the ridges and create the lift – that is what the birds are after – saves them energy to soar or glide rather than fly.”
Birds are drawn to the capture site by feathered non-native prey called a “lure”
Sherman jerked a cord that lifted the lure and another sharp-eyed raptor was decoyed into the mist net panels.
Speed is everything in the capture and banding process. Not only to free the trapped raptor and catch more, but if stranded too long, the predator can easily become prey of another soaring raptor.
The team will capture scores of raptors on any given fall day and usually half a dozen species are represented.
Some, like a sharp-shinned hawk that Ajani held tight prior to release, sported a razor sharp beak.
They are fascinating birds that are rarely seen so close.
A half-mile away, several volunteer “observers” were perched on a rocky outcropping of the Bonney Butte ridge.
Hawkwatch International’s Adam Baz said that the ever-watchful volunteers count every raptor species they can from one of the most remarkable view sites in Oregon:
“We can see 7 and sometimes 8 different mountains from up here – that view coupled with the amount of hawks that come through here make it a really incredible place to work.
Hawkwatch International has been monitoring, trapping and banding hundreds of raptors since they began operation atop Bonney Butte in 1994.
Their record of raptors has helped to contribute new understanding of birds that travel from the Arctic to Central America.
Bonney Butte's geography makes it a first rate laboratory!
“The diversity of species we get here is astounding,” noted Baz. “On any given day we will see every species of hawk in the area, plus eagles and falcons too. It is amazing!”
It is also open to visitors every day.
If you come – bring water,” added Baz with a chuckle. “The weather changes quickly up here too, so a rain jacket is a good idea. A camera, binoculars and hiking boots are ‘must haves’ as well.”
I hope you make time to visit Bonney Butte for there’s simply no other place like it in Oregon. If you go, know that the drive is long, the road is extremely rocky and the site is remote. Be prepared and allow for a two-hour trip from Portland.
Hawkwatch International continues the capture and banding and observation work at Bonney Butte through October.
CLIMBING OREGON GIANTS
High above the Willamette Valley in the Willamette National Forest, follow the roadway that traces a trail along Fall River, near Lowell, Oregon and you could discover adventure that’s guaranteed to take you to new heights.
I met a group of climbers along this roadway near Fall Creek Reservoir.
As I discovered, they were a small corp of climbers that was a breed apart from typical rock or mountain climbers.
Just like rock climbers, these folks used gear that included harnesses, ropes, mechanical ascenders and even helmets.
A hearty collection of people had gathered to meet guides with the Eugene-based Pacific Tree Climbing Institute who don’t climb tall mountains; rather they ascend Oregon’s tallest trees.
Jason Seppa, co-owner of PTCI and a lead guide in my adventure, coolly showed each of us the correct way to wear the harness and how to handle the ascenders; the main mode of movement up the giant trees.
He also explained to us why wearing our helmets was so critical:
“If you hear someone shout ‘Headache!” – Don’t look up! Headache means something is coming down – maybe a little branch, or somebody’s dropped his water bottle. Sometimes that can happen, so wear it at all times.
The team had gathered to climb three of the tallest giants in the forest.
Trees that had been nicknamed “The Three Musketeers” because the trio of 600 year-old Doug fir had grown so closely together.
Robb Miron, Seppa’s partner in PTCI, explained the advantages of climbing these big old trees: “They are really climber-friendly with a lot of limbs and a lot of architecture. When you’re up in them, it’s the kind of a feeling that you get being inside a grove of trees.”
PTCI operates under a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service and their climbing techniques and equipment do not damage the trees.
Seppa and Miron called it “eco-friendly” climbing as they teach both newcomers and experienced how to reach for the tallest heights of the trees without hurting the trees they climb.
They employ the same equipment and skills that each had learned on their jobs as full time arborists in Eugene, Oregon.
Jason explained: “People see all of these ropes (each climber has his own dedicated line that’s been secured in the top of the tree) going up into space and don’t really know where the ropes end – it’s quite mind blowing for the person to see as they walk up to the tree.”
The trained arborists turned their attention to recreation climbing six years ago and agreed that the forest has much to offer people.
Usually, that begins by overcoming any doubts or fears of heights.
After all, the goal is to climb perhaps 250 feet or more above the ground.
“It’s interesting,” noted Miron. “You get up into the canopy and you can’t see the ground anymore but it’s almost like the height gets easier for many people. You are so focused on what’s in front of you – the tree itself and then the physical act of climbing, you don’t really think about the height.”
Ah, the climbing technique! Now, that technique does take some time to master.
