Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Welcome, Owls!

Since late last summer, one of my goals for 2010 was to hike the Icicle Ridge Trail in its entirety, from Stevens Pass to the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth, Washington. Looking for company, I seemingly found a willing accomplice in the form of one Kelly Tjaden.

So it was, on Wednesday, August 21, I departed for Owl Farm in the great State of Washington for yet another backcountry adventure.

We decided to incorporate our interest in backcountry excursions by forming the Inter-Galactic Legion of Owls (IGLOO) for like minded individuals who like to frolic in the forest and wallow in the wilderness (http://gonzopublicrelations.blogspot.com/2009/08/ode-to-owl-elegant-fowl.html). We do not discriminate: IGLOO has a very diverse membership, including screwheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, the doomed and other mutants.

The only requirement to become a fully practicing member of IGLOO is that you like to get out into the backcountry. Our mascot, if you will, is the antagonist from Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster (that 1965 classic sci-fi stinkeroo), one Dr. Nadir (below).

Captivatingly played by Lou Cutell (you might remember him from other roles like "Amazing Larry" in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, "Deacon" in Little Big Man or "Frightened Villager" in Young Frankenstein), Dr. Nadir is best known for his line: "Range, 700. Maximum firepower!"

Oh, by the way, IGLOO does discriminate against one group in particular: whiners need not apply.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Rogue's Gallery, 8/10-14: Denouement

We have consensus among Kelly, Frank and myself -- our trip down the Rogue River was an incredible experience, for a variety of reasons.

First, tip o' the hat to Rogue River Journeys -- as well as Phil and Mary DeRiemer -- for a well-organized and most enjoyable excursion through the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River. In addition to a great group of guides, the eclectic group of rafters and paddlers meshed perfectly. I couldn't imagine a more delightful group of folks.

For me personally, it was great to have a true wilderness trip where I could actually relax and enjoy the experience. Refreshed and invigorated, I am indeed ready for more of this kind of thing.

Frank was quoted as saying this journey down the Rogue River was the "highlight" of his summer. I reminded Frank that -- like Frank Lloyd Wright said when asked about his favorite structure -- his best trip would be his "next one." But Frank's point is well taken.

We both enjoyed the trip immensely -- engaging in interesting discussions with Beau on forestry, movies and other odd tangeants -- and even took our turns in the inflatable kayaks.

Kelly had a good time despite back pain that prevented him from being more aggressive in his maneuvers in his hard-shell kayak. He's on the mend now.

And as Kelly would say, there will be "more to come."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rogue River, Day 4: Tacoma Rapids to Foster Bar

Day 4, which would be our final miles on the river, provided yet more surprises for the cast and crew of our little wilderness theatre.

One of the guidebooks had described the Rogue River as "floating through a zoo" because of the plentiful eagles, osprey, deer, bear, chinook salmon, steelhead and wildflowers. But even that description falls short of what I witnessed right before we pulled over at our lunch spot (below) on this final day.

Beau and I took position as lead boat right before lunch since we were the first through the Clay Hill rapids. As we "eddied out" to wait for the inflatable kayaks to make it through, we witnessed the most unusual avian display.

Right next to our boat on shore was a vulture munching on a fish; however, his lunch was short lived because a young bald eagle drops by and chases the vulture away, claiming the lunch as its own.

That scene lasted less than a minute as a mature bald eagle swoops down from the trees, scoops up the fish and flies away. As the mature bald eagle is making a getaway, two osprey dive-bomb the bird like a couple of P-51 Mustang fighter planes attacking a B-29 in WWII.

It was a most amazing sight. "The fish was probably the property of the ospreys to begin with," mused Beau.

Since we had been "squinked" the night before and -- as a result -- come so far the previous day, we disembarked our respective craft at Foster Bar relatively early in the day, which worked out well because the long and winding road back to our starting point took awhile.

Back at Galice, we bade a fond farewell to our newfound friends and, after a quick drink at the bar, Frank, Kelly and I headed toward Eugene, Corvallis and and points north.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rogue River, Day 3: Missouri Bar to Tacoma Rapids

Day 3 on Friday, August 13 was perhaps the most interesting day of our journey, primarily for two reasons: Rogue River Ranch and Mule Creek Canyon, but also for the delightful wine tasting event and games led by our multi-talented guides.

