Thursday, December 15, 2011

High Rock Outhouse - September 2011

Summer is always a brief affair in the Pacific Northwest.

For reasons better than speculation, the past few summers have really sucked. 
 Winters have been unusually wet; the rainy season of 2009-10 dumped in excess of 40" of rain than typical onto the Willamette Valley and surrounding area.  We Westside Oregonians have collectively experienced a continuous wet cloud with only a quick hiccup of sunshine in August.  Vegetable gardens fail, thick green moss clogs everything immobile.  Of course, in the high elevations of the Cascades, this translates into snow, and lots of it.

Typically, our summers are long, hot, and very dry.  This creates a unique habitat - drought tolerant trees such as conifers thrive.  Coupled with this dry heat is the imminent threat of fire, but the ecosystems have adapted to this peculiar environment.  Douglas firs have evolved a very thick bark that can withstand all but the most lethal of blazes.  It is not uncommon to see fire blackened living trees from a cataclysm born centuries ago.

smoke from forest fires nearly obscures Mt. Hood

After suffering many cold damp months, we received the blessings of true summer for a mere two weeks in September.  It was not nearly enough.  But, glories no matter how brief must not be squandered or taken for granted.

What better way to celebrate this quick gift than to restore an old outhouse?

Eva in 2010

High Rock was once a busy place.  The lofty windswept peak nearby boasted a summer staffed fire lookout connected by telephone to Clackamas Lake Ranger Station.  Built in 1925, it was gone by 1965.

The a fore mentioned Abbot Road passed by a lovely gushing mountain spring.  Here,  a campground was constructed by the CCC in the very early days of the Great Depression.  The young men created a stepped series of earthen platforms along the steep ridge, each containing a picnic table, fire ring, and space for your canvas tent.  And of course they also built an outhouse.
This type of campground was once quite common in our National Forests.  As the automobile became more and more common, dirt roads were constructed deep into the forests.  Campgrounds were seen as a necessary improvement, and were constructed and then staffed by the Forest Service.  In those days, only the hardiest of adventurers and "Sportsmen" as they were called, ventured into these spooky woods to hunt and fish and commune with nature.
As roads and logging increased, and our reliance on our technology kept a society ever more disconnected from the natural world, the camps slowly deteriorated and most were eventually abandoned.  But High Rock somehow survived.

And the outhouse!  Far more than a receptacle for one's leavings, a grand boxed throne for one's most secret of duties, it has become a sentinel from another age, a true survivor.  But it was not long for this world.


Something had to be done, or the historic structure would be lost to the ages.  The Forest Service lacked the funding or gumption to do anything; in fact the campground is no longer maintained and is now considered "off the system".

In 2010, my friend Hal and I decided to fix the old pooper.  It was too good to go.  After hauling the necessary materials from Portland, we replaced the floor, stripped old paint from the interior, and completely renovated the inside.

We decided to come back in a year and finish the exterior.  And we did, and with help too.

Stephan, king of the Gypsies


Hal and Neal


Done!  The proud crew.  Now who will be the first to poop?

Really, we didn't need 5 guys for such a small project.  But it was a ton of fun and we got it done quickly.  How thrilling to once again do "one's duty" as it was in the early '30s.

But then a Sasquatch got Neal, too bad really.

There is no parking available at High Rock for some bizarre reason, so camp must be set up right on the road.  What a motley collection of contraptions!  Imagine the looks we got...

from one end

to the other

Due to the lush spring, High Rock was spared from fires that swept the area in the teens of last century.  A strip of gigantic firs still stand guard.  In fact, ust 1/4 mile down the road the trees are much younger.
  This is a forest still recovering from a natural act 70 years previous.  The climate is harsh above 4000'.


I knew that the spring would have been a very important resource in the pre-road wilderness days of the Cascades.  I combed the steep mountain for signs of a trail, without success.  Later, upon descent I discovered this huge blaze on an ancient fir.  What a story it tells.

With the work done, it was time to relax, bond, and act like silly kids in the fleeting moments of an extended but contracted summer.  A weekend is never long enough.  Good times, great food, a lifetime of memories crammed into a couple days.


After.  Don is a hell of a cook.

What will become of that old High Rock outhouse?
Without a doubt it now lies cloaked in the deep snows of another season, but now protected from the elements and cherished like it's builders never imagined nor intended.  Until a tree fall on it at least.  Or one hell of a crap.

 Somewhere on a drifting mountain, it is still 1932 - for a time at least. 

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