Crater Lake Revisited, Part II

Posted by Susy in Uncategorized | Comments Off



Garfield Peak

Saturday morning we got up at 5 a.m., tossed cold pizza and apples in our small ice chest for lunch, and brought something to drink. We gulped breakfast, skipped coffee, put hot water in a thermos for hot tea and left for the park.

The road was open. We showed our pass to the ranger at the check station and headed for the Rim. At one point on Pumice Desert there was a dense cloud of smoke, as if some had gotten stuck in a low spot, but after that it was clear all the way. What a wonderful, smokeless day it turned out to be! We had a strong hint that there wouldn’t be a lot of bike riders though when we got to the North Junction and saw only the volunteers setting up the station. And there was almost no traffic OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAon the road. Part of the road, from North Junction to Rim Village, has been under construction for some time but the side toward the lake was mostly paved and the other packed gravel.

We were late arriving at Park Headquarters but, because of the low turnout, it wasn’t a problem. All the smoke from the forest fires meant a lot of people hesitated to come because they didn’t want to be exercising in the smoke. And Highway 138 was closed because of a fire. Plus, part of the Rim Drive was closed until the previous night. Those who took the chance, however, were quite pleased with themselves!


Tom & Bike Corral

It’s fun being involved as a volunteer and since we weren’t rushed with swarms of people there was a more of a chance to visit with participants as well as with our co-workers. Most of us were representing Friends of Crater Lake but others also volunteered and a ranger was there part of the time. We checked in those who had pre-registered and asked others to register. Since this is a free event it’s not a requirement but registration helps to track numbers and if there is a problem it’s good to be able to tell family whether or not someone checked in. This also provides an opportunity to ask whether or not the participant has done the ride before, provide information about the route, and answer questions.


Shuttle buses

There were all ages and all abilities attempting the ride. Many just wanted to do 24 miles and avoid the nine-mile stretch that included the part under construction and traffic. But a number of riders also did theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA whole 33 miles. I noticed one family, including a 7-year old boy, who completed the 24 miles. And some just biked what they could, as I did last year, happy just to participate. One good innovation provided is bike corrals, one at the North Junction and one at Park Headquarters. People could park their bike (receiving a ticket with the matching number to be attached to their bike) and take a shuttle bus if they needed to go get their car at the Rim. Then they could drive back down to get their bike. Tom ended up doing a lot of the corral work. Some even rode back up on the bus to get a meal or shop at Rim Village. We just made sure everyone knew that we closed down at six as did the shuttle service.


My room, far right, downstairs

When I worked here as a seasonal ranger-naturalist in 1961 and 1962, I came before the other seasonals arrived (the first year arriving in April when there were 10 feet of snow on the ground) and lived in a rustic cabin. Then, when the others came, I moved into the ranger dormitory. I had a room downstairs on the right side of the building. All the fellows were upstairs except for the two more mature ones who were also in my wing. Today the cabins are long gone, replaced by apartments. The dormitory is the Visitor Center. I found out my room is someone’s office. The mess hall is used for administrative purposes.

There used to be a one-room school in the old Administrative building where the park children went to school. One day a week they had ski lessons. A small rope tow, powered by a car engine (I think—memory may have it wrong) was available at the end of the road, past the cabins. To go to high school they had to go to Chiloquin. Today there are only two children in the park.

16 Degrees of Separation
After lunch I talked to one of the rangers about the fish in Munson Creek as he walked toward our booth. My husband asked him where he’d been before coming to Crater Lake and it turned OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAout it was Whiskeytown Lake, near Redding, California. Practically next door to Weaverville where I used to live. Well, that started quite a conversation. He knew Weaverville, he knew all the state parks in the district there—Joss House, Burney Falls, Castle Crags (where I grew up), Ides Adobe and Old Shasta. He knew there were fires burning there right now. And he knew about Canyon Creek. In fact, John said, he knew someone who lived up Canyon Creek. “Give me a last name,” I asked. “Corp, Noah”, he said. I told him I knew Noah’s parents, Connie and Dennis, from Weaverville. What’s the likelihood? I love things like this!


Visitor Center

Tom and I stayed a little after six waiting for a ranger to come and pick up the donation box (funds would be used to help with next year). The person in charge of our group had left much earlier to go around to help the other four stations shut down and load tables, chairs, leftovers, etc. into a truck. Four of us took down the tent, stacked food boxes for him to pick up when he returned much later, and gathered garbage bags, etc. for the rangers to deal with. A car drove up and a female ranger walked across toward us, smiling. It turned out she was someone I left a message for the last two years, as well as this year. Marsha was a graduate student working with my eldest brother at Penn State when he was a professor there. He had told me she worked here and asked that if I visited to be sure to say “hi”. He has been retired now for some time. Marsha is Chief of Interpretation and Cultural Resources at Crater Lake and has been here nearly 20 years. So good to finally meet her and have a chance to chat for 15-20 minutes. If we hadn’t volunteered to wait for the donations to be picked up we’d not have met her.

