Tramping Down Under

Author pauses on the shores of the Kepler Track's Lake Manapouri
Article and photos by Sue Griffith

New Zealand is one of those magical places that demands unhurried exploration. Home to miles of jaw-dropping beauty, and water so pure you can drink it from the source, it begs to be explored on foot. Hiking, or “tramping” as the Kiwi’s call it, is my favorite way to explore. Not only does it offer a chance to experience natural splendors up close, but it provides an opportunity to meet like-minded folks who share a passion for the outdoors. With only two weeks to invest down under, the biggest problem is deciding where to start.

Lake at MacKinnon Pass on Milford Track.
In 1993, the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) selected what it considered the country's nine best hiking routes and developed those crown jewels into a hut and track network of premier hiking trails. Scattered around the North and South Islands, a land area the size of Colorado, these Great Walks serve as gateways to some of the best backcountry scenery in the world. Fiordlands National Park in the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Area of southwestern New Zealand is home to two of the Great Walks: the famous Milford Track with its stunning waterfalls and verdant valleys and the lesser-known Kepler Track featuring misty mountain tops and tussock-lined ridges. These two tracks offer a range of habitats in a single region. Problem solved.

Swing bridge at the start of the Milford Track.
The four-day, 33-mile Milford Track is the best-known of the Great Walks and requires considerable advance planning as a consequence (see www.greatwalks.co.nz). Up until 1965, the Milford was open only to fee-paying guided walkers staying in expensive, privately operated lodges. This scheme did not sit well with locals and spurred the little-known ‘Milford Freedom Walk’, a protest that led to today’s parallel system of guided and independent walkers. By chance, I met a hut warden who had taken part in that illegal 1964 hike of the Milford. A small, lean woman with time-worn features, she paused a moment remembering her teenage self of 50 years ago, then laughed as she recounted her tale. Like merry pranksters, they slept in soggy tents, forded dangerously swollen rivers clutching at hastily strung ropes, and barely persuaded a local boat owner to shuttle them back to their cars in Milford. Their bold actions convinced the DOC to revamp their fee rules and now everyone has free access to the track, paying only for accommodations. Guided walkers, or “pamper trampers”, enjoy fully serviced luxury lodges with hot showers, fluffy bedding, and gourmet meals. Independent walkers travel the same track but carry food, cooking utensils, and bedding, and stay in the more spartan DOC huts. Costs differ by a factor of ten. It was an easy choice. The Milford is a one-way track, hiked south to north. To maintain the wilderness experience, the government limits the number of trampers starting each day to 40 independent walkers and 50 guided walkers. The outfitters stage the guided walkers throughout the morning to further minimize crowding on the track. The independent walkers must advance each day to the next hut. No exceptions, not even for foul weather. A reminder to pack accordingly.

Mountain vistas along the Kepler Track.
Guided or independent, the Milford adventure begins with an unforgettable 85-minute ferry ride to the northern tip of Lake Te Anau. I braved the unprotected top deck to soak in my surroundings—knife-edged mountains dusted with fresh snow, icy spray from the lake, and but for the primitive landing at Glade Wharf, not a sign of civilization.

There are plenty of books and websites describing the natural features of the Milford Track—its spectacular river valleys, sky-scraping peaks, and breathtaking waterfalls. But what sticks in my mind isn’t found in these accounts. My memories fix on the day-to-day hut and trail experiences, those things you can’t Instagram: the 250-foot suspension bridge with just a little too much swing to it; hikers from around the globe chattering in a dozen different languages; the post-hike dips in glacier-fed waters; a late-night trip to the outhouse with an impromptu astronomy lesson when a stranger points out the Southern Cross and its pointer stars (Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri); the nocturnal call of a lonely kiwi desperate for a mate; the eery blue-green luminescence of glow-worms tucked among forest ferns; cheeky kea, alpine parrots working in tandem to steal your food in a choreographed performance where one bird cavorts in front of you while his co-conspirator sneaks behind to grab your lunch; rivers of liquid jade, so clear you can see not just the stones on the bottoms but the mile-long trout that call it home. Now we’re talking about the finest walk in the world.
Kepler Track ridgeline.

The Kepler Track opened in 1988 to relieve pressure from the over-subscribed Milford. The 37-mile loop offers trampers more flexibility than the Milford. It can be hiked in either direction, or to a single hut and back, and offers both DOC huts and camping sites. The whole loop can be completed in three or four days.

