Category Archives: Scenic

Forest Service seeks proposals for Mount St. Helens visitor center site

Coldwater Visitor Center exhibit area, with a view of Mt. St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574

VANCOUVER, Wash. (June 3, 2019) — What would you do with 24,600 square feet and a view of one of America’s most powerful and dynamic landscapes?

Gifford Pinchot National Forest recently released a “Request for Expressions of Interest” from individuals, organizations and companies with a vision for the facility currently in use as the Coldwater Visitor Center on Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

The center was built in 1993, and is located seven miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory, the primary Forest Service visitor center at Mount St. Helens, and is located approximately 45 miles from Interstate 5.

Coldwater Visitor Center kitchen at Mount St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, April 19, 2019. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574
Coldwater Visitor Center kitchen at Mount St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, April 19, 2019.

The building boasts spacious atriums with peaked roofs and skylights that both reflect and capture the mountain peaks beyond, a large commercial kitchen, small theater, exhibit areas, dining terrace, and gift shop among its amenities, and is currently used to host educational programming offered by the Mount St. Helens Institute.

But the building also costs $23,000 per year to operate, and $110,000 per year in maintenance expenses, and an estimated $3.3. million is needed to catch up on deferred maintenance needs.

Coldwater Visitor Center patio area, with a view of Mt. St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574
Coldwater Visitor Center patio area, with a view of Mount St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015.

The request, or RFEI, is part of the forest and the monument’s sustainable recreation initiative, an effort to build a high-quality, sustainable recreation program.

Throughout the Forest Service, officials are evaluating existing facilities and infrastructure and re-organizing to ensure forests are managing a sustainable number of sites to a high standard, rather than juggling a large number of sites in poor condition that do not meet safety or sanitation standards.

The agency’s goal is to explore creative options to develop community-based solutions for future management of some facilities, and to identify infrastructure that is no longer needed by the agency or the community.

Forest officials said at this stage, they are not looking for a finished proposal – but they are interested in exploring possible options for the site with entities interested in partnering with the forest to make use of the site.

Proposals could include public, non-profit, private or commercial uses in the existing facility, or demolishing the current structure and building something completely new on the site, Heather Ibsen, a forest spokesperson, said.

Coldwater Visitor Center overlooks Mount St. Helens and is located within the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument area. The center serves thousands of visitors to the monument every year, hosts programming for the Mount St. Helens Institute.

Coldwater Visitor Center front desk, at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574
Coldwater Visitor Center front desk, at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015.

Built in 1993, the structure is located 7 miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory, the primary Forest Service visitor center at Mount St. Helens, and 45 miles from Interstate 5.

You can read more about the sustainable restoration initiative and the Coldwater Visitor Center at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/recreation/?cid=fseprd629684.

Anyone interested in proposing a new use for the space should submit:

  • A cover letter expressing your interest which includes your name, company or organization, and contact information (phone, address, email address).
  • An explanation of your concept, including the type of use proposed, and how this use supports the purpose and mission of the Monument and the Forest Service. This section should also include a description of planned improvements and any additional information or considerations relevant to your concept or experience.
  • Business and financial considerations: Address the nature or any partnerships proposed, including the roles and responsibilities of each entity in the proposed use. Describe the cost of planned improvements and your funding source. (Note: If a permit is issued, a fee will likely be charged. The fee can be for items such as covering the cost of administering the permit, functioning in lieu of rent, or funding a share of building maintenance. Proposals should not be contingent upon the availability of Forest Service funds).

Proposals are due no later than July 31, 2019. The Forest Service will host a site visit June 25, 2019 for interested parties who would like to tour the entire Coldwater Visitor Center facility. To RSVP, email sm.fs.rfie@usda.gov by June 18, 2019.

To submit your concept, provide both a paper copy and an electronic copy on USB flash drive (jump drive). Submissions should be mailed or hand-delivered to: Mount St. Helens NVM (attn: RFEI); 42218 NE Yale Bridge Rd., Amboy WA 98601.

The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe. Created by Congress after the 1980 eruption that radically transformed the landscape, the Monument protects the scientific, geologic, and ecological resources surrounding the volcano. Nearly 40 years later, scientists still continue to study this area to learn more about volcanic activity and how landscapes recover from disaster.

For more information and a guide to submitting a proposal in response to the RFEI, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/recreation/?cid=fseprd629684.

For more photos of the center, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574


Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest (press release).

Updated: National Get Outdoors Day in Vancouver, WA June 8

Smokey Bear greets attendees during the National Get Outdoors Day event at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in a June 10, 2017 file photo. USDA Forest Service photo.

