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Monday, August 30, 2010

Hard Fall: Playing it safe doesn't always pay off

Posted By on Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 3:39 PM

Twice in the past three years, I've opted to walk around a dangerous looking section of mountain bike trail only to end up in the ER. Call it clumsiness, call it good intentions gone awry, call it bad luck- it happened.

Three summers ago riding the river trail with local Julien Havac, we came to a tricky rock strewn section. I said: "just to be safe, let's walk it."

Two steps onto the rocks and I slipped and fell hard. I got up looked around and that's when I noticed blood spurting out of my lower right leg.

Quick-thinking Havac pulled off his t-shirt, ripped it apart and created a tourniquet. Off we rode to the Westside BMC, me tracking blood across the floor as I gimped in.

Some nine internal and countless more external stitches and I was out the door and off the bike and pretty well restricted for two weeks.

Now comes this past Saturday's chapter in playing it safe.

On a section of the North Umpqua Trail, I was riding solo (read cautious) and got off to walk around a pretty bad section of trail. A fall here and you'd go down a steep embankment and then over a 15-foot cliff into a rock pile.

As I walked my bike through this section, I slipped and next thing I knew was cartwheeling down the embankment and then over the cliff. Luckily, small alder tress stopped my fall short of the rocks.

After checking to see if I was all there and that extremities worked, I realized I was virtually blind without my glasses, which had been torn off. A river of blood flowed down onto my face from a serious gash on my forehead.

I collected myself and started to climb out only to discover that my right thigh, left knee and left buttock were severely bruised. I crawled to where the cliff could be climbed and slowly inched my way upward.

Once back on the trail, it took me a few more minutes to retrieve my bike. It had fallen to the cliff's edge. Hanging onto a small alder tree and using it as my lifeline, I was able to retrieve my bike.

Thus ensued a three-mile walk out followed by a five-mile ride down the highway to get my car. Car found, I drove back to where I'd exited the trail to wait for my wife who was hiking.

I was a mess and thanks several mountain bikers, hikers and fishermen who saw to it that I wasn't in critical condition.

The rest of the story involves four hours in the ER at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg and an array of staples in my forehead. After the staples are removed any chance of becoming a screen star are long gone, except for perhaps bits parts of a truly mean, well-scarred character.

The bruises are deep, my ability to sleep is nil, the psychological wounds apparent.

Is it time to hang it up. I mean if you keep getting hurt while playing it safe, there has to be some sort of warning in that. Perhaps a more contemplative life is in order?

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pioneer To Davis: One more link in Vince Genna's dream trail

Posted By on Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 8:52 PM

During his long tenure as head of the Bend Metro Parks and Recreation District, it was said of the late Vince Genna that he, "never met a ballfield he didn't like." But Genna was more than just a ball sports guy as he held a long term vision for a walking/biking trail that would go along the Deschutes River from south of Bend through town and then north to Tumalo.

In dedicating the part of the original River Trail section that starts at the end of the First Street in 1989, Genna spoke of his dream of a trail that would connect north-to-south and vice-versa.

This past Tuesday a key link in Genna's dream trail was dedicated and, albeit 1,500-feet long, it's a beauty.

The section of trail begins with a new ADA compliant ramp coming down off the sidewalk on NW Portland Avenue into Pioneer Park. From there it heads due north on pavers through the park and along the First Street Rapids to the new Davis Park and the base of the rapids.

Davis Park is being created on the yet undeveloped property donated to Parks and Rec in 2006 by the late real estate developer, Jay Audia.

Eventually, a bridge will be built from Davis Park across the river to connect with the First Street section of the River Trail.

The new trail, besides having a wonderful paver surface, except for the short dirt section in Davis Park, is interesting in how it's constructed around the condominium units at the Riverside Motel. To get through a narrow gap between the condos and the river's edge, the trail designers had the construction team build a cantilevered platform that extends out over the river. The result is dramatic and makes the trail more interesting to ride and walk.

And those who walk or ride along the trail will come in close contact with the condo owners who, in the spirit of civic involvement, welcomed the trail to their backyards.

In fact, Parks went out of their way to include input on the project from not only the condo owners but property owners on the west side of the First Street Rapids.

With an eye on the historical significance of Pioneer Park, the 1928 monument to the pioneers who crossed the river at that location in the 1850s has been embedded in a large chunk of lava rock and now is at eye instead of ground level.

There's some debate on whether or not the pioneers did actually cross the river at what is now Pioneer Park. Suffice to say, research shows that pioneers did indeed cross there for a period of time, but later all crossing traffic moved upriver to what is now the Old Mill District.