When we drove along the Rim on our way out the lake had some smoke again so I didn’t take a picture.

To be continued

Crater Lake Re-Visited

Posted by Susy in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Munson Creek


Munson Creek

I took my leftover pizza, an apple, and a bottle of iced tea and sat by Munson Creek, a little stream that runs through the Park Headquarters area at Crater Lake National Park. As I sat looking at the sand sifting through a very small, sunlit pool I was moved almost to tears by the water and by the familiar scents of warm duff as well as the needles of mountain hemlock and red fir—transported back to the summers of 1961 and 1962 when I was a seasonal ranger naturalist here. In the midst of my nostalgia, a shadow darted across the pool. What? A moment later another shadow and I realized that Munson Creek must have fish. There were several, and the larger one must have been about eight inches long. One at a time would hover in the middle of this brook, facing upstream, fins holding body in place, feeding. My guess is that they were brook trout.

Last weekend my husband and I participated again as volunteers for the Crater Lake Ride the Rim event, helping staff an aid station, in this case the one at Park Headquarters. Ride the Rim is co-sponsored by Crater Lake National Park and the Discover Klamath organization. For two succeeding Saturdays, the east rim (24 miles) of the park is closed to car traffic from early in the day until 6:00 pm. Bikers, runners and walkers can make use of the road without car traffic. A nine-mile stretch from park headquarters to the north junction is still vehicle accessible. Riders may choose to bike the entire distance or just the 24-mile stretch.


We brought our bikes for a ride at Diamond Lk.

The first year that we participated we were both stationed at the North Junction. Last year we went for two weekends, each of us volunteering at the North Junction for one day while the other tried to do some riding. The stations provide water, fruit, ClifBars and information about the route. It’s fun to interact with the riders and see them having such a good time. Participants start either at Park Headquarters or at North Junction.

It was nip and tuck as to whether we were going to go because of all the smoke here in Eugene and at the park, where several fires were burning. I’d check the web cam for the park, look at fire incident maps and try to get a feel for the situation. The North Entrance to the park was closed and the closure included several miles of Rim Drive. Would it be open in time? We decided to stay home. Then, a few days after we were originally going to leave, we decided to take a chance. Our little travel trailer was already packed as were our bags and I’d purchased masks. I took the groceries that needed refrigeration back out to the refrigerator in the trailer; Tom put the bike rack on, and we were ready. This time we wouldn’t ride on the rim but hoped to get some riding in at Diamond Lake, where we would be staying for three nights.


Looking across Diamond Lk. toward Mt. Bailey

Highway 138 was closed due to fires so we took Highway 58 over Willamette Pass. This was not encouraging. The smoke was so thick we couldn’t see Odell Lake. When we got to Chiloquin there was still quite a bit of smoke but as we headed toward Diamond Lake the smoke began to thin. But when we drove past the park entrance a sign said the park road was closed. Yikes! As soon as we arrived at the RV park I asked personnel there whether they knew anything about the National Park entrance and they looked it up online. The road would open at 6:00 p.m.! That was a relief. Otherwise we’d have had to drive around to the SoutOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAh Entrance the next morning.


Built to withstand snowload


Tom waiting for pizza

I’d packed plenty of food but that night we opted to eat at a little pizza place (South Shore Pizza) located just below where we were staying. We walked down a short path, crossed the street, and there we were. Mt. Bailey, usually visible across the lake, was barely a shadow because of smoke. The pizza place doesn’t look like much from the outside but inside is quite nice and we admired the sturdy wood structure, definitely designed to stand up under winter’s snow. They are open only Friday through Sunday now and serve very few tourists but the fire fighters are pleased to be able to go there for foOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAod and beer. We talked to several of them and learned that they were doing containment, riding bulldozers, felling trees, etc. all day building containment lines. They were obviously very tired from day after day of hard work. One man, who followed us back up the trail after dinner, said that it was a relief to walk after bouncing up and down on a dozer all day.

To be continued

Last Day in the Redwoods

Posted by Susy in Uncategorized | Comments Off

walk to Mill Creek

On my last day in the redwoods I joined a hike. We carpooled down the dusty road to the Stout Grove. It seems almost criminal to drive across those ancient roots. I knew the 12 of us we were going to Mill Creek via the Stout Grove, while we had gone to part of the Stout Grove from the kayaks.

