Video of the Month - December

Passing a Knot on Rappel

Darrell Weston presents this useful video that provides instruction on passing a knot while rappelling.  If you have to rappel on a rope that contains a knot (could be that a cut rope has been tied back together), Darrell shows you how to safely bypass the knot while hanging free.  Please contribute your video to our Video of the Month feature, by emailing us the url.


This Land is Your Land … Love It, Protect It

by Adam Baylor, Mazamas Stewardship and Communication Manager
Do the immortal words of Woody Guthrie resonant clearly with today’s mountaineers, rock climbers, paddlers, mountain bikers and backcountry skiers? The North Face’s latest ad stirs intense feelings about our recreation experiences and should pose some serious questions about our public lands. As Mazamas, we have a mission to teach people the art of mountaineering and to help them protect the mountains. That’s been our way of life for 120 years! More than 40 years before Woody’s iconic anthem was even written. Of course, many things on the landscape have changed especially recreation access and the conservation movement. That’s why it’s important for Mazamas to continue to lead the way in getting more people outdoors and protecting the environment.
To make sure we are engaged in this bifurcated mission and considering federal law making that impacts a great swath of Oregon lands, Mazamas and the Outdoor Alliance sent a group of outdoor recreation leaders to Washington, D.C., for the 2014 Advocacy Summit. We met with members of Congress to talk about barriers to access and plans for conservation. We also spoke with federal agency officials at the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Interior. Oftentimes, I hear our members talk about how federal lawmakers do not hear enough about our interests for too many reasons such as lack of engagement on issues (outreach), public understanding of issues (education), and turnover in Congress coupled with general apathy toward government. These reasons pose a real threat to our mission and we're not alone. If we fail to engage in the federal process then our activities on federal lands will be impacted. Examples can be seen in the hundreds of outdoor programs in Oregon and Washington that cannot obtain recreation permits to run classes outdoors. Mazamas is in a good position because of our legacy on Mt. Hood but recreation permitting impacts us financially and will change as we continue to expand our membership. Another example is through increased recreation fees on federal lands. We continue to experience this process of charging more for recreation access with little to no improvements of the national trail system. The burden keeps shifting to groups like the Mazamas to keep trails in shape. Federal recreation budgets need to be examined and scrutinized in order to create streamlined access to the outdoors especially for young, underserved citizens. Last year was marked by very significant milestones for recreation and conservation. Not only did we celebrate the Wilderness Act’s 50th anniversary but our dysfunctional Congress actually passed the largest piece of public lands legislation since 2009. Check out NDAA and the public lands protection package for more info. We also voted in the 2014 Midterm elections as a country in support of conservation efforts through various ballot measures. Here in Portland we approved a multi-million dollar bond measure to support our park system. It seems that the tide is slowly turning in favor of recreation and conservation but is that accurate? Many people in Washington, D.C., think that any similar conservation action in the next few years is futile. I disagree and I hope Mazamas do too. We have some serious opportunities in Oregon to bring new people to the art of mountaineering, rock climbing and hiking as well as to protect the mountain environments. How will we do that? We can look to the organizing efforts that the Mazamas have been involved with for decades. But most recently, we’ve worked with the Outdoor Alliance to unify the voices of climbers, hikers, paddlers, mountain bikers and backcountry skiers to promote and protect the human-powered recreation experience and the protection of public lands. This alliance brings together some of the nation’s top outdoor program leaders and conservationists to engage in the issues important to our members. Together we can keep a seat at the table and ensure our plans are successfully implemented. Our latest strategic plan puts great importance on figuring out how our members can become more engaged in recreation and conservation public policy. We often talk about and take action on things like recreation permits and fees, lack of public participation in forest planning, threats to our ecosystems and watersheds. But we want to do more. So as we hear those celebrated words of Woody Guthrie, we may realize that the crux has always been the same. To make things better for climbers and hikers, for example, we need to be engaged and organized around the issues. But that takes a great deal of time and resources which for many nonprofits are generally scarce. Streamlining that process through a partnership with the Outdoor Alliance is one way to achieve our goals. To learn more and to get involved in recreation access and conservation, email adam@mazamas.org.


