Friday, February 27, 2009

The Committee

"The Committee" is a loose confederation of mountain mavens, backcountry bozos and wilderness wombats who worked together for many years at Eugene Water & Electric Board. All shared a love of climbing. We all worked in the Conservation Department, later known as Energy Management Services, at Eugene's public utility.

Together, we have scaled many of the peaks in the Cascade Range, including Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Diamond Peak, North Sister, Middle Sister (above, with North Sister in the background), South Sister, Mt. McLoughlin (below, with Klamath Lake in the background), Mt. Scott, Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey, just to name a few.

The Committee consists of fellow EWEBers Steve Still, Mark Grediagin, John Mitchell, P. Steve Stuart, Bill Welch, Bob Lorenzen and Tommy "T-Bone" Williams.  Mark was a prodigious backcountry traveler and his place over in Sunriver, Oregon provided a base for many of our expeditions into the wilderness.

Mark, or Markee as I called him, owned llamas, so we appreciated the fact that these beasts of burden could pack the heavy stuff (including beer) and all we had to do was take care of ourselves. Markee (below) passed away in 2009, but the surviving members of The Committee carry his memory with us on every backcountry trek.

The Mark of Comfort

My friend and climbing partner Mark Grediagin passed away this week after a long struggle with cancer at the age of 53. But don't feel sorry for Mark: this dude stomped on the terra.  A cancer survivor in his 20s, Mark lived an adventure-filled life and had many friends.

Here we are together (above) on the summit of Mt. St. Helens -- long after the eruption, of course -- with a significantly reconfigured Spirit Lake and Mt. Rainier (ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level), the most glaciated peak in the Lower 48, in the background.

We met in the mid-1980's working in Eugene Water & Electric Board's Conservation Department, he an energy analyst and me a public relations practitioner. We bonded quickly with a group of other ne'er-do-wells to found what we lovingly call "The Committee."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Being There

Much of what it takes to being a good photographer is -- as my friend and photographer Roger Wallace would surely agree -- being in the right place at the right time.

I captured the photo above at sunrise from the summit of Mount Hood on Father's Day, 2001. Having climbed the mountain most of the night, we -- my friends Tom Maloney, Tim Whitley and I -- arrived at the precipice of the summit at dawn.  This is the view looking west toward Portland.

After a long drive from Eugene, we starting climbing at around 10 p.m. and reached "The Hogsback" on the south approach to the summit about 4 a.m.  Waiting until the first signs light, we circumvented the bergschrund at the top of the Hogsback and slipped through the "Pearly Gates" to the summit at daylight.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Bavarian Village

The town of Leavenworth, Washington, also known as "The Bavarian Village" is the closest incorporated municipality to the Owl Farm. Located in the upper part of the Wenatchee Valley on the eastern slopes of the Cascades, Leavenworth was established in the late 19th Century by pioneers in search of gold, furs and fertile farmland. The town soon blossomed with the arrival of the Great Northern Railway.

But by the middle part of the 20th Century, the town was dying. The Great Northern Railway re-routed the line and the local sawmill and a healthy logging industry eventually fell apart. What was once a bustling, thriving hub of commerce was reduced to a hollow, empty community -- a town living on the edge of extinction.

But in the 1960s, everything changed thanks to a band of visionaries, who worked with the University of Washington School of Architecture to revamp the town's appearance with hopes of attracting tourism to the area. Using the beautiful backdrop of the surrounding Alpine-like hills and mountains to its advantage, Leavenworth citizens agreed to remodel their hamlet in the form of a Bavarian village. Creating more than a mere facelift, the entire community rallied to create the illusion of Bavaria in the middle of Washington State.

Today, Leavenworth is one of the most successful theme towns in the West, attracting more than a million tourists to community events like the Autumn Leaf Festival, Maifest and the popular Christmas lighting ceremony (below).

With only about 2,500 residents, Leavenworth's population can swell exponentially during special events (these are the times we locals refer to Leavenworth as "The Barbarian Village"). But, kidding aside, Leavenworth is a wonderful community where we have many friends, not to mention groceries stores, gas stations, hardware outlets and more that we need to survive at Owl Farm.