Like the Milford, you don’t have to search long for mile by mile descriptions of the Kepler Track’s beech forests, tussock grasslands, and mountain ridges. And again, the memorable moments are the unscripted ones: tramping through the towering, Suess-like fern forests; the ranger-led nature walks full of information about the local flora and fauna; learning to carve a shallow line in the dirt to attract curious robins for an up close and personal encounter; that top-of-the-world feeling when the clouds finally clear on Mt. Luxmore’s 5,000 foot summit; surviving the 90-plus knee-numbing switchbacks on the 3,000 foot drop to the Iris Burn Hut; the backcountry outhouses set in the most stunning scenery imaginable; intense quiet and air so pure it has no scent; inky nights lit only by the moon and stars; and looking back up the mountain to see what you’ve accomplished.
The highest point on Milford Track.

The Kiwis are a friendly bunch, and the hospitality did not stop at the end of the trail. A sparsely populated country with ten times more livestock than people, over the course of my two week visit I ran into the same bus driver three times. Soon we were on a first name basis. Like so many folks I’d met, Allan was a natural-born storyteller and added a new episode each time we met. After learning I had completed the Kepler, he asked me about the trail’s notorious winds. He listened to my report of 50 mph gusts, then launched into his own tale of a Swiss hiker who had encountered 110 mph winds on the Luxmore Saddle. The hiking group turned back, but this guy figured since he had summited both Everest and K-2, he could navigate the Luxmore Saddle on his own. Indeed, he completed the track but spent four hours on hands and knees traversing the two miles of exposed saddle. By now, it felt like Allan and I were old friends.

Milford Sound greets us at the end of the track.
With so many beautiful hiking options at home, why travel halfway around the globe to hike? The cross-cultural connections. The sense of a common human language in a troubled world. The suspension of time and place. For two wonderful weeks, New Zealand embraced me and delivered a perfect adventure I hoped would never end.


Planning Your Next Adventure Just Got Easier

Planning your summer adventure? Thinking of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or climbing Mt. Hood? Or how about upping your climbing game or refining your rope skills? Ever wondered what climbing Everest was like in the 1960s or the early history of Andes exploration? As a member of the Mazamas, you have access to over 2500 hiking and climbing guides, technical and how-to books, DVDs, maps, and more! Finding those resources got a whole lot easier.

The Mazama Library is launching an online library catalog! For the first time in the library’s 101 year history, we’ll know what is on the shelf at any given time. Beginning June 1, you’ll be able to search the catalog by going to mazamalibrary.org and clicking on the Search Library Catalog link.

What does this mean for you? The online catalog will allow you to search the collection and put books on hold. You will still need to come to the library to check out and pick up your books. You do not need your patron number to put books on hold, but you will need a number to check books out. The library will begin giving out patron numbers on the first of June. See the librarian or a library volunteer on your first visit to get your patron number. They will also assist you in checking out books until you become familiar with the new system. (We strongly recommend that you do not put your patron number sticker on the back of your Mazamas ID card. You are issued a new ID card every year when you renew your dues with the organization. Your library number is good for as long as you are member in good standing and will not be reissued each year. We recommend that you put the barcode sticker on the back of your driver’s license or other semi-permanent card in your wallet.)

Along with the new system, we are also updating the library’s circulation policies. You will now be able to check out five books at a time for a month. We are also introducing a new, shorter loan time of two weeks on new releases. You will be able to renew new releases as long as no one has put the title on hold. The non-circulating policies remain the same for journals and special collection rare books.

Whether you're planning your next weekend away or want to increase your mountaineering knowledge, save yourself time and money and start your research with the Mazama Library. Remember, it’s yours to use!

The Mazama Library is open Monday–Thursday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. and Friday 10 a.m.–2 p.m. 

Searching the Catalog:
Visit www.mazamas.org/resources/library and click on the Search Library Catalog link. You will be redirected to the new library online catalog. At the top of the page you will see the search box. The default is to search by “All Words,” this will search all the catalog records, across all the catalog fields (title, author, publisher, terms, etc) and return a list of titles that contain that word. You can refine your search by clicking the down arrow next to “All Words” and selecting Title, Author, Subject, etc. This will help narrow your list of results. 

Putting a title on hold: 
The search results screen you will see the title, author, call number, ISBN (if present), publisher info, and any local holding notes. To the right you’ll see the number of holdings and number available. Click on the Request Hold button. The next screen asks for your name, patron number, and email. Your name is required, and while optional, your patron number and email will help us better serve you. You are also given a space for any special requests or questions related to your hold request. After filling in all the fields, click the “Request Hold” button at the bottom of the screen. If the title is available, it will be put on the holds shelf at the library. If the title is currently checked out, you will be put on a waitlist for the title and we will email you when it becomes available.


The Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim in One Day

Amy, Michah and Keith at Bright Angel Point on the North
Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Photo: Keith Daellenbach

by Keith K. Daellenbach

In June 2016, a month after starting a new engineering manager job at a Portland company, my boss allowed me to head out on an epic 24-day road trip with my wife, Amy, and our 10-year old son, Micah. I am grateful for the generous vacation right after starting a new job. We made the most of it driving over 5,100 miles, hiking 103 miles, and visiting nine National Parks, two National Monuments, one National Recreation Area, and two Native American tribal parks in the desert southwest and in Colorado. It reminded me of the road trips I took with my family when I was a kid in the Brown family Ford Ranch Wagon, a veritable boat launched each summer for discovery. The highlight of last summer’s tour was the one-day, rim-to-rim hike across the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Of the Grand Canyon, President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American if he can travel at all should see.” While the Grand Canyon National Park was established in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson, it was President Theodore Roosevelt that first established it as a National Monument in 1908.

A little more than half way through our trip exploring the Colorado Plateau, we arrived to Grand Canyon National Park. Earlier in the trip, we were only a few miles from the headwaters of the 1,450 mile long Colorado River at Milner Pass (10,759’) on the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park approximately 750 miles upriver from Phantom Ranch. The drive up to the South Rim is admittedly not particularly noteworthy, but once at the edge of the Grand Canyon itself, the earth opens up with a vast maw miles across and over a mile deep. I could not help but chuckle recalling the irony of Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold’s character in Vacation (1983) who, upon first seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, impatiently responds to his wife’s question, “Don’t you want to look at the Grand Canyon?”, with an abrupt scenery scan and, “Ok, let’s go.”

Originally, I figured we would split up the hike with a stay at Phantom Ranch lodging at the Colorado River crossing, but by the time I planned this hike, those accommodations had long since been snapped up. So too were all sites at backcountry campgrounds (Cottonwood, Bright Angel, Indian Garden) along the route. The application for these backcountry permits occurs some five months before the hike. Not to take anything away from staying overnight in the Grand Canyon, completing the 23.5 mile hike in one day means far less gear required as it is essentially reduced to a long day hike. The beauty is no backcountry permit is required for a day hike.

Each year, this National Park receives over 350 requests for assistance by hikers experiencing a variety of issues including fatigue, heat exhaustion, underlying medical conditions, and lack of preparation or planning. Warning signs along the rim are ubiquitous, including those blaring “Caution! Down is Optional, Up is Mandatory!”. Given the summer heat an be suffocating, paying heed to these warnings is warranted. We planned for each of us to have plenty of caloric food, lots of salty snacks and protein, and plenty of water and electrolyte drinks. Amy made sure we each had lightweight hiking pants, full sleeve shirts, sun hats, and sun screen. If we had to stop at night, where the desert temperature can drop dramatically, each of us had a lightweight down or polar fleece jacket and an emergency space blanket just in case.

There are probably several ways to dial in logistics for this point-to-point hike. It makes sense to start at the North Rim and hike to the South Rim because trailhead at the North Rim (8,241’) is over thirteen hundred feet higher than the trailhead at the South Rim (6,860’), so there is less elevation gain than elevation to descend. For transportation to the North Rim, we packed our day packs and, wearing only our hiking clothes and shoes, parked our car at the Maswik Lodge and took the one-way Trans-Canyon Shuttle (www.trans-canyonshuttle.com, $90/per person). This van shuttle departs twice daily from the South Rim at Bright Angel Lodge for a 215 mile, four and a half hour trip. It crosses the Colorado River over Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon (river mile 684.2 as measured from U.S./Mexico border) just down river from Lees Ferry on the way to the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge. There, we checked into our frontier cabin adjacent to the historic lodge (ca. 1930’s) and had a feast in the cavernous main lodge dining room. One last niggling bit of logistics required arrangements for transport from the Lodge two miles back up the road to the North Kaibab trailhead. I didn’t want to add any distance to the already long hike, so I offered “Jack” our Trans-Canyon Shuttle driver, who was staying on the North Rim overnight, forty dollars to take us there at three in the morning. He responded by saying he would be able to do it if we could agree on the price of twenty dollars. Sold!

So, after our feast and evening stroll around the grounds of the lodge, we retired to soft, warm beds and set the alarm for 2:30 a.m. We awoke, and Jack was outside waiting for us with the engine running and drove us over to the trailhead under cover of darkness. By 3 a.m. we were underway. An ominous flash of lightning lit up the forest, and a few rain sprinkles dried up quickly in the desiccated air. Over 14.5 miles, the trail descends 5,761 feet to where it crosses the Colorado River at 2,480 feet. For the most part, it is a gradual descent along a wide hiking trail. The upper sections navigate across cliffs of sedimentary rock hundreds of feet thick; in some places the route has been blasted into the cliff itself so it is nearly a tunnel with only one side open out to a precipitous drop. There is, in fact, one short section blasted directly through buttress of rock named Supai Tunnel. While expertly trained, this descent on the back of a mule would be unnerving for me.

