Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rock Walks Around Portland

I was recently asked to "capsulize" some of the rockhounding locales around the Portland area for an article in "Metroscape," published at Portland State University. It was a fun task, as it basically meant taking my book text and cleaning it up a little. It was also a nice little nostalgia tour to think about some of those areas that I haven't been to in a year or so.

In all, I wrote up six sites:

1. Clackamette Park, where the Clackamas river joins the Willamette. Good supply of rounded river rock with agates and jaspers throughout.
2. Memaloose Bridge, far up the Clackamas almost to Ripplebrook Ranger Station, with mostly agate and jasper but also some zeolites and other oddities.
3. Independence Island, my favorite canoe trip from last summer when the water was low. More agate and jasper, plus excellent petrified wood.
4. Cedar Butte, a noted locale for black crystals of augite. The material is lying in the dirt and in the cliffs, and kids love it.
5. Nehalem River, another river walk that has the usual suspects plus fossil concretions and Indian artifacts.
6. Washougal River in Washington, with good agate and jasper from the Columbia River.

I'm anxious to see what the editor does with all my hand-drawn maps. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Electoral Curse

Well, I lost my election. I didn't just lose - I was obliterated, finishing in last place by a handful of votes. All in all, I would have needed about 150 more votes to win a position on the board, but it was not to be.

I'm not all that broken up. Sure, the public humiliation hurts, and it's tough to be rejected by your peers. But so few members vote -- about 1100 out of 14,000 members -- that I don't have to accept that it was an outright repudiation.

Anyway, I wasn't really sure where the time was going to come from anyway. I still have the field research for Idaho to complete, and then I have to write the locales up and finish that manuscript. There is going to be an editing phase on the Oregon book, as well. Plus I have a lot of magazine articles to write over the next year. could be a blessing to lose the election.

Meanwhile, I have to finish my presentation for the Philadelphia conference in June. It isn't like some of my STC duties will go away. But at least they won't be increasing exponentially.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Turkey trouble

I've made five trips so far to Idaho, and so far I've had to stick mainly to low-altitude areas. The snowpack is at least 150% of normal this year, ending a long drought. The farmers and ranchers are thrilled, but I'm caught in a bind. Most old ghost towns and mining camps are way up in the hills, and snow blocks most of those old roads. Plus the waters are roaring off the hills and it isn't as easy to find material in the limited gravel bars exposed so far.

The final challenge has been wildlife. Three weeks ago we saw a herd of elk, a herd of deer, and a herd of antelope within six hours of each other. There have been birds swerving in front of the car, rabbits dashing across the bumper, and eagles soaring through the skies. But the worst has been a crotchety old gobbler at Mineral, Idaho.

To reach Mineral, drive west from Weiser about six miles and head north on Rock Creek Road. Eventually you cross through a pass at about 4200 feet and wind back down into the Snake River canyon, sort of the southern end of Hells Canyon. The road dumps out on a small windy track that parallels the river, and just before a private lodge, a set of tracks comes in from the east along Dennett Creek. This leads to the old mining camp at Mineral. There are three buildings still standing, plus lots of tailings piles and mining artifacts. Best are the adits driven into solid rock, which are much safer to climb into than anything shored up with rotting timber.

My Dad and I drove hard all day, hitting several new sites, and arrived at Mineral fairly tired. There was a lot of firewood on the ground, and nobody around, so we camped at a very prominent point along the road and got a roaring blaze going. But I heard rocks crashing down on the slope across from us, and my flashlight didn't really reveal anything. We started swapping old stories and laughing and releasing a little stress.

Dad started in on some improbable tale that made him laugh so much he forgot the punchline, and he finished with cackle that echoed across the old camp. Suddenly, from about 300 yards away, we heard a turkey gobble that was decidedly unfriendly. "Gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble" in no uncertain terms.

It's funny how you know immediately what made that noise. We laughed, quietly, and decided to toss on another log, open another beer, and ignore him. I heard more rock moving on the hillside, but it wasn't any mystery so no worries there. Then Dad laughed way too loud again, and there came that admonition: "Gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble." And he was even madder this time, as if to say, "Now listen. This was a nice quiet town before you hooligans showed up. Let's keep it down over there."

And this time the turkey was a lot closer - maybe 75 yards. My idea was to toss a rock at him, or maybe chase him with a stick for a turkey dinner. But there was downed barbed wire all over out there, and it would have been dangerous to go rampaging after him that late at night. So we quieted down a little, and soon, Dad went to bed. Then so did I. Under the watchful eye of a wild turkey posing as a small-town sheriff.