Despite many adventures, my Oregon bucket list never seems to shrink. As soon as I knock an item or two off, it grows by 5 more. Last year saw horseback riding with Kiger mustangs and summitting the snow-covered Steens mountains. It also saw me hot-spring soaking and finding pianos on the playa of the Alvord Desert. This year is shaping up to knock another item off my list: staying at one of the few remaining mountaintop fire watch towers.
Due to their harsh and remote locations, fewer than 20 are left in Oregon and many are only open short portions of the year. Reservations are required, and getting a reservation is hard as they are almost always booked solid for the 6 month window of dates the moment they become available. One must diligently visit the reservation site very early every morning (east coast time no less) when dates are opened. After getting one of the rare reservations last year, I was thwarted when the road to the Lake of the Woods tower washed out and closed it for almost all of 2017 and 2018. This year, after about 2 months of on and off trying, I managed to get a 4 day reservation for the exceptional Gold Butte lookout. It’s located via hike out onto the summit of the butte and is known for having some of the most spectacular views of all the watchtowers.
It’s also a historic building. It was originally built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and usually manned by a married couple. During WW II, it was part of the Aircraft Warning System as an early invasion watchtower. In the 1970/80’s it was heavily damaged by carpenter ants. It might have been demolished like other towers if not for the efforts of the Sand Mountain Society – a fire tower preservation and restoration group. They painstakingly numbered pieces then rebuilt and replaced damaged sections exactly as it was first built, making a stay there almost exactly as it would have been in the 30’s.
Staying at one of the fire towers requires that you backpack in everything you need: water, food, and supplies. Firewood, a bed, table, fire stove, pit toilet and a few small items are provided – but there is no power, no phones, and it’s miles to your nearest neighbor. During the day you can read, hike, swim or fish at the nearby lake, or greet other hikers visiting the summit. The evenings you can watch the unbelievable sunsets and cook in the woodburning stove, then drift to sleep miles from civilization.
I’m personally looking forward to it more than my next trip abroad. I can’t wait.
A reminder that the Oregon coast is one of the most deadly coastlines in the world.
The coast has been getting pounded by some huge waves in the last few days. 30 and even mammoth 60 foot waves have been recorded. One even crashed into a set of condos, some coastal buildings have been damaged, and at least 1 person has been swept out to sea and presumed dead at this point.
Here’s some video of the storm surge coming in. A reminder that sneaker waves and surges will toss 1000lb downed trees around like matchsticks and drag you or your car wherever they go.
I recently took a trip to the Steens Mountains and Alvord Desert in the extreme southeast corner Oregon for a week. On my way, I took a little side trip and stopped by Brownsville, OR. The reason I stopped? Major scenes of the movie Stand By Me were filmed there.
Despite the movie being 31 years old, this movie is an icon of my childhood. It hearkened me back to a time when I wasn’t absorbed in digital entertainment and still had adventures in real life with real friends with real tree forts and camping adventures.
The city still has a majority of the locations easily spotted right on the main drag. The town is very tiny – only 1 or 2 main streets really and a central core that’s about 1000 feet square. Spotting all the sites can be done in just a small 20 minute stroll. Seeing all the sites in town can easily be done in a couple of hours (depending on how long you want to stroll around).
Here’s a really good guide if you’re planning on making a trip.
I was very lucky to be almost at ground zero for the American Eclipse of 2017. I was only a 1 hour drive from the center path of totality at Stayton, OR. Stayton was where National Geographic and several other shows did streaming broadcasts since it was one of the first places in the country to see the eclipse. I was just 2 miles up the road on a hill at Sublimity to avoid the crowds.
I found this video to be a great capture of exactly what you experience as totality passes overhead (besides the annoying automated buzzer thing he has). The amazing, and almost instant night in the middle of the day. Also add the sensations such as the temperature drop as totality approaches in the last 60 seconds.
It still doesn’t do justice to what happens to the sun and the light it bathes everything around you in. It appears to be perfect black ball lined with the most electric white light – yet can be looked at with the naked eye. I don’t think I have ever seen a photo or video that comes close to capturing what it really looks like. Even more than that is the surreal light it bathes you in. It doesn’t surprise me at all that people travel half way around the world to catch them. I certainly will be going to the one in 2024.
Portland is ill-prepared for the very likely 9.0 magnitude earthquake from the Cascadia subduction zone. In fact, we’re very badly/not at all prepared. It’s predicted all the city’s bridges (save one brand new one) would likely collapse. That on top the fact major regions of the city would be leveled due to being on fill dirt that would liquefy during such a quake.
This, however, is a good animation of what it would look like based on projections and engineering analysis of such earthquakes. Skip along to 1:37 for the animation.
Reporting illegal camping and AirBnB’s around Portland
Tis the summertime again – and the homeless situation appears to be even more out of control than usual.
If you need to report illegal campsites, campers, and public nuisance, turns out there is a handy website for the city. This will help the city track what’s going on in the neighborhoods. If they are on public land, then you report them as a campsite. If they have squeezed themselves onto a business front/private property – then report a ‘Neighborhood Nuisance Complaint’ or ‘Neighborhood Housing Complaint’. If in doubt, file them as multiple and they will sort it out.