Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Granddaddy Of Them All

After a fantastic season that would rival last season’s unprecedented success, the University of Oregon Ducks football team returns to the Rose Bowl -- the granddaddy of them all -- after a two-year hiatus to face the University of Wisconsin Badgers on Monday, January 2.

Finishing undefeated in the Pac-10 last year, the Ducks lost a close contest to Auburn University, 22-19, in the BCS national championship game at the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona in January, 2011.

This season, the Ducks lost their opener to perennial power Louisiana State University (this year's #1), sustaining minimal damage to their hopes for another BCS berth, thanks to a respectable defeat to a highly ranked team from the SEC.

Nearly running the table after that, save for a tightly-contested setback to USC, the Ducks won 10 of their next 11 games and pummeled UCLA in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game and the right to represent the league in the Rose Bowl.

As a longtime season ticket holder, I was able to secure two seats for the pageant in Pasadena (right) for my Dad, Ralph Mitchell, and his wife Florence. They will attend the game on their way back to Sun Lakes, Arizona for the winter.

As for me and mine, we'll be watching the Rose Bowl intently on the tube, and I'll be seeking occasional counsel from the Duck deity (below) during the contest. A Christmas present from EWEB buddy Paul Emmel at our department's annual gift exchange, the retro decanter comes with easy-to-follow instructions.

"How to use the Duck deity: 1) fill with whiskey; 2) rub head; 3) pray for turnovers; 4) drink contents; 5) proceed to game; 6) repeat #1 and #4 if losing in the third quarter." The best-case scenario? I won't need to repeat any steps, of course. Go Ducks!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pasco Pilgrimage

Took our last road trip of 2011, a pilgrimage of sorts, to the Tri-Cities in Washington State to visit with Rebecca's brother Doug and other family members who live in the area from December 18-22.

Tri-Cities resides at the confluence of three major Northwest waterways -- the Columbia, Snake and Yakima Rivers. Together, the cities of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland comprise the third largest metropolitan area in Washington behind Seattle-Tacoma and Spokane.

Because the trip is over 300 miles -- or about six hours by car from Eugene -- we stopped in Hood River to break up the drive. We stayed at the usual spot on trips to our property near Lake Wenatchee, the Sunset Hotel, a dog-friendly facility where the views of Mt. Adams (above) are evident from every room.

Rebecca grew up in Kennewick (population 73,917), but Doug lives in Pasco (population 59,781), and Becky also has family in Richland (population 48,058). Doug recently moved into a new home adjacent to farmland that stretches as far as the eye can see (below).

Despite the influence of the nearby Hanford Nuclear Site, agriculture remains a big part of of virtually every sector of the economy in Tri-Cities, particularly Pasco. Potatoes, wheat, apples, corn, cherries and asparagus are just a few of the commonly grown crops, thanks to the excellent soil and abundant irrigation from the three nearby rivers.

The area also has a burgeoning wine industry, with more than 160 wineries within an hour's drive. The semi-arid Tri-Cities, which resides at the same latitude as the Burgundy and Bodeaux regions of France, is known for its high-end premium wines. The Columbia Basin's volcanic soil, along with hot summer days and crisp, cool evenings, create conditions for making great wine.

Carmen, our beloved golden retriever, enjoyed long walks in the potato patches and hay fields north of Pasco, where she stalked the elusive field mouse (below).

On our return trip, we stopped in Portland for Christmas dinner with the Mitchell clan at the Bridgeport Brewery in the Pearl District. When all was said and done, it was a delightful holiday caravan, with dry roads and great company to end the year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Standing With The Hat

The big news around these parts is that University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere has been fired "without cause" by the state Board of Higher Education and -- for all intents and purposes -- Governor John Kitzhaber in a major showing of no confidence.

The day after Thanksgiving, with nary an attempt at transparency, the board scheduled a meeting on Monday, November 28 to discuss the apparently predetermined "finis" of the popular Lariviere. The tactic was an ingenuous ruse at best, and a public relations disaster for state government at worst. Campus was closed on Friday and most associated with UO were enjoying the four-day weekend.

