Friday, February 19, 2016

The Accidental Packet

Serendipity often arrives by the mail.

A little while back I acquired this old battered envelope from a family in Wisconsin.  
I was somewhat interested in the maps - they were clean 1963 Mt. Hood National Forest maps (both north and south halves!), completely common despite their vintage heritage.  The Forest Service must have printed a gazillion of the things.  Well they were cheap, so I bought them.

Much to my surprise, they contained quite a bit of history, all relevant to my many lives intertwined over the years.  

art deco Elgin Tower Building

Elgin, Illinois is a long way from the Cascades; geographically culturally it doesn't matter.  It would not surprise me that many of the vintage artifacts that litter wild Oregon had their origin there, nails, lookout hinges, compasses who knows.
When I was a kid, I thrilled at my first solo forages into Elgin, riding the Milwaukee Road to the end of the line, where the conductors never charged me.
1974 end of the lineFrom Chasing Heavy Metal

I have always been fond of Elgin.  Lots of history and the beautiful Fox River.  The terminus of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin interurban railroad, now just a Prairie Path, electric in the weeds.
But that was a long time ago, before I went feral and lost myself in Oregon.  After years of blood by thorns of devil's club, busted ankles from buried stumps in the ferns, hypothermic chills and endless rain, it is a brutal baptism.  Those that have been through it are changed forever.

Well, Egin, Illinois, home of the famous watch company.  Let's see what's in there.
A letter from a Mr. Kenneth Lobbig:
The story gets more remarkable.  I know these places very well, and this man lived them, years before they became abandoned footings in the weeds.

North Fork GS and Oak Grove RS 1935
CCC Camp 1 1/2 

CCC Camp Rag City

In their usual terse tone, but written with the eloquent cursive pen of the day, is the US Forest Service Reply, written on the back of his letter and returned to Elgin, another long trip from Portland.

"Call us when you get here"

Well Mr. Lobbig, if I were around in 1967 I would have delighted in your tales of the early Depression Clackamas, the gilded Forest Service age of conservation and white enamel signs.

  Even by the late 1960s this was a ruthless, cold and efficient Forest Service, building many destructive roads into fragile ancient valleys and logging the hell out of them - right to the riverbank.  A lot of old timers were pissed off to lose those fragile temples of summer memory, back lit and golden, spendid in the late sun and now a clearcut mess.  The old guard was retiring, nobody needed a diamond hitch anymore.

What else is in this envelope?  20 bucks from the 60s?  No.
1964 PNW Forests

ok then

Of course way out of date - facilities change a lot in almost 50 years.  Well, unfortunately for the Mt. Hood NF, many of the campgrounds, roads, trails, and public sites have been abandoned or destroyed - on purpose.  It seems the NW Oregon national forests lack the budget for campgrounds.  Many of my favorite camps are "camps no more".  I will leave this irony up to the reader.

The following pages are the entries for Mt Hood:

Again, I'll leave it up to the historian to determine the pertinence of this information.
Smokey's eyes, almost sensual

Finally in the pack, the somewhat coveted 1963 maps, with their odd "Pure Americana" imagery

the homliest, un-campy strange family I've even seen, yet they're featured prominently

a very poorly cut-in bear (nobody could find an actual photo of a bear in the woods)
and finally
This Guy

Odd, very odd.  
The '63 is the last USFS Mt. Hood map that shows many of the old trails.
By 1967, most are missing on the new map.  Road, many more roads in stead.

And the rest is history!

At the very least, Mr. Lobbig was able to tell his story, no matter how brief.  I wonder how his trip went in the summer of '67.  I hope it brought back a lot of memories.

Kenneth C. Lobbig

1 comment:

  1. How cool is that? History on a personal level.