VANCOUVER, Wash. (May 29, 2019) –  Experience free outdoor activities and family fun at the annual National Get Outdoors Day event Sat. June 8, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Climb a rock wall, learn to shoot a bow and arrow, catch a fish, play soccer, experience disc golf, listen to live music, and more with activities suitable for children and families!

Learn more about how Pacific Northwest residents experienced the outdoors 180 years ago through a living history exhibit of a Hudson Bay Company fur trader encampment at Fort Vancouver. Costumed re-enactors will demonstrate cooking, crafts, games, dances, music, and weaponry from the 1840s, and host activities for participants to experience elements of that era first-hand.

Get Outdoors Day at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site brings more than 35 land management agencies, non-profits, and outdoor-based businesses to introduce the public to fun outdoor activities.

Booths and food vendors will be lined along East 5th St., to the west of Pearson Air Museum.

“We love working with all of these partners at Get Outdoors Day to help encourage kids and families to experience their public lands,” Gifford Pinchot National Forest Acting Supervisor Angie Elam said.

“Get Outdoors Day brings together multiple agencies and organizations to provide a lively event full of activities and opportunities that embrace the health benefits that outdoor recreation provides,” Fort Vancouver Superintendent Tracy Fortmann said. “As an urban national park, Fort Vancouver NHS serves as an ideal gateway to national parks, forests, trails, and other public lands.”

During the event, the Friends of Fort Vancouver will host two lectures at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center (1501 E Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, WA).

  • From 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Native American artist Lillian Pitt shares stories of the Columbia River People with children from “Salmon and Coyote Tell my Family Stories.”
  • From 2-3 p.m., Volcanologist and author Dr. Kevin Scott presents “The Voice of This Stone: Learning from Volcanic Disasters Around the World.” For more information visit: https://tinyurl.com/getoutdoorsvancouver.

New this year: From noon-2 p.m.Repair Clark County will be at Pearson Field Education Center, located next door to the activities at Fort Vancouver, will promote conservation by helping local residents repair damaged items, including outdoors gear and accessories. Skilled volunteers will donate their expertise and labor to help repair participant’s broken or damaged goods. For more info, visit: www.RepairClarkCounty.org.

National Get Outdoors Day is a national free event that encourages everyone, especially youth, to pursue healthy, active outdoor lifestyles – including experiences in our parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands and waters.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Hood National Forests, Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, City of Vancouver, Parks Foundation of Clark County and other public, private, and non-profit groups partner together to present the annual event for residents of the greater Portland, Ore. and southwestern Washington metropolitan areas. 

Participating groups and activities include:

Bluegrass jam
Audubon Society
Bonneville Lock & Dam
City of Vancouver
Vancouver Parks & Recreation
Vancouver Urban Forestry
Water Resource Education Center
Vive Northwest
C-Tran
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Friends of Trees
Hike it Baby
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Master Gardeners
Friends of Fort Vancouver
Girl Scouts of OR & SW WA
National Wildlife Federation
Mount St. Helens Institute
Mt. Hood National Forest
Pacific Crest Trail Association
Quick Start Sports
Cascade Forest Conservancy
Silver Star Search & Rescue
Timber Lake Jobs Corps
SW WA Anglers
Kids Hiking
WA Trails Association
US Fish & Wildlife Service – National Wildlife Refuges
USDA Forest Service – Fire & Aviation
WA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
Columbia River Gorge Nat’l Scenic Area
Glen’s Hands-On Gizmos
WA Timbers Football Club
Oregon Caves National Monument
OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science & Industry)
Ultimate Hunt
Backcountry Horsemen
Fishing
Pokemon Go
Urban Abundance
Waste Connections
Confluence Project

Visitors stroll exhibitor booths at the 2016 Get Outdoors Day event at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site June 11, 2016. USDA Forest Service file photo.
Visitors stroll exhibitor booths at the 2016 Get Outdoors Day event at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site June 11, 2016. USDA Forest Service file photo.

Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest (press release)

Newberry National Volcanic Monument summer 2019 operating hours announced

A view looking down from a high hillside at Paulina Lake and East Lake on a clear, sunny summer day

BEND, Ore. – May 13, 2019 The Deschutes National Forest has announced 2019 opening dates and summer season hours of operation for several visitor sites at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Lava Lands Visitor Center, Lava Butte, Lava River Cave:

The Lava Lands Visitor Center, Lava Butte and Lava River Cave: are now open to visitors for the 2019 season. Beginning May 3, the visitor center and cave are open Thursday through Monday; Lava Lands Visitor Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Lava River Cave is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (site gate at the Lava River Cave closes at 3:45 p.m.).

On May 23, summer hours begin; both sites will open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for the rest of the season.

