Ascent: Climbing Explored Exhibit

Reaching for the sky in the Ascent exhibit

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

Sometimes you may have looked up at rock climbers on Smith Rock (near Terrebonne , Oregon) and wondered what drives them in their quest to reach the top. This new exhibit helps answer that question. Ascent: Climbing Explored, looks at the history, evolution, and culture of climbing and mountaineering in the West. What began as scientific exploration, grew into an activity people take part in for sheer joy of the experience.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

One of the first things you see in the exhibit is a journal entry from John Muir. Muir taught people about conserving wild places through his eloquent writings. In another section of the exhibit, the artwork of Thomas Moran is featured. The paintings he created of Yellowstone in 1871 helped to establish the world’s first national park. The artwork and writings of early explorers were the “social media” of their day. Artist Sarah Uhl, also featured in this exhibit, presents landscape art that is a continuation of themes first presented by 19th century artists. James Lavadour, of the Walla Walla tribe, did the bold bright paintings of mountains near the exhibit entrance. His paintings, and the clean lines of the exhibit, bring a modern look to the displays.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

A bit of history related to climbing

Many of the objects displayed in Ascent are on loan from the Mazamas. The Mazamas climbing club was founded in 1894 in Portland. William Gladstone Steel was one of the driving forces of the organization.  From the start, they have played an active role in conservation. The Mazamas club was also ahead of the times in allowing women to enroll as full members. As Steel said, “No climb is complete without them.”

One item featured in the exhibit belongs to the company founded by rock climber Yvon Chouinard.  In 1970, Chouinard purchased pre-made Rugby shirts and affixed his brand name onto them. You can see one of these shirts near the van scene. He later had great success with Patagonia, the company he created.

There are two large display cases that show historical and current gear used in mountain climbing. Some equipment has changed little, while other items, such as footwear and climbing rope, have changed radically. One of the most significant changes was in the materials used in shoes. Since the 1980s, they have become significantly lighter.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

Different techniques of climbing

Climbers and mountaineers are always looking for new ways to see the mountains. In the 1920s, methods to reach the summit included using metal spikes, known as pitons, into the rock. One of the hands-on displays shows protective gear climbers use to anchor themselves to the rocks. While pitons  and other equipment help make the sport safer, some prefer to “clean climb” without hammering things into the surface they climb over. The bolts cause damage to the rock from repeated placement and removal.

In the 1970s, climbers lives revolved around climbing. They preferred to free climb, using only their hands and feet. We called these athletic climbers “rock jocks” when I was in college. Climbers were often referred to as “dirtbags”. Dirtbags often lived in vans, such as the one in the exhibit, and some experimented with drugs.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

The drive towards ascent

Climbers are driven to reach summits despite the risks. As one climber quoted in the exhibit said, “It breathes life into me.” Climbers climb for many reasons. The physical and mental challenges are just a part of the experience.

Certain locations, such as Yosemite and Smith Rock, are particularly challenging and draw in climbers from all over the world.  The Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) rates the difficulty level on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest level. By the 1950s, this scale was further refined with the addition of decimal points and letters.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

The first ascent of Smith Rock was made in 1935 by Central Oregon resident Johnny Bissell. In the 1950s, national attention came to Smith Rock after Madras residents Jack Watts, and brothers Jim and Jerry Ramsey, established climbing lines on the peak. A 650-acre state park was created at Smith Rock in 1960 to conserve the site. Though many considered the various routes “climbed out” by the late 1970s, Alan Watts, Jack Watts’ son, started developing top down routes. At the time, they were considered the hardest routes in the world with a YDS of 5.14a. One of Watts’ routes was featured in 1986 on the cover of Mountain, an influential climbing magazine, and climbers soon flocked to Smith Rock.

Rock climbers come in all shapes and sizes and one display features information on adaptive climbing. Climber Mark Wellman was the first paraplegic to summit El Capitan at Yosemite. Gear has been modified over the years to meet the needs of climbers’ specific needs.

The next generations to ascend

Ascent6 15May2018A large climbing wall for kids is a popular part of the Ascent exhibit. The wall is for future rock climbers between the ages of 5-12. The kids I saw were thrilled to climb up the blue wall studded with colorful hand- and footholds. It was almost as if they were climbing for the sheer joy of the experience.

