Last Friday night, Vista House and all the visitors within experienced a first: A classical music concert on a full-sized Steinway grand piano in the center of the Gorge’s iconic rotunda.
The free event was part of Oregon pianist, Hunter Noack’s efforts to bring classical music into the kinds places that inspire it. Hunter’s series, “In a Landscape: Music in the Wild” is taking place from August 20 to September 1 in some of Oregon’s special places: Crown Point, Timberline Lodge, Tryon Creek, Hoyt Arboretum, Hagg Lake, and more – the only venue with tickets still available is Portland’s Director Park. http://www.hunternoack.com/
And the concerts are just what you might imagine – a grand piano sitting unexpectedly in a magnificent landscape with a young musician at the keys sharing his passion while a hundred or so visitors listen on and, in the case of Vista House, admire the timeless view of the Gorge at sunset.
As if the music of the talented, gracious Noack wasn’t enough for the evening, Hunter invited two special guests to join him. Vocalist China Forbes of Pink Martini joined Noack for a few songs, and then pianist Tom Lauderdale of the same joined China for a couple. Looking around the building that night, it was clear that everyone – musicians and visitors alike – was mesmerized by the pull of music reverberating between the rotunda’s limestone walls, marble floors, and opalescent glass windows.
It was a night like no other, and a reminder like no other of what Oregon’s special places sound like.
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!
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 . . .
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?
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?
The other day, I was driving through one of our Oregon State Parks, and a sea of purple flowers caught my eye. Lupines. A towering field of the beauties in full bloom. I made a mental note to stop back with a camera.
Early that evening, I drove by a second time. I couldn’t help myself. I leapt out of the truck and headed straight for the field. An hour later, I emerged. Late for dinner and grinning from ear to ear. In 60 minutes, I traveled no more than 10 feet and took 100 photos. I had a million questions. I have been scouring my wildflower guides and the internet since, and rather than less, I now have even more. Although I know far more about the lupine than when I set off to study them, I find now that I feel like I know less than ever. So goes the journey of discovery.
Below is the condensed version of what I found:
Lupine, the Plant
A Closer Look at Flowers
I still remember my first spring in Oregon. I was surprised by (and called home to report about) three things:
One, Oregonians mow their lawns if it has been rain-free for a mere few hours, and they do so in their rubber boots. As kids, we all had to mow our corner lot back in Iowa. And, according to Papa’s rules, you did not mow unless it had been dry for at least 24 hours – 48 was preferred. “Papa! They are mowing during something called a ‘sunbreak!’ And they’re wearing galoshes!”
Two, the weather is completely unpredictable. It will be sunny one moment, sprinkling the next, spitting hail for ten minutes, and then turn sunny again. I had two near-bouts with hypothermia during spring longs runs out in the Willamette Valley countryside before I figured out that I had to dress in extreme layers.
Three, there are more rainbows (and double-rainbows) out here than I have ever seen in all the years of my life. I remember when my college friend, Jack, came out for a visit. We went to the Mt. Angel Abbey on a beautiful spring day. It sprinkled, then it hailed, and then sprinkled again. “Just wait,” I whispered, “This is rainbow weather.” And, sure enough, a rainbow appeared as the sun broke through a hole in the clouds.
It was spring. And, in the Valley (and the Gorge), spring means Rainbow Season.
Here are some recent beauties taken by rangers and friends in the Gorge area.
While many of us were wrapping up our yard work, our barbeques, and our walks under Saturday evening’s setting sun, volunteers from Rose City Astronomers and Vancouver Sidewalk Astronomers were just coming out to play.
March 22 marked Rooster Rock State Park’s first Star Party event for 2014. Organized by OMSI in partnership with Oregon State Parks, Rooster Rocks holds seven “Star Parties” throughout the year between the spring and fall equinox. This past weekend, over 200 visitors joined volunteer astronomers along the Columbia River to look at constellations, nebulas, and Jupiter with its moons. It was a spectacular evening.
Never been to a Star Party? You still have six more chances!
Here are some tips and things to know:
- Know before you go. Star Parties may be cancelled due to cloud cover and/or high winds. Call the OMSI hotline to confirm: 503.797.4000. Press #3, then #5.
- Arrive around dusk and well before dark. This will give you a chance to find parking, restrooms, and a place to lay out your blanket.
- Bundle up. Warm days can be deceiving; bring a winter coat, hat, gloves, and maybe a hot drink!