Hopefully, this new portion of trail will eventually lead to the complete fulfillment of Genna's River Trail dream.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Herman and Hal: Two legends pass on

Posted By on Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 10:52 PM

In the past two weeks, two legends in their respective fields (photography and track and field) passed away without much notice unless you happen to read the major metro newspapers online.

For those who take or admire photos of musicians at work, Herman Leonard's images are the cornerstone of popular music photography. His dramatic backlit black-and-white images of America's great jazz musicians are truly iconic (

Leonard was a minimalist working with two small lights and a Speed Graphic (in his early days) camera. Perhaps Leonard's most famous image is his one of tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon. Gordon, porkpie hat on his head, dressed in a sharp zoot suit, coll-looking shirt and tie, rests with his instrument in his lap between numbers at a rehearsal. A wisp of smoke flows up from a cigarette he holds in one hand past his face forming a small cloud above his head.

It's an image that captures the essence of the jazz era of the late forties and early fifties: hipness in black and white.

But easily his greatest photo, in terms of capturing a moment, is the one of Duke Ellington sitting at a table in a New York club watching Ella Fitzgerald on stage. Ellington's look of admiration and love says it all.

Speaking of love, when American hammer thrower Hal Connolly fell in love with Czech discus thrower Olga Fikotova during the 1956 Melbourne summer Olympic Games (where he won the gold medal), it was a major incident. Why? Because she was from a then-Communist-Bloc country and the Cold War was still very much alive.

After months of diplomatic negotiations, Connolly and Fikotova were married in Prague in front of a throng estimated between 30 and 40 thousand well wishers.

Connolly would go on to compete in the 1960 (8th), 1964 (6th) and 1968 (did not qualify for the finals) Games.

Connolly's story was even more dramatic because he was born with badly damaged left arm that was much shorter than his right arm. He overcame his apparent problem through serious weight training and went on to break the world record in the hammer six times.

After retiring from competition, Connolly became a school teacher and tireless volunteer helping potential Olympians and the Special Olympics movement.

Connolly's love story and enduring love for track and field and Leonard's turning music photography into an art both contributed greatly to the American scene.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Eats: paradise is nothing without fancy restaurants

Posted By on Mon, Aug 23, 2010 at 4:23 PM

It was a mixed group, a few longtime Bend residents and some more recent arrivals. As the conversation turned to the pluses and minuses of living in our fair city, the longtime residents seemed a bit jaded in their outlook; the newer residents were more of the Bend as paradise-on-earth mindset.

Pressed as to what was my favorite era during my time living here, I said: "I enjoyed Bend most mid-way between when I first arrived in 1978 and the beginning of the gold rush, boom times."

I went on to offer a slower pace of life, few traffic or noise problems, plenty of things to do, outdoor activities right out the backdoor, lower cost of living, strong middle class, low crime rate, etc as reasons why I liked that period of time.

"That all sounds well and good," countered a relatively recent arrival, "But what you didn't have then was restaurants."

"Restaurants," I replied quizzically, "Sure, we had tons of them. Let's see, there was The Pine Tavern, Kayo's, Han's and a bunch more for fine dining, the Pilot Butte Drive-In and Dandy's for burgers, the Taco Stand, the Hong Kong and Chan's for Chinese, etc."

"Yea," he shot back, "but you still didn't have any restaurants."

I thought about it for a minute and then realized that I was wrong and he was right. Back in the day, Bend didn't have any restaurants as in see-to-be-seen, cost-you- a-week's paycheck restaurants.

Bend, in my opinion, was once even more liveable than it is now, only residents, regretably, didn't have any restaurants to go to - just good places to dine.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

High Country: big views, granite rock and starry nights

Posted By on Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 1:58 AM



Take Yosemite National Park around Tuolumne Meadows and environs, combine it with the best of the mountains of southern Colorado and you have Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains. Yosemite for the granite rock and southern Colorado for the high alpine valleys cut by meandering crystal clear streams.

Far from being undiscovered, the Wallowa Mountains, as a group of us found out when we got to the trailhead at the end of the road up the east fork of the Lostine River, are very popular. The trailhead lot was as packed as the one in front of Best Buy two days before Christmas.

But somehow, all the hikers, backpackers and the stock animals ferrying people and loads into the backcountry dispersed and rather than find ourselves in an alpine ghetto, we had plenty of room to camp without feeling cramped.

Once set up in camp, it was time to let the mountains take control.

John Muir wrote about climbing the mountains and feeling their warmth and having one’s, “cares drop away like leaves off the trees in autumn.”