This turned out to be an educational tour, with Dan as our guide, and I must admit to being a bit frustrated with it at first as I mostly wanted to hike. But I used to live here and  had to remember that some of our group had never seen apeople in redwoodsredwood tree before (a difficult concept for me to grasp!) let alone a grove of them and the accompanying understory. They were amazed at the size of the cones, delicate things about one-half inch long; the height of the trees up to at least 300 feet for some; and the variety of ferns– maidenhair, sword, deer and others. Where there was a fallen tree with the rootwad exposed, we noticed how shallow the roots were considering the size of the tree they held pointing skyward and Dan explained that the roots support each other a bit, like a network.saxafrage

Large trees often grow on flats along the rivers and streams where floodwaters from the past have deposited fertile soil and continue to do so during high water winters.
This is probably a good place to mention that the coast redwoods can get 150 inches of rain and more per year. And that the Smith River can go from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 70,000 cfs and back down to 5,000 cfs in a day or two. It can rise quickly and fall quickly. Some of the flow is from melting snow in the mountains but much is from rainfall.

Deer fernThere isn’t much birdsong in a redwood forest but I did hear the reedy rasp of a varied thrush and someone earlier had heard a Swainson’s thrush. In places where a little more sun filters through or in riparian areas wrens may provide some music.

hemlocks on nurse log

Hemlocks on nurse log

Dan pointed out Cascara in an open spot; huckleberries (with no berries) in a sunny opening and on top of stumps; wood sorrel (oxalis) with its purple underside carpeting the forest banana slugfloor in some places, and moss. He talked about how the thick bark acts as protection against fire. At one point he demonstrated the differences in the foliage from the top and the bottom of the trees (This was new to me or, if I had known, I’d forgotten). The topmost needles are clumped together more like cedar or cypress, while those lower down are spread out and flat, more like a yew tree. This has to do with the need to absorb light in the shadows and protect from desiccation up in the open. We also observed reproduction from burls and root sprouts.

leaving Mill CreekAs lunch time approached we took a turn onto the Nickerson Ranch Trail which wound through some rather dense shrubbery. We emerged above Mill Creek where maple trees and alders cast their shade along a lovely section of the stream and there was a big, deep pool. We went down a rather steep embankment to a gravel bar. I scrambled up a huge boulder at the end of the pool and that remained my perch. A large, silvered log lay across the front of the rock, probably washed there during high water. I could see our group scatteringate llunch here out below me, awed by the scene and ready to get their lunches out. Two jumped into the water (they said it was cold!) and swam about. What a beautiful place to picnic! There was some exploration of water “critters”. Hellgrammites had made tubes of bits of bark in one area and others had used sand. A very small newt was found along the edge of the gravel and we found a couple of crawfish legs.

We didn’t see any sign of Nickerson’s Ranch but when I got home I looked this up and found that it was not a ranch at all but a gold mining claim. Hiram Rice, 2 went swimmingin the 1890s, did drift mining and sluicing on Mill Creek. “ Cornelius G. Nickerson, who was 15 years younger than Rice, likewise prospected on Mill Creek. His “ranch” was located about a mile south of Rice’s house. Coming to Del Norte County in 1867, Nickerson spent his years on Mill Creek as a pocket miner, searching for gold which had beenmill Creek deposited after spring freshets. He also raised a garden and kept a small orchard. For most of his life Nickerson was a bachelor, but several years before he passed on he married the widow Jeater. In 1910 he sold out and left Mill Creek.” (this information is from a park service website)

Some of us wanted to return to camp and others to walk a little further, going up the Boy Scout Trail, so we divided the group. I went on up the trail and we hiked about ¾ mile before returning to our cars. It was good to get a little uphill time.

Hurdygurdy creek

Hurdygurdy Creek

Back at camp I made my way, with towel in hand, down to Hurdygurdy Creek. It was a bit of a scramble down a small rocky path, ducking under and around bushes but so nice and cool when you got there. The creek was much larger than I thought it would be with a good pool area that had a fairly strong current. Someone else was there just finishing washing her hair and probably didn’t even see me. I went past her upstream a little. It was so nicely shaded by white-trunked alders and filled with the sound of rushing water. I stripped down, leaving my shoes on so I wouldn’t slip on the rocks, and got all the dust rinsed off, including from my hair. So refreshing! As I made my way back up the hill another woman was coming down.

Back at camp there was letter writing to a Congressman, happy hour, dinner and then a talk by Phil B. on salmon and a great overview of what lies ahead for spotted owls, murrelets and martens by Kimberly B.

