Monthly Archives: January 2009

Oregon’s Blue Mountain Heritage Trail opens in 2010

Here is an amazing effort to make the Blue Mountains area accessible to some organized and supported hiking. We have ridden several epic multi-day bike rides in this area. Its clean, quiet, open and beautiful and easy to fall in love with.

BAKER CITY — It took almost half a century, but Loren Hughes, 83, is about to see his dream of an 870-mile hiking and horse trail circling the Blue Mountains come true.
Enthusiastic supporters in Baker County already envision the Blue Mountain Heritage Trail, with segments set to open next year, as an economic engine for eastern Oregon. They plan to introduce European-style “bed-to-bed” hiking, with shuttles taking hikers to inns.
“We are hoping that 50 percent or more of the potential users of the trail will be Europeans,” said Donald Chance, Baker City planning director and a veteran hiker.
Hughes, a retired La Grande jeweler and wilderness advocate, got the idea for the trail in 1960 while riding horseback in the Blues. He shared the idea with fellow outdoorsman Dick Hentze, 63, of Baker City.
“Loren and I talked about it a lot” over the decades, said Hentze, a bowhunter, backpacking enthusiast and retired teacher. “At one point, I thought we needed to get this on paper.”
To that end, Hentze spent much of the past three years in front of a computer braiding Hughes’ dream and a maze of backcountry pathways into a coherent map.
The resulting trail extends from the north end of the Blues near Walla Walla, south to the rugged granite peaks of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness near John Day.

The trail encompasses the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, Eagle Cap Wilderness, North Fork John Day Wilderness, North Fork Umatilla Wilderness, Strawberry Mountains, Elkhorn Mountains and Hells Canyon Recreation Area. And it encloses roughly 2,000 miles of existing trails that plunge deep into the mountains.
The trail is designed to be hiked or ridden horseback in segments. Routes still must be finalized with the U.S. Forest Service and services must be organized, but if all goes according to plan, hikers will be able to traverse 10 to 12 miles a day and then ride a shuttle from a trailhead to the nearest town and back.
Instead of lugging heavy backpacks and sleeping under the stars, hikers could carry light day packs and spend the night in a bed-and-breakfast or motel. More remote trailheads could be served by wilderness outfitters, Hentze said.
Chance, who has hiked extensively in North America and Europe, says the trail could become a sensation among Europeans and possibly Japanese, drawn by the opportunity to see real cowboys, loggers, gold miners and cattle-ranching culture.
For Europeans, he said, “we would be an exotic destination.”
A partial opening of the trail is planned for spring 2010, with segments linking Baker City to three sites: Prairie City, Halfway and the Anthony Lakes Mountain Ski Area in the Elkhorn Mountains, said Andrew Bryan, a Baker City councilman and marketing director for the Baker County Development Corp.
The corporation, the trail’s most active promoter, already refers to Baker City as “Basecamp Baker,” Bryan said, casting the town of fewer than 10,000 as the hub of a new recreation economy.
Ultimately, mountain-bike routes and white-water rafting on the Grande Ronde and Snake rivers could be added to the mix, Hentze said. Organizers hope to bring Native Americans from the Umatilla, Warm Springs and Burns Paiute reservations to discuss their cultures with European visitors.
Hentze and Hughes would like to see the Blue Mountain Heritage Trail become part of the national scenic trails system, joining such trails as the Pacific Crest and Appalachian.
“The Blue Mountains are really very primitive,” Hughes said. “They are just fascinating mountains, and they are different than any other.”
Promoters could do worse than imitate the system in Britain, Chance said, where hikers spend an average of $100 to $150 a day for meals, accommodations and other amenities. The system generates $12.5 billion a year and employs 245,000, he said.
Bryan agreed. “If we did one one-thousandth of what the English do in a year, it would be a huge boost to the local economy,” he said.
Chance said the biggest challenge will be lining up bed-and-breakfast operators and wilderness outfitters. But, he added: “The people that have been introduced to it are really excited about it.”
–by Richard Cockle, The Oregonian ~ Saturday January 17, 2009, 6:24 PM

Gibbs Street Bike/Pedestrian bridge.

Wow, how did we miss the new bridge in this plan?

Apparently,  the design drawing of Gibbs Street bike and pedestrian bridge, been fast-tracked by Mayor Adams to help Portland’s economy.  The City of Portland announced a $503 million economic stimulus plan. Within that plan, is $52 million in Bureau of Transportation projects — at least four  of which include bike-related facilities.