Roads:

Deschutes County Rd. 21, which provides access to the monument’s Newberry Caldera, remains gated at 10 Mile Sno-Park due to winter driving hazards. The gate is currently scheduled to open on May 17. Limited access to recreation sites, boat ramps and trails will continue upon the opening of the caldera, due to snow loading. Recreation fees are required where posted. For more information or updates, visit www.deschutes.org/road.

Forest Service Rd. 9720 to Lava Cast Forest is open, and snow free.

Forest Service Road 500 to Paulina Peak is closed; opening date to be determined based on snowmelt (typically end of June to early July).

Lava Butte Shuttle Service: The Lava Butte Shuttle will operate on Memorial Day weekend, then daily from June 15 – Sept. 2. (Lava Butte is open to passenger vehicles when Lava Lands Visitor Center is open and the shuttle is not running).

Paulina Visitor Center: The Paulina Visitor Center is open weekends from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., beginning May 25. The center offers monument information, orientations, and a Discover Your Northwest bookstore.

Campgrounds:

  • Forest Service campgrounds in the caldera area will re-open as conditions permit (tentatively, May 24-June 12), for first-come, first-served camping.
  • Reservations open June 13 for the Little Crater, East Lake, Paulina and Newberry Group campgrounds.
  • Chief Paulina and Cinder Hill campgrounds are have delayed openings due to an ongoing tree removal project, and are tentatively scheduled to re-open June 27 and Aug. 1, respectively.

For more information about Newberry National Volcanic Monument, visit: www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/deschutes/recarea/?recid=66159.


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Deschutes National Forest (press release)

New US Postal Service stamps to feature Pacific NW Wild & Scenic Rivers

The U.S. Postal Service will release a new issue of 12 wild and scenic river Forever stamps May 21, 2019. Two of the stamps feature Pacific Northwest rivers, the Deschutes River, which flows through the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon, and the Skagit River, which flows through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington State. A dedication ceremony is scheduled for the first day of issue at 11 a.m. in Tumelo State Park in Bend OR. USPS image.

The U.S. Postal Service will feature two Pacific Northwest rivers, one in Oregon and one in Washington, on a new Wild and Scenic Rivers “Forever” postage stamp issue scheduled for later this month.

A pane of twelve stamps will be released May 21 that pays tribute to Wild and Scenic Rivers, exceptional streams that run freely through America’s natural landscapes.

Each stamp showcases a different river, and the issue as a whole is designed to highlight the preservation efforts of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which established the federal designation.

Wild and scenic rivers are those deemed remarkable for values including fish and wildlife, geology, recreation and cultural or historical significance, and flow freely through natural settings, and mostly without man-made alterations.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act categorizes designated segments as either wild, scenic or recreational:

  • Wild rivers are un-dammed, un-polluted and often accessible only by trail.
  • Scenic rivers may be accessible by roads, in places.
  • Recreational river areas are readily accessible, may have been dammed or have some shoreline development, but offer exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities such as fishing, boating, and other activities.

Featured rivers include the lower Deschutes River in central Oregon, which runs through the Deschutes National Forest and is recognized as a Wild and Scenic River for its exceptional recreation value.

The Skagit River segment of the Skagit River System, located on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington State, is also recognized for its recreational value, while the Sauk, Suiattle, and Cascade River segments of the river are designated as scenic under the act.

The more than 200 rivers and river segments designated in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System enrich America’s landscape by providing clean water, places of beauty and sanctuary and habitats for native wildlife.

A “first day of issue ceremony” for the Wild and Scenic Rivers Commemorative Forever stamps will be celebrated at Tumalo State Park in Bend, Oregon on Tuesday, May 21. The ceremony is open to all, with free admission and parking. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP at uspsonlinesolutions.com (https://uspsonlinesolutions.wufoo.com/forms/zggcc90134hohk/). News of the stamp is being shared with the hashtag #WildScenicRiversStamps and #WildRiverStamps.

To purchase stamps after the first day of issue (May 21), visit usps.com/shop, call 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), order by mail through USA Philatelic catalog, or visit Post Office locations nationwide.

For more information

America’s Wild and Scenic River system: https://rivers.gov/.

Wild and Scenic River Commemorative Stamps issue: https://about.usps.com/newsroom/national-releases/2019/0419-new-stamps-spotlight-the-natural-beauty-of-americas-rivers.htm.

Day of Issue dedication ceremony – May 21, 11 a.m. at Tumelo Park; Bend Ore.: https://about.usps.com/newsroom/national-releases/2019/0419-new-stamps-spotlight-the-natural-beauty-of-americas-rivers.htm.