When news surfaced about the Monday meeting in Portland, the antennae of conspiracy immediately sprouted on the UO campus. My UO email in-box overflowed with outraged yet well-reasoned prose opposing his termination by members of the greater UO community.

Calls to retain the UO president and disband the board reverberated around the campus. Saddled with a barrage of digital communication, it was hard for me to discern the desperate pleas of mercy from students seeking an extended deadline on an assignment.

Shocked like many others in the UO community, it wasn't a question of whether I had a dog in this fight, but how many.

As a UO alum, I've observed with heightened concern over the diminishing state support for higher education over the past 30 years. The State of Oregon now provides less than 7 percent of the funding for the University of Oregon. It's hard to maintain "excellence" when the fiscal noose continues to tighten, squeezing the life out of my alma mater like a python strangling its prey.

Yet despite continued reductions in state support, the UO has survived and -- indeed -- thrived, thanks in part to Lariviere. Enrollment and fundraising are at an all-time high, and Lariviere has a vision and a talent for inspiring others on campus to strive for an even better University of Oregon.

As a longstanding part-time employee of the University of Oregon, I've seen talented faculty recruited by other, more well heeled universities because of below market compensation policies, particularly when compared to faculty at other public institutions. Quality of life only takes you so far. Lariviere knows this and recently awarded $5 million in pay raises to 1,300 UO faculty and staff.

As a consumer who has helped put his kids through UO, I've witnessed increasing tuition rates to help compensate for the loss of funding from the state. Backed into a corner, the UO has established a business model that utilizes out-of-state and international student tuition rates to balance the budget. In-state tuition is less but continues to rise faster than the consumer price index.

The University of Oregon currently receives less money from the state per capita than any other public university in Oregon.

It's not a pretty picture, and no matter how you slice it, the state has withdrawn its investment in higher education.

Lariviere's "New Partnership" initiative sought to address the shortfall and bring greater financial autonomy to the UO.

My personal experience with UO President Richard Lariviere is strictly anecdotal, though he has impressed me as someone I would want on my team. The first time I met the man was on my path to school one morning. Passing him on my way to Allen Hall, he tipped his ever-present fedora and smiled: "good morning." As a humble adjunct faculty member at the UO SOJC, I was immediately impressed.

My next encounter was the result of an impromptu photo shoot during the parade last January to honor the Ducks for their stellar football season. I shot a number of pix and posted them on Facebook; his wife, Jan Lariviere, spotted one of my images of her husband and asked to be my "friend" on the social networking site. Later, Richard himself would "friend" me (has "friend" become a verb?)

When Lariviere was informed that his contract would not be renewed, he sent all faculty, staff and students an email: "I received news on Monday in a meeting with the chair of the state Board of Higher Education that my contract at the University of Oregon will not be renewed. I was told that I could resigned or accept the termination of my contract (in July, 2012). I am weighing those options at this time."

Clearly, he had irked the board, an antiquated and ineffectual -- and in this case draconian -- body of volunteers, as well as Governor John Kitzhaber, for "not being a team player" and for pursuing his own agenda of a more independent University of Oregon.

Unfortunately for the board, its back-alley effort to terminate Lariviere over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend backfired. The local community and many others rallied behind Richard Lariviere with a grassroots "We Stand With The Hat" campaign in an attempt to force the board to retain the UO president.

A rally and teach-in was scheduled for Monday on campus, and support for the president was pervasive at the annual Civil War football game between Oregon and Oregon State at Autzen Stadium on Saturday, November 26. UO alum and Nike founder Phil Knight likened the board's impending action against Lariviere as a "bad decision" that seemed to resemble an "application of Oregon's assisted suicide law."