  • East Burnside and Couch project will create a couplet with eastbound traffic on Burnside and westbound traffic on Couch.
  • The Cully Boulevard Green Street Project, which includes Portland’s first-ever cycletrack. The new cycletrack will run from NE Prescott to NE Killingsworth
  • A project to replace the N. Vancouver Bridge over the Columbia Slough is estimated to cost $10 million and create 146 jobs.
  • And a new Gibbs Street bike/pedestrian bridge to cross I-5 just south of the east end of the Ross Island Bridge.

Gibbs Street Bridge Design

We will be keeping a close eye on the development of these projects. The first step will be to visit the sites to get an idea of how it looks and works, prior to any work started. In that way we can really understand what the improvement really means to us.

See an current bridge design for the Gibbs Street bridge  here.

For more information see

Trouble Tattoos

What kind of story would you write, if you were just given two random words from which to spawn a thought that could grow into a short story?

Today, Tom has provided a great example on how to do just that.

Trouble Tattoos 1/2009

I work at the coffee shop next door to the ‘Ink and Pain’ tattoo shop, and every workday is like working next to a circus. Our store is fairly ordinary in comparison; we have our regular patrons with their regular orders and the occasional foreigner that is only fluent in their commercialized jargon and try to order a ‘venti triple shot extra foamy caramel macchiato with whip’ then are confused when we hand them a large cup of coffee. Compared to next door, we are tamer than tame.

When they first opened, they had a lot of inexperienced artists, but I’ll never forget the one they called “Tiger” McGee. Tiger was a good tattooist when it came to scary skulls or vicious vampires, but not so skilled at words; he was dyslexic. I’m sure Tiger’s employer had no idea of his condition, and since he was home schooled, I don’t know if Tiger did either. However, by the end of his first week, the whole town knew. His career as a tattooist ended with the proverbial bang, a lawsuit, and his sudden disappearance.

It all started, or I should say ended, when a tough biker lady with a green Mohawk and gold bars in her nose entered the ‘Ink and Pain’ boutique. She strode in, clad in leather and chains, in and sat down at Tiger’s chair and requested a tattoo to be put on her back proclaiming her allegiance to a certain biker gang. He immediately set to work on the intricate flaming pitchfork and gothic lettering she requested. After 6 hours of dabbing, poking, inking, and re-inking, Tiger was finished. The tough biker clapped him hard on the back, paid for her tattoo and left.

The next day, she stormed into the parlor red faced and swearing. She sauntered over to Tiger, grabbed him by the collar and proceeded to yell down his throat, her rage forcing him to bend over backwards over his chair. She screamed until her voice went out and everyone in sight was ducking behind trashcans and benches to avoid her wrath. She left after what seemed to be an eternity, upturning chairs and toppling old magazines on her way out.

I spoke to the shop owner after the verbal onslaught ceased, and the patrons and workers had come out of hiding. According to him, the biker’s rave was somewhat justifiable, if not just insane. Tiger’s condition had made itself know to everyone in the form of a miss-spelled name; apparently the biker was not a member of the infamous gang, ‘The Brides of Santa.’

As part of the biker’s settlement, besides an exorbitant amount of money, Tiger was forced to resign and publicly apologize to the biker and her gang. He resigned immediately after his verbal onslaught out of fear for his back, but no one from the coffee shop or the tattoo parlor saw Tiger give the apology. When confronted, with proper law enforcement professionals present, the biker and her gang claimed that Tiger gave his apology at their local hangout before leaving town the night before.
With no eyewitness testimonies besides the Brides’, we had to believe them, and when we asked if Tiger left a forwarding address, they said, with chuckles and grins, that he moved away and got a job as a valet at the Machus Red Fox Restaurant, and suggested we start our search there. The parlor’s owner decided not to follow up with Tiger, saying something about dead ends and mysteries, so we all decided to leave it at that. I’m sure Tiger is fine, wherever he is.

I suppose we’ll never really know what happened to Tiger, and from that day, no one mentioned his name at the parlor without shaking their head and dismissing it quickly. We never saw another member of the Brides again, nor any other biker gang member for that matter; presumably they have some clandestine correspondence between themselves, and spread the word of the mishap amongst their community.

Business resumed its normal flow at the parlor within weeks, and Tiger’s position was vacant for a long time. Potential artists came and went as the owner conducted interviews. Most of them were fresh out of tattoo school, some didn’t seem to be all together, and one even had the shakes; none of them were skilled enough to take Tiger’s place. However, just as the owner was about to give in to one of the students, a heavyset man in a red and yellow jumpsuit who went by the name of Chuck “Gray Eyes” Smith came in and presented his profile. The owner was impressed with what he called ‘vivid and unique use of color’ and he hired the man on the spot.

