A Rose's Journey

This piece is from our ongoing work with The Weather Channel to produce a series of short films that tell stories of real people who depend on an accurate weather forecast. This film, created for Valentine's Day, follows the journey of a bouquet of roses from the hills outside of Bogota, Columbia to a farmhouse in Malta, Ohio.

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Montana's Spring Lambs

Trying to catch up with posting Blue Chalk work. Here's a piece we did for The Weather Channel about spring lambs in Montana. We spent a few wonderful days with the Marshall family at Crazy Woman Farm. Still plotting a return to visit Jim, Barb and the kids and head into the mountains.

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Chinook Dreams; A Fish Story for the Ages

Oregon designated the Chinook salmon as our official state fish in 1961 but we all know that the king of the salmon, one of the most tenacious and amazing on the planet, has been vital to Oregon for much longer.

Despite habitat degradation, dams and commercial fishing, the Chinook keep coming back. They spawn, they die and their carcasses nourish the streams as they remind us all that we are eventually going back to the earth.

From An Appreciation of Oregon, my series published in The Oregonian and Oregonlive.

On The Journey Through Time Scenic Byway; One of Oregon's great drives

We love a good road trip, especially if it includes some beautiful two-lane stretches of highway where it feels like we have Oregon to ourselves.

We are rich in such drives.

Oregon offers scenic byways that carry us near McKenzie Pass, Hell’s Canyon, the Elkhorn Mountains, the Blue Mountains, the Historic Columbia River Highway, the Pacific Coast Highway and many, many more.

These roads are one easy way to begin to appreciate the vast geography that our state has to offer. No matter your mood, chances are good that Oregon has a drive for you.

 

If you are looking for an excuse to road trip, check your mood—old growth or desert, mountains or rolling hills, greens or browns, gas stations or nearly no gas stations—and get ready to have a great time.

Wind Turbines: The new icon of Pacific Northwest landscape

Offshore wind farms are coming to Oregon. Five floating turbines will soon be roughly 15 miles off the coast from Coos Bay. Offshore wind power is already in place in Europe and being developed in China, Japan and on the east coast of the US. 

I wonder how this is going to play out. For better or worse, the wind energy business has changed the Oregon landscape. It's nearly impossible to travel the Columbia Plateau without seeing the massive white towers and their night-time red glow.

Their value is obvious though. A single wind farm in Morrow and Gilliam counties near Arlington is producing enough electricity to power more than 225,000 American homes.

Oregon's John Day Fossil Bed National Monument: Night time-lapse

Some of America's most famous paleontologists have explored and collected fossils in these eastern Oregon hills and valleys that are now included in The John Day Fossil Bed National Monument. The scientific work continues even today as new fossils erode and are discovered in the basin walls and the feeling of discovery is palpable.

If you want to meander and try and unravel some history the colorful banded layers deposited here 29 million years ago, there are trail markers along both trails that provide plenty to think about.

Here is one of my favorite passages from a trail marker:

Follow the trail into Blue Basin and you will walk by remnants of deep time. There are memories in Blue Basin of the wonderful history of life; sabertoothed nimravids pouncing at three-toed horses; rhinos and mouse-deer browsing amidst a lush forest of dawn redwoods, maple and alder; lemur-like primates dangling from oaks and elms. The memories come to us in the form of fossils.

Last match closes high school career at state wrestling tournament

Kyle Lovell’s high school athletic career ended Friday on the wrestling mat inside Veterans Memorial Coliseum. He lost two close matches and that was it. No shame there. Only 70 of the 952 participants at this years state tournament will win championships.

 

Lovell, a senior from West Albany, says he didn’t expect to win states but he did hope to win a match or maybe even two. His season got off to a slow start but he came on strong in the end, placing second at districts and that finish, he says, gave him hope.

 

Lovell’s final match Friday was against Sebastian Lopez of Springfield and Lovell says he was leading going into the third period. “We battled for 10 or 20 seconds for those points and I just couldn’t get my hips around him. After giving up the takedown, I still had seven seconds to get a reversal or even an escape to tie it up, but I just couldn’t do it,” says Lovell.

 

Soon after the loss, Lovell sought refuge deep inside the Coliseum. He found an empty piece of cement by the beer cooler in the south hallway. He tossed his headgear aside, sat down on the cold floor and faced the wall. With his hands wrapped around his bowed head he tried to let the loss go.

