Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Running On Empty

Running on empty? Are we talking about the miserable state of the economy in the United States? Or perhaps the dreaded "end of oil?" (

Well, uh, neither actually.

Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne and longtime collaborator David Lindley blew into Eugene for a concert at the Cuthbert Amphitheatre, where they performed Browne's seminal hit "Running On Empty" and a host of other classic ballads on Tuesday, July 27.

Gina, Jory and I had good seats up front for the show. In addition to a variety of eclectic tunes performed individually and together, these talented musicians performed a number of old standards including "Late for the Sky," "I'm Alive," "Too Many Angels" and "Doctor My Eyes."

Fantastic show all around.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Full Circle

On Thursday, July 15, it was back to Owl Farm for a bit of frolicking in the forest -- as well as fraternizing with friends -- for a week.

One reason for the trip was to attend a program on Forest Service history at Barn Beach Reserve in Leavenworth, Washington. The program was billed as a "trip back through time" with A.H. "Hal" Sylvester, the Wenatchee National Forest Supervisor from 1908-31.

So, along with fellow former wilderness ranger Kelly Tjaden and his grandson Zachary, we witnessed a one-man performance of the life and times of Hal Sylvester as portrayed by Denny McMillin (left, in character), our supervisor during our Forest Service days on the Lake Wenatchee Ranger District, on Friday, July 16.

Denny was Resource Assistant on the Lake Wenatchee Ranger District when Kelly (below, right) and I roamed the Glacier Peak Wilderness back in the '70s.

Sylvester, a pioneer surveyor and explorer, was initially a topographer for the U.S. Geological Service. His work involved the first detailed surveying and mapping of large portions of the Cascade Range in the State of Washington.

Over the course of his career, he named as many as 3,000 natural features in the Cascades -- including the Enchantments, a series of Hobbit-like pools high in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness southwest of Leavenworth. His names were often creative and patterned, sometimes practical and descriptive, and occasionally whimsical.

His survey work often required placing cairns and other survey targets on top of mountains; as a result, he made a number of first ascents on peaks in heretofore unexplored areas known only to indigenous people. Tragically, Sylvester was mortally wounded when his horse panicked an a steep and rocky slope while leading a party of friends to one of his favorite parts of the mountains.

Sylvester once wrote that of all the many places he had explored, the Buck Creek Pass area in the upper Chiwawa River Valley was the most beautiful. The Chiwawa River empties into the Wenatchee River adjacent to Owl Farm, our mountain property near Plain, Washington.

On Tuesday, July 20, friend and Owl Farm neighbor Frank Czubiak joined me for a hike into Lake Valhalla (left and below), one of the many wilderness lakes named by Sylvester, a literary enthusiast with a penchant for mythology and the classics.

Valhalla, from Scandinavian mythology, is the hall of Odin (the Supreme Being) where the souls of heroes slain in battle and others who have died bravely are received (read: heaven for martyrs for the cause).

Lake Valhalla is located on the Pacific Crest Trail north of Stevens Pass in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness. That morning, Frank and I motored up the Little Wenatchee River over Rainy Pass to the trailhead at Smithbrook.

The mile-long Smithbrook trail connects to the PCT at Union Gap. The route then proceeds another 2.5 miles south to Lake Valhalla. It was a good day for hiking, though the mosquitoes were hatching rapidly by afternoon. Thank God for bug dope.

In addition to seeing Denny and our hike, Frank and I spent quality time with Chuck Ferguson, Roger Wallace, Steve Steinke and other friends from our Forest Service days that week.

We had, as Kelly so eloquently described it, come "full circle," from our days as seasonal wilderness rangers working their way through college, through busy professional careers, and back.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Feeling Ducky

Like virtually thousands of other University of Oregon men's basketball fans, I have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to select my seats in the new Matthew Knight Arena (right) on the UO campus. The big day finally arrived on Tuesday, July 13.

My friend Randy Enders and I proceeded to Autzen Stadium and rode the elevator to Duck benefactor Phil Knight's sky suite, where the selection process would take place.

As a 25-year season ticket holder to UO men's basketball, I liked our chances for decent seats in the new arena. Though by no stretch of the imagination could we be considered large donors to the program, we would nonetheless be rewarded for our loyalty with a grouping in the second tier of fans allowed to choose their seats.

Our goal? Find the best seats for the most reasonable cost. The result? Mission accomplished. We now have front row seats in the rear loge section wedged strategically between the student sections and directly behind the band.

It's as if the powers-that-be felt it appropriate to put Mr. Ducklips ( in the noisiest corner of the arena. Gotta love it.

My hat is off to the folks in the UO Athletic Department for developing a well organized process that was fair and equitable. Go Ducks!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Name Is "Mittwochen"

Being semi-retired, one of the first lessons I learned was that the best time to do virtually anything -- from shopping at Market of Choice to hiking in the backcountry -- is the middle of the week, when everyone else is either at work or school.

So in the spirit of adopting a trail name like all of the through-hikers I met on the Pacific Crest Trail last summer, I have borrowed "Midwochen" (German for "Wednesdays"), from GonzoPR Chief Spokesman Helmut Vallindaklopf, as my trail name for 2010.

Thus newly-christened, I departed Owl Farm for the Minotaur Lake trailhead up Rainy Creek in the upper Little Wenatchee River drainage on Thursday, July 8.My goal was to climb Labyrinth Mountain, a 6300-foot massif that looms over both Minotaur (top) and Theseus (bottom) Lakes in the Henry M. (Scoop) Jackson Wilderness, a smaller preserve on the south end of the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) was -- along with Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wash.) and Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.)-- one of the last great Northwest pork-barrel politicians of the 20th century.

As chair of the U.S. Senate's Interior Committee, Jackson shepherded passage of much of the significant environmental legislation of the 1960s, including The Wilderness Act, which immediately protected 9 million acres of wilderness land and created a procedure for protecting additional backcountry as wilderness.

The trail to the top of Labyrinth Mountain starts at the Minotaur Lake Trailhead and ascends about 2,500 feet to the summit of the peak, which features an outstanding view of Glacier Peak (below).

Most of the natural features in the area were named by A.H. Sylvester, a topographer for the U.S. Geological Service and the first forest supervisor of the Wenatchee National Forest. His whimsical names were often creative, patterned and unusual while sometimes practical and descriptive.

In Greek mythology, the Minotaur -- a nasty creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man -- was held captive by King Minos of Crete in the Labyrinth, an elaborate maze-like prison. The Minotaur was eventually killed by Theseus, the founder/hero of Athens. Sylvester named Labyrinth Mountain for the complex contours of the peak.

At the trailhead, I met two young hikers from Leavenworth -- Isaac and Lily (right). I let them go first because they would have passed me anyway. But I caught them at Minotaur Lake, while they enjoyed a nice leisurely lunch.

I trudged on in the snow and actually reached the summit first, but they weren't far behind. They very graciously snapped some pix, including the shot at bottom in front of Theseus.

As a parenthetical footnote, I'm heading back to Owl Farm this week for more backcountry adventures and the opportunity to see my supervisor from my Forest Service days -- Denny McMillin -- perform his one-man show of the life and times of A.H. Sylvester.