On Monday, a large contingent of UO faculty, alumni and students packed the room at Portland State University in a two-hour public meeting that can only be described as testy, volatile and emotionally wrought. "It was quite warm in that room, over 100 degrees," noted eyewitness Loren Ruark, a KVAL-TV cameraman and friend who observed the resulting fireworks. He may have been only mildly exaggerating about the temperature: "it was hot," he added.

The efforts of supporters would not be enough; the state Board of Higher Education fired Lariviere for "frayed relationships" and "broken trust." Response was instantaneous and harsh: board members were met with jeers and boos as they attempted to explain their positions.

If anything, the abrupt dismissal of Richard Lariviere has only fanned the flames of efforts to support the UO's quest to survive.

And, in a case of 20-20 hindsight that can only be described as a "make up call" in sports parlance, the board has appointed Lariviere's part time assistant Robert Berdahl -- a former University of Oregon professor and dean -- as interim president, a clear showing of deference to the greater UO community.

As for Lariviere, stay tuned. As a tenured professor in Sanskrit, we may continue to see "the hat" on campus for some time to come.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Agate Hall

Starting to settle into the new environs in vintage Agate Hall (above), where the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication has moved on an interim basis while Allen Hall is expanded and remodeled. With a total of 47 students in two sections of public relations writing, I'm keeping plenty busy.

Most seem to agree: the new facility is both comfortable and spacious, a welcome respite from crowded Allen Hall. Agate Hall sits opposite Hayward Field and the new soccer fields (below), with recently retired McArthur Court in the background.

Designed in the California "mission style" using a stucco exterior on a rectangular floor plan, Agate Hall was contructed in 1924 as Theodore Roosevelt Junior High School, making it eligible for the national historic register. The facility is eerily similar to the Catholic grade school I attended for eight years in Portland, down to the antiquated urinals in the restroom.

Agate Hall became Condon Elementary School in 1950, and eventually housed the first Magnet Arts Alternative School. The Eugene School District closed the school in 1983 due to low enrollment. The UO acquired the property in 1984 and named it Agate Hall.

The chimney on Agate Hall is decommissioned but has become a local curiosity because of the large number of Vaux's Swifts roosting inside the stack during their annual summer migration. When the swifts vacate the chimney in September, it's a sight that rivals the bats abandoning the Congress Avenue Bridge at sunset in Austin, Texas.

Since I walk virtually everywhere these days, I have a new route to class. Allen Hall resides in the northwest corner -- while Agate Hall is located in the southeast corner -- of the UO campus.

So instead of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, I now skirt the music school where I enjoy the melodic strains of the woodwinds and keyboards, and the Pioneer Cemetery, a virtual arboretum in the middle of campus.

Students (above, hard at work) and staff alike seem to be acclimating quite nicely to the new j-school digs in Agate Hall. I also love how the writing labs provide for an open forum for teaching. Plus, we have our own auditorium complete with a second story balcony.

Now, if I can just get over that foreboding sense that -- at any moment -- Mother Superior will burst into the restroom, barking at us to return to our seats....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dues Dilemma

Made my annual sojourn to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Leadership Assembly, this year in Orlando, Florida on October 14-18. That exercise in governance was followed by the PRSA/PRSSA International Conference, both held at the J.W. Marriott at Grande Lakes (above), a chic facility and convention center adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton near the headwaters of the Everglades.

The "elephant in the living room" at Leadership Assembly was a hotly-debated dues increase for members, always a tough proposition but particularly gnarly in a down economy when small chapters struggle to maintain membership. Sentiment among smaller chapters favored a "no" vote in discussions on North Pacific District conference calls, while larger chapters favored the increase, the first in 10 years.

Despite the apparent split, the proposal passed by a nearly 4-1 margin (209-53) and will raise annual PRSA dues by $30 in 2012. Most delegates appeared to understand the rationale for a dues increase, thanks to a lot of front-end work by the national board. Discussion of the proposal lasted a mere 10 minutes.