 

He emerged with red, swollen eyes, sweat pouring down his face and the sting of loosing trembled on his lips. He summed up his final match with words that others are sure to understand before this tournament is over.

 

“Time ran out and I lost it,’’ he said.  

Kyle Lovell high school athletic career ended at the Oregon state tournament in Portland.

Kyle Lovell high school athletic career ended at the Oregon state tournament in Portland.

Oregon Hot Springs Still Soothing Body and Soul

The night I remember was cold and still. Through my windshield, Oregon’s Big Empty was sleeping. There had been small rabbits around Prineville, some owls near Brothers, a calf in the road around Malheur Lake or maybe it was Frenchglen.

 

I was near the end of a seven-hour drive from Portland and couldn’t recall the last illuminated light bulb I had seen. The stars though, were electric.  It was past midnight and I had a feeling that I was the only person on the planet. I liked this feeling, at least for a night.

 

 I was bouncing along East Steens Road, gravel kicking up against the truck fenders. Giant Steens Mountain filled one window, the Alvord Desert coming into range was about to fill the other. I was closing in on the Alvord Hot Spring and feeling very much alive.

 

There have been many adventures to the Alvord and other Oregon hot springs in the years since this one. Each, it seems, spawns adventure; hiking into the Umpqua in a fabulous snow storm, diving into Crystal Crane with the Burns wrestling team and getting towed out of a creek on the way to Three Forks come immediately to mind.

 

So if you are looking for an excuse to road trip or need a little adventure in your life, Oregon hot springs are waiting to sooth your body and soul.

 

I love the springs because they are born from our geology, the offspring of hot rock and magma. They are gifts that connect us to lush forests, high desert and deep canyons. Sure, they come with a wild west flavor, but isn’t that reason to go? 

From An Appreciation of Oregon, published on Oregonlive

One trail, many seasons

From the latest entry in my Appreciation of Oregon series published in The Oregonian and on OregonLive

Falls Creek, Washington 2008

The last time I dove into Falls Creek, I hooted and whooped from the moment my bare feet left the moss covered rock until I emerged from the pristine pool. Then I really let the world know how cold that water was. If fish could talk, they’d surely be talking still, either about the shrieking or my Oregon white skin.

Falls Creek is just a speck in the massive Gifford Pinchot National Forest, one  the oldest National Forests in the United States. The Gifford stretches over more than 1.3 million acres in southwest Washington but the Falls Creek Trail and Falls Creek Falls are an easy drive from Portland, so for this Appreciation of Oregon we are going to claim it as part of our greater Oregon Country.

I visited the forest many times over several months in 2008 for a series of stories for The Oregonian. Each trip into the Gifford included an exploration of the Falls Creek trail, the gentle hike that begins just north of the Carson National Fish Hatchery and ended at my self imposed destination of Falls Creek Falls.

The Gifford is a life’s work, too grand to soak up in a few visits, so my goal with returning to the same trail was to become familiar with one particular piece of the forest. I wanted to make pictures of familiar places that could represent changes in season and time. Pictures that somehow might spark some thought about the complexity of a forest.

It was difficult to decide what to photograph. Would it be huckleberries in fall, wrist sized alders in winter, wild flowers in spring or bear grass at the onset of summer. There were huge trees, snags, logging scars, several creeks and suspension bridges. And there was an abundance of wildlife including, beaver, elk, whitetail deer, hawks and eagles.

I finally latched on to a few things that I thought would transcend the passage of time.  Some rocks in Falls Creek--not too far from my swimming hole—the 50-foot pool at the bottom of the lower falls, trees alive and dead, and the road that leads to the trailhead which is gated off in winter.

Most of these pictures have never been published and none of them have been published as pairs or diptics. I havn’t been to Falls Creek in years but I’m guessing I could return and discover these scenes mostly unchanged. Sure, the water will ebb and flow and the forest will decompose and regenerate but there’s a comfort in the sturdiness of the Gifford or any forest. There’s also wonderment at how fragile it all is.

As I pulled myself out of the water that day in Falls Creek my eyes lingered on a single alder leaf. The bright green leaf still held its tinder spring color. The crystalline water trickled a few inches over the leaf but it held firm to the rocks, undisturbed and surly in its final spot.

Source: http://www.oregonlive.com/multimedia/index.ssf/2014/01/the_seasons_of_falls_creek_tra.html

Floating over Oregon's Alvord Desert

From the latest entry in my Appreciation of Oregon series published in The Oregonian and on OregonLive.

