Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bridges of Klickitat County

Perfect day to bicycle around the farms of Trout Lake: Blue, clear skies & 72 degrees. Our bookend mountains, Adams and Hood, still white. The rivers and irrigation ditches pulsing with water, keeping the fields green for our very content, organic cows. My 12 mile route requires at least thee bridge crossings. I dawdled today, stopping on six to soak it all in.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Voluntary "Taxes" For Things About Which We Care.

We get taxed so much, on every utility bill, state income tax, federal tax, etc. . . . It is surprising that people voluntarily donate on top of taxes. Today provided two examples of that.

First, my friends from the Cup of Coffee Networking were working on a garage sale to raise funds to help the fight against breast cancer. They have also held other fundraisers. They have family and jobs, yet they took the weekend to do this work.

Then, tonight, a dozen of us had dinner with United States Senator Ron Wyden at Andina Restaurant in Portland’s Pearl District. I’m very proud of our two senators. I know Jeff Merkley pretty well, but do not have a personal acquaintance with Ron. So, this was a good opportunity to meet him and show my support. Oregon sends two great guys to the Senate. Both are smart and public-spirited. I guess it comes down to: “put your money where your mouth is.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

21st Century View on 20th Century Oregon

The Santiam Pass, which links Central Oregon to Salem, epitomizes 20th century Oregon. I’ve crossed in for over ¼ of a century. So much of it looks the same, yet my view of it has changed.

It’s beautiful. The Santiam River races from the snowy peaks west, over rocks, through trees, along remnant towns that grew and withered with logging and mill work. (They did not call it Mill City for nothin’.) The river pauses behind a dam to form Detroit Lake (pictured above), which is spectacular, with fir-covered slopes that dive into the pure water. Then, the river continues on, where my dad, brother and I fished from a drift boat in the mid 1980’s. The Santiam Pass is the “Oregon” that non-Oregonians think of: hilly, green, lush, and misty most of the year.

In 1978, I first rode into the hills in the Oldsmobile of Don Jenkins, who was born in 1919 in Mill City. After serving in WWII, Don and his family returned to Mill City. He operated various businesses and had another baby daughter in 1958. The Post-War building boom was good for logging and mill towns. Occasionally, on my drives over the mountains, I’d cruise through Mill City or stop for food or beverage at one of the roadside establishments. Even back then, the railroad bridge was decommissioned, and the train depot stood on a paved street.

I drove through Mill City today. Many of the roadside businesses are boarded up. Not much in town, either. Logging ain’t what it used to be for a lot of reasons. First, machines dehumanized the work decades ago. The spotted owl and environmentalists were not favorites. As the bathroom graffiti stated in the 1980s: “No more tissue; no more towels. Wipe your ass, with a spotted owl.” The boom that supported Don Jenkins’ parents in the 19th century and the post-war boom that supported his return are long gone. The real estate boom of the 21st century bypassed Mill City. General Motors quit making Oldsmobiles in 2004, and Don Jenkins outlived his daughter, making it to 2008.

Part of Oregon’s current strategy is to grow its economy on an environmental ethic and industry, which conflicted so long with the tree-cutting industry that built Oregon. As I now look at the beauty surrounding Detroit Lake, I also see a vast tree plantation of mostly one species, not a true forest. I'm a bit saddened by invasive species such as Scotch Broom and the lack of native plant species that used to support more animal life. I understand the deal struck decades ago to build dams, which kept salmon and steelhead from spawning grounds upstream.

Somewhere, I have a photograph much like the one above, which I took in the summer of 1984, after I took the bar exam and had time to cruise around in my 1962 Cadillac convertible. The scene looks much the same. What I see still thrills me, but now I also know what is missing.

Riding the Circuit

Oregon Highway 197 provides spectacular, forever views of rolling hills to the east and all of the snow-capped Cascades to the west. (Mt. Adams, above).

“The Circuit Rider” is a monumental statute in Portland’s South Park Blocks depicting a larger-than-life judge on a horse, sheltered from the elements with a flowing cape. Yesterday, my shelter on my circuit was an air conditioned car. Clients in The Dalles and Redmond present compelling, heart-wrenching examples of what is wrong with a system of delivering medical “care” that is run by profit-seeking organizations. People and doctors have become the raw materials for profits to some big corporations.

Like much of Norman Rockwell America, gone in places like The Dalles is the "Marcus Welby, M.D." ideal of a caring doctor who develops a long-lasting bond with the patient he protects and serves above all else. Today, too many doctors have lost their independence because they must serve their corporate employers or bend to the will of insurance companies. It's the system that has gone bad, not the doctors, who, I'm sure, would gladly step into the shoes of Marcus Welby if not crippled by student loan debt.I've heard of some doctors who buck the trend by developing a "nanopractice," in which they represent just a few patients and keep overhead down. I hope the nanopractice trickle becomes a flood and shows people there good care can be afforded when you cut out the corporate masters.

Bend was pleasant with sidewalk dining to take advantage of the great weather. I found a place at Marz’s bar, where I encountered a comrade trial lawyer, with whom to enjoy my meal.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Better than a treadmill, by far.