How true. It took one day to start to flow with the sun’s daily cycle, two days to become relaxed and feel the cares of the world start melt away. Three days to begin to feel one with the world. Four days  to think that this really is what life is all about.

Every sense is enhanced. The simplest day hike becomes an experience in readjusting those  senses. At night, lying in a sleeping bag the sliver of a new moon looks like it’s ten feet away, the stars like you could gather them up put them in a water bottle and take them home.

Muir put it thus: “How hard to realize that every camp of men and beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof! In such places standing alone on the mountaintop it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make-leaves and moss like marmots and birds, or tents or piled stone- we all dwell in a house of one room-the world with the firmament for its roof-and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving any track.”

Come morning and a new day, there were hikes to be made, fish to be caught, peaks to bag. The hikes were wonderful with wildflowers still blanketing meadows. The peaks were slogs rewarded with spectacular views. The fishing was, in short, lousy. Lousy, particularly if you prefer casting to fish over eight inches in length and not of the Brook Trout clan.

The weather was brilliant, the mosquitoes pesky but not maddening, the horseflies slow but powerful in bite. Swimming in a cold lake or the upper reaches of the Lostine River took the sting out of any bug bite and made an afternoon nap a necessity.

There were small moments that stood out much like the one experienced by the explorer John Charles Fremont in 1842.

“During our morning’s ascent we had met no signs of animal life, except a small sparrow-like bird already mentioned. A stillness the most profound and a terrible solitude forced themselves constantly on the mind as the great features of the place. Here, on the summit, where the stillness was absolute, unbroken by any sound, and the solitude complete, we thought ourselves beyond the region of animated life; but while we were sitting on the rock, a solitary bee (Bombus,the bumble bee) came winging his flight from the eastern valley, and lit on the knee of one the men.”

It is small wonders like this that made the mountain magical for Fremont and for us as well 168 years later.

Yet despite all the wonderful things about the Wallowa Mountains and the efforts by the Forest Service to keep alpine meadows from being trampled and campsites and fire rings from taking over the landscape, the environment is fragile and perhaps limits to the number  backpacking and horse travel into parts of this great wilderness will soon be enforced. Man’s impact is evident and hard to gloss over despite all the good just being in the mountains does for one’s soul.













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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lunker Quest: Gorgeous waters yield few fish

Posted By on Tue, Aug 10, 2010 at 9:45 PM

In his self-published book The Meanderings of A Fisherman, the late financier Dean Witter mused how one very popular Oregon stream looked like a flyfisher's paradise when, in fact, it was quite the opposite.

Now I know the "looks good but isn't" Witter spoke of, as this past Sunday's flyfishing expedition turned out to be one of beautiful but unproductive waters.

The waters in question were the south fork of the McKenzie River and the north fork of the middle fork of the Willamette River. Both feature crystal-clear waters, long pools, short but often difficult access and hope springing eternal as the waters of both are easily viewing from you car window as you drive along the Auderheide Memorial Highway.

First to the south fork of the McKenzie, which I'd kayaked in the past and after one whitewater trip spent the evening flyfishing a run above the French Pete campground. I did well enough then hooking six good rainbow trout in an hour.

This past Sunday we fished four locations from French Pete upstream with a total of zero trout hooked.

Trust me, we tried everything when it came to tempting trout -- dries with bead-head nymph droppers, big weighted nymphs, streamers. Nothing worked and not once did we see a fish scurry off as we walked along the riverbank or waded into a run.

Skunked, we headed off to the north fork of the middle fork of the Willamette where the waters were even better looking and some long runs appeared about as fishy as one could want. After four stops, the total score was three dinky fry and one decent adult of, say, 10 inches.

But the day wasn't entirely lost. At our next to last stop we had the pleasure of watching two turkey vultures circling about thirty feet above us just across the river. Despite their reputation for being wary, the vultures stayed in the air for several minutes, disappeared and then returned to hover overhead once again as we moved on.

Fishing done, we repaired to the Brewer's Union Local 180 pub in downtown Oakridge.

Fans of beer rejoice. This is a real deal pub not a modernized/sanitized/upwardly mobilized version of same. It looks and feels like a typical British pub from room temperature beer to dart board, comfortable seating and no television sets.

So if the fish don't bite and the vultures don't appear, the beer at the end of the day is good, very good.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

McKenzie: A good ride spoiled?

Posted By on Mon, Aug 9, 2010 at 6:09 PM

Back when mountain bikes came without suspension, an annual fall group ride down the McKenzie River Trail was a big deal for the three dozen or so fat tire riders who lived in Central Oregon. The trail was one of the few long ones open to riding. It was firm, fast and with leaves starting to turn red and gold, riding alongside the crystal clear waters of the river was a magical experience.