As the morning wore on, the stars overhead lost their illumination and the first hints of sunlight striking the upper cliffs now high above us took on colors of purple, red, orange, yellow, and cream. We continued our descent. One of the remarkable things about this hike is the abundance of potable water. The Kaibab Plateau through which the Colorado River cuts the Grand Canyon dips north to south, so surface water and melted snow permeating rocks on the north side of the canyon essentially flow towards the river while surface water permeating rock on the south side of the canyon essentially flows away from the river. This manifests itself at Roaring Springs, 4.7 miles hiking below the North Rim. Here, tremendous volumes of year-round water emanate from a Paleozoic layer between permeable Muav limestone resting on top of an impermeable Bright Angel shale.

This water is treated at Roaring Springs and is pumped both up to the North Rim and, conversely, allowed to drain down to Phantom Ranch where it is pumped across the river in a pipe on the underside of the silver suspension bridge (ca. late 1960’s, river mile 601.15) and up to the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Nearly six million people visited Grand Canyon National Park last year and most of them came to the South Rim, so it is a tribute to the bountiful Roaring Springs and the engineering feat which pumps 500,000 gallons of water a day up to the South Rim Village. When all drinking water fountains are in operation along this trail, which are between one and seven miles apart, cool, clear water from Roaring Springs is available. It is possible that this pipe distribution system could erode and break leading to no potable water at the fountains for sections of the trail. Always carry plenty of water on all trail sections and note that water from Bright Angel Creek (north side of river) and Garden Creek (south side of river) can be filtered for use if the fountains are not in operation.

Keith, Amy and Micah beside the Colorado River in Grand
Canyon National Park. Photo: Keith Daellenbach.
As the day warmed, at each fountain, we religiously stopped, ate, drank water, and doused our hiking shirt and caps in water and put them back on. Evaporative cooling fended off overheating for some time before our shirts and hats dried out before the next stop. Once in the canyon, the perspective changes from the glorious vistas over the gaping chasm to close in-cliffs, side canyons, and desert scrub flora, including prickly pear cactus and blackbrush. Along the way, we saw desert spiny lizards and mule deer.

We reached Phantom Ranch (built ca. 1922) before noon and poked our heads into the dormitory accommodations. While clean, to me, it looked a little dodgy given some of the region’s rodents carry infectious diseases like hantavirus. While we were there tanking up on water, a ground squirrel tore into the backpack of one of the Phantom Ranch guests. If it were me staying there, I’d prefer a tent. In any case, don’t feed the wildlife as they can not only spread infectious diseases through fleas and ticks, they can also be aggressive causing injury.

It was here, where clear Bright Angel Creek deposits into the Colorado River, that one-armed Civil War veteran Major John Wesley Powell and his pioneering geographic expedition arrived on the 84th day of their expedition on 16 August 1869. Starting in the Wyoming Territory and down the great unknown of the Green and Colorado Rivers, they explored and mapped one of the last truly unexplored regions of the contiguous United States. They spent a couple days repairing their wooden boats and drying out meager rations. His original name for this creek was Silver Creek, but later renamed it to its present name. We went down to the river’s edge and watched the muddy water race by; the river there is about 150 feet wide.

We crossed over the silver bridge, and the temperature was hovering slightly over 100˚F. Amy felt like we were walking through time, starting with the Precambrian basement Vishnu Schist rock—1.7 billion years old and containing intrusions of red-flecked Zoroaster granite. Indeed, the Grand Canyon is one of the most complete records of exposed geologic layering in the world. While the rocks are ancient, the canyon itself is young. Like a layer cake rising against a blade, it formed primarily in the last six million years as the Kaibab Plateau uplifted allowing greater river gradient and therefore fast erosion by the river.

Hiking up 4,380 ft. in elevation from the river over 9 miles along the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim, one eventually leaves the metamorphic schist of the Inner Gorge and passes through layer after layer of sandstone, shale, and limestone formations that were the result of millions of years of marine depositions into the Panthalassic Ocean prior to the formation of the supercontinent Pangea. The rock layer that caps the South Rim is 270 million years old. Along our way, we broke one of the cardinal park rules by hiking during the oppressive mid-day heat but we took our time. We were careful not to overexert and actually felt fine, taking frequent rest and water/food breaks. We ended up in semi-rescue mode of a former infantry soldier who had served in Iraq and, while very tough mentally, was woefully unprepared lacking basic provisions. We leap-frogged each other out of the canyon and by the last time we saw him a couple miles below the South Rim we had given him water, food, ibuprofen, ace bandage, a trekking pole, and a headlamp (which he returned to our lodging later that night).