The next morning after breakfast, we broke camp and went our separate ways. Another larger group, would arrive in a few days.

Kayaking the Smith River in Northern California

Posted by Susy in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Getting ready   rapids       Dipping one blade of the single paddle down into the transparent water of the Smith River, I pull, while pushing the other blade forward overhead, turning my body with the thrust as water runs down the paddle from the first blade onto my wrist. Now and then I get into the rhythm of it and feel a part of the kayak and in tune with the paddler behind me in this tandem craftoutfitters.

I’ve kayaked on still water (a reservoir, a couple of lakes) before and loved it, but never on moving water and today was my first time on a river. I’d been assured it was flat water though.

About half of our group gathered along a gravel bar at the edge of the main Smith River, our inflatable kayaks supplied by River Rides. It was a beautiful, warm day. Eighteen people and 16 kayaks would make the trip. I was still pretty nervous about possible rapids and when Carol suggested I might want to go in the tandem kayak with her husband I jumped at the chanceOn the river. Both Carol and Kirk are experienced kayakers. Her offer meant I could relax and enjoy the trip, while at the same time paddling and participating.

We were soon outfitted with waterproof jackets (blue) and life jackets. I sat in the front and Kirk would do the steering. Now and then I’d ask which way we were heading when there were rapids, and there were a few, although nothing overwhelming, just enough to be fun. I’d been worried about hearing aids but decided to leave one with the vehicle just in case I spilled. I got wet but just from going into rapids and my head stayed dry. The outfitter didn’t accompany us but we had enough experienced kayakers in the group so it wasn’t a problem. He and his assistant had a kayak race to get to.

In a few minutes we had dry-bags stuffed and were off. Such a beautiful river! Big, deep pools, emerthe waterald green and clear. For the first hour we really took our time, just paddling and drifting and enjoying the experience. When there were rapids we slowed down, gathering at the end to make sure everyone got through with no mishaps. A couple of times the water was so shallow that some people got stuck but usually could maneuver out with no assistance. Kirk got out of our kayak once to go back up the rapid about 50 feet to shove a paddler free.

There wasn’t a lot of wildlife visible but we saw a female merganser with young ones, some sandpiper types of birds, and crows. There were wildflowers scattered along the shores—azaleas and near the takeout spot some tall tiger lilies. Of course there were redwoods growing on both sides of the river—we were traveling the artery of the redwood forest, dark trunks with green crowns towering above the water.

lunch break

Lunch Break

At lunch time we pulled in to a gravel bar at the mouth of Mill Creek. Another group had just left and there were tourists sprawled out in the sun who had hiked there from the Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith State Park. We ate and chatted and then, leaving one person to watch our belongings, waded across Mill Creek and scrambled up the bank. Here we made our way through a maze of horsetails (equesitum) and into the redwoods of the Stout Grove. The only time I’d been here before was when my father was a ranger at the park from 1957-1959, and, at that time we rode in a car to get to the grove. –That first summer I cleaned motel cabins in Hiouchi (the tiny community across the highway from the park entrance) in the mornings and swam in the afternoon to wash it all off. I started my second year of college that fall. –Even with all the people walking awestruck through thStourt Grove signe forest, the scene was magical, sunlight slanting between the large trunks and filtering through the needles. One youngster, who had scrambled up on a large root wad, about 15-20 feet above the ground, called to his father, “Now you come up here and I’ll take your picture.”


A burl

Back at the kayaks we put on our life jackets and began to travel again. We paddled down to the Day Use Area of the park and pulled to shore again. This was a redwoods & peoplefamiliar sight—this was where my younger brother and I would swim across to the rocks on the other side. Some of our group wanted to stop for the day, others to go on. We were only about half way because we’d taken our time. There was still another two to three hours ahead of us although we’d go faster. We finally decided to stop here at the half-way point and I realized that actually I was fine with that. I’d thought I wanted to keep going but that would be a lot more paddle time and we’d be worn out and late for dinner. As it was, our leader called the company and they said they’d Redwoodpick us up below the bridge, just a short distance further down stream. It would still take time to take our drivers back to their cars and the cars to pick us upwe got out here so it was a good decision.

After dinner that night our speakers were the grassroots leadership director from Great Old Broads, and Mary Ellen Hannibal, author of “Citizen Science”. Mary Ellen is from San Francisco but was there with her husband and two children. Her son has attended the Bar 717 in Trinity County. I’m always amazed at how common interests can bring together people from many parts of the west. Such a good day!