Alvord Desert, August 10, 2013

Our weather balloon launch came off without a hitch and the footage the GoPro cameras captured as they rose with the balloon from the Alvord Desert floor surpassed our expectations.  But the one thing I love most about this clip is not the footage, it's hearing the exuberant voice of a young girl.  

She is running barefoot on the hard-pack grey desert floor chasing the path of the balloon as it twirls away from earth. A northwest wind is pushing the white balloon toward Steens Mountain, a golden sunset is hanging on the horizon. 

"Ahhhhhh, I like this" she shouts as her legs carry her across what looks like an endless elephant's hide of a landscape.

There is more expression in her tone, than in her words and I believe her excitement defined all of our feelings as we chased, photographed or watched in amazement as the balloon faded from our eyes. 

Give a watch and listen hard at about the :16 second mark. There are other nuggets of great audio in this clip but this is by far what I hear over and over in my head when I replay this day.

The idea to launch a weather balloon with cameras attached came from my friend and work collaborator, Bruce Ely. We were headed to Oregon's dry--and hopefully clear--side to gather material for a multi media show around the Perseids meteor shower. We hoped the balloon and cameras would supplement our all-night time lapse of the meteor shower. 

Bruce and I launched a weather balloon with cameras  once before, while working on Great River of The West, our 2012 time lapse and still photo project about the Columbia River. That launch produced some interesting footage, a massive retrieval effort and the experience we hoped would make this launch perfect.

We nailed the launch from the desert but the GPS-based retrieval still needs some refining.

Our intern, Allie Milligan is probably too kind to say so. She was with us in the desert on her last assignment of the summer. We promised to have her back in Portland in time to catch a 9 pm flight home to New York.

At noon on the day she was to fly, we were thigh deep in sage and scrub brush somewhere near the Harney-Malheur County line in one of the most remote places in southeast Oregon. We were in what looked like a dry creek bed, 7 or 8 hours from home and without any cell phone reception to coordinate our search. We were feeling a little hopeless.

In the end, technology rescued us. We drove several miles up the road to get a signal, reset the GPS and eventually found our gear. I'm not about to tell you about the pace we set getting home. Allie did make her flight but I'm sure some dry sage from southeast Oregon is now trying to take root in New York state. 

Two weeks in Jordan and Lebanon with Syrian refugees

Almost a decade ago, while working at The St. Petersburg Times, I traveled regularly to the Middle East and other far flung places on assignment.

Sometimes the work was risky, often unpredictable but it was always exciting. The experiences have been the best education of my life.

Some of the most memorable trips include; Iraq while Saddam Hussein was in power; three journeys inside Saudi Arabia; refugee camps in Macedonia; an encounter with secret police in Qatar; trying to explain our way out of Syria without an entry visa and the many, many excursions to my two favorite cities, Jerusalem and Istanbul. 

The constant in these assignments has been the complication and sometimes utter confusion of working in places that have deep rooted conflict. The shining light and the thing I'll remember is the people. I was reminded of this in September when Oregonian colleague Rich Read and I traveled to Jordan and Lebanon for a series of stories about the Syrian refugee crisis. After more than 31 months of civil war more than 100,000 Syrians have been killed, more than 4 million are homeless and two million are refugees.

This was my first trip to the Middle East since working inside Iraq during war-time about a decade ago. 

At an overworked school in Mafraq, Jordan, I was reminded how quickly the feeling of helplessness can sweep over a country, a neighborhood, a family or a person. I was also reminded of the strength some have during these times.

The lessons came from a class of ninth grade Syrian girls who are coming of age during war.

Roqaya lost both parents and two siblings in a massacre in Homs. Three of Batool's cousins were killed by snipers. Julanar longs of the the songbird that flew outside her window. Some live now is orphans in Jordan, all lost something during the war in their country. Still the girls are filled with desire to educate themselves and return to Syria as doctors, lawyers or builders and make their country whole again.

Their faces, their voices and their stories will remain with me forever. My hope is that some of their spirit is in me too.

At Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

At Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

A playground at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

A playground at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

New refugees from Syria arrive to Jordan.

New refugees from Syria arrive to Jordan.

Syrian refugees are processed into Jordan before being sent to the Zaatari refugee camp.

