Tuesday, August 4, 2015

10 Years of Hambone - July 2015

 10 years - for me anyway.

The Roaring River drainage of course, is much older.  Both simultaneously sculpted and buried by ice sheets and basalt lava flows, the land is dynamic; indeed it always seems to change even viewed in human time scales.  I love this wilderness.  I love its wildness, the millions of trees - some ancient, some not.  I love the steep slopes of scree and chirping Pikas, the ever changing colorful tapestry of reds and vibrating yellows, more greens than the eye can ever see.  It is home to me, "my habitat" as I often remark.  It is not always a pleasant place, but no love ever shared can hope to be.

Glaciers of 10,000 Y.A. that remade contients

Along with water, ice, and earth, this remarkable wilderness has also been sculpted by fire.  No other force is as crucial to the life of the forest, although in our brief generations we struggle with this significance.  Catastrophic fires occur in these Cascades with regularity every couple hundred years - the last in 1910, and again in 1919.  Although the landscape took nearly a hundred years to recover, the forest is again green and verdant, the only indicators of these past cataclysms are stands of younger trees and scorched ancient stumps.  It is incredible, as the involution/evolution of seed-to-tree and back again takes place before our eyes.  There is only the infinite and the microscopic as a guide, buried in unseen strands of DNA, powered as if by magic.  If you like trees then this is the place for you.

 1934 photo from atop Signal Buttes looking North, courtesy of Trail Advocates

Of course, along with natural processes, we have human induced change.  Some argue that we are merely hands of the creator, and our destructive nature is as natural as bees.  Bees, however do not interrupt natural processes on a global scale, and seem to lack the arrogant disregard as well.

Of course again, not all human induced change is negative.  We can, and have lived in harmony with natural cycles since our inception.  Can a society be held accountable?  Or is it too just a "tool" in the hands of its creator?  Change, whether slow or sudden, is of course inevitable. 

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt"
-Matthew 6:19, as often quoted by Swami Shantarupananda

Unfortunately for me, I have a hard time taking this advice, cherishing this mere dust with form.  It is a pointless exercise but I adore this land all the same.  It tears us up and then makes us whole again.

In the beginning, only the ice and rock shared the company of these lonely hills.  In time, as habitats reformed, humans came to the land.  For the first 10,000 years their impact was minimal; you're lucky to find an ancient arrowhead out there.  Other than their ingenious network of trails, their only smudge in this 10 millennium period are the buried remains of their bones and villages.  Then came the men and machinery with different ideals, to pave and to prove something, to tickle the ego and pad fat wallets.  The land began to change - slowly at first but firmly inevitable.

 1930 - the new roads punched thru the wilderness are just beginning

 1935 - the network expands - but just a shadow of what will come

If not for these horrible fires of a century ago, these wilderness areas wouldn't even exist. 
 Most of the surrounding mountains have already been roaded and clearcut, raped on the run.  However by the time the trees had reached marketable maturity, the Widerness Act snatched them from the logging kings, forever to be protected as the Salmon-Huckleberry and Roaring River Wilderness.  It is amazing that these thousands upon thousands of acres were preserved by a trick of fate and fire.

Not ones to give up a fight, the logging companies tried their damnedest to clearcut the land anyway.
Roads were proposed into delicate ancient valleys to haul out those valuable Oregon Toothpicks, connecting Salmon Butte with a new road already ripped into the Salmon River canyon.

"The roads up Mack Hall Creek and to Mesa Lake are unfavorable because of critical soils and a moderate timber regeneration hazard. -- .The activities proposed would have a very negative impact on the native fishery and the watershed ..."
"Mack Hall Road should be terminated west and below Salmon Butte. -- Stop the Salmon River Road at Bighorn Creek."  Comments to 1974 USFS Environmental Impact Statement
But it was not to be.  Thank God for that, as brown-stained Portland swells just on the horizon.
Due to the fires, this land is a time capsule.  The few roads are from the 1930s, and the trails of course go back thousands of years.  The only trick is getting there.
I became fascinated with the Roaring River country years ago, driving my faithful 1969 VW Bus down the horrible Abbot Road again and again, white knuckled and heart pounding, somehow surviving the journey and delivered in the lap of this Green Mother.  It is the mother of all dreams, where peace comes to lie - a way station between dreams.  Even thousands of years ago, people did not stay, lingering long enough just to be redelivered.  Even in winter's deep snows I wonder about the peace falling out there.
A couple of years ago, through another weird trick of fate, an identical 1969 VW Bus found me. (see: http://www.pdxvolksfolks.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-tale-of-2-buses.html )
  I have been restoring the poor neglected wreck, every system in shambles, but after all this work she's now ready for service.  Well what better place than the worst road in northern Oregon?  Let's see what's out at Hambone this year.  Hopefully the mosquitoes aren't bad.
Of course I can't drive 2 Buses at once.  I need a test pilot.
Captain Don Presley, Clackamas River Bus Pilot at the Estacada R.S.
200 vehicles apart!  They look weird together

and off we go...and a 4200' climb ahead of us...