Three Days Along the Smith River

Posted by Susy in Uncategorized | Comments Off
slug on cup

Breakfast greeting from a banana slug

Jeff's tent, my tent

My tent in background

My tent was snuggled cozily between some shiny-leafed huckleberry bushes in a dry meadow, shaded with a scattering of Douglas Fir, tan oak, and a few lodgepole pines. Below the camp ran Hurdygurdy Creek, not visible but maybe a tenth of a mile away. My car was parked a short distance away. The location? Along the Smith River (SmithCook tents, H2O, site River National Recreation Area) in northern California. The event? A Broadwalk, sponsored by Great Old Broads for Wilderness

Hurdygurdy Creek, incidentally, is a prime salmon and steelhead producing stream. “A hurdy gurdy is generally thought of as an instrument, but in this case hurdy gurdy refers to a water wheel with radial buckets driven by a jet for use in mining.”—Smith River Alliance.

USFS rep 1st morning

USFS introduction first morning

Last year I went to a Broadwork in Idaho (my first project with the group) where we spent four days surveying sage grouse habitat. We worked four days and hiked on one day. The Broadwalks involve more hiking but also include one day of work.

About 30 women and several men arrived last Thursday, many from California and Oregon but also some from Colorado (Broad headquarters location), Utah, one from Maryland, and one from Main. I knew two from the Willamette Valley and discovered that two others had been in Idaho last year. Dinners and breakfasts were provided as part of our cost but we supplied our own lunches. This was a primitive campsite and had porta-potties, no running water—a large tank of potable water was available—no showers and, being down in a canyon, no phone service. It did have a plentiful supply of mosquitoes though.

We all brought folding chairs and I took a nice collapsible aluminum table that I shared with whoever else wanted to sit next to it. There were no picnic tables. But we were there for a purpose, not the amenities!

My eldest son, Jeff, arrived that night from Weaverville in time for Happy Hour and dinner. He would stay two nights before heading for home. It was great to be able to visit with him and seeFerns along Kelsey Tr. him in action, participating in one of his beloved wilderness projects.

After breakfast on Friday (Breakfasts began with coffee ready at 6:30 a.m. and food at 7:00. And I should mention that the meals were delicious and food plentiful.) we took several cars to the Kelsey Trailhead to begin a brushing project. Another group had gone to a different trailhead and still another remained at the campsite where they built a fire pit from local rocks and cleaned up a nearby campground, its initial cleaning for the year. Jeff and Joe G. were our trail leaders and we were soon attacking dense huckleberry foliage and some tan oaks, all beginning to overwhelm the trail. One treat along this trail was the view of a number of Port Orford Cedars. Such a beautiful tree.  Sword fern & OxalisWhat a difference we made in that short stretch of about a quarter mile! That doesn’t sound like much on paper but major clearance, and in the heat, was a chore. So many trails need attention and this one needed a lot more but we did what we had time to do.

Port Orford Cedar

Port Orford Cedar

arrive at trailhead, Jeff far rt.

Arrival at trailhead

The original Kelsey Trail followed a route used by Native Americans and went from the Smith River (named for Jedediah Smith, an early explorer) into the Siskiyou Mountains. In 1855 Ben Kelsey was hired to build a trail from Crescent City to Ft. Jones to allow supplies to be transported to the Fort. Other branches of the trail extended to Scott Valley, Yreka and other places in that area. Mule trains carried the supplies. Apparently Kelsey had a bad reputation :,+indian+killer

As it got closer to lunchtime we headed Large madrone along Kelsey Trail. Huckleberriesdown the trail, clipping only now and then,  and dodging the now common poison oak. In some places the trail was quite narrow and we could see the South Fork of the Smith River, emerald green below us. We stopped to cool off and eat lunch at Yellowjacket Creek, enjoying the sound of water runn-At Yellowjacket Creeking through moss-covered boulders beneath Big Leaf Maples. From there it was another half mile down to the river. Here there was a wooden shelter and the nearby roaring falls of Buck Creek, a great place to pause and appreciate. Just before reaching the shelter we were treated to a view of lavender Elegant Brodiaea in a patch about 10 feet square. YelLooking down at S. Fk from Kelsey Traillow swallowtail butterflieBuck Creek Falls 2s were flitting over them but wouldn’t sit still for a photo. The trail continues beyond Buck Creek heading into the Siskiyou Wilderness.

We backtracked a bit and went down to the river where most of the party jumped in and swam across, although several of us just submerged in the chilly water. I tried to catch some tiny minnows Swimming in S. Fkbut they dodged. After everyone had a chance to cool off we headed back up the hill. I soaked my T-shirt in the water before we left and that kept me comfortable most of the way to the cars.