The U.S. Postal Service will release a new issue of 12 wild and scenic river Forever stamps May 21, 2019. Two of the stamps feature Pacific Northwest rivers, the Deschutes River, which flows through the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon, and the Skagit River, which flows through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington State. A dedication ceremony is scheduled for the first day of issue at 11 a.m. in Tumelo State Park in Bend OR. USPS image.
The U.S. Postal Service will release a new issue of 12 wild and scenic river Forever stamps May 21, 2019. Two of the stamps feature Pacific Northwest rivers, the Deschutes River, which flows through the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon, and the Skagit River, which flows through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington State. A dedication ceremony is scheduled for the first day of issue at 11 a.m. in Tumelo State Park in Bend OR. USPS image.

Source information: U.S. Postal Service press release: https://about.usps.com/newsroom/national-releases/2019/0419-new-stamps-spotlight-the-natural-beauty-of-americas-rivers.htm.

Field Notes: Taking a closer look at nature

Two damselflies, perched on a blade of grass at a pond outside the Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center, during the summer of 2017. "There's a lot of bug action in the spring and summer," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest and amateur nature photographer, said. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel, used with permission.

Ron Kikel is a bird man. And an ant man. And a wasp guy. Those aren’t his superhero aliases – they’re descriptions of just some of his work as a conservation education specialist for the Mt. Hood National Forest.

But, Kikel is probably best known as the “owl guy.”

Meet Jack.

Jack, a 12-year old Great Horned Owl, is blind in one eye. He was rescued and rehabilitated by staff at the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, which trains disabled raptors for use providing wildlife education. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
Jack, a 12-year old Great Horned Owl, is blind in one eye. He was rescued and rehabilitated by staff at the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, which trains disabled raptors for use providing wildlife education. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Jack is a 12-year old Great Horned Owl. He’s also blind in one eye. Jack was rescued after tangling with some barbed wire, and rehabilitated several years ago by the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, which partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to care for disabled raptors and trains them for use in educational settings.

Kikel met Jack in 2010, at a Wild for Wildlife event. Jack was working with his caretaker, Dr. Jean Cypher, at the time to provide conservation education to students. Kikel was doing similar work for the Forest Service, using a taxidermied owl as a prop.

Their encounter inspired Kikel to pursue training to become a raptor handler, himself.

 
Jack, a disabled Great Horned Owl, assists Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler, with providing conservation education talks around the region. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Jack, a disabled Great Horned Owl, assists Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler, with providing conservation education talks around the region. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

“With taxidermy, you are mostly talking about anatomy. Kids ask a lot of questions about where the bird came from, sometimes it gets a little off-track,” he said. “Show them the live owl, and you have their attention for at 30 minutes, at least.”

These days, Jack and Kikel work as a team to provide conservation education at schools and public events located near Kikel’s “home base” at the Hood River Ranger District in Parkdale, Oregon.

 
Jack the Great Horned Owl poses with Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler. For the past few years, the pair have worked as a team to provide conservation education for classrooms and community groups around their area.  Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Jack the Great Horned Owl poses with Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler. For the past few years, the pair have worked as a team to provide conservation education for classrooms and community groups around their area. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Sometimes, Jack even joins him at the ranger station’s front desk, where Kikel provides visitor information and the owl has his own perch.

“He’s a star. Everyone likes him a lot,” Kikel said. “He’s probably the best coworker I’ve ever had.”

"This is a hoverfly, I found him on a sunflower last summer," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He explained the insect is a fly species that looks much like a bee. "If you look at their eyes, they're more fly-like.. and there's no stinger. (But) when you're camouflaged like that, you're less likely to become someone's dinner." Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
“This is a hoverfly, I found him on a sunflower last summer,” Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He explained the insect is a fly species that looks much like a bee. “If you look at their eyes, they’re more fly-like.. and there’s no stinger. (But) when you’re camouflaged like that, you’re less likely to become someone’s dinner.” Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Kikel isn’t just a bird man, he’s also a bug guy. He’s known in the Forest Service’s regional conservation education community for his nature photos, many of which feature dramatic close-ups of the nature he finds around him.

In his prior career, photography was Kikel’s job. He served 20 years in the Air Force, 12 of them as a photographer working in medical research and forensics.

“I worked at Wilford Hall, a big research hospital. So we had an infectious disease lab, dermatology, poison control. They’d want (close-up) photos for teaching, so I took some courses in it,” he said.

"This is a hoverfly, I found him on a sunflower last summer," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He explained the insect is a fly species that looks much like a bee. "If you look at their eyes, they're more fly-like.. and there's no stinger. (But) when you're camouflaged like that, you're less likely to become someone's dinner." Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
“(This dragonfly) was at a pond near the (Columbia River Gorge) Discovery Center in The Dalles. I think that was last summer,” Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. The photo was taken from about 12″ away, using a Nikon D50 camera and 105mm macro lens. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Today, skills he once used to photograph scorpions and fire ants for environmental health brochures given to deploying service members are the same ones he now uses to capture breathtaking images of Pacific Northwest beetles, birds and butterflies.