The last push to the top above Indian Garden Campground climbs through a wall comprised of 3,000 ft. of cliff formations that look impenetrable from below. This remarkable trail threads its way through natural weaknesses in the cliffs. In the evening, as we were nearing the rim, we saw a flash of lightning . I measured 45 seconds on my wristwatch—a little over 9 miles away (speed of sound is roughly 5 seconds per mile). Indeed, the storm cell appeared to be parked about that distance away over Phantom Ranch. As the measured time between flash and sound decreased to 35 seconds (about 7 miles away), I told Amy and Micah we would have to pick up the pace on this exposed trail near the rim to make sure we reached the safety of buildings on the rim before the storm overtook us. Fortunately, after 16:44 hours of hiking, we arrived at the South Rim just after sunset and dove into the gift store at Bright Angel Lodge just as it started to pour. Here, we purchased “rim to rim” T-shirts. Micah gave his all on that final push to the top and threw up in the restroom, feeling better afterwards. Tough kid. With that behind us, we celebrated our accomplishment that night with a hot shower, meal, and a soft bed at Maswik Lodge a few hundred yards from the Rim—our epic completed.

Americans have a propensity to boast about how great our country is, and the Grand Canyon is truly one place that will not disappoint. If you’re planning a visit the Grand Canyon and want to hike, consider skipping the bureaucracy and heavy pack and hike through geologic history on a long day-hike traverse of this amazing national treasure.


Oregon Pursues Office of Outdoor Recreation

Photo: Andrew Holman
by Michael Vincerra

The outdoor economy in the United States is prospering, “ ... each year generating $887 billion in consumer spending,” per the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). While it’s hard to imagine that dollar figure, consider it in terms of jobs. The OIA’s 1,200-plus member companies, “ ... support more than 7.6 million American jobs and provide $124 million every year in federal and state tax revenue.” Why is that important? More outdoor recreation means more economic growth. And more funding for conservation and outdoor recreation in Oregon.

Perhaps more importantly, when state government supports industry by creating an office to facilitate that growth, the outdoor industry returns the favor with economic stimulus. A public/private partnership is born. The outdoor industry has a champion. Synergy starts.

“In Oregon, it's about a $12.8 billion annual industry, and it creates about 141,000 jobs,” says Adam Baylor, Mazama Stewardship & Advocacy Manager. "That contributes to state and local taxes."
Along with Mazama Executive Director, Lee Davis, Baylor worked tirelessly since early 2016, advocating for the creation of an Outdoor Recreation Office in the state of Oregon. If established, an Office of Outdoor Recreation will guarantee that outdoor recreation has a representative in Oregon’s state government.

With Oregon’s 2017 budget deficit over $1.5B, and the President's proposed federal budget cuts as of March 2017, Oregon’s outdoor recreation industry remains fragile. For example, take the proposed cuts to the Department of the Interior: $1.5 billion, including $120 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

According to Baylor, "There's been a trend in the last 50 years to de-fund recreation." And Baylor takes issue with that: “That's a bad idea. If the states and federal government put a little more money into funding [outdoor recreation], that would be a multiplier. If you can promote it and people want to use your outdoor recreation assets, then you'll make money. It will attract those businesses or companies that want to set up shop in Bend or Portland because of the proximity. To grow that outdoor industry cluster, one strategy is to take what Utah, Colorado and Washington did, and implement that in Oregon."

Utah, Washington, and Colorado have taken different approaches to create of an office of outdoor recreation—by task force recommendation, legislation, or appointment. Utah’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, the first of its kind, was created by Governor Gary Herbert in 2013. Washington’s Senior Policy Advisor, Outdoor Recreation & Economic Development, was introduced via SB 5843, and signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee in 2015. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper appointed Luis Benitez for the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office in 2015. In Colorado, “The industry stirs $13.2 billion in annual consumer spending, generating $994 million in local and state taxes” (Blevins, Denver Post).

According to the OIA, all states, “ ... share a focus on traditional economic development—incentives, workforce development and related work—as well as outdoor recreation through legislation, education, and public lands management.” While all states’ offices have a dual focus on economic development and outdoor recreation, each state customized the role depending on their economic priorities.