The Rogue River Ranch (below) is a pioneer farm complex, though it appears likely that a permanent Native American village existed at the site. Nestled in the heart of the wild section of the river at its junction with Mule Creek, the ranch evolved as a gold-mining community, with as many as 100 resident trying to scratch a living from the river. The Rogue River Ranch is -- in a word -- remote.

One of the most unusual stretches of river came after our stop at Rogue River Ranch when we entered Mule Creek Canyon. Seemingly otherworldly, the canyon has vertical rock walls that create strange currents and boils.Without much room to maneuver, skill is necessary to avoid slamming into the walls. Mule Creek Canyon included a number of rapids including "Jaws" and "Coffee Pot." Stair Creek Falls (right) cascades into an alcove along the left bank. Check out the singularly unique ride through Mule Creek Canyon.

Next up is Blossom Bar, which has a storied history. Early settlers in the area named it for the lush azaleas that decorate the canyon. Located at the mouth of two steep drainages with an abundance of boulders that clog the river, Blossom Bar (Class IV) is the most difficult whitewater in the Wild and Scenic corridor.

Even though we had a boat scouting out campsites that day, we got "squinked" (in river parlance, "squinked" means getting aced out of your intended campsite by other boaters) and had to settle for a campsite known as "Last Chance" below Tacoma Rapids.

That evening -- being our last night on the river and all -- the guides conducted an interactive wine tasting activity.It's always amazing how -- with a bit of wine and good spirits -- folks can, ahem, let their hair down (left).

After another delicious dinner, the guides -- including our fearless river captain Beau (above, explaining the rules to the players) -- led this eclectic group in a number of parlor games, just for the fun of it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rogue River, Day 2: Tyee Bar to Missouri Bar

Breaking camp after a sumptuous breakfast, Day 2 on the river started off with a bang when a couple of inflatable kayakers -- Emily and her son Oliver -- flipped their boats in Wildcat Rapids, a Class III riffle that will overturn inflatable kayaks that go sideways.

Since our raft (like the one above with Kathryn, another proud graduate of the University of Oregon, at the helm) was the closest, Frank and I got to practice our rescue skills almost immediately that morning. I've rarely felt so valued as a human being. After Wildcat Rapids, we had a succession of rapids with colorful names like "Quiz Show," "Slim Pickens" and "Kelsey Chutes."

After those rapids, we stopped at the Zane Grey Cabin (below). An American author, Zane Grey (1872-1939) was best known for his adventure novels and stories that presented an idealized image of the American West, which was popularized even more with the advent of television: you know, like Bonanza.

Grey penned stories like Riders of the Purple Sage and other books adapted for television, such as The Lone Ranger and Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. An avid fisherman (his son claimed that Grey fished about 300 days a year), he maintained rustic residences in Florida, Arizona and Catalina Island in addition to his cabin on the Rogue River.

Our camp that night was Missouri Bar (below), where once again we dined like gourmands thanks to the epicurian skills of our guides. The shot of camp below was taken from our tent site.

A nice perch for a tent site, the location was a good new/bad news situation. Bad news first: the area was rife with poison oak. The good news? It was likely the best spot to watch the Perseid meteor shower that night: shooting stars everywhere against the blackened sky.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rogue River, Day 1: Argo Launch to Tyee Bar

We arrived in Galice on the evening of August 10. We had booked a room at The Galice Resort, across the street from our rendezvous point with Rogue River Journeys -- an outfitter based in Bayside, California -- the next morning at 8 a.m. The establishment had a restaurant, and perhaps more importantly, a bar.

Our room only had two beds (but even more vitally a shower, because we would be on the river for the next three nights). So we brought a cot, and the three of us "roughed it" a bit on the first night.

The next morning, we met Beau (below) -- who in addition to Kathryn, Will, Chip and Phil -- was one of five river guides employed by Rogue River Journeys for this trip. A research forester from Missoula, Montana, Beau has spent many a summer as a river guide on a number of waterways in the western United States.

After breakfast and a pre-launch meeting in the parking lot, we proceeded to Argo Launch -- less than two miles from the beginning of the wild and scenic (read: wilderness) section of the Rogue River corridor. Frank and I jumped into Beau's raft and Kelly had his hard-shell kayak. The "flotilla," if you will, included five rafts, a half-dozen inflatable kayaks and about a dozen hard-shell kayakers.