During dinner each group reported briefly on what they had done that day. After dinner that night Ryan H. gave an informative talk about wilderness issues and Jeff assisted with additional information. Each evening included an educational component with guest speakers.

Have I mentioned mosquitoes? There were mosquitoes. I was so glad I’d taken a net covering for my head. Even so spray of any kind was welcome. Yikes!

And so ended day one.

Comfort Tree

Posted by Susy in Uncategorized | Comments Off

ponderosa pineI used to have a comfort tree,
a ponderosa pine.
It grew above a local trail,
and in my heart was mine.

I’d lean my back against its trunk
And feel the jig-saw puzzle bark,
let my thoughts flow quietly through
from spinal cord to wooden ark.

Sometimes I’d build a small bonfire
to warm my hands on a chilly day,
sometimes eat a sandwich there
or pour a thermos cup of tea.

Miles north, and years flown by,
I really need another tree
to lean against and contemplate
our country’s darkening history.

I used to have a comfort tree,
a ponderosa pine.
It grew above a local trail,
and in my heart was mine.

Like bushtits clustered on the suet
we feed in groups on hearing news.
We march and curse and march again
and call for legislators’ dues.

Petitions signed and letters written,
we Facebook and we use our phones,
but what we also need to do –
let authors know they aren’t alone.

I used to have a comfort tree,
a ponderosa pine.
It grew above a local trail
and in my heart was mine.

Placed in Literary Ballad category-Spring 2017
3rd Prize “Comfort Tree” – Susanne Twight-Alexander – Eugene, Oregon

Judge’s comment: “Comfort Tree” has a sweet traditional sound but also incorporates a modern element with contemporary political references. I liked that and I liked the poignant repeated line, “and in my heart was mine.” Sometimes a small adjustment would make the rhythm more musical though small adjustments can be a matter of personal judgment of course. Overall the author did a good job.


Posted by Susy in Uncategorized | Comments Off

pond at Garden GulchMiners built the earthen dam that blocks
this intermittent stream
just below where two small gullies come together.
Turtles bask on floating logs along the edge.
Footprints of deer etch deeply in the mud
as the level slowly recedes beneath summer’s heat.
By mid-June the pond and streams are dry.
Roses bloom at the dam’s base where the last
water pools.
Late one warm, spring afternoon
I swim its narrowing length,
crossing a film of pollen,
body parting golden grains
that stick to my skin
like the memory of sunlight slanting
through oaks and pines.
I turn to float on my back,
glowing flecks dappling breasts and belly
like dust from a gold miner’s dream.
Overhead, leaves spin against a gentian sky.
Water is still treasured in these dry,
Northern California mountains and
sometimes guns are drawn over its intended use.

Clean Water

Posted by Susy in Uncategorized | Comments Off
water board0001

Chris, me, Andrea

Sometimes I compare life to a book with a series of chapters. But sometimes it’s like a Christmas gift I got as a child. It was a small blackboard (chalk), on a kind of easel arrangement that folded out so that it stood on its own. Across the top was a canvas with pictures—heavy paper maybe–that moved as I turned a handle on one side. The handle was wooden and red. Sometimes life is like that. Things happen, people are involved, and life goes on. But years later that handle may bring back some of those events, some of those people, and you look and say thoughtfully, “hmmm, that was an interesting time.” And move on. It’s different than re-reading a chapter because you have some of the sequence

I was appointed to the Northcoast Regional Water Quality Control Board in 1976 and served seven years, my position being vacant the first year (1975). At the time I was a Republican (changed that when I moved to Oregon later on) and was appointed by Jerry Brown. I was not reappointed for a third term by Deukmejian, a Republican. This is a voluntary job with the only payment being the satisfaction of helping protect the waters of the state and a per deum for a room and food and/or gas mileage if taking one’s own car.

As the mother of three young children, ages about six to eleven, this appointment seemed like the best of all possible jobs for me at the time. It allowed me to do some traveling and to use my brain for a larger purpose, plus I was able to help take care of the all-important resource of water. What I didn’t realize when I started was that I would also make some lifelong friends. My mother-in-law, Florence Morris, and my children’s father, were both a big help in ensuring that I could make these two or three day trips once a month knowing my children were well taken care of and keeping me feeling relatively guilt free.