I learned a few weeks later from one of the tattooists that “Gray Eyes” earned his name because of his inability to distinguish colors, and when he worked he picked whatever shade seemed appropriate at the time. I told the shop’s owner of his condition, and all he could reply was “Well, what’s the worst that could happen.”

Deciding it was best to mind my own business, I shook my head and went back to pouring my large cups of coffee, but I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard a man at the shop ask for the Blue Angel’s logo. He walked out later that day with a bright green plane emblazoned on his chest; I suppose it could’ve been worse, right?

I-5 Bridge design proposals include wind turbines

New designs have been released for the I-5 bridge, to include wind turbines that could be used to supply the power needs of the bridge itself. Thats a cool idea in theory. I hope its not a cost & maintenance nightmare in reality.  What I do like is the idea of a toll to use the bridge.  Washington residents should pay for the priviledge of using the jobs and resources of our state so that they can pay less for property taxes.

From the Associated Press:
PORTLAND — A new green design proposal for the Interstate-5 Bridge has generated a lot of buzz.
Details on turbine bridge proposal

Florida architectural firm Touchstone Architecture unveiled a bridge design with vertical, spinning wind turbines. The firm said this bridge would showcase this region’s leadership in sustainability.
The goal was to take advantage of the wind coming through the Columbia River Gorge and help ease traffic on the I-5 bridge.
What was unclear was how much electricity could be generated and what it would be used for. There was talk of possibly providing electricity for the toll booths and/or the bridge lights.
Also, there was discussion about whether a new bridge should include 12 lanes and extend light rail to Vancouver.
The cost for this new design was undetermined at this time.
Some opponents disagreed these wind turbines would make the bridge sustainable. They told The Oregonian newspaper that they were also concerned about safety and the cost.
Most policy-makers said a toll is necessary to help pay for for construction.
Oregon and Washington lawmakers planned to ask Congress to help foot part of the $4 billion bridge that would replace the I-5 bridge.

Axel Nielsen

Axel Nielsen of Sammamish, Wash, formerly of Lane Count, died Dec. 2 of age related causes at age 96.
No Service is planned.

He was born Feb. 28, 1912 in Askov, Minn, to Jorgen and Anna Lund Nielsen. He married Irene Keith on March 10, 1932 in Albany. He completed school through the 8th grade. He was a diesel mechanic at Chucks Truck Shop.

Survivors include his wife, a daughter Marynadine Evjen of Sammamish, Wash.: three sisters Marie Aasted of Junction City, Karen Louvering of Springfield, and Evelyn Mishler of Albany; a brother Carl Nielsen of Eugene; six grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.

Rememberances to Faith Lutheran Church, Junction City.

Using our “Walk There!” book.

This summer we picked up a copy of “Walk There!”, 50 treks in and around Portland, jointly sponsored by Metro and Kaiser Permante.  A great little book with all sorts of ideas for some good walking around town. It is in that book that we discovered the Mt. Talbert Park walk.  A mountain top hike through the forest,  located just a mile off I-205.  Too many days spent hanging close to home due to the snow, had created a need for us to get out, and this hike was just the thing.   About 4 miles of trails encircle and climb this extinct 750 foot volcanic butte, just SE of Clackamas Town Center.  On trail follows the ridge to the top and other seem to up and down as you walk around, what I am guessing is a park of about 1/2 mile in diameter.  All that climbing was a perfect complement to the 35 degree day, where there was still snow at the top.
On a clear day, there is likely some nice views. This winter afternoon, the sky was cold and, well, very gray.

Mt. Talbert Trail head

There is a nice trail head parking area on SE Mather road, complete with restrooms, covered picnic area, signs, and bike racks!
Next time we come, we will ride there.

Top of Mt. Talbert

At the top, it is very natural, no real signs of intrusion.  Views of the city arent as good as other similar vantage points such as Mt. Tabor, or Rocky Butte, but it was kind of hard to tell on this day.

Mt Talbert Park Trail Signage

All the trails are well marked, and it was very easy to tell where we were and what  were our options.
Each intersection had one of these great markers.  There are at least 6 exit/entrance options here.

Trail damage on Mt. Talbert

The trails are easy to follow and not at all technical, although they are not wheelchair accessible. We couldnt tell if you could bike them. Didnt see any signage either way. Most the trails are dirt, with only a few short sections of gravel.  Those gravel sections are apparently there due to erosion issues.  The large snowfall, followed by heavy rains, did cause some washout damage to the fine work someone has done in creating these trails.  Nothing to cause a problem in walking them, but they will likely need to be repaired.