Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Portland and the National Train Day - June 2013

Trains?  What the heck does that have to do with wilderness?!?!

Before this modern world unfolded, and our world population exceeds the imagination,
railroads were the lifeblood that kept our nation together and running.
In our region of Oregon, Portland has always been the primary economic driver.  Raw materials come in, manufactured goods and timber products go out.

Goods, men, and materials needed to keep a 1920s minded National Forest running came from Portland.  It was more than a supply hub - the impact of this great hub of commerce still leaves an indelible impact on the region.    Of course, the city of Portland and the world itself has changed a great deal in a century.  

"The more things change, the more they stay the same", says that tired old quote.  Well, let's see if that's true.

On a suddenly hot and sunny June Saturday, Erin, Eva and I decided to bicycle down to Portland Union Station.  I was curious to see if any of the old ghosts still plied these recent streets.

Perhaps there is still something of an earlier era in this modern remake of an American city.

the venerable Broadway Bridge, a survivor in its own right
 Constructed in 1913, it still links East and West Portland without complaint
Could this be 1920?  Almost, if you squint.

Pausing to admire the skunky Superfund Willamette River

Portland Union Station, little changed since its construction in 1896

Boarding the Vista-Dome North Coast Limited?  No, not any more.
 Those days are over.

In this earlier era, Union Station was truly the center of Portland.  Most commerce and the movement of people occurred here, intensified by great wars, and later drained of most of its vitality by modern conveyances.  But it is still a vital place, with all these combined energies absorbed into the walls.  Amtrak still stops at Union Station, but the fleets of streamliners and caustic-belching steam locomotives are no more.

Portland Chinatown lies at the edge of the rails, a dim memory of what it once was

What do you think?  Is it possible to chase ghosts?

one tuckered kid

It is hard to tell for sure what is really left of the past.  It is still "back there", in spite of these fossils of that other place.  Without paint, hard work, and the will to preserve, most of our tangible artifacts fall to dust in a very short while.
For the past 10,000 years humans have lived here, leaving little trace of their existence.
What can we say about our modern society?  What will the future say?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Badger Creek and Friends - March 2013

March is a very special time in our part of the Northwest.
A brief rain turns to sunshine

For the most part, the snow and cold rain are over.  We are able to escape our square cocoons, blow the roof off the house and escape into the wild.  What a feeling!
Granted, this miracle appearance of the sun is no guarantee.
In most of the Mt. Hood National Forest, winter's cloak is still many feet thick, obscuring the high country for a few more months.  This is not the case in the dry eastern part of the state, in the sagebrush rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains.  This is our Mecca, our Promised Land of winter's deliverance.
Imagine!  Sitting outside!

It has become a tradition to seek out the March sun in the Badger Creek area.
Eva and I leave Portland early in the morning, negotiating a sea of clouds and rising on thermals of golden sunshine.  What will be waiting for us at camp?

Rebuilding the old fire pit

Each year, our Badger Creek camp is different.  There are always new places to explore, crazy extremes of weather, and a new assortment of hearty campers.

Usually it is too cold for kids, but this year Eva decides she's tough enough.  True to form, she delights at the ever forming clouds as she romps about the camp like a maniac.

Fairy House

This year, our camp is along an old logging road down an insignificant ridge.
The trees are thin due to the near reach of the desert, and the cleansing hand of fire.
But, like most forgotten places near Mt. Hood, it too holds its secrets.
Of course, the old maps are pretty silent on the subject, until that nagging curiosity changes dotted lines into something tangible.

Old roads are really old trails, some times.

 In 1938, you  could take this trail down to Little Badger Creek

 And you still can.

 Happiest Crew Ever: Eva, Jasan, Mark, Mike, and Melissa await the apocalypse

It's a long way back up!

But what is this?  The gloom has parted?

Jasan fryin' up some top-quality grub

We sit speechless, as somehow the skies light up like a Caribbean summer and the temperatures begin a steady climb, 70, 75....80 degrees Fahrenheit!

Instant summer!

Zoomer has been trained to point hotdogs in their natural habitat

lurking desert hills

But this is still March, despite the weather.  The days are getting longer, but night still falls pretty quickly.
Who knows what awaits us the next day...

And yet, somehow, another beautiful morning.

Not wanting this glorious day to go to waste, a few of us decide to hike up the road and search for more of that old trail.  It's a long shot - it looks like a road was built over the trail back in the 1950s.

This hunch turns out to be true.  The upper 1/2 mile of the old trail is lost to a now old road.
But it is still an incredible day in the lodgepole pines.

Although the upper trail is pretty much gone, there are other artifacts left to rot for decades, as forgotten as the old men and their trails.


you are here (at least in 1959)

There is still an afternoon to bask in this fleeting light, to go back to camp and enjoy a beer and good company as the evening falls.

There is never enough time.  I watch my daughter sprout up before my eyes, and my hair turns gray like sudden snowfall.  I wish to hold time in my hand, trap it like a moth.  But it is designed to run free, a mercury waterfall without pause.  We grow, change, evolve, decay, and return.

Through, and often in spite of our best efforts, we complete our countless journeys - with heavy hearts, and hearts as light as air.  Together, we celebrate, as much as we mourn.

After another day of boundless beauty, it is time to return again to the responsibility of those 4 walls.

Back to cleanliness, to order, and all other civilized virtues.
Away from the hot sun, and a return to dripping moss.

I will camp for the rest of my years, and I swear it will never be enough.
These days are the greatest gift of my life.