- Bring stargazing gear. A flashlight with a red lens (or red cellophane) is a must for walking around in the dark – white light ruins your (and everyone’s) night vision. Personal telescopes and binoculars are welcome. Star charts are also a nice addition – paper copies are available at the event.
- Expect to pay $5 for parking. While the event is free, Oregon State Parks still requires a parking permit. $5 for a daily, $30 for an annual, $50 for a 2-year.
- Begin with the talk! Just after sunset, you can join us for a presentation and get lowdown the event and the current viewing highlights.
- Visit each ‘scope. Volunteer astronomers bring their telescopes and their knowledge to Star Parties, and they love to share. It’s simple. Walk up to a person with a telescope, ask what they’re looking at, what it is, and if you can take a peek. Never seen where stars are born? This is your chance.
Lay back, and enjoy! Star Parties are a great chance to relax with friends and family. Grab a star chart, get out your red flashlight, lay back, and map out the night sky. Find the Big Dipper, the North Star, your zodiac sign, or make up your own constellations. Contemplate the stars, the Columbia River, the Gorge, and the Universe.
Upcoming 2014 Star Parties
At Rooster Rock & Stub Stewart State Parks
- April 19
- May 10
- June 2
- July 12
- August 12
- September 20
Special events at Milo McIver State Park
- April 14 (Lunar Eclipse – Milo McIver ONLY)
- October 8 (Lunar Eclipse – Milo McIver ONLY)
We hope to see you there!
For more information and other events, visit the OMSI website: https://www.omsi.edu/starparties
A few days ago, I set out to explore Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area. Literally less than 1 mile from my doorstep, I had yet to visit this seemingly benign park in the West Columbia Gorge Management Unit. A parking lot, a restroom, a boat ramp, an interpretive nature trail . . . I was sure 45 minutes would suffice.
2 1/2 hours later, I emerged back in civilization muddy, sweating, hand tingling from a wrestling match with stinging nettle, and glowing from the aftermath of an unforeseen adventure. I did not walk through the parking lot, did not use the restroom, visit the boat ramp, or wander the interpretive trail. No, I discovered Broughton’s Bluff.
Broughton’s Bluff is in Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area – it’s the cliff and ridge to the east. It’s actually the geologic dividing line between the Willamette Valley to the west and the foothills of the Cascades to the east. And it’s named after an explorer. Nothing to do with the park’s namesakes of 1805, Lewis & Clark, but, rather, a British naval officer, Lt. William Robert Broughton who explored the Lower Columbia in 1792 and navigated up as far as the entrance to the Gorge – “Broughton’s Bluff” – named after him in 1926. (He was also the guy who and named Mt. Hood – for Lord Samuel Hood, another British naval officer.)
Although not well-advertised, you can get your own explorer on and visit Broughton’s namesake. A steep, braiding, slippery trail winds you through mossy green boulders as you skirt around basalt walls until you can make a v-line for a ridge and scramble to the top.
Be forewarned, this trail is not for the faint of heart (or the fear of height or the young of age). It’s steep; drop-offs are severe and unforgiving; and the trail surface includes stairs, roots, and boulders the size of small cars – all of which are coated with moss and mud. Falling would not be pretty.
If you’re wondering about the fitness level required, know that it is most used by rock climbers. Rather than a day-hiking trail, Broughton’s Bluff is best known for its climbing routes sprinkled along the basalt cliffs – again, not for the faint of anything – climbing equipment and experience required here!
I came out relatively unscathed, but not without waxing my knee on a rock, scraping up mud with my butt, and bracing my hand on a stinging nettle plant – never done that? It’s like shaking hands with a wasp.
Besides the adventure and the views, spring (and the fact that it was all warm, sunny, and windless!) also made this hike. Five different wildflowers graced the trails – early blue violet carpeting the Sandy’s banks, Indian plum hanging along the trail, oaks toothwort just opening all nestled in the groundcover, chickweed hiding among the boulders, and then a surprise red-flowering currant bursting from behind a Douglas fir.
For those of us who love wildflowers, each sighting is like a reunion with an old friend – remembering names, followed by big hellos and so-good-to-see-yous, recalling the last time you met, and concluding with photos ops for Facebook. Greeting the Townsend’s chipmunk and Rufous Hummingbird was no different. A reminder that spring is on its way, and the forest is filled with familiar faces.
Next up? Another trip to Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area. This time to drop by Sandy’s edge, wander the interpretive nature trail, read up on Lewis and Clark’s 1805 visit, and check out the facilities. And perhaps pay homage to the explorer Lt. William Robert Broughton with a quick jaunt up to the base of the basalt columns.