On June 7, 2016 (and during the months that follow) the Columbia River Gorge will be celebrating. Our favorite traveling companion is turning 100! And what a long, winding road it has been.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Historic Columbia River Highway (HCRH). Begun in 1913 and fully completed in 1922, the scenic byway was dedicated on June 7, 1916 with celebrations at both Vista House on Crown Point and Multnomah Falls. And in recognition, this year the entire Gorge is hosting a series of events throughout the summer months. And you’re invited.
Want to learn about the Highway? Visit the Troutdale Historical Society or Maryhill Museum to delve into the “King of Roads'” historical past. Want to revel in the Highway? Attend one of the summer’s many HCRH-themed festivals. Want to experience the Highway? Take a leisurely drive or, better yet, bike or hike one of the reconnected HCRH State Trail segments. Want to breathe the Highway? Sign up for one of the many Gorge runs and rides. Want to see the Highway through the eyes of yesteryear? Come out to watch antique autos parade by as they caravan from Troutdale to The Dalles on the July 23, 2016.
For a list of tours, rides, runs, festivals, and events visit the Oregon Department of Transportations’s website: HCRH Centennial Events
For a sneak peek into the July’s antique auto tour, take a look below at some photos from our January test-drive!
‘Tis the season, and rangers and volunteers in the Gorge are feeling holiday spirit!
Last week, rangers changed the light bulbs on “Thor’s Crown” from all white to red and green. And over the past week, rangers and Vista House volunteers have been working on decorating Vista House’s first ever tree! As always, it’s been a team effort to make the holidays happen.
- To the Olcott Christmas Tree farm in Corbett, Oregon for donating the perfect tree.
- To the Friends of Vista House Volunteer Development Committee for donating ornaments and helping to decorate.
- To the Friends of Vista House Volunteer Coordinator for donating a train for under the tree.
- To the Park Rangers and Vista House Volunteers for keeping the lights on and the tree watered.
Don’t have your own tree yet? Check out this guide to local tree farms from the Pamplin Media Group:
Winter storms have hit early and hard this year in the Columbia River Gorge. Wind gusts are consistently in the 70 mph-range and ice still coats the trees, roads, and buildings around Crown Point. Temperatures are slowly rising and winds have crept down from the 80s. And Vista House’s Crown Point — once called “Thor’s Heights” — has lived up to its stormy name.
Here’s a look around the west end of the Gorge:
Wondering what the winds and temps are like at Vista House? You can click here to check our weather station:
Of course, if the wind gauge is iced over (like it has been for the last two days), it will look like there is no wind at all . . .
Due to extensively dry and hot conditions, Oregon State Parks everywhere have banned fires.
The ban covers all open fires, including those in designated fire rings. For parks in the West Gorge (between Troutdale and Cascade Locks), it also includes briquettes. (Propane stoves are okay—check with your destination park to confirm.)
And visitors are not the only ones affected by the ban. Even park rangers are scratching their heads now that they cannot burn charcoal briquettes for their annual Volunteer Appreciation BBQ.
At a loss for what to do without the grill? Here are some ideas.
If you’re like me, this is one of the first places your brain went when you heard the words “fire ban.” Cold cuts, lots of spreads, a variety of cheese, garden-fresh veggies . . . the options are limitless with a good old-fashioned sandwich. Everyone can build his or her own to his/her own liking. But. Sandwiches can be somewhat, well, boring.
Here’s the twist. Instead of loaf of bread, try:
- Bagel sandwiches
- Loaded pita pockets
- Flavored wraps
- Multiple gourmet breads cut and sized for multiple mini-sandwiches
And if your brain tracked like mine, soon after sandwiches you thought of trays. Trays full of delicious finger foods. Again, it’s bound to be a crowd pleaser as you’re sure to have something for everyone.
A few twists on the ol’ veggie tray:
- Fruit kabobs
- Veggie kabobs
- Cheese and sausage kabobs
- Bread or cracker platter with a various sweet, spicy, and tangy dips
Thinking outside of the box and depending on where you’ve planned to hold your picnic, you might have access to regular old electricity. Our picnic shelters and our improved campsites have power. What can you do with power? Plug in your kitchen appliances!
A few appliances and picnic suggestions:
- Electric Skillet + Power = Grilled Cheese Bar
- Electric Skillet + Power = Sandwich Melt Madness
- Crock Pot + Power = Chili Bar
- Crock Pot + Pre-Baked Potatoes + Power = Baked Potato Bar
- Fondue Maker + Power = Fondue Party
- Toaster + Power = Toast Bar
- Blender + Power = Smoothie Station
OTHER BAR-IFFIC IDEAS
The build-your-own or bar-method of food is always a solid one.