When I first got on the board, I was the only female but was soon joined by Chris and Andrea. We were all very different from each other but became good friends. The meetings alternated between Eureka and Santa Rosa, with usually one once a year in the Mendocino area. And I remember at least one being held in Weaverville and one in Smith River. Sometimes I would fly from Redding to San Francisco and take a commuter flight to Santa Rosa. More often I would meet Chris in Eureka and we’d rent a car and drive together. Chris lived in Gasquet, along the Smith River. She loved to fish and loved that river. I remember eating lunch that she had fixed, roast chicken and a small glass of white wine from her ice chest, as we sat along the edge of the Eel River. Andrea lived in the Arcata area although she was often attending classes in Berkeley. The board considers water-quality issues from the Russian River to the Oregon border and from the coast to the edge of the Central Valley. So I learned about things affecting the watershed basins of the Russian River, the Noyo, the Eel, Redwood Creek, the Trinity, the Klamath, the Smith, and even the Rogue and Winchuck at the edge of the Oregon border.

We’d receive a large packet of information in the mail that included the agenda and reams of information about topics that were going to be discussed, particularly detailed if a public hearing were scheduled. Lots of reading to do.

This was a great time to be involved because so many things, like erosion from timber operations, were just beginning to be considered. One time we walked into a logging operation and then were helicoptered out by the company, allowing a view from above. I think this was the company that had gone ahead and pushed a road in before submitting a plan and then told us after the fact. Redwood Creek, notorious for erosion problems, was another problem in which we were involved. But, over time, discord became less as agreements were hammered out.

Waste discharge was another big issue. Many small communities didn’t have the funds to build sewage treatment plants or had plants that were inadequate. Giving them cease-and-desist orders allowed them to apply for grants so that instead of being punitive it actually helped them. I remember one meeting where we were faced with a sewage treatment plant where the boss had told one of his employees to open up the valve in the middle of the night to discharge raw sewage before it overflowed.

Non-point sources like agriculture runoff were just beginning to be looked at.

During my second term was when the Arcata Marsh plan html was being considered and our staff executive officer was having a difficult time supporting it. He felt there wasn’t enough evidence to show the waters were being protected from discharge. Of course today this area is considered a show-piece for use of wastewater where the marsh is also part of the treatment. The area where paths wind through the wildlife area is part of the tertiary treatment. Some is dechlorinated and goes into Humboldt Bay and some goes back into the tertiary enhancement marshes.

During one of my years as chair herbicides were a big issue. I was fairly supportive of the opponents in my heart but I also had a meeting to run. One night, when we had taken testimony for hours during the day, and it was time for the board to make a decision, the anti-herbicide folks started interrupting us. It must have been close to 10 p.m. Takes a lot to make me mad but I’d had more than enough and gaveled them down. As one of my co-board members muttered, “It’s about time.”

water board

2 members absent. Back row: Steve Norwick, Spud McNamara, Front row: Chris Souza, me, Andrea Tuttle

Of the board members I worked with I still communicate with Andrea Tuttle; Chris Sousa died of cancer in 1984; Steve Norwick, a professor at Sonoma State, who used to get in touch with all of us about once a year, was killed while riding his bicycle (I discovered this online a couple of years ago when I wondered why we hadn’t heard from him for some time). I was closest to these three. One other person from that original board (Gene Senestraro) is still living in the Eureka area. He had a dairy farm and his input was always useful. David Joseph, the executive staff officer, is gone. I always had a lot of respect for his knowledge and abilities. A trail in the redwoods has been named after him.

I came across these pictures recently when I was doing some sorting. It all seems so long ago and yet also as if it were yesterday. Interesting times.

Broken Top

Posted by Susy in Uncategorized | Comments Off

S. Sister from Broke

I moved to Oregon from Weaverville, California in March of 1989. It was not an easy transition going from the little mountain town where I knew most of the roads, numerous trails, and where I had a good many friendships made over 25 years. But I joined my soon-to-be husband here in Eugene and tried to get used to what I considered city living… and the rain. One thing that made me feel at home was the bird life among the conifers in our back yard on the lower slopes of Spencer Butte. And I BrokenTop trip creek where we got waterdiscovered that there were hiking trails not far away.

In August of that year my eldest brother and a friend came to visit and he wanted to take a backpack trip. His friend taught elementary school and he wanted to help her find a volcanic bomb to show her students. Volcanic bombs are sometimes formed when lava spews out of a volcano and its spinning forms an almost egg shape. They come in all sizes. When I worked at Crater Lake I once found a very small one, about the size of a potato, but my boss made me leave it there since no one can collect such things in a national park.

Oregon has many volcanoes so a logical place to go looking was in the Three Sisters Wilderness. I suppose it’s illegal to collect a volcanic bomb there too but maybe a picture would suffice. I gathered my gear and we drove the three hours to Green Lakes Trailhead, which follows up Fall Creek for several miles. There were lovely waterfalls and the weather wasNear S. Sister 1989 perfect. Green Lakes was heavily used even then so we headed off at the pass, slanting across Broken Top Mountain. My brother led the way and after some searching we found a place with a great view of the Three Sisters near a stream that ran down from above, pitched our tents, and ate dinner.