Then mountain biking became popular and riding the McKenzie River Trail became commonplace. Soon the trail made just about every bike and outdoor magazine's "top ten" trails to ride list. People came from all over to ride.

Some came for the shear pleasure of making a day tour along a great trail. But more came in the spirit of merit badge collecting. Riding the McKenzie River Trail was just another ride in a long list of "must-rides" to be done at top speed with little regard for the surroundings.

As a result, the upper part of the trail in particular has seen a lot of wear, more erosion, and much misuse. And, there are times when the crowds are so thick that you feel like you're in a traffic jam.

What made the McKenzie River Trail so special from the first time it was ridden by a mountain biker was always the lack of traffic, the solitude and how the trail flowed easily through the terrain. Serpentine is places, the trail was built for hiking and thus had a gentler more terrain/contour line-friendly (if you will) feel to it.

Attempting to recapture the feel of what the trail used to be before the crowds, I've taken to riding up from the trail's terminus as far as I feel like riding and then doubling back.

That means an early start from the Ranger Station near McKenzie Bridge. An early start that's worth it as this past Saturday I was passed by one rider going up to beyond Belknap Hot Springs and saw about a half dozen hikers after doubling back. That made it one stress-free ride and a pleasant journey back in time.

The lower portion of the McKenzie River Trail is still in wonderful shape as the terrain lends itself to less "rad" riding. Yes, you can go fast but the terrain allows this without the creation of lots of stutter bumps from excessive braking on corners.

Chances are, if you ride early and upstream that won't have to contend with groups of armor wearing weekend warriors or budding racing stars coming downstream and fast.

The McKenzie River Trail remains a marvel. Only now, it's a marvel to be taken in early in the day and out and back before the hordes descend.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fast Company: going for the checkered flag on the Parkway

Posted By on Tue, Aug 3, 2010 at 3:27 PM

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. It's race day and time for couch potatoes to sit back, relax and watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on television. But, what if you're into speed but want to be more active than sedentary? Might I suggest taking a drive on the Parkway? Afterall, the Parkway is the closest thing to an unofficial raceway that we have in town.

While the real NASCAR drivers were turning laps at the Pocono Speedway in Pennsylvania, local Benites, tourons (aka tourists) and pseudo Ricahard Pettys were making with the speed on the Parkway.

I couldn't resist the urge to get in on the action so got my 1994 F-150 Ford pickup up to 50 mph and started down the Parkway south to north. By the time hit the hunk of metal sculpture apparently donated to our fair city by the former Soviet Union (it does appear to be post Tsarist industrial art), things were already heating up.

Up from behind me came an SUV with two touring kayaks on top and four bikes on a rear bike carrier. He's was doing about 75 mph. Blocked from changing lanes, the SUV's driver slowed and got about four inches off my rear bumper.

This excellent drafting technique was soon followed by others as a spiffy Audi and a brand new hot Ford Fiesta fell into the pace line behind the SUV, each car about four inches from the one in front of them.

Suddenly, there was an opening in the left lane and bam, all three cars drafting off of me switched lanes and I'm left there plugging along (now at 55 mph) looking about as slow as a cement truck at a drag race.

But wait, there's trouble ahead for the very fast in the left lane and it's a woman in a battered Corolla who refuses to drive a single mile per hour above the 45 MPH posted speed limit. What is she thinking? Why is she screwing up a great day of racing?

Then the right lane became clear as a few cars exited onto Empire Avenue. The stream of fast cars (now hitting what must be between 75 and 80 mph) race ahead. Behind me the action is hot with cars coming up fast and switching lanes every two seconds.

It's wild and sure beats the hell out of sitting watching racing on television. I was considering doing another run or two up and down the Parkway when a Chrysler 300 blasted by me at 90 mph, and I knew I couldn't compete.

But how cool was the scene and how much fun is Parkway racing? Loads of fun and forget the 45mph speed limit that's just a recommended slow speed.

For the record, I was on the City Council (then Commission) when the Parkway was approved. The original design called for numerous stoplights and the Council/Commission went to ODOT and asked that the roadway be stoplight free.

ODOT revised their plan dropped several stoplights, however, they refused to budge on the Council/Commission's request for a 65 mph speed limit. The limit was set at 45 mph.

So, I ask, how about we revisit the speed limit issue because apart from the lady in the Corolla this past Sunday, I seriously doubt that anyone ever drives 45, or even 50, mph on the Parkway.

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