A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday night, I took several of trips. I traveled to Michigan, back to the kitchen of my childhood home. Everything was there—the yellow and white linoleum floor, the long wooden island painted white, the over-sized industrial sink where all kids under four years of age took a bath.
My mom and I were doing dishes while belting out, “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, someone’s in the kitchen I know-oh-oh-oh, someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strummin’ on the old banjo . . .” My mother had just taught me “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Thirty years later, I still know all the words. And every time I sing them, I go back to my childhood, back to that kitchen, back to my mom making “dish detail” fun.
Then I went back to Michigan again. Same area, different time. This visit to St. James Catholic Church—to the “new addition” constructed after the congregation outgrew the church.
We were all gathered there— family, friends, and churchgoers. Service was nearly over; last hymn, last words. As they closed my grandmother’s casket, the choir and congregation started in, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me . . .” And as we sang, the words reached out to my grandfather and swept him to knees, arms outstretched onto my grandmother’s casket. For the first time in my life, I saw my grandfather’s bright blue, dancing eyes fill with tears. And from that day forward, when I hear “Amazing Grace,” that moment flashes by, and my own eyes fill with tears.
“This Land is Your Land” took me back to elementary school to music class. Flashes of ribbons and highways and skyways. The feeling that everything is bright and right and Disney happy.
All the while, I am actually at Vista House at Crown Point, in the Columbia River Gorge. It is our second in a series of “Song Circles” in the Gorge. I am mostly surrounded by perfect strangers, who are surrounded by the same. But we’re all singing from the heart, smiling as if we’re with old friends. We sing songs we’ve all known for years, transporting us back in time and space. We sing new songs whose words when we hear them again will likely bring us back to Vista House . . . to a warm summer night, with a golden sunset, rich voices swirling around the rotunda, wrapping us in a blanket of fullness and contentment.
Join us for our next Song Circle on July 31 at Rooster Rock State Park from 7 to 9 PM. Bring a friend, your family, your favorite sing-along, and a chair! Parking permit ($5) or annual pass ($30) required.
For more information, contact Ranger Dorothy Brown-Kwaiser, 503-695-2261 x228
Future Song Circles:
July 31, 7-9 PM. Rooster Rock State Park.
August 28*, 7-9 PM. Vista House. *Special kids’ sing-along.
September 11, 7-9 PM. Vista House.
Did you find Samuel Boardman? Tucked off to the left of the towering trees? Congratulations to all of you who did!
This photo was taken at Silver Falls State Park while Boardman was scouting for an amphitheater site. More than one site was proposed, so we are not entirely sure where this spot is within the park.
Stay tuned for an update in April after we at second time with Sam’s relatives. Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more, Oregon State Archives in Salem has boxes of Boardman documents for your reading pleasure!
Much has happened since my last post about Oregon’s first State Park Superintendent, Samuel H. Boardman. On Friday, few of us from Oregon State Parks had the honor of meeting with the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Samuel Boardman. Over a cup of coffee, they shared stories, books, photos, letters, and newspaper articles about Sam.
We were star-struck to say the least are planning to meet again to record some of the Boardman family’s stories. And in preparation for the next get-together, we have been digging through the Oregon State Park archives to find interesting items to share with Sam’s relatives.
Yesterday, I found a gigantic photo file and let my computer work on it overnight. I arrived this morning to find this photo of Sam Boardman. At first I thought it must have been a mistake. Where was Sam? It took me a minute, but I assure you that he is there. Here is your challenge:
Part One: Find Sam in the photo.
But don’t tell us yet! Let others try, too.
Part Two: Take a guess at where the photo was taken.
Hints: This forest panorama was taken at a proposed amphitheater site. The park has an amphitheater today, as well as a campground — something Sam never allowed during his tenure at State Parks. Sam was very influential in acquiring and developing this inland (not coastal!) park.
Can you tell us where Sam is?
We have all been asked the question before. “If you could have dinner with a famous person (dead or alive), who would it be?” Over the holidays, we were sitting around with friends, and someone pulled out a “TableTopics” conversation starter game. The dinner question was the first one.