The forest concierge at the Mt. Adams Ranger Station answered my question without hesitation and with a visual aid (map). A ten mile hike that’s not too hard starts at the Buck Creek Trail, connects with the Morrison Creek Trail, then turn right onto the Wicky Trail and back home. I left with the map. About 4 hours into the hike, when I was uncertain of my bearings, a friendly horse rider pulled out the same schematic. Some or all of the route constituted part of last weekend’s Ride & Tie National Championship.

As the trail names foreshadow, I crossed or skirted several creeks, some roaring and others trickling through the woods. The forest changes from healthy, to acres of snags and fallen trees; from relatively tightly-packed to more like a meadow with trees. The route afforded no grand views, but there were a couple of peeks at the peak. Mainly, I wanted to get some exercise and continue to test the hip.

By the way, if you actually reach the horse camp, then you guessed wrong at the last fork in the trail. I learned that from experience, not from the forest concierge.

Two gorgeous days up here in Trout Lake. Couldn’t ask for more perfect weather.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beware of Testy Druids at Stonehenge

Sunrise at summer solstice blinds any human about to be sacrificed on the altar at Stonehenge in Maryhill, Washington. Sam Hill built the astronomically-correct structure as a memorial to the young men of Klickitat County who died in World War I. I thought I’d greet the summer there, but I was not alone. I figured there might be a few oddballs in addition to myself. However, I did not expect what I witnessed.

In the dim light 30 minutes before sunrise, there were about 5 people in a circle holding hands before the altar. That’s cool. Some peaceful contemplation, I thought. Maybe some peace-loving folks praying for the world in their own way.

It got interesting a few minutes later: more cars and people. Some rushing about putting things in order: a burn pot in the center, candles at certain locations. Then, I see a few people put on sheets that could have been purchased at a KKK garage sale. Oh boy, I thought. No dunce caps, however. Instead, a yellow pointed collar, as if the dunce cap was turned upside down and tied around the neck, front and back sides.

A couple others arrived by motorcycle with an odd insignia on the back of the leather jackets: “Illuminati” something. Others were dressed with wool caps, jackets, and other normal clothing.

I’m angling for the best shot of sunrise, but sheet-clad priests have the best spots staked out. At the precise moment, the rag-tag group follows the beat of a drum and their Druid-meister into the circles that constitute Stonehenge. A couple times around, and they settle behind the altar. Then, they do their thing. Singing from the druid cantor, recitations in some language not known to me. In a language I did understand, I heard some stuff about free will, smiting enemies with magic . . . I’m shooting pictures where I can, knowing I’m probably making them uncomfortable, but they are in my way, monopolizing a public place.

At some point I’m back behind the altar because the sun actually appears, despite a few clouds. The little army troops around the circle again. The one motorcycle dude whispers, urgently, “No pictures!”

I say, “I’m not shooting you; I’m shooting the sunrise.”

The other member of the Illuminati motorcycle gang of two passes. With crazy eyes, he declares, “No pictures of the ceremony!”

I ask, “Do you own the place?”

I considered adding, “What? Are you gonna smite me with magic?” Then, I thought that maybe these guys got up too early and missed their medication. It might not be wise to further piss off people who are engaged in a ceremony that preaches killing enemies around a replica of a human sacrifice alter. I had these visions of two dozen misfits making me their target, much like the Illinois Nazis targeted the Blues Brothers. I don’t need a Druid-Meister ordering the Illuminati motorcycle gang to murder me and take my Nikon Coolpix. I did not want nightmares of a small car loaded with large Druid-Priests in their KKK-inspired-Mama-Cass-moo-moos trying to run me over while I’m bicycling. So, I backed off for awhile. Then, I got the shot above, with Druid litter in the foreground.

But if anyone REALLY wants photos of a secret Druid ceremony performed in public, let me know.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Eve with Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty is a rocky outcropping high above the valley in which Trout Lake sets. Best viewed from the back deck of the Country Inn, with a beer in hand, Sleeping Beauty looks kinda like a woman lying down. I've heard she looked more like a woman before the government dynamited her nose for a fire-watch.

The Stairmaster®-like trail to the top makes for a decent work out. On a past trip, upon summiting, Allyson and I spied a family of mountain goats jumping around effortlessly on places I would never go near for fear of falling to an unpretty death. Today, I headed up knowing that the view might be obscured by a cloud. Sleeping Beauty was performing its duty of blocking some of the marine-like clouds that has socked-in Portland. It was bright and sunny in Hood River, and partly sunny in Trout Lake. Part of the goal was to test my bionic hip on a steep incline and decline, so a view would be a bonus, not the purpose of the trip.

The trail was clear. But the top remained in the clouds, with a blustery wind. Occasional drops fell from trees, not clouds. It was condensation hitting me near the top. So, workout accomplished, but no view down to the Country Inn or the rest of the valley today.

Below is video from the hike. Top photo taken the following evening. (Timing is everything.)