First, it required a “jug” or thrust with my left hand that was firmly holding onto one of two mechanical ascenders. That move was quickly followed by a solid stand up move on my two feet that had been resting in two looped straps that were attached to the ascenders. With my right hand, in yet another ascender, I picked up the excess rope and tightened the line.
That procedure was repeated over and over and allowed me to make my way up the tree.
I felt a bit like an inchworm as I watched more experienced climbers take to the task with relative ease.
No doubt about it, I was the slow poke in this group of climbers!
Approximately halfway up the tree – at nearly 150 feet – I discovered that Seppa and Miron had set up a base camp of sorts as a half a dozen “tree boats” were set up and waiting for us.
Tree boats are fabric hammocks, approximately seven feet long – that were tied off onto nearby branches. The hammocks provided a “rest stop” and I could easily lie down or sit down inside of one - before moving further up the tree.
I discovered they provided a well-earned rest for I was flat out bushed by my efforts. I felt I earned my reward of a rest in a tree boat. It was heavenly.
I wondered allowed if I had established a new PTCI record for taking so long to get but halfway up the giant tree.
“Oh no, not at all,” noted Seppa with a smile. “Each person takes his or her own time – there’s no rush at all.”
He added that men are often in too big of a hurry and miss the sights along the way, while women often prove better climbers than their male partners.
“Oh yes,” he noted. “Women bring a lot better climbing technique to this than the men. More fluid and less muscling – guys like to muscle things up while women have more finesse and seem to sneak right up nice and smooth.”
Once climbers reached the end of the line, approximately 280-feet off the ground, the payoff was nothing short of spectacular.There was a genuine rush of energy and excitement at the doing of the thing and the unmatched view of the surrounding forest.
“A sea of green,” said Seppa. “As far as the eye can see – nothing but tree tops. It’s quite cool.”
Rob Miron noted that the view close at hand was equally impressive too: “Oh my, so much vegetation that you’d never expect – salal, ferns and mosses and lichens – a real variety of flora that you can never appreciate on the ground because you wouldn’t know that it even exists way up here.”
When it was time for us to return back to ground, mechanical descenders made the journey down incredibly easy.
I simply held on to the rope in one hand and held the device in the other and with a quick release of its latch, I gently slid down the rope at a controlled speed.
I decided that it was much more fun going down the tree than it was going up.
Miron estimated that he’d led many hundreds of clients up and into big old trees over the years.
He said that people really liked climbing The Three Musketeers and everyone he’d ever taken up has a newfound respect for the giants of the forest
‘Oh, it’s the sense of accomplishment, the sense of doing something that they never thought they could do. And then it’s the closeness that you feel with nature. Basically, anyone that comes with us on one of these trips is amazed one way or another.”
SANTIAM HORSEBACK RIDE
On a dreamy autumn day, could there be a better find on a simmering afternoon than filtered sunbeams shooting through the overhanging maple leaves and cool, refreshing creek by your side.
Oh, I doubt it!
I just knew it is was the right place to start an adventure when I arrived at the Monument Traihead near Gates, Oregon to meet a small, dedicated group of horseback riders who were to guide me into the wilds of the Santiam State Forest.
Sheila Hoover, co-owner of “Into the Wild Equine Adventures,” told me that “There are a lot of people who are interested in horseback riding who just haven’t had the opportunity. And this is such a gorgeous place we thought, let’s try that.”
Her husband, Jahn Hoover, quickly added, “For most people it’s about ‘I’ve always wanted to ride a horse before’…always wanted to go horseback riding and try something new.’ Well, that’s our goal – to make their dreams come true.”
Into the Wild Equine Adventures began in 2009 when Jahn and Sheila Hoover decided to teach city folks to ride tall in the saddle aboard their fine stable of Arabian, Percheron and Tennessee Walker horses so to see the outdoors from a different point of view
First, comes the training - not for the horses – (that’s happened daily through many years), - but for the people – folks like me who haven’t done anything like horseback riding in years.
Jahn noted that the reason people need to know how to ride is to feel empowered to work the horse.
If you choose not to be in charge,” he said. “The horse will happily be in charge! That means you’ve put an animal that weighs 1200 pounds and with the mind of a three year old in charge of your destiny. That is not a good plan!”
So, I got to know Venus, a 12 year-old Arabian mare through a 45 minute refresher training course that taught me the basics of correctly sitting in the saddle, hold on to the reins and then guiding the horse forward, backward, and turning left and right.
“Now Grant,” chided Jahn. “ Don’t let her rub on you! Push her away! That’s an aggression.”