In addition to the above, here are a few every-day and “outside-the-bar” ideas:
- Salad Bar: Spice this staple up with nuts, chopped meats, crunchy toppings, fruits, and different kinds of greens.
- Cool Pasta Bar: Use a range of flavors and shapes of pre-cooked noodles; sliced and diced veggies, meats, and cheeses; variety of dressings.
- BLT Bar: Assorted breads, veggies, spreads, flavors of pre-cooked bacon. Include a “toasting station.”
- Nacho Bar: Use the crock pot for cheeses and meats; switch up your chips for more choices; think of the Baja Fresh array when planning your salsas.
- Trail Mix Bar: Go nuts with unusual dried fruit; candies like gummies, Mike & Ikes, and coated chocolates; crunchy grains like pretzels, chips, and cereals; and, of course, nuts.
- Cupcake Bar: Various frostings and creative toppings.
- Ice Cream Sundae Bar: You know the drill. Call your local grocery store to see about dry ice for the cooler.
- Ice Cream Float Bar: Mix it up with unusual sodas and frozen creams.
- Ice Cream Sandwich Bar: Exactly what you think it is. Fun!
All of this sound too complicated? For a few extra bucks and a lot less hassle, you can always order your hot food from a local restaurant or store and then supplement with your own sides and desserts. Simply order ahead, and then take your take-out outside.
Have an idea you’d like to share? Please post below!
Join us at Vista House on Friday, August 28 from 7-9 pm for our special childrens’ sing-along event with musician and educator, Jory Aronson!
Bring your favorite young people and a couple of chairs for a lively evening filled with songs, instruments, skits, and puppets.
* * * * * * * * * *
We have been hosting (and, at times, leading!) a series of singing events in the Gorge this year.
At Rooster Rock State Park, it has been monthly song circles on the waterfront–singing songs of yesteryear as swimmers romp around in the Columbia, barges plod through the channel, and the sun sinks slowly over Washington in a crimson wave.
At Vista House, it has also been monthly song circles, but within the magical sand and limestone walls of the rotunda as visitors flock to capture the last moments of the sun’s rays falling across the Gorge, birds soar towards their final resting spots for the night, and the Columbia rolls on for as far as the eye can see.
Although they are not widely advertised, we are also bringing song back to the campground with “Old-Fashioned Campfire” events at Ainsworth State Park on the first and third Fridays of the month. These programs, as you might imagine, are a bit different. There are fewer instruments, Ranger Patrick and I sing far less well (although Ranger Jami can hold a tune!), and the songs are less formal. Instead, we stomp and clap and lead skits, we beg and plead until campers come up to sing for us, and the songs less than sing-y are more, well, campy.
Our last old-fashioned campfire at Ainsworth was hands-down our best. Sure, we rangers are getting our shtick down. But what really made the night so wonderful was that before the 8:30 hour even rolled around, a little camper was up on the stage declaring that she would like to sing the first song. We could hardly say no. And without a moment’s hesitation, she started in on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Not one song later, she was marching up to the stage again, this time with her cousin in tow. They performed “The Alphabet Song,” complete with the elemeno p. Five minutes later they were back. Something from Frozen, although they couldn’t agree on what until another young camper from another family jumped up and in to help the group settle on “Let It Go.” This other camper also led us in a handful of her favorite camp songs, from “Apples and Bananas” to “Bazooka Bubblegum.”
Besides we rangers, only one other adult dared lead any part of any other song. It was really the kids jumping up and leading unabashedly that made the night a roaring success. It was a reminder of both how fearless kids can be and how important singing is to us in childhood. Learning a song as a child was a big deal, something to be celebrated . . . by singing it repeatedly. And which of we did not use the alphabet song to learn our letters? Many of us teach it to our kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews today. In some ways childhood and singing are inseparable.
Which brings me to our next event at Vista House on August 28: A Children’s Sing-Along with Jory Aronson, a musician and early education trainer. Jory blends song with puppets, skits, and instruments for a fully participatory musical experience for children. Besides being fun for the whole family, there is sound benefit to music for children:
“Music is an intelligence in and of itself. It also uses some of the other 6 intelligences in various ways. Songs are linguistic, rhythm is logical, dance and using instruments is body kinesthetic, musical interpretation is interpersonal, etc. Thus, by being involved in music, a child becomes in tune with many aspects of the self.” – Dr. Howard Gardner (The Theory of Multiple Intelligences)
Join us at Vista House on Friday, August 28 from 7-9 pm for our special kids’ event!
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.
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?
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 . . .
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!