My mind raced just like yours might be now. Robin Williams, my favorite actor. Teddy Roosevelt, my favorite conservationist President. John Muir, my favorite West Coast naturalist. Sigurd Olson, my favorite Northwoods naturalist. My grandmother, who passed when I was in elementary school. I thought for a moment. Samuel Boardman. I would like to have lunch with our very own Sam Boardman.
Samuel H. Boardman was the first Parks Superintendent for Oregon State Parks. He was around for the birth of our Oregon State Park system, and our system grew mightily under his watch. (Between 1929 and 1950, Oregon State Parks blossomed from 46 to 181 park properties with acreage swelling from 4,000 to 66,000 acres.) As charismatic as Robin Williams, as passionate about conservation as Roosevelt, with the heart of a naturalist, and the wisdom of a grandparent, what I wouldn’t give to be in presence of “the father of the Oregon State Parks system.”
I fell in love with Samuel Boardman while working at Silver Falls State Park. Early on, I found in the park archives a lengthy letter dated November 1951 from Sam to his successor, Chester H. Armstrong about the history and future of Silver Falls. I read, reread, highlighted, and read to others my favorite passages in this letter.
Most memorable for me was the two entire pages Sam took justify the need for a “carving unit” at Silver Falls—a wonderfully colorful, poetic, and passionate piece with the gist of the argument being that humans have an innate need to carve—and rather than have them desecrate restrooms, picnic tables, and trees, we should designate a place for them to do so. Further, Boardman believed that such a project for open, rather than covert, carving could actually be shocking enough to change a person’s ways:
To make people think, you must jolt them. Can’t you see the carriage of this lesson of preservation lingering with the visitor throughout the day, after he has stood before this shrine of destruction? Can’t you see this same conservationist, after imbibing his entry lesson, stepping up to some carving vandal and requesting him to desist?
Somewhere, somehow, the lesson of preservation must be put over to the American people. Somewhere a start has to be made. If through a log, a privy, then so be it. If you know of a better way of preachment, the house tops are yours for the asking. This merits your deepest consideration for an American principle of “To have and to hold” is at stake.
It seems like too small of a detail to even mention, but Boardman was passionate about all aspects of parks and the preservation of them. He touches all in his letter, leaving Armstrong with these final thoughts: “A recreational kingdom is placed in your hand. Build unto it. Guard that which has been [built].”
In other letters and essays, Boardman writes about the Columbia River Gorge. A place, no doubt, near and dear to him as he was the founder of the town of Boardman at the east end of the Gorge. It was at Latourell Falls that Boardman learned what would to him prove to be one of his most valuable lessons. Guy Talbot State Park has two waterfalls. Latourell Falls—easily seen from the highway—and Upper Latourell Falls—only visible by trail. The upper falls is a double fall (having a whirlpool in the center), and Samuel Boardman thought it a good idea to build a trail in the middle “where the hiker could stand between the two falls.” And so, Boardman blasted in a trail. And the result was, in his mind, awful:
The very foundation upon which depending the beauty of the entire picture has a great gash across it. The aesthetic sense of the individual curdled before reaching the beauty spot. … [The experience] taught me that man’s hand in the alteration of the Design of the Great Architect is egotistic, tragic, ignorant. … From then on, I became the protector of the blade of grass, the flower on the sward, the fern, the shrub, the tree, the forest. … I found man could not alter without disfigurement. Take away, disfigure, and you deaden the beat of a soul. (Oregon State Park System: A Brief History. Samuel Boardman.)
For those familiar with the Columbia River Gorge, the above might sound a bit familiar. Samuel Lancaster, who designed the Historic Columbia River Highway, is quoted saying something similar about planning and building the road:
When I made my preliminary survey here and found myself standing waist-deep in the ferns, I remember my mother’s long-ago warning, ‘Oh, Samuel, do be careful of my Boston fern! … And I then pledged myself that none of this wild beauty should be marred where it could be prevented. The highway was built so that not one tree was felled, not one fern was crushed, unnecessarily. (The Columbia: America’s Great Highway. Samuel Lancaster.)