The next morning I was treated to a dramatic view of the South Sister out the front of my tent as the sun slid down her slopes. I hiked further up the hill for some early-morning photos. When we were ready to leave we hiked back to the trail and continued down to Green Lakes for a closer look and could see back up Broken Top to where we’d camped, then headed up the trail to return to our car. My brother, as part of his hiking ritual, liked to leave beer in a small ice chest in the car so that when he’d had a warm hike, he could refresh himself before heading home. We each had a beer, changed our shoes, and then drove back to Eugene.

A few days ago, an article in our local paper, The Register-Guard, by Bill Sullivan (a local hiking guru with vast and accurate knowledge of Oregon trails) noted that now the best time to go into that area is via snowshoes or skis when there is still snow on the ground. He noted that Green Lakes basin is so popular in the summer that people have to camp only at numbered sites. In Oregon, no campfires are allowed within 100 feet of any lake and campers are supposed to pitch tents back away from lakes, preferably screened by trees or shrubs, so that others may enjoy the scenery. This seems a good rule to me. I suspect Bill Sullivan may wish he’d not been quite so explicit about the good places to go hiking and camping. But who could have forecast that the town of Bend, a relatively short drive fromS. Sister from Broke0003 these Cascade trailheads, would grow so quickly.

About 15 years ago we discovered the same “camp in designated spots” rule when day-hiking at Mt. Rainier when we came across a backpackers’ campground with numbered posts. A backcountry ranger patrols to make sure this rule is enforced. To me this totally negates the backpacking experience. Being close to others is not why I used to backpack.

Oh, and we didn’t find any volcanic bombs.

Tai Chi Friends

Posted by Susy in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Joining an organization or taking a class may be just joining and organization or taking a class, but, given enough time, other events may take place. It’s hard to get enough time to get to know people but, after taking tai chi for five years (?), perhaps more, I’ve come to know a little more about my classmates, mostly by chatting during breaks. We are mostly women. One man comes consistently and two others occasionally. I’m guess our ages run from 55 to early 80s.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, “Tai chi helps reduce stress and anxiety. And it also helps increase flexibility and balance. Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that, today, is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing.

Tai chi, also called tai chi chuan, is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion.

Tai chi has many different styles. Each style may subtly emphasize various tai chi principles and methods. There are variations within each style. Some styles may focus on health maintenance, while others focus on the martial arts aspect of tai chi.”

Our instructor, Suman, is from Mongolia where most of his family still lives. He has an assistant, Marcia, who takes his place when he can’t participate due to travels or training sessions. I started out in the beginning class, which teaches eight moves. After taking this class for at least a year I opted to take the more advanced class, 24 moves, which I’m still taking today. Over time, we learn to refine our moves, but always there are the same basic formats and it becomes almost a meditation.

During these years several people have continued to be my classmates and we always are glad to see each other every week, part of the ritual I suppose. I know very little about the others, doing well just to try to remember names, although our class is usually only 15-18 people or fewer.

One woman, I think the only one older than I am, caught my interest from the beginning. She walks or rides her bike or takes public transportation, and has no car. She used to teach high school English in the Bay Area in northern California. We both go to the League of Women Voters program meetings once a month. I recently learned that she plays a bass clarinet in a local community band. Once E. talked to me about having participated in a march along the coast for the development of the coast trail. It turns out that she and her husband used to run a youth camp on Scott Mountain in Trinity County, Camp Unalayee, a camp that is still being used today. And one of their camp counselors used to work in the Weaverville area when I lived there. How likely is it that we would ever meet here in Eugene?

Another woman, younger than I am, takes the same line-dancing classes that I do. L. sometimes has grandchildren visiting her. She has beehives and also raises chickens. Three of the four chickens lay eggs. The 4th one doesn’t seem to be destined for the stew pot.

Another woman, who recently moved into the advanced class, has horses, which must be tended to every day. I must ask where she rides.

Brian Fullerton, who likes to hike with his wife, also writes. He has had an e-book for a while and recently published another one that I hadn’t been aware of. I don’t have Kindle ability so can’t read them but I read some of the sample pages (including a wonderful description inside a barn from the standpoint of a young boy)online from his first book, Cottonwood Wind, available through Amazon. His most recent book is entitled Song Across Water. Both book covers are illustrated by his wife, Margaret Hanson. You can read sample pages by accessing the books through Amazon.