Oregon has learned from Washington, which developed a good process for establishing an office of outdoor recreation. At first in Washington, Baylor states, “They went back and forth on whether to create a cabinet-level policy advisor and use the Governor's budget." Finally, Governor Jay Inslee created a blue-ribbon task force to look at the issue around Outdoor Recreation. Per Baylor, Washington assessed, " ...the need for state-level leadership, concluding that they needed a key person to talk to when [they] had problems." Finally, Baylor says, “Washington's Blue Ribbon Task force made recommendations that shaped the work plan for the Office to move forward." As Mazamas Executive Director Lee Davis said during his recent interview with Dave Miller on the OPB radio program Think Out Loud, Washington’s Senior Policy Advisor is, “ ... working directly with the Governor to try to make sure that as laws are enacted in Washington, they’re paying attention to recreation along with the other critically important sectors like healthcare and energy.”
In Oregon, the impetus for an Outdoor Recreation Office grew out of the 'Oregon's 7 Wonders’ campaign, organized by Travel Oregon. Formally known as Oregon Tourism Commission, Travel Oregon, is "... a semi-independent agency created by the Oregon Legislature in 2003 to enhance Oregonians’ quality of life by strengthening economic impacts of the state’s $10.8 billion tourism industry."

In 2016, Travel Oregon took Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Earl Blumenauer on the Seven Wonders' Tour to allow them to listen to the citizens of Oregon and the needs of outdoor recreation. Leading out of that experience Senator Wyden introduced a bill, Recreation Not Red Tape, which seeks to remove bureaucratic barriers to expanding recreation opportunities and specifically supports the creation of outdoor recreation leadership positions at the state level.

Then in the summer of 2016, Travel Oregon convened a group of leaders in outdoor recreation, including the Mazamas, “ ... to make sure that as we look at expanding access to outdoor recreation, we’re considering everybody who has a stake in that conversation,” says Lee Davis. “It’s a necessary step to be qualified for access to federal funds in land and water conservation.”

On behalf of the Mazamas and our partners, Baylor lobbied for the Outdoor Recreation Office in Salem—and in support of a bill developed by Representative Mark Johnson (R-Hood River) and co-sponsored by Representative Ken Helm (D–Beaverton). Rep. Johnson was also a part of the leadership team for Travel Oregon's Outdoor Recreation Initiative. The Mazamas reached out to the OIA, Rep. Johnson and Rep. Ken Helm, and coordinated with local industry leaders to hash out a plan for Oregon’s Office of Outdoor Recreation.

Oregon HB 3350 states that it, “Creates Office of Outdoor Recreation within State Parks and Recreation Department. Creates Associate Director of Outdoor Recreation. Prescribes duties of office and of associate director. Creates Outdoor Recreation Fund. Continuously appropriates moneys in fund to State Parks and Recreation Department for purposes of Office of Outdoor Recreation.”
Baylor adds, “It would also allow local companies to advise or contribute to the work plan, and order a statewide inventory of recreation assets.”

A key provision of HB 3350, Section 4(b) is to, “Maximize public and private investment in the outdoor recreation industry and in outdoor recreation activities in this state.” On April 3, HB 3350 passed through the House Economic Development and Trade committee unanimously, and its fiscal impact will be examined in the Senate Joint Ways and Means Sub-Committee on Natural Resources.
Lee Davis concludes, “In the face of population growth and urbanization and congestion [HB 3350] is making sure that the reason we all love living here is still in place in future generations. When people spend time recreating outside, it helps them develop conservation values, which is really important to the Mazamas.” Establishing this office, Davis contends, is, “ ... making the argument that outdoor recreation is a must-have value and not a wish-list item.”

To learn more about Oregon HB 3350 (2017), visit: oregonoutdoorrecreation.com


Alternative Summer Hikes

Views from Starvation Ridge. Photo: Kevin Machtelinckx

by Kevin Machtelinckx

With great weather comes great compromise here in the Pacific Northwest. For hikers seeking to soak up that coveted vitamin D and get the blood flowing in those legs, that compromise usually comes in the form of sharing the trails with countless others having the same idea. With Portland’s booming population in recent years, some of the go-to hiking spots that once allowed us to escape the bustle of the city are attracting crowds as big as you’d encounter at a Portland Trump protest. For better or for worse, Eagle Creek, Dog Mountain, Saddle Mountain, Hamilton Mountain and McNeil Point all seem to have succumbed to the same overpopulated fate in recent seasons. So where might one set their sights if they still want to get out and beat the crowds? Check out a few of these lesser-known hikes that offer alternatives to their popular counterparts while maintaining a reasonable distance from Portland.