You can read a large collection of Sam Boardman’s essays by reading his book, Oregon State Park System: A Brief History, available online through the Oregon State University Library. Although, I must mention that I noticed by comparing Sam’s November 1951 letter to Armstrong about Silver Falls to the same section in the book, that book is a meticulously edited version of his original writing—the overall content is the same and reads seamlessly, but some of Sam’s quick wit and humorous storytelling is, at times, watered down or missing altogether. I can only imagine how every other essay must have read before the editors made their marks! How I would love to sit down with Sam and ask the man, himself!
I will link to the book here and leave you with an excerpt of the book’s last paragraph, written about (you guessed it) the Columbia River Gorge.
The Gorge has so many stops and goes, unscored notes, so many varied choruses that it could be blended into a symphony. … The woodwinds in the swaying tree tops. The flutes in the mist of the waterfalls. The bases in the steady roar of wayward gales. The Rhine lives in the historical music composed through the centuries. There must be a composer who could blend the mists, lights, caprices, the songs of the waterfalls, the ripples of the brooks, the sonnets from the tree tops, the boldness of the cliffs into a symphony of the Columbia Gorge that will live in the souls of the generations to come. It is a challenge to Destiny to give birth to a maestro. Who will write a score that will make the Gorge musically unforgettable through the centuries?
As many of you have heard, Cheryl Strayed’s popular book Wild about the author’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is coming out in movie-form on December 5, 2014. What does this have to do with the Gorge and Oregon State Parks? Well, as it turns out, quite a bit.
First, Strayed completed her hike of the PCT at our very own Cascade Locks in the Columbia River Gorge. The Bridge of the Gods is the PCT route’s through the Gorge.
Second, it is a little known fact that Oregon State Parks manages the Cascade Locks Trail Head right under the bridge. And although it is not officially part of the PCT, many thru-hikers take the Eagle Creek canyon route to get to the Gorge — completing their final miles by walking the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail to Cascade Locks.
Third, parts of Wild were shot in the Columbia River Gorge. If you thought you spied Reese Witherspoon in the Gorge last fall, you just might have.
And finally, in 2012, I took a leave of absence from Oregon State Parks to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I started on April 30, 2012 and finished on September 27, 2012. 151 days, 2660 miles, more than 6 million steps. And this coming Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to share my story here in the Gorge.
Please join me for a talk on the Pacific Crest Trail, “The Good, the Bad, and the Unforgettable” on Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 2 PM at the Bonneville Lock and Dam, Bradford Visitor Center.
In 2012, I took a leave of absence from Oregon State Parks to hike the Pacific Crest Trail . . . this coming Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to share my story . . .
For those of you who have wisely chosen to stay away this past week while the Gorge pounded out its first windy ice storm of the season, I thought we’d share a whip of the tempest.
October at the Vista House is always an interesting month . . .
From the shift in weather and beginning of the winter winds, to the outside weather (rain) making its way inside, to the shorter hours that the building is open, everything changes. And this last change, being closed more often to the public, means that the local “residents” of Vista House have more time to be in their building alone. Besides the mice, one of these local residents is (I believe) the ghost of the building’s architect, Edgar M. Lazarus.
Many staff who have worked in Vista House late night in the fall have reported feeling the presence of Lazarus. I have felt it before, too. However, I have never been scared of it. It is a nice, almost nurturing, presence to me. I feel that he is just there watching over his building. Happy that we are there, too, keeping watch and taking care—which is why I think I don’t find it scary. If I was causing damage at Vista House, it might be a different story.
One of the ways Edgar Lazarus makes himself known (other than just the “feeling” that he is there) is by playing with the elevator or “lift.” The lift is situated in the basement level of Vista House—volunteers in the rotunda level push toggles and buttons to raise and lower the lift. The control box at the main level desk is the only way to operate the lift. That said, I have had times when the lift is completely powered off, I am in the building by myself in the hallway in the basement when the lift door will start to open and close. Or times when I’m upstairs and can hear the lift door opening and closing even though I can see with my own eyes that no one’s hands are on the control. At times, it is just the outside door opening and closing; at other times, both the inside and outside door start opening and closing.