The only sideshow -- per usual -- was Jack O'Dwyer, purported journalist and self-appointed watchdog of PRSA. For the first time, Jack was refused a press pass to the PRSA Leadership Assembly and, needless to say, he was not happy. He nonetheless lingered nearby for the remainder of the conference, badgering leadership in the hotel bar at the J.W. Marriott at Grande Lakes.

The Leadership Assembly also expeditiously approved the slate of national PRSA officers and amazingly adjourned by 3 p.m. -- a new record for early conclusion in my six years as an assembly delegate representing both the Greater Oregon chapter and the North Pacific District of PRSA. Delegates could hardly contain their delight, gleefully scattering to the pool for a lawn chair and a Cuba Libre.

The next day, the PRSA/PRSSA International Conference began with a theme of Imagine, Create, Inspire. The opening ceremony featured Disney's Voices of Liberty (below), considered the finest a capella singing group in the world. As you might expect, Walt Disney World was a major sponsor of the conference.

Following the opening ceremonies, the conference featured two amazing keynoters: CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O'Brien and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, Peter Diamandis.

O'Brien, who has worked at CNN since 2003, reports breaking news from around the globe and has produced documentaries on many important stories affecting the world today in her In America series. She noted that, like journalists, public relations professionals need to be good storytellers for their client or company: "we both deal in stories. Humans have always been connected to stories. Storytelling is more than just a compelling fact or statistic."

Diamandis was also a dynamic speaker; I first learned of his X PRIZE Foundation when reading Paul Allen's memoir, Idea Man. An international leader in the development of the personal spaceflight industry, Diamandis founded the educational non-profit institute with a mission to affect radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.

"True breakthrough ideas don't come out of large corporations or organizations with top-down structures," he noted, saying that it was smaller teams consisting of diverse and non-traditional individuals -- isolated from the whole -- who have found success. He cited Apple and IBM as examples.

"The 'expert' is the one to tell you why something cannot be done, not the one with the crazy idea," he says. "The fact is that it's the crazy idea that will lead to a breakthrough." In other words, he seemed to be saying: "Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?"

For the remainder of the conference, I spent time in professional development seminars on the use of social media in public relations, research and measurement and the like, as well as hanging with my peeps from the University of Oregon chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (below).

Otherwise, I could be found sipping a Cuba Libre by the hotel pool.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Owl Song

Initiated an impromptu trip to Lake Wenatchee (above, with Dirty Face Peak in the background) with Rebecca -- and Carmen, our golden retriever -- on September 22-25. Had to button up Owl Farm for the winter and help friend Kelly Tjaden replace a beam on the foundation of the tree house he's building on our property.

Leaving Eugene on Thursday morning early, we gutted it out the full 400-plus miles to Plain, Washington in time for a barbeque salmon dinner on the property. Carmen loves frolicking in the woods and the rivers, so she would enjoy being in her element.

Kelly arrived on Friday and we spent some time rounding up a few more 2 by 12s to beef up the existing beam on the tree house (above), the south side of a triangular foundation. On Saturday, we spent time putting together a heftier beam that would be twice as large as the original in an effort to bolster the previously sagging span.

When completed, the renovated beam would measure 8 inches by 12 inches by 18 feet in length. The final product looked heavy, so we put in a call for reinforcements and neighbor Thomas Steinke gamely volunteered to help us hoist the unwieldy beam into its place on the tree house (view looking southwest, below).

Kelly, Rebecca and I (and Carmen, of course) celebrated the day's accomplishments with a bottle of wine, a movie on the laptop and a Duck football game on the satellite radio.

That night, I awoke just before sunrise to a duet between an owl and a rooster. The owl hooted in a desperate attempt to forestall the sun; meanwhile, the rooster countered by crowing the inevitable arrival of dawn. They seemed to be singing by turn, one in response to the other, quite the battle of the birds.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Old School, Part Deux

Well, the lads from the Jesuit High School Class of '71 finally got their collective act together at the eleventh hour in time for a 40-year high school reunion. Rumor has it that Jesuit administrators put the "Jersey squeeze" on one of our former classmates, Tom Manning (currently a teacher at Jesuit) to make some calls.