To avoid disturbing his subjects, Kikel often works with minimal gear, often taking photos with just an old Nikon D-50 camera, a manual macro lens, and sometimes a flash.

A ladybug makes a meal of an aphid.  "She's so busy munching down, she didn't even notice me," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. Kikel makes a hobby of his love for nature through photography, with a special focus on landscapes and macro (close-up) photography. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
A ladybug makes a meal of an aphid. “She’s so busy munching down, she didn’t even notice me,” Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. Kikel makes a hobby of his love for nature through photography, with a special focus on landscapes and macro (close-up) photography. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Despite the seeming spontaneity of this approach, he said macro photography is actually a very slow-going endeavor.

“It takes a lot of patience, because your subjects aren’t going to sit still,” he said.

This Marsh Hawk was in the rehabilitation enclosure at the Rowna Wildlife Clinic, Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He said he spends a lot of time studying his subject's features, and it's hard not to imagine his subjects' have an inner emotional life, much like humans. “You go into an enclosure with big birds, and they can be pretty foreboding-looking when they are not happy,” he said.  
Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
This Marsh Hawk was in the rehabilitation enclosure at the Rowna Wildlife Clinic, Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He said he spends a lot of time studying his subject’s features, and it’s hard not to imagine his subjects’ have an inner emotional life, much like humans. “You go into an enclosure with big birds, and they can be pretty foreboding-looking when they are not happy,” he said.
Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

These days, Kikel said, he considers his photography to be not his job, but his passion.

But he still finds lots of inspiration at the office.

“Mt. Hood is right outside my window… I can watch it change with the seasons,” he said.

An autumn photo of Opal Creek, Ore. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
An autumn photo of Opal Creek, Ore. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

While Kikel credits patience for his most successful shots, he said sometimes a little luck is also required.

He was experimenting with a new camera when he caught a striking image of a Cooper Hawk perched just outside his bedroom.

This Cooper Hawk made a late-February, 2019 appearance at the bird feeder outside Ron Kikel's home. "He takes the word 'bird feeder' to a whole new level," Kikel said, saying the hawk left hungry that day, but has since killed at least one bird who came to feed there. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
This Cooper Hawk made a late-February, 2019 appearance at the bird feeder outside Ron Kikel’s home. “He takes the word ‘bird feeder’ to a whole new level,” Kikel said, saying the hawk left hungry that day, but has since killed at least one bird who came to feed there. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

“I was shooting (pictures of) the birds at my feeder, through the window, and suddenly they all bolted,” he said. “Then I looked up, and said ‘well, that’s why… I’d better get this dude’s picture before he takes off!’”

Whether he’s providing customer service at the ranger station, giving wildlife education talks, or providing tours of Cloud Cap Inn, it’s the interpretive element that drew him to his job.

Ron Kikel took this photo of a heron while visiting Seaside, Ore. in early March, 2019. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
Ron Kikel took this photo of a heron while visiting Seaside, Ore. in early March, 2019. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Seeing the world through a different lens, and being able to share it, is what draws him to photography, as well.

“It’s really an incredible world, when you see it close up,” he said.

"Rufus," a Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), photographed by  
Ron Kikel, an information assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest. "I tend to anthropomorphize my subjects," he said. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
“Rufus,” a Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), photographed by
Ron Kikel, an information assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest. “I tend to anthropomorphize my subjects,” he said. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at ccaruso@fs.fed.us.

A field filled with wildlflowers at Dalles Mountain State Ranch in Washington, spring 2017. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
A field filled with wildlflowers at Dalles Mountain State Ranch in Washington, spring 2017. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

In the news: Snowshoe with a Ranger at Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie

Shot of a group of snowshoes on feet, gathered in a circle.

Exploring the outdoors is a passion for Rhonda Miller and Mackenzie Williams, and they’re equally passionate about sharing it with others – which is why they lead the “Shoeshoe with a Ranger” program at Stevens Pass on the Mt. Baker-Snoquamie National Forest.

On weekends through March 31, USDA Forest Service wilderness rangers lead visitors on guided, interpretive hikes, using snowshoes donated by outdoor equipment partner REI. The goal is to introduce new visitors to the forest, and the sport – especially those who may not have the experience, equipment, or confidence to head out into the woods on their own.


“There’s all this public land and we want people to benefit from it,” Williams said. “And we want people to enjoy their forest in a way that’s sustainable and allows them to continue enjoying it for a long time.”

Full story, via the Everett Herald:

“Snowshoe with a Ranger” at Stevens Pass is offered Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m. through March 31. For locations and links to online registration info, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mbs/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD609539.