 

This is a reprint of a July 2018 article in High Desert Voices, a newsletter by and for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. To see more issues of the newsletter, go here.

This exhibit at the High Desert Museum runs from April 28 – September 9, 2018

 

Cooling Otters: Lens-Artists Photo Challenge

Three guys cooling their jets

When it’s as hot as it’s been (102 degrees here yesterday!) I wish I could do a little cooling off by being an otter. Here are three cooling otters in motion.

Three Otters Cooling at the High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon 19March2018

They always look like they’re having so much fun.

Can you imagine sliding down an embankment and cooling off in a clear mountain stream?

Otters Cooling 2 27September2016I’m also including a short video of three North American river otters at play at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. You can hear fellow volunteer Jonny Goddard, AKA Otter Brother, in the background “directing” them.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Cooling

Beautiful Beadwork – OWPC: Museum

Messages communicated without words

I am always amazed by the beautiful beadwork on display at the High Desert Museum where I volunteer. The carefully crafted pieces represent work by tribes of the Columbia Plateau in parts of modern-day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018Tribes represented include Umatilla, Wasco, Wishram, Paiute, Washo, Chehalis, Quinault, Nez Perce, Skokomish, Chinook, Tillamook, Yakima, Warm Springs, Haida, Salish, Yaqui, and others.

Doris Swayze Bounds Collection of Native American Artifacts

They are artifacts with an emphasis on “art.” However, Native Americans in the 1700’s and 1800’s did not make art for art’s sake. Beads embellished utilitarian pieces.  Beads adorned items ranging from small handbags and knife cases, to deerskin clothing and footwear.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 9December2015The High Desert Museum houses the Doris Swayze Bounds Collection of Native American Artifacts. Born in 1904 in Oklahoma, Doris Swayze Bounds later lived in Hermiston, Oregon, where she worked as a banker. She always appreciated Native American people and their culture. Many of the pieces in the collection were gifted to her by local Native Americans as a way of showing their respect and affection to her. The artifacts date from the 1870’s to the 1960’s. The collection has many pieces, but I focused on the beadwork in this post.

A brief history of beadwork in North America

In the early 1800’s, beads used in trading with native people were referred to as “pony” beads. Transported by pack animals, the beads were limited in availability and colors. The smaller “seed” beads became widely available after about 1850. These inexpensive beads were available in larger quantities and in a wider variety of colors.

White traders thought of the beads as cheap trinkets but to native peoples, they were highly prized. The beads were valued for their beauty and durability. They also freed up time that would have gone into crafting beads from bone, shells, and other materials. The beadwork became a status symbol and a source of pride in their culture.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018Bead-working techniques vary and show ethnic membership. Colors and motifs represent different things to different tribes. If symbols are changed, such as being inverted or assembled in incorrect colors, they may show a hidden negative message. For example, an inverted American flag could have expressed displeasure with governmental policies.

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018Expressions of cultural pride

The beadwork is this collection is beautiful but some pieces were made during a dark chapter in American history. The hardships native peoples endured are difficult to imagine. Beadwork allowed them to express pride in their culture when they were being forced to give up their traditional ways of life.  We are fortunate that some of their remarkable work has been preserved.

To view more of this collection and learn about Native American’s many accomplishments and challenges, visit the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon

Beautiful Beadwork at the High Desert Museum 25February2018

Source of beadwork history information:

Logan, M. H. (2014). Brightly Beaded: North American Indian Glass Beadwork [Pamphlet]. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee, McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.

One Word Photo Challenge – Museum

 

Sketching Raptors Workshop

Drawing from a different perspective

Great horned owl at High Desert Museum 20January2018

Great horned owl

On January 20, visitors entered Classroom A at the High Desert Museum to find the room filled with lifelike mounts of raptors. One mount depicted a California quail being chased by a sharp-shinned hawk. Another was of a great horned owl perched on a branch. A golden eagle mount, with outstretched wings, dwarfed the other birds on display. Artist Ian Factor welcomed participants in the workshop and everyone got to work sketching the birds. Curator of Art and Community Engagement Andries Fourie also attended and offered help when needed.

Siobhan's Drawing Kit 20January2018

My fancy drawing kit

Various art supplies were available for our