And so it was, on Friday, September 16, I ventured to Portland to join longtime buddy Tim Nashif in attending the second of two high school reunions this summer. This one was held at Ernesto's, an Italian restaurant immediately adjacent to Jesuit High School in Beaverton.

The agenda included a social and buffet dinner, followed by the "Holy War," the annual football fracas between the Jesuit Crusaders and their chief rival, the Central Catholic Rams.

Some say that your sense of smell can trigger more memories than any other of the five senses.

As we entered Ernesto's, the unmistakable aroma of Tuscan cuisine penetrated my nostrils and every other fibre of my being. But this establishment wasn't just any Italian restaurant; the scent was eerily familiar.

I couldn't put my finger on it, until a little later in the evening.

After checking in at the registration table, we chatted with old classmates while watching the first half of the football game out the window at Ernesto's, which beamed directly down onto Jesuit's Cronin Field. No fooling, it was kind of like being in a skybox.

We adjourned to the field in the second half, where the Crusaders blocked a field goal attempt by the Rams in the final seconds, escaping with the win in a 14-12 nailbiter.

Later, we met the owner of Ernesto's -- Mike Ceccanti. I explained my nasal nostalgia and he had an answer: his family had owned the old Monte Carlo restaurant on Southeast Belmont near 10th Avenue, one of our favorite eateries. His grandfather -- Ernesto -- opened the Monte Carlo in 1927; unfortunately, the eatery burned down in 2002.

"That's it," I replied. "That's the smell I remember from my youth."

Oh, and one more thing: you've gotta love high school reunions. It's where geeks morph into doctors and jocks become caricatures in a Bruce Springsteen ballad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lanham Lake

Located just east of Stevens Pass, Lanham Lake (above) sits at the base of Jim Hill Mountain, one of two peaks in the area (the other being Big Jim Mountain on Icicle Ridge) named for James J. Hill, the Great Northern Railroad empire builder.

Trail mate and friend Chuck Ferguson and I hiked the path to the lake, which ascends a steep slope in some big timbers on the Whitepine Creek/Mill Creek divide, on Friday, September 9.

The trail winds through a primeval forest complete with Devil's Club (above), also know as "Devil's Walking Stick." Devil's Club generally grows to three to four feet tall, but can reach a height of 16 feet in rainforest gullies like the Napeequa River.

Some years back, a group of us were dispatched up the Napeequa River, which lies in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, to destroy a squatter's cabin several miles up the river on Forest Service land.

The Devil's Club was over 10 feet tall and -- along with huge patches of vine maple and groves of huge old growth western red cedar -- the scene resembled a prehistoric set straight out of Jurassic Park; I kept thinking I might see a triceratops or a pterodactyl at any moment.

Devil's Club is one shrub you don't want to grab during your walk in the woods. This primordial plant has long, nasty stickers awaiting unsuspecting hikers looking to steady themselves.

As we proceeded up the trail, we crossed through a huge blowdown of large timber across the trail. Chuck said the trail crew has spent days logging out the mess of mountain hemlock and western red cedar that resembled a pile of pick-up sticks.

The cut wood created some interested patterns of pitch (above) that filled the air with a wonderfully pungent aroma.

Our stay was relatively brief considering the amount of time we had spent hiking to Lanham Lake, but the black flies were in fine form, so we took a few pictures and then headed back to the trailhead adjacent to the Stevens Pass Nordic Center.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Old School

On Sunday, August 21, I spent the day in Portland attending my 40th high school reunion with about 80 of my former classmates from the Lincoln High School Class of '71 (above: that's me in the bottom right, with legs extended in my kick-back-and-relax position).