Smokey Bear to bring fire prevention message to Oregon license plates this summer

Smokey Bear is an iconic symbol of wildfire prevention. Oregon's new Keep Oregon Green special license plate joins 1950's artist Rudy Wendelin’s Smokey Bear with a backdrop of Oregon's lush forests. The plate's $40 surcharge will help fund wildfire prevention education activities around Oregon, which share Smokey and KOG's shared message regarding the shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfires.

Keep Oregon Green, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service, the Ad Council, and Oregon Department of Forestry, have partnered to bring Smokey Bear and his important message to Oregon drivers: Only YOU can prevent wildland fires.

The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles sold 3,000 vouchers for a new, Smokey Bear -emblazoned license plate in December.

The vouchers serve as pre-payment for the special plate surcharge fee for drivers hoping to adopt the new plate; the sale of 3,000 vouchers is required for the state to begin placing orders for plates with a new design.

With 3,000 vouchers sold in just a few days, the plate is will go into production soon, and will become available to vehicle owners registering their passenger vehicles, or replacing their existing license plates, later this year.

Once the plates are released, any Oregon vehicle owner can apply by paying a $40 “special plates” surcharge when registering for new or replacement license plates, in addition to the usual registration and plate fees.

The surcharge will help fund wildfire prevention activities conducted by Keep Oregon Green, an organization that educates the public about the shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfire in communities throughout Oregon.

For more information, visit:
https://keeporegongreen.org/smokey-bear-license-plate/


Source information:
The Keep Oregon Green Association was established in 1941 to promote healthy landscapes and safe communities by educating the public of everyone’s shared responsibility to prevent human-caused wildfires.

Smokey Bear was created in 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for their joint effort to promote forest fire prevention. Smokey’s image is protected by U.S. federal law and is administered by the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council.

SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree delivers season’s greetings in Nebraska

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree crossed Scotts Bluff National Monument on Nebraska's Great Plains Nov. 18, 2018. The tree is traveling from Sweet Home Ranger District on the Willamette National Forest in Oregon, where it was harvested, to the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., where it will be delivered with 10,000 handmade ornaments to decorate the Capitol lawn this holiday season. Courtesy photo by Andrew Smith, Adventure Photography. Used with permission

Sweet Home to DC: The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree journey

A Modern Day Adventure on the Historic Oregon Trail

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in the western Cascade mountain range. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog.

To read previous entries, visit https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.

For more information, visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree website, www.capitolchristmastree.com, and story map: https://arcg.is/10DOyv

Track the tree! Follow the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree on its Return to the Oregon Trail journey in near real-time, at www.trackthetree.com


November 18th, 2018
Scottsbluff, Neb.

Season’s greetings and holiday cheer on the Great Plains

What a beautiful day! Blue skies and incredible scenery pass our windows as our modern-day wagon train rolls by.

High prairie grasslands, golden in the sun, and the most incredible rock formations I have ever seen are dusted with the snow from yesterday’s storm.

Oh, what a difference a day makes!

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This morning, we stopped at the Historic Territorial Prison in Laramie, Wyoming.

This beautiful state park was a prison in the late 1800’s and helped to maintain law and order during the wild, wild, west. It was used to lock up notorious outlaws, such as Butch Cassidy.

The site now offers historic buildings, museum exhibits, a gift shop, and today, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

Quite a few people came out to sign the banner, have photos taken with Smokey Bear, and to wish the tree team well on our way to Washington D.C.

Our next stop was 147 miles away. We said “farewell” to Wyoming and “hello” to Nebraska with a stop in Scottsbluff, Neb.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree team stops for a photo while cleaning road grime from the truck during a stop in Scottsbluff, Neb. before continuing to Scotts Bluff National Monument Nov. 18, 2018. The "Return to the Oregon Trail" tour left Laramie, Wyo. and continued to Scotts Bluff National Monument and Scottsbluff, Neb. en route to thThe U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree visited Scotts Bluff National Monument Nov. 18, 2018. The "Return to the Oregon Trail" tour left Laramie, Wyo. and continued to Scotts Bluff National Monument and Scottsbluff, Neb. en route to the U.S. Capitol. USDA Forest Service photo.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree team stops for a photo while cleaning road grime from the truck during a stop in Scottsbluff, Neb. before continuing to Scotts Bluff National Monument Nov. 18, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

The first thing we did upon arriving was to wash the truck, trailer, and all of the support vehicles. The storm had left all of the vehicles coated in icy, sandy, grime!

Once everything was sparkly-clean, we drove up to Scotts Bluff National Monument for a photo shoot.

Here’s the view from my window as we drove past the bluffs.

What a beautiful area!