After wrapping all our stuff into dry bags and a brief orientation session -- including showing us how to pull "swimmers" back into a boat -- we embarked. The river was mellow at first, but it didn't take long to reach our first Class III rapid at Grave Creek. Further down river at Rainey Falls, we skirted the rough stuff by taking the fish ladder, but hard-shell kayak instructor Phil DeRiemer (below) braved the 12-foot drop along the left bank in textbook fashion.

All in all a very pleasant day in a raft: with the sun beating down on us, the splash water provided a refreshing interlude through a number of riffles and rapids like our last serious rapid (below) before establishing camp at Tyee Bar.

After disembarking at Tyee Bar, the guides -- who had set up a shady spot with tarp and oars and distributed cold beer and pop liberally -- unloaded the rafts and initiated preparations for dinner. As I relaxed with a cold Budweiser shaded from the hot sun, I almost felt guilty.

In case you're wondering, the operative word there is "almost."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rogue Rats

Last month, friend and former fellow wilderness ranger Kelly Tjaden suggested that we raft down the Rogue River in southern Oregon.

As I considered his proposal, I realized that although I had lived in Oregon for most of my life, I had never been down the Rogue. That cinched it; I called Rogue River Journeys, an outfitter based in Bayside, California, and booked a rafting trip.

The waterway known for its salmon runs, whitewater rafting and rugged wilderness was one of the original eight rivers named in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Beginning at Boundary Springs in Crater Lake National Park, the Rogue River flows 215 miles from its headwaters through the young (geologically-speaking) High Cascades and the older Western Cascades, another volcanic province.

Continuing in a westerly direction, the Rogue River passes through the more ancient Klamath Mountains in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area before flowing into the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach.

So on Tuesday, August 10, I departed Eugene -- along with Kelly and friend Frank Czubiak (top) -- for the three-hour drive to Galice, west of Grants Pass, on the Rogue River.

It would eventually become -- as they say -- the trip of a lifetime.

Friday, August 6, 2010

We Belong

When Rebecca and I first met while working for the United States Forest Service back in 1978 (bottom), one of the first things we learned about each other was that we both had an abiding appreciation of most forms of music.

One of the many musicians we listened to in those halcyon days was a young rocker by the name of Pat Benatar (left).

So it's probably no surprise that when Pat Benatar and her band (including husband Neil "Spyder" Giraldo) showed up at the Cuthbert Amphitheatre in Eugene on August 4, we had tickets.

Since her musical training was strictly classical and theatrical, Benatar had plans to attend the Julliard School. But even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and she became a rocker.

Turned out to be a good move: the four-time Grammy Award winner has had multiple platinum and gold albums and 19 Top 40 singles, and she was one of the most heavily played artists in the early days of MTV. At the concert, Benatar played a number of fan favorites from her catalogue of tunes, including "Heartbreaker," "Hell Is For Children,""Promises In The Dark" and "Shadows Of The Night."

She also played "We Belong," which we both remember from "way back when." Most of the younger crowd, however, may recall the tune from the comedy "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dj2o7a-DpAo).

During the show, Benatar noted proudly that she and Giraldo had been married 29 years: not bad in this day and age. Rebecca and I could relate; we'll celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary this November.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sweet Home Chicago

As a member of the national nominating committee of the Public Relations Society of America, I traveled to Chicago, Illinois (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8hqGu-leFc) and spent July 30-August 1 sequestered with others from around the country to determine the slate of candidates for 2011 national leadership.

Committee members must sign a waiver because of past issues relating to confidentiality, so I can't dish a whole lot of information on who said what. But I can say that the process was simultaneously interesting, invigorating and exhausting.

Holed up in the Chicago O'Hare Airport Hilton, a group of 17 public relations professionals from various PRSA districts and sections spent the better parts of three days interviewing 22 candidates for national office and deliberating over the results to decide the slate.

After attending a dinner meeting on Friday night, we met just after 7 a.m. the next morning and finished a day of deliberation and decision close to midnight. On Sunday, we worked from about 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. I just made it to the gate for my flight back to Eugene with only 3 minutes to spare before boarding was to begin.

It was an educational experience -- and an honor and privilege -- to work with such a dedicated and delightful group of public relations practitioners representing more than 22,000 members nationally in helping to decide the 2011 PRSA leadership slate.