Thursday, February 15, 2007

Standing together...

You must not know too much or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and watercraft; a certain free-margin, and even vagueness - ignorance, credulity - helps your enjoyment of these things.

~ Henry David Thoreau

When I arrived at Jawbone, knowing little of the old growth debate here in the NorthWest and having spent the last 3 years selling dead trees (lumber), I was ignorant. But only in the sense of not having the facts.


I've talked before about going out for donuts in the morning... There was a lot of that, all year. Firewood was our heat and we were surounded by trees and had our priorities. Warm and dry ranks high on the priorities list. We always had work to do. There were buildings needing rehabilitation and repair, there were groups to host and hikers to greet. Because we used a hydroelectric system for our power needs we had to maintain the flume line that runs from the source creek to the generating station.

In winter when the water can come hard and unending, the screens at the flume mouth always needed cleaning. And of course getting to the head of the system meant going for yet another hike in the woods! Damn!

So, off we'd go in the Green Pig (more on that later) bumping up the rocky Forest Service road past Opal Pool and up the road a ways to our flume line and then follow (more or less) the line to the creek (Flume Creek oddly enough) where we'd have to get pretty wet sometimes cleaning leaves, sticks and stems (no seeds) and lots of hemlock and fir needles off of our screens. And we'd get cold, very wet and probably be laughing as we did it. We knew we could go back and get warm and dry.

We made our own hours. I mean daylight, thats obviously working hours, but when the power would start dropping at night after a new storm came in we'd hop in the truck with our flashlights and rain gear, drive to the trail head and have to hike in the dark and do it all again. This job, this maintaining the water supply was as old as camp. Higher up on the hill there are still remnants of an old log flume that fed the original mill site on Battle Axe. One of George's tales is about getting in trouble as kids when they'd get caught riding the flume line. But what kid could resist? Here is this open air water slide that was made of wood, slick as all get out... thru a beautiful forest... better than an "E" ticket at Dizzyland!

But when I was there, as it is now, the flume line is a large PVC pipe that follows the terrain down to camp where it meets the Pelton wheel which in turn drives the generator. The same system more or less is in operation today. Caretakers still have to go and clean screens and repair sections of pipe. Which for them means another hike thru the woods. Damn!

When I took on this job access to upper Opal Creek was a trail, lovingly known as the "bear trail" because by golly it must have been the bears who made it. I mean, gosh, there are rules and regulations about trail construction, permits and surveys and archaeological investigations that need to be done and by golly none of my precessors in camp would go against government policies.

Those darn bears...

So in those days we directed people to the bear trail. Also known as the Bart Smith Trail for another former miner who had passed on.

And because we had become the lightning rod for the NW old growth debate we became advocates for visitors. Where once the camp was rarely visited, strangers were mostly shunned and privacy was fiercely protected, in my time we wanted folks to visit. We needed visitors. Paul and Hoos (my other friend and the one who had brought Paul to Jawbone) had to buck tradition and make nice with strangers. Former miner, now passed on, Billy Baumgarten (RIP) had a good story about how private it was and how the public had to adapt in certain situations:

I had been swimming (skinny dipping) at the pool under the Battle Axe bridge [seperates upper camp from lower camp] one summer day and when I was done I just put on my boots and hat and threw my clothes over my shoulder and walked down the road back to my cabin. Well... as I'm walking down the road in my... natural state... here comes a family walking up the road thru camp. I just smiled, tipped my hat and kept walking.

heh... welcome to Oregon...

For those not from Oregon... we do like our skinny dipping here. It is one of those inalienable rights that while not explicitly stated in code is understood as having historical precedent. In fact it is a good thing to remember if you do ever visit here and especially if you decide to try one of our remote hot springs. Oregonians get naked. Especially around water.

Anyway... I was talking about the old growth debate (well, I intended to talk about it) and how I was a bit undereducated on the topic. There were excellent books in camp and we had plenty of people visiting who were well educated (or were educators) on the subject and willing and able to educate. And because of the efforts of the logging industry we had ground to make up. They had painted us as the bad guys and demonization of enviroh-mentalists was accepted and encouraged. The spotted owl became a big player in the debate and led to actual owl murders. But the owl was just a player in this drama. The trees... the forest, that was the real issue. And... an issue that follows me to this day.

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.

~ John Muir

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