Big, reddish colored rocks rising like giant castles seemingly touch the sky, above the golden plains.

Majestic.

Magnificent.

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It’s incredible to think about the half-million travelers on the Oregon trail who marveled at the exact geologic formations I stood marveling at, 175 years later.

Some things change, and some things stay the same.

This evening, the City of Scottsbluff hosted a wonderful nighttime parade, with several thousand spectators in attendance.

The mayors of Scottsbluff and Gering, Neb. also proclaimed November 18th, 2018 as “U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Day.”

When the tree stopped at the end of the parade, everyone converged on the tree, eager to sign it and to see the noble fir and the beautiful, handcrafted ornaments.

Once again, the atmosphere was joyful and full of peace and good will. I have never in my life experienced 30 days of joy, in a row. This tree has shown me that there is still joy in the world even though it can sometimes be hard to find around us. It is there, just under the surface, waiting to emerge if given the opportunity.

A sign in the city of Scottsbluff, Neb. advertises a nighttime Christmas parade and visit from the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Nov. 18. 2018. T

The city of Scottsbluff, Neb. hosted a nighttime Christmas parade Nov. 18. 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

I, for one will be looking for the hidden joy every where I go from here on out. I think I might be addicted to joy now. I’m ruined forever, in the best possible way.

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

PS: Check out this aerial footage of our U.S. Capitol Christmas tree “modern-day wagon train” as it travels through Scotts Bluff National Monument, courtesy of Andrew Smith at Adventure Photograpy.

 

 

 

SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree enters Idaho

The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree and team stop at the headquarters of Sawtooth National Forest en route from Baker City, Ore. to Pocatello, Idaho

Sweet Home to DC: The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree journey

A Modern Day Adventure on the Historic Oregon Trail

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in central Oregon. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog.

To read previous entries, visit https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.

For more information, visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree website, www.capitolchristmastree.com, and story map: https://arcg.is/10DOyv

Track the tree! Follow the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree on its Return to the Oregon Trail journey in near real-time, at www.trackthetree.com


November 15th, 2018
Pocotello, Idaho.

Goodbye, Oregon. Hello, Idaho!

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Just a short entry today, as there were no stops. Today was a big travel day, 359 miles from Baker City, Oregon to Pocatello, Idaho.

What took us six hours took the Oregon Trail pioneers twenty days!

It was arid country, without much in the way of water. Fine for us, but it would have been difficult for those early trail travelers to find enough water for their livestock.

For much of the way, travelers could only look down from the high rock on the rim of the Snake River Canyon to the water below.

The rocks along the route must have created difficulties for the wagon wheels and the soles of the pioneers boots. One of the early pioneers described this stretch of trail this way: “It’s dust from morning until night, with now and then a sprinkling of gnats and mosquitoes, and as far as the eye can reach it is nothing but a sandy desert, covered with wild sage brush, dried up with heat; however, it makes good firewood.”

We ended the day near Fort Hall, which was the last trading post along the Oregon Trail for many miles. It was a place where travelers could resupply, fix wagons, trade out weary livestock and rest up a bit for the next part of the journey – one of the hardest of the entire trail. (It would have been hard to rest, though, given the millions of mosquitoes sharing the river valley with the pioneers).

I got to ride shotgun in the semi pulling the tree! What an amazing experience, to see the Snake River plains from this perspective.

It was fun to get to know the driver of the day and CEO of Central Oregon Trucking Company, Rick Williams. He was so proud to be a part of the tree team, and we are so lucky to have him and his company as a partner.

He and his drivers are so skilled and so professional… good thing too! There were some sporty moments negotiating some of the turns, but with the skill of the drivers and the help of Forest Service and local law enforcement, the truck made its way safely.

PS: See below for a lovely video montage of the tree as it traveled through Oregon, courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree returns to the Oregon Trail

Sweet Home to DC: The 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree journey

A Modern Day Adventure on the Historic Oregon Trail

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in central Oregon. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog.

To read previous entries, visit https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.

For more information, visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree website, www.capitolchristmastree.com, and story map: https://arcg.is/10DOyv

Track the tree! Follow the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree on its Return to the Oregon Trail journey in near real-time, at www.trackthetree.com


November 14th, 2018
Baker City, Ore.

Our last night in Oregon

Today we traveled 261 miles. The weather was clear but cold. All of the members of our wagon train were excited about today because we would be stopping in two iconic Oregon Trail locations, The Dalles and Baker City.

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Members of the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree team at the whistle-stop tour event in The Dalles, Ore. Nov. 14, 2018. Courtesy photo, The Joy Trip Project (used with permission)

This year the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is being transported by a crew that includes amazing women serving as rangers, law enforcement officers, media relations and the first EVER female driver of the truck transporting the tree!