A Mazama Encounter ... Pre-Wild

by Richard Getgen

Richard Getgen with Mt. McLoughlin & Devil's Peak. 1995.
On December 12 the movie Wild will arrive in theaters in Portland, with Reese Witherspoon playing a 26-year-old novice PCT hiker named Cheryl Strayed. My wife and I are wondering, who, if anyone, will be playing us in the movie.  In the book, Cheryl mentions “encountering a group of backpackers and hikers” as she enters the Sky Lake Wilderness. That group was Billie Goodwin, Tom Cawi, John Harmon, Judith Salter, and Richard & Carol Getgen.

John Harmon, Billie Goodwin, unknown, Judith Salter & Tom
Cawi at Crater Lake. 1995.
Billie Goodwin and I were leading an eight-day Mazama Outing from the rim of Crater Lake to the south end of Brown Mountain along the PCT.  A foot problem kept Billie from walking most of the route, so she and Judith spent a week in the Klamath Falls area while I led Tom and John through the wilderness.  The five of us met-up on the trail at the south end of the wilderness.  Billie convinced us to set up camp at Fourmile Lake.  While at Lake of the Woods, enjoying a hamburger (fine cuisine after a week of freeze-dried meals), Billie came across a solo backpacker looking for a place to pitch her tent, and Billie invited her to join our group for the night.  This young woman was Cheryl Strayed.

Like many long-distance hikers, Cheryl was “writing a book” of her adventures, and I had long-since forgotten her plans to capture her trek on paper.  Seventeen years passed.  When I read Wild a couple of years ago, I got goosebumps when I realized that her walk coincided with the 1995 outing Billie and I had led. I immediately went to my hiking journal to see if Cheryl Strayed was indeed the same woman who shared a campsite with us at Fourmile Lake all those years ago.

From my journal of August 1995:

Judith Salter & Tom Cawi at Brown Mountain. 1995.
“The sun evaporated the clouds late in the afternoon.  This meant a cold evening (twenty-six degrees).  We gather firewood in an effort to make it through the evening in comfort.  Our five some was increased by one when a PCT hiker named Cheryl joined us.  Cheryl had started in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains and was hiking 1,300 miles to Portland by herself at an average of twenty miles each day.  She had been cold for the last two weeks due to the unseasonable ‘fall weather’." 

I had a habit of getting out of the tent at sunrise each morning, and on the frosty morning which Cheryl mentions in her book as being 26 degrees is a quote from Carol and me.  I promptly started a campfire to thaw-out my stiff muscles, at which time Carol drove into the campground to join the group.  (I had telephoned Carol the previous afternoon from Lake of the Woods , and she drove through the night.)  Carol told me that the radio broadcast had said it was 26 degrees, and later when Cheryl crept out of her tent she asked me if I knew how cold it was.

Billie Goodwin in the Sky Lakes Wilderness. 1995.
My chivalrous act of building a fire on this icy cold morning did not make the book, but the conversation about the weather did.  It gives me a warm feeling to know that I am mentioned (not by name) in a New York bestseller, doing what I like doing most in life: hiking.

After breakfast that morning, Cheryl continued north toward Woodpecker and Badger Lakes , and our group walked south along the shoulder of Mt. McLoughlin and across the lava-strewn mass of Brown Mountain.  That was the last we saw or heard of her until reading the book.

At the time, this was not a “meet someone famous” encounter for the group. Cheryl was just another hiker on the trail. The previous night, a thru-hiker named Trapper camped with us, sharing our campfire. The next year, when I walked with Billie through the section of trail she had missed in 1995, a woman named Curly camped with us at Red Lake. Billie met Curley at Cascade Locks a few weeks later, and received a letter from Curly after she reached Canada.  Cheryl was the only one of us to get published.

In 1995, Billie Goodwin and I were the most-active Mazama hike leaders. Billie and I are still the all-time most-active male and female Mazama hike leaders.  Billie has led 632 hikes for the Mazamas and I have led 1,071 hikes.

Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern will be in Portland on Dec. 8 at premiere of Wild (admission to this screening is by invitiation only). They will be joined by Cheryl Strayed. More info on Oregon Live.