Although I spent my freshman and sophomore years at Jesuit High School in Beaverton, I transferred to Lincoln -- the oldest high school in the Pacific Northwest -- for my final two years. Established in 1869, Lincoln High School is located in downtown Portland across the street from the iconic Multnomah (now Jen-Weld) Stadium.

To say that Lincoln was a complete switch from Jesuit might be the understatement of the year. An all-boys school, Jesuit prided itself on its academic prowess, which was considerable. Very regimented, the school was governed with a tight grip by the "soldiers of Christ," those priests and noviciates of the Society of Jesus who served as teachers, administrators and coaches at the school. Lincoln, on the other hand, was fresh, progressive, loose, diverse and -- well, let's face it, folks -- less difficult than Jesuit.

It was a better fit for many like myself during the turbulent '60s, when baby boomers came of age following the assassination of President Kennedy, his brother, Bobby and Martin Luther King, along with the Free Speech Movement and Vietnam protests. Plus, there were girls!

Speaking of old schools, the reunion was held at Kennedy Elementary School, another old facility founded in 1915 in Northeast Portland. Owned by those Northwest brewmeisters, the McMenamin brothers, the school is now a popular microbrewery and watering hole that features a movie theater and hotel.

The reunion started at noon, and my goal was to connect with as many people I didn't know in high school as possible -- as well as many I did know. Though well-intentioned, I'm sorry to report that I was unsuccessful in talking to everybody, but I did have have the opportunity to catch up with many of my former classmates.

My high school reunion was, appropriately, quite educational -- a most enjoyable learning experience and one I won't soon forget.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fire In The Sky

After returning from our "challenge of the Chiwawa," which included exploring the headwaters of the Chiwawa River at its start at the base of Fortress and Chiwawa Mountains (above), Steve and I spent a couple of days of rest, respite, recuperation and reorganization at Owl Farm near its junction with the Wenatchee River (below).

There's nothing better for the body and soul than a shower and a sauna after several days in the wilderness, along with the requisite bottle of port, Dirty Face pizza from Headwaters Pub and a movie on the laptop. Even an errant mosquito or two couldn't spoil our glow.

Before our departure back to Oregon, a forest fire broke out on top of a ridge overlooking Tumwater Canyon. The 500-acre blaze closed U.S Highway 2, which follows the Wenatchee River down to Leavenworth.

As a result, traffic from Seattle was rerouted through Plain down Washington State Route 209, creating a long procession on our way south, at least as far as the Bavarian Village.

U.S. Forest Service personnel, including nearly 300 firefighters and air support, were everywhere. The scene resembled a battle front. As I was wheeling down the road, the memories of my days as a forest firefighter were as thick as the smoke in the Chumstick Valley: the adrenaline rush from a fire call, grabbing our fire packs not knowing how long we'd be gone, and perhaps a quick phone call to a loved one.

Then there was that unmistakeable smell. Smoke, yes, but as a former forest firefighter, I'm talking about the smell of money.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chiwawa Basin, Day 3: A Bug's Life

Steve and I awoke at our camp no worse for wear on Monday, August 15, other than some sore quads and a few nasty bug bites. The plan was to head down the trail toward Trinity on our way out to Owl Farm before the bugs became too active in the warm summer sun.

In order to see some of the stunningly beautiful sights in the wilderness, like the view of the upper Entiat Range (above), you need to come to terms with the fact that you'll be dealing with bugs. Just like your friendly neighborhood vampire, all they want is your blood.

The first nasty insects to appear during the long bug season in the woods are ticks, which tend to follow the snow line in late spring. Ticks were a regular occurrence during our tree planting days back in the '70s during March and April and it was always a good idea to thoroughly check yourself at the end of the day.

Annoyingly ubiquitous, mosquitoes (left) are the next bugs to appear on the scene. Their numbers can rival black flies in forested backcountry areas.

The good news about mosquitoes is that "bug dope" with DEET (diethylmetatoluamide) can deter the bloodthirsty buggers, which are fully capable of swarming unsuspecting hikers in the backcountry. The bad news is that they are the only blood-sucking bug among many varieties of wilderness pests that really responds to DEET.