“Oh!” I meekly replied, “She’s playing boss?”
“She’s testing you,” he replied. “That’s her first challenge to the relationship.”
I followed Jahn Hoover’s every word of guidance and soon found it easier and easier to handle Venus.
I was soon in control and in the comfort zone, sitting tall in the saddle and ready to ride across new country – in fact, this was country I had never been before.
“It’s a gem!” confided Sheila Hoover. “The reason we picked this area is that there’s about ten miles of trails with a variety of loops and different terrain in a forest that not many people know about. Plus, there are more trails being planned all the time”
We were on the “Magic Trail” and it is one of several that are set-aside in the Santiam State Forest for non-motorized use.
On a warn autumn day, with the temperature flirting with the 80’s, it was much cooler under the sprawling canopy of fir, alder and big leaf maple.
“It is a beautiful section of a temperate rain forest with lots of colorful vine maple and other beautiful trees,” noted Sheila. “The trail is well maintained by state forestry crews who do a fabulous job of keeping it in top condition.”
The trail was gentle with a bit of rise and fall that shifted the scenery and made the ride interesting. It was the sort of riding experience that put my mind at ease and allowed me to really soak up the countryside.
After a couple of hours, we arrived at the Santiam Horse Camp – complete with corrals and fresh water for folks who may wish to make their trip a longer stay.
The horse riding community helped the state develop the trails and the campground.
Arden Corey, a member of “Backcountry Horsemen of Oregon” told me that his group and another called “Oregon Equestrian Trails” are dedicated to their recreation for many reasons:
“I have seen a lot more country on horseback than I would have if I just relied on walking,” he noted with a smile.” On horseback, I can see over the sword fern and the salmonberry and it’s just a real pleasant experience.”
Cristina Stinson, another longtime rider who had joined our trail ride, quickly added, “I have done a lot of off road riding with motorized vehicles which I enjoy – but this is just a slower paced activity that lets you look around and take it in a bit more. I don’t think you could ask for a more beautiful place to ride.”
That much is certain! The Santiam State Forest is a fine forest to explore and horseback is a wonderful way to get there.
“It’s a two way street,” noted Jahn Hoover. “We started ‘Into the Wild’ because we wanted to train and exercise our horses, but also to let people have real riding adventures. They get to learn to control a horse, gain confidence and to feel good about accomplishing something new.”
COASTAL COHO FISHING
When daylight’s a glimmer on the eastern horizon, three generations of the Mill’s family agree that salmon fishing in the Nehalem River estuary is full of promise.
David Mills grew up angling across Oregon and said it provided him with positive alternatives when he was young: “The world is so full of video games and quick satisfaction, but going out with family or friends and ending the day in beautiful part of Oregon, it just doesn’t get much better than that.”
His dad, Eldon Mills is a longtime Hillsboro resident who made fishing trips a regular part of his family’s travels. He added that it never gets much better after a big Coho salmon grabbed a spinner: “Oh, I love that first part of the fish battle – the take down – that is the best part.”
Longtime fishing guide, John Krauthoefer, (Firefighter’s Guide Service) said that estuary salmon fishing tactics are simple: “Speed, presentation and keeping it in the zone where the fish are swimming. If you are going with the tide, go a bite faster to get the spinner to spin and if you are going against the current, slow down. If you feel anything, you set the hook.”
Eldon’s grandson, Matt Mills, set the hook hard against a gleaming Coho that immediately shot across the calm surface – it spun around and shot directly at the boat and then crashed atop the water three times.
“Big wild coho I’ll bet,” noted Krauthoefer, who slid the net under the gleaming but exhausted salmon.
“Now lift straight up Matt. Oh, that’s a big one. That is a big coho! Really special”
There was some something special about the Coho salmon: it was a wild fish that was born in the gravel. You could tell it was wild because it had an adipose fin – a half moon shaped fin in front of the tail. Hatchery salmon have that particular fin removed when they’re babies.
Wild coho salmon have made a turn around and anglers are fortunate that they can catch and keep them this season.
Nehalem River estuary anglers are allowed to keep 1 wild Coho a day – 2 for the season until a quota of 1200 wild fish is reached.
Anglers are also allowed to keep one additional hatchery Coho or a Chinook.
It’s the first time in 20 years that anglers have been allowed to harvest wild Coho and it signals a remarkable recovery that the state and federal fish and wildlife agencies began in the early 90’s.
Mills noted, ”These fish are a northwest heritage and the opportunity to actually catch and keep these fish kind connects us with our region. Salmon have such a rich heritage to us.”