Nearly pooping myself with nervousness the entire way, the new bus does fine anyway.  Other than a carb adjustment, she seems fine, ready for the woods.  It is annoying and uneventful after all that stress.  
2.5 miles!  Hang on to your seat
We bump and rattle down that 1930 Abbot, churning up dust and tires tossing random gravel down into the infinity below.  A long way below...
But all this nervousness fades as we arrive into camp.  A squalid, dusty mess of 50 people camping dustbowl style, a mass of at least 20 screaming children in the muck.  This is not what I expected, or even dreamed of.  Peace is fleeting and evasive.  But what is this?  Rain?  We are in the worst drought ever recorded - it hasn't rained in months.  Of course.

  The rain brings a chill to the air.  It feels nice after so many weeks of 95 degree weather.  And more chill.  And more.  What the hell, it is 43 degrees!  Certainly a record for the end of July.
 We sit huddled around our smoky fire, simply amazed at the change in environment, listening to the continuous shrieks of many, many children - late into the night and early in the morning.
  Deep in the wilderness.

art by Eva - not a screaming child thankfully

All this soggy sitting around crabbing about noisy neighbors will not do.  Let's try to find some of that old magic.

Most of the trails in the Mount Hood National Forest are ancient in origin.  Built by indigenous people, they were later updated and improved by the early Forest Service, with only a few new trails built in the era roughly 1905-1940.  Imagine the depth of the wilderness in those early days, with Portland a multi-day travel into the deep green.  As one walks the old trails - and especially the Native ones, it becomes quickly clear that those guys were in much better shape than modern Americans.  It is humbling to be conquered by a mountain.

Don and Eva inspect a hand saw as Murphy looks on

As time marches on, the old trails continue to deteriorate.  The jungle reclaims its own.  Even the men who created and maintained these routes become unknown as the trees, fading, fading away.

Grant built and maintained many of the Roaring River trails in the 1920s before moving on

What will we find?

Eva and Don on the haunches of Hambone

The sun finally breaks as we wander the wet and tangled woods, what a mess.  Who cleans up this place?
Searching in vain for a particularly abandoned trail that doesn't want to be found, we instead decide to climb to the top of Hambone Butte at 4700'.

I love Hambone.  Not only is it my namesake, it is high and lonesome and a pain to get to.  I have always wondered at the mystery of the name.  "What could it possibly mean?"

strike 2 for romantic notions

It is a rough scramble to the top, with loose scree slopes and tangled vines making the journey exhausting.

Before you know it we have arrived on top.  That is one tuckered kid.  And one very impressed Papa, she is now exceeding many adults.  It wasn't long ago she was just my baby screaming in a chair.

 Don has lunch with Mt. Hood aka WyEast peering over his shoulder

 Signal Buttes bask

 Eva on top of the world!

But we can't stay up here forever broiling.  Let's head back down, I hear beers screaming my name.

 Mama Bus 2 - can you tell?

Soon the temperatures begin to climb.  And climb.  Before you know it, it is almost 100 degrees.

Charles arrives, excited to be freed from the city, eager to explore these wild lands.  A retired Forest Ranger, he is also in love with the woods.  "Want to try to drive down the Abbot?", he asks in the hot afternoon light.  Sure if you're driving, that road scares the hell out of me.

Iron Pipe Spring, ice cold and delicious gushing from the rocks eternally

rolling rocks

Charles explores the road to Salmon Butte, blocked and bermed but built to long-haul logging standards in eager anticipation...

 Iron Mountain Divide with Salmon Butte in the distance.  There was once a fire lookout atop the weathered skeleton of this extinct volcano.

 Hambone summit

As the temps continue to climb more friends and family arrive.  They are amazed by our tales of cold rain.  "It's 106 in Portland!", we're told.
The duality of this sparkling wilderness becomes apparent.  Billions of biting flies, invigorated by the blazing sun attack at random.  Gigantic firs sway gracefully in the oven sky.  We lie painted with dust smeared sweat and yet marvel at the wonder of it all.
It is too hot for cameras, too hot for climbing mountains.  It is time to sit and pant in the baked shade.  Instead I marvel at the priceless value of good friends and cherished company.
And yet, I am irritated.  There are too many cars coming and going, random unknown visitors to a remote camp down a horrible alpine road.  The flies are pissing me off, but they are only guardians.  I worry of the fate of these wild places, protected on our maps but littered with broken bottles and rusty artifacts of the 1950s, faded corned beef cans with the contents long digested, grape sodas their fake essence hardly a memory.  The outhouse lies collapsed in ruin, but the constant flow of jets from PDX could care less.  With generations of trash strewn beneath the firs and serviceberries, it is clear that generations of visitors to this rare place could really give a shit.  
What will happen when our population doubles in the next 30 years, to 7, 9 Billion people?  What will happen to Hambone?  Will she stay wild?  I am deeply concerned.
But then I'm reminded that the sun will too collapse some day, a vast house of cards where our spirits are the only true witness.  The rust may corrupt, but we remain stainless.  
As the last dusky sunset falls over this land and we await the Blue Moon, I am sad yet exhalted for all creation, for in creation we become whole as we fall back into infinity.  

 It is only in these places we become complete.

thank you Mama!  What a 10 years

your author in 2006

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?