Spruce Run Lake—Alternative to Saddle Mountain
Though not comparable to the views found on Saddle Mountain, this 6.8-mile out and back hike to a secluded lake gives you the opportunity to explore the vegetation and foliage common to Clatsop State Forest. This hike starts in the Spruce Run Campground but soon heads into the dense forest where few people think to venture. At 1,580-feet of elevation gain, the hike provides a nice alternative on hot summer days by staying out of the sun and next to a water source.

Hardy Ridge—Alternative to Hamilton Mountain
Table Mountain from Hardy Ridge in autumn. Photo: Kevin Machtelinckx
What this hike lacks in waterfalls, compared to Hamilton Mountain, it makes up for in summit views. The slight disappointment felt on Hamilton Mountain’s anticlimactic summit is nowhere to be found as you pop out of the leaf-littered forest and onto Hardy Ridge, which gives great views up and down the Gorge. Hardy Ridge is just adjacent to Hamilton Mountain, but sits further north from Highway 14, so peace and quiet is a sure bet. Be sure to catch the sunsets from up here as the evening light bounces colors off the walls of Table Mountain’s cliffs to the east.

Yocum Ridge—Alternative to McNeil Point
If you’re looking for the pristine alpine environment that McNeil Point and Paradise Park feature, but less of the human traffic jams found on those hikes, Yocum Ridge is for you. As long as you can bear the crowds during the first 3 miles, which share the same trail to get to the very popular Ramona Falls, you will be rewarded with the high alpine meadows and solitude you’ve been looking for. The round trip can be a long one, 16 miles, but the payoff is a fantastic viewpoint overlooking Zigzag Ridge, with Mt. Hood in the background. Turn around and you’ll be treated to views all the way to the coast, with the peaks of Elk Mountain and Saddle Mountain (surely packed with people!) poking their summits toward the sky.

Mt. Defiance via Starvation Ridge and Warren Lake—Alternative to Dog Mountain
Standing staunchly opposite Dog Mountain, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, Mt. Defiance is certainly no secret. The nearly 5,000 feet of elevation gain required to attain the summit are regularly traveled by those looking for a muscle-busting training hike. However, most opt for the slightly more direct Mt. Defiance trail when the Starvation Ridge option just to the east offers a slightly longer, yet more serene option to the top via Warren Lake, which can serve as a destination in itself.

Tanner Creek—Alternative to Eagle Creek
Just down the road from the hugely popular Eagle Creek, along the Historic Columbia River Highway, is the seldom-visited Tanner Creek Trail. The trail meanders through old growth forest and mossy blowdown while Tanner Creek runs parallel to the trail, interrupted only by the spectacular Wahclella Falls. Combining the many trails in the area together offers numerous variations on distance and elevation gain to cater to your particular calf-burning desires.


Trail Fix: The Challenge of Keeping Hiking Trails Boot-Ready

by Darrin Gunkel

Damage from a rough winter, a growing backlog of maintenance, and an increase in use have land managers scrambling to keep hiking trails open and safe.

Fixing Hamilton Mountain

They knew it was going to be a big job. An 80-foot Doug Fir standing by the Hamilton Mountain trail, in Beacon Rock State Park, had toppled, wiping out a 20-foot section of tread on a steep slope. “There was nothing left to rebuild the trail on, so we had to build a crib wall,” said Tom Griffith, a volunteer trail crew leader with Washington Trails Association (WTA). “So state parks workers cut two 20-foot sections of log from the tree that fell. We had to peel the bark so it wouldn’t rot later and use grip hoists to haul the sections into place,” building a shelf along the slope for the new trail to follow. Volunteers then notched the logs to place deadmen, short sections of log perpendicular to the crib wall, to form a stable base on which they could rebuild the trail surface.

Before they could begin all the construction work, the crew had to dig out and cut up the massive root ball that had done much of the damage. It took more than a day, working in the rain and mud on a steep slope. Then, they had to deal with the Spear.

The Spear was a 20-foot section of trunk from the top of another fir, a few yards beyond the slide, that snapped off, plunged straight down, and jammed vertically into the trail. “It was stuck three feet deep,” said Gabe Smith, another WTA volunteer and crew leader who worked on Hamilton Mountain. The remaining 15 feet of trunk, standing straight out of the trail, was supported by a branch that had survived the fall. They secured the trunk with steel cables and cut the branch, lowering the Spear enough so Smith could get at it safely with a cross-cut saw—WTA crews work only with hand tools. “It got pretty spooky working under that,” Smith said.