John added the best was yet to come: “Yes, we can take them home and eat them and boy oh boy, they are a good eating fish!”
Steve Fick and his older brother Cliff Fick enjoy cooking salmon as much as they enjoy catching them.
Steve is a commercial fisherman and Cliss is an accomplished chef for nearly forty years. The brothers are native Astorians who love salmon recipes that are different from the crowd.
Today, we’re going to prepare “salmon cheeks,” salmon chowder and a raspberry better salmon. I grew up with each of these recipes and they are great.”
The Ficks called their homespun recipes, “simple and delicious.” “The salmon cheeks are a delicacy that most folks don’t even know about,” noted the younger Fick.
He took a small, sharp knife and deftly filleted two silver dollar sized muscles from either side of the salmon’s head; just behind and above the jaw line.
“These cheeks are really mild in flavor,” he added. “They do not taste fishy at all!”
He floured each silver dollar size filet, dipped each into an egg wash and then covered them with a soda cracker coating. The hot vegetable oil sizzled as each bite-sized piece of salmon was dropped into the frying pan.
Fick noted that cooking time is only a moment because overcooked salmon “tastes like cardboard.”
Recipe number two makes even more use of salmon pieces that most anglers toss aside. Fick placed salmon carcass pieces into boiling water to boil and then simmer for no more than 15 minutes.
He then “picked the bones clean.”
“This makes the finest chowder ever,” he added with a smile.
Salmon chowder is easy to prepare with one quart each of milk or half and half. Fick added a couple cups of bacon, celery, onion and dill to the mixture. He then added a couple cups of frozen peas and four cups of cooked potatoes.
The chowder mixture rose to a rolling boil. Fick turned off the heat and the chowder was ready to eat.
He noted, “So many people – they toss out the salmon leftovers when they could be cooked and used. You are really missing an opportunity for some good meals when you overlook these pieces.
Finally, recipe number three was easy as can be: a salmon filet on the barbeque. The elder Fick removed the skin from a small coho filet and added two tablespoons of lemon juice inside a foil wrapped package. He placed the fish on the hot coals where it cooked for no more than ten minutes.
Meanwhile, Steve prepared a topping he called “the perfect cap to the fish.”
He mixed two tablespoons each of raspberry jam and butter, then heated the mixture and then thoroughly stirred the mixture and drizzled it across the cooked filet.
“This adds a delicious hot and tart and tangy taste,” noted Cliff, “ I like to make a hot salad out of it – so I’ve placed the filet in a bed of greens with cooked prawns as an added surprise across the top. Beautiful isn’t it?”
Each of the Fick’s recipes was so easy that anyone can try them. They provide a fine way to round out a day’s adventure of catching and cooking Oregon fresh caught salmon.
“I enjoy harvesting and preparing the catch – it’s rewarding for people who take it their fishing trip to that next step really. Cooking your catch provides a more enjoyable experience to the whole adventure.”
FRIED SALMON CHEEKS
Saltine cracker crumbs
1.Roll salmon cheeks in flour. (This helps the egg batter and cracker crumbs stick).
2.Beat eggs. Dip cheeks in egg wash and roll in cracker crumbs. (Don’t salt crackers as they have plenty.
3.Cover the bottom of a frying pan with cooking oil heat to 375°- 400°. The oil must be hot before placing the breaded cheeks into the pan or the cheeks will become soggy.
Fry the cheeks until brown on both sides then place on a plate with paper towels to remove excess oil before serving.
1 lb. Salmon Frames or Chunked Salmon
5-6 Strips Bacon
½ c. Celery
½ c. Onion
3 lg. Potatoes cooked and chopped.
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c. peas
1 Qt. Half & Half or other less creamy milk
Dill and or Thyme to taste
1.Boil water. Cook salmon then drain and separate meat from bones.
In a soup kettle cook bacon, celery and onion until done. Lower heat to (250° - 275°). Place half & half into kettle then add remaining ingredients. Stir occasionally until hot. It is important not to warm ingredients to fast as this can cause milk to curdle.
RASPBERRY BUTTER SALMON
1 – Skinless Salmon Fillet
1 lb. Lg. Prawns (21-25 count)
1.Place salmon on foil. Salt and pepper to your taste. Wrap foil up around fish to keep moist. Place on barbeque and cook until done about 7-10 minutes.
2.Peel prawns. Place on barbeque and cook for 2-3 minutes until done.
3.For Raspberry butter combine a 50/50 mixture of butter and raspberry jam in a bowl and melt.
4.Once the salmon is done place on a bed of greens and garnish with prawns.
Drizzle Raspberry Butter over fish and serve.