After all of the fun for the day was done, we stayed in a hotel that has the reputation of being haunted.

From the beautiful Columbia Gorge to the open plains of sagebrush, the landscape changed before our eyes and I found myself imagining how difficult this journey would have been 175 years ago.

The river was more wild then, before the dams which turned the mighty Columbia into a series of large lakes slowed the raging waters. The overland route was filled with rocks and large trees and deep canyons that were very difficult to pass via wagons. Now we just cruise through at 65 miles per hour and marvel at the beautiful scenes passing by.

We picked The Dalles because of its importance along the Oregon Trail, and because we really wanted to stop in as many of the smaller communities as possible.

 

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A view of the 70+ foot trailer carrying the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree during the USDA Forest Service tree team’s whistle-stop tour,stop in The Dalles, Ore. Nov. 14, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

The historic buildings of The Dalles downtown are straight out of the old-time pictures in vibrant modern day color. We were welcomed into town by a band and a choir. The mayor was so thankful that the tree was visiting his town, and all of the people of the town seemed to share his enthusiasm.

A very special thing happened in The Dalles.  The tree was blessed in the traditional way by tribal members from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, Yakima, Warm Springs, Nez Perce, and Apache tribes.

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Members from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, Yakima, Warm Springs, New Perce, and Apache Tribes. performed songs and prayers and a traditional smudging (burning of sage) to wish the tree and its trees safe travels on its way to Washington D.C. a blessing for the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree at the whistle-stop tour event in The Dalles, Ore. Nov. 14, 2018. Courtesy photo, The Joy Trip Project (used with permission)

Songs and prayers and a traditional smudging (burning of sage) was performed to wish the tree and its trees safe travels on its way to Washington D.C.

A pioneer display at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Nov, 14, 2018

A pioneer display at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Nov, 14, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

Next, we traveled to Baker City. Several of our team had the opportunity to visit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center at Flagstaff Hill. I was a bit of a tourist, buying books so that I could learn as much as possible about the Oregon Trail as I travel along it.

Nikki Swanson, district ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District, models a pioneer-era women's bonnet at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center,

Nikki Swanson, district ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District, models a pioneer-era women’s bonnet at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Nov, 14, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

I bought a bonnet fashioned after the traditional bonnets that were worn by pioneer women. I thought it would be quite fun to take photos of myself in the bonnet along the Oregon Trail. I took the first of the photo series today along an intact section of the Oregon Trail.

That’s right! I actually touched the Oregon Trail today, with my very own feet. The only thing better would have been if I was riding the trail on my horse. Someday I’ll be back to make this dream a reality, too.

A pioneer-style wagon, displayed at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Nov, 14, 2018.

A pioneer-style wagon, displayed at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Nov, 14, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

I’ll consider this a scouting mission for my someday in the future adventure of riding sections of the Oregon Trail on horseback. Dreams are meant to plan for… and then to accomplish.

The final stop of the day was a nighttime parade in Baker City. The city hosted a wonderful event. It was my favorite so far (shhhhh…. don’t tell the other cities!) because there was an ACTUAL covered wagon pulled by horses.

I climbed right up on the wagon and introduced myself to the driver, Danny Clary, from DH Wagon and Carriage.

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Nikki Swanson, district ranger for Sweet Home Ranger District, Willamette National Forest, lived her childhood dream when she rode in a horse-drawn covered wagon during the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree “Return to the Oregon Trail” tour whistle-stop tour event in Baker City, Ore. Nov. 14, 2018. Courtesy photo, The Joy Trip Project (used with permission)

It felt so wonderful to be around horses. And I’d always wanted to sit in a covered wagon, hooked up to horses.

There was also an absolutely incredible youth choir filling the crisp, clear, night air with sounds of beauty and bringing joy to all who were there.

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Santa Claus signs a banner carrying holiday greetings from many of those who came to view the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree during a whistle-stop tour event in Baker City, Ore. Nov. 14, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

There is hardly any room left on the banner for signatures. Oregonians really came out in full force and did not leave much room for those in the remaining states…

Oh, and another exciting thing happened! I met some of my cousins that I have never met before. How fun to see family so far from home. It was such a lovely surprise.

I wonder how many times that happened on the Oregon Trail?

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USDA Forest Service employees thank a participant in the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree’s whistle stop tour stop in The Dalles, Ore. Nov. 14, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

I suppose it might be fairly common, as the wagon trains grew in numbers during the height of the greatest human migration in the history of the American west. Friends and families met, became separated, and met again along the long and dusty road.

Tomorrow our journey is long and we leave our beautiful Oregon as we travel from Baker City, Ore. to Pocatello, Idaho.

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

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