Syrian refugees are processed into Jordan before being sent to the Zaatari refugee camp.

Syrian children sleep in Jordan as refugees after arriving from a multi day exodus from Syria.

Syrian children sleep in Jordan as refugees after arriving from a multi day exodus from Syria.

Water is delivered to Syrian refugees inside the Zaatari camp in Jordan.

Water is delivered to Syrian refugees inside the Zaatari camp in Jordan.

Water is delivered to Syrian refugees at the Zaatari camp in Jordan.

Water is delivered to Syrian refugees at the Zaatari camp in Jordan.

Syrian refugees move a house through the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Syrian refugees move a house through the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

A discarded shoe at a makeshift refugee camp for Syrians in Lebanon.

A discarded shoe at a makeshift refugee camp for Syrians in Lebanon.

Wedding dresses for rent inside Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Wedding dresses for rent inside Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

A discarded bra outside a former chicken coup that now houses Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

A discarded bra outside a former chicken coup that now houses Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Sisters, now refugees from Syria, at their home in Jordan.

Sisters, now refugees from Syria, at their home in Jordan.

This woman to a taxi back into the war in Syria to have her leg amputated. It was the only way her family could afford the operation.

This woman to a taxi back into the war in Syria to have her leg amputated. It was the only way her family could afford the operation.

Syrian children wait to see a doctors from the US and Europe at a refugee camp in Lebanon.

Syrian children wait to see a doctors from the US and Europe at a refugee camp in Lebanon.

A girl who lost both her parents in the fighting in Syria sees a doctor in Jordan.

A girl who lost both her parents in the fighting in Syria sees a doctor in Jordan.

Syrian children at a refugee camp in Lebanon show their sores, brought on by lack of clean water and bathing.

Syrian children at a refugee camp in Lebanon show their sores, brought on by lack of clean water and bathing.

Martina Ford, a nurse from Portland, Oregon, shares her medical equipment with children at a refugee camp in Lebanon.

Martina Ford, a nurse from Portland, Oregon, shares her medical equipment with children at a refugee camp in Lebanon.

Syrian refugees play games at an after school clinic operated by Portland-based Mercy Corps in Lebanon.

Syrian refugees play games at an after school clinic operated by Portland-based Mercy Corps in Lebanon.

Syrian refugees play games at an after school clinic operated by Portland-based Mercy Corps in Lebanon.

Syrian refugees play games at an after school clinic operated by Portland-based Mercy Corps in Lebanon.

Ice cream delivery at a refugee camp in Lebanon.

Ice cream delivery at a refugee camp in Lebanon.

Two week old toe nail polish at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Two week old toe nail polish at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Refugee children at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Refugee children at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

A picture from home, on the phone of a Syrian refugee now living in Jordan.

A picture from home, on the phone of a Syrian refugee now living in Jordan.

Syrian refugees: Camera and kite over Azraq refugee camp in Jordan

We flew a kite today above a massive unopened refugee camp in the middle of nowhere,  closer to the Saudi border than Amman, Jordan’s capitol.

A GoPro camera was tethered to the kite, making a photograph every five seconds. Our goal was to give some scale and geographic context to the Azraq camp now under construction about 30 miles from Jordan’s border with Saudi Arabia. Azraq, if opened, could hold up to 130,000 refugees.

We did not see the town of Azraq today but we are told it’s an oasis, the only source of fresh water in approximately 12,000 square miles. We were also told that there is a castle there and a wildlife refuge. All this is hard to imagine because the surroundings to the camp—about 15 miles from the town-- are barren.

We hope to get the kite airborne on Friday when we return to the Zaatari camp. The landscape at Zaatari—not to mention the people-- are worn out. We think the aerial view could go a long way in helping folks understand a tiny bit about life as a refugee.

Our kite is about two-feet wide, bright yellow with green, red and orange stripes. We bought it at Treasure Island toy shop on Mecca Street in downtown Amman. It’s imported from The Netherlands but not a big seller here, since locals usually make their own. The kite’s packaging includes advice in 10 languages on how to avoid electric lines with the toy.

Our little kite did get the camera into the sky. We suffered a minor set back when kite and camera crashed into the lava rock that blankets the desert floor around Azraq. The crash cracked  the GoPro case, but it won’t keep us from trying again.

Getting the kite and Go Pro into the air over Azraq refugee camp in Jordan

Getting the kite and Go Pro into the air over Azraq refugee camp in Jordan