And before all that, there were the logistics. Getting all the construction materials up the steep trail presented its own special challenges. “It’s pretty difficult to drive mechanical toter up that trail. We had a toter go off and almost end up in a creek,” said Ryan Ojerio, WTA’s Southwest Regional Manager. “It could have been a really expensive accident. So Washington State Parks coordinated a Larch Mountain Correctional crew (inmates) to come out and hand carry pretty large logs all the way up there as well as a bunch of our heavy tools. Sledge hammer, rock bar, grip hoist, 150-foot five-eighths-inch cable that weighs almost 60 pounds.”

Then there’s scheduling. WTA work parties, somewhere around 80 a year in Southwest Washington, are booked far in advance. So Ryan relies on a rapid response team of experienced volunteers, Griffith and Smith among them, a sort of trail work ninja force that can drop everything for a week and tackle a project the size of Hamilton. Even then, Ryan had to coordinate three separate days of site visits to scout the trail with park officials and trail crew leads before getting all the equipment and crew in place.

There were easier ways to get the trail open. “We thought about just cleaning up so people could get by,” said Ojerio, “But that might actually have made it harder to fix if the site got more messed up by people walking across it. Then it’s a liability concern.” In the end, it took a crew of eight volunteers more than a week to clean up the mess and build the new trail infrastructure. Including lead time, the Hamilton Mountain trail re-opened just three weeks after the damage was reported.

“Three weeks—and that was pretty rushed,” said Ojerio. “For something of that scope, it was about as fast as anybody could go, I imagine, short of having a paid crew just hanging out waiting for work to drop in their lap. But I think those days are over for public land managers.”

Fixing the Mounting Backlog 

Indeed, the days of fully staffed public lands, for the time being, are a thing of the past. It’s estimated that to properly run Mt. Hood National forest, a staff of 800 is needed. Currently, there are just 200 employees on the payroll. More and more, the responsibility of keeping trails open and safe is in the hands of the their most ardent users: members of groups like the WTA, the Pacific Crest Trail Association, Trailkeepers of Oregon, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, the Cape Horn Conservancy, the Klickitat Trail Conservancy, and of course, the Mazamas.

In 2016, 5,000 Pacific Northwest trail volunteers put in a combined 230,000 hours of maintenance on 24,000 miles of federal land trails in Washington and Oregon. In other words, volunteers performed half of the region’s trail work. And those figures don’t include state and private lands: those three weeks of effort WTA staff and volunteers put in at Hamilton Mountain aren’t included in those stats. Nationally, volunteers put in 1.4 million hours—labor valued at 31.6 million dollars. That said, only a quarter of the trails are up to the Forest Service’s safety, recreation, and sustainability standards.
And that number may get smaller still, according to Mazama Stewardship and Advocacy Manager Adam Baylor. “Recent storms, and this past winter, are signs of things to come,” said Baylor. “And if we don’t deal with the backlogs, winters like this will do even more damage.” With so many ready and eager volunteers and organizations, there’s no lack of enthusiasm for trail maintenance. The challenge is putting all that energy to work efficiently. Baylor would like to see a full time volunteer manager to coordinate groups.

That sort of position doesn’t seem likely under current federal management, but there are efforts to increase efficiency in other ways and put resources where they’re needed most. Recognizing how key volunteer groups will be in trail management, Congress enacted the National Forest System (NFS) Trails Stewardship Act of 2016. It sets a goal of doubling the amount of trail maintenance volunteers do over the next five years. To zero in further on the problem, in March of this year, the National Forest Service began efforts to concentrate help where it will be needed most. Officials are asking for public input in deciding where and how to best direct volunteer efforts. The NFS wants to select between 9 and 15 areas around the country that need the most attention. The Mazamas have stepped up with a proposal to combine the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and Mt. Hood National Forest as a single “priority area” under the act.

Furthermore, a proposed Area Trail Stewardship Plan would cover the priority area the Mazamas requested. The idea is to find gains in efficiency by better coordinating the wide range of groups that do work in the Gifford Pinchot, Gorge, and Mt. Hood areas. The plan calls for a GP-Gorge-Hood Joint Stewardship Shop that would help groups with project prioritization, volunteer management, and resource sharing. The proposed Shop would seek to develop an online clearinghouse for trails and identify new funding sources such as cost-share agreements, matching grants, and stewardship credits.

The challenges are complex. Government bureaucracy is notoriously stubborn. But the key players, especially the ones on the ground, forge ahead undaunted. For his part, Tom Griffith looks forward to keeping busy on the trails, “The weather’s never that bad. This winter was rough, but it’s job security! Otherwise I’d just been sitting at home reading a book. The people you work with are great—I learn something new every time—and you’re outdoors.”