I have always attributed this lift movement to Lazarus. When the renovations were made on Vista House in 2004, we kept everything original (or at least as originally designed) EXCEPT the addition of the ADA elevator or “lift.” This was the only “modern” addition to the building. I do not think that Lazarus is upset by the lift, more than he is interested in it. I think Lazarus, being an architect with a quizzical mind, is intrigued by the lift—curious about how it works—and that he is simply playing with it.
I had always attributed the change in the temperature/weather as the sign that strange-ness was coming to Vista House. However, upon further research, I recently found out that Edgar M. Lazarus died on October 2, 1939 after a bitter dispute over his fees for the design and construction of Vista House.
Is it just a coincidence that Vista House’s ghost-play starts in October?
Or does the spirit of Edgar M. Lazarus begin making his rounds each year on the day he died, taking up residence in Vista House—the building he is best known for and one he felt he was never fully paid for?
(Special thanks to Ranger Mo Czinger for this ghostly account.)
Did you figure out last week’s mystery image? Do you still have a few questions?
Before I reveal the answer, let me show you two more photos and give you a few more hints.
A few other things to mention:
- This was found after ranger fell a hazard tree near Benson Lake — Benson is located near Multnomah Falls, between the Historic Columbia River Highway and I-84. There is a lake, a pond, a creek, and the Columbia River nearby.
- It was hanging suspended from a cottonwood tree branch about 20 feet up.
- The dimensions of the object are 3 1/2″ wide by 5 1/2″ long.
Ready for the answer?!
Okay, here it is: . . . We do not know.
That’s right. We do not know. Well, not everything at least. We know that it is a bird’s nest. And we know that it is constructed of fishing line and lined with moss, lichen, and a strand of carpet. What we are not 100% certain of is its maker. Our first three initial guesses out of the birds who weave nests were wren, bushtit, or oriole. Bushtit nests look more like long hanging socks. And while some wrens weave nests, the wrens in the Gorge are not great weavers, and this nest is a piece of art.
Our best guess for the maker of this nest is the Bullock’s Oriole. These are common at Benson; they often nest in cottonwood trees near streams and waterways; they are marvelous weavers of hanging basket nests; and they’ll use hair, twine, or grass for a nest (or perhaps fishing line!) Our only hesitation is that the nest seems a bit small for this medium-sized bird. A quick search reports that the average Bullock’s Oriole nest is 4 inches wide and 6 inches deep — our is 1/2″ shy of each of those. So it may be a smaller Bullock’s nest. Or it may not.
And this is how naturalist studies often go. A definitive answer is not always possible. More research is often required. And not the kind that is found on the Web or in a book. No, the best research here will be done at Benson State Recreation Area during the Bullock’s mating season.
So, I’ll see you at Benson between this coming May and mid-July!
A few of the Gorge rangers were out at Benson State Recreation Area yesterday and found this gem.
Questions for the readers:
- What is this?
- What is it made of?
- Who made it?
Post your best guesses in the comments field below, and we’ll get back to you next week with the answer!
The beach is BACK . . .
. . . And it’s free of rubble
(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)
We see it wavin’ better come out on the double
(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)
The wind has died down and the sky is mostly blue
(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)
So come out now ’cause it’s quite a view
(Hey-la-hey-la the beach is back)
It’s true; the beach is back at Rooster Rock State Park.
As many of you know, Rooster Rock used to be the place to go for sandy river-level picnics, sandcastles, and swims—but things have changed over the years beginning with the floods of 1996 that swept massive amounts of beach downriver. Today, a wide, rambling shoreline is a rarity. And the perfect wind and weather window is now. So, if you get a chance, take a drive out to exit 25, and enjoy the sand between your toes while it’s here and while it’s warm.
Wondering what the beach used to look like? Take a peek!