Probably the nastiest insects in the backcountry -- based solely on their sheer numbers -- are black flies (right). A common nuisance in mid-summer, black flies are actually attracted to DEET, so bug dope is of little consolation. Worse, black flies can swarm unsuspecting backcountry travelers, looking for any orifice available.

I can't tell you how many black flies I've swallowed whole while breathing with my mouth open on precipitous slopes back in my wilderness ranger days in the Forest Service. And don't let their resemblance to the common house fly fool you. When finally in position, they bite hard and it hurts.

Deer flies are also common at higher elevations in mid-summer, as Steve (above) discovered on our way back down the trail from Red Mountain, when one crawled up his pant leg for a bite to eat. Considerably larger than black flies, deer flies (below, right) have gold or green eyes, giving them that unmistakeable "alien" look.

Their bite can be extremely painful. Steve thought he had been stung by a hornet, but I assured him that it was a deer fly.

Last to appear on the backcountry scene -- usually in the "dog days" of summer in August -- are yellowjackets and bald-faced hornets. Yellowjackets tend to build their nests in the ground while bald-faced hornets (below, right) construct their homes in trees.

Both are quite nasty and their stingers are extremely painful. Aggressive predators that prey on other insects, they should be avoided at all costs.

So as we headed back down the Chiwawa River Trail to Trinity and Base Camp Juan, we were left with many reminders (read: bug bites) of our backcountry excursion. It's part of the price you pay to see such spectacular wilderness scenery (below).

For bug-free hiking, try September or October. The first couple of freezes at higher elevations take the bugs out of commission, except for the occasional -- and somewhat woozy -- yellowjacket.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chiwawa Basin, Day 2: Red Mountain

On Sunday, August 20, Steve and I rose early to get a jump on our hike (and the bugs) up Red Mountain (above), a 7,646-foot summit of primarily historic interest on Phelps Ridge, which separates Chiwawa Basin from Phelps Creek and Spider Meadow.

Early miners called it "Red Hill" and pioneers such as "Red Mountain Ole" worked claims on its slopes in the late 19th century. Red Mountain stands out among the other peaks in the upper Chiwawa River area because of its striking appearance: the weathering of disseminated pyrite produces its bright red coloring.

The summit trail follows an old wagon road for a couple of miles. The plan was to veer off the trail near its junction with the Phelps Ridge trail and bushwhack our way to the top from the southwest. Because it's been such a late-developing summer, many mountain flowers were in bloom, including the western wood anemones (above), framed nicely by red berries on the mountain heather.

Unfortunately, we missed the junction, which had no sign or even a cairn to mark the way. In other words, we took a wrong turn at Albuquerque (as Bugs Bunny might be inclined to say) and continued on the Red Mountain road, passing an air vent (below) for the two-mile long Trinity tunnel buried deep beneath us in Phelps Ridge.

So instead of climbing our designated peak, we proceeded to the ridge between the east arm of Chiwawa Mountain and the jagged, precipitous cliffs on the north side of Red Mountain. Walking surfaces, which ranged from snow and ice to boulders and scree, were difficult at best. However, we were rewarded for our perseverance when we reached the ridgeline.

My, what a view! To the west, Glacier Peak (below) leered at us over Massie Ridge, lording over the lesser -- though not insignificant -- Fortress Mountain. To the southwest, Buck Mountain stood out as a lone sentinel, guarding the old mining community of Trinity.

To the east, the upper Entiat Mountains feature several 9,000-foot peaks, including Mt. Maude, Seven-Fingered Jack and Mt. Fernow. To the north, the views reach into upper Lake Chelan, with Bonanza Peak (bottom left, in the background) dominating the skyline.

After a brief rest and some pictures, Steve and I hastened our way down the mountain and back to camp because of waning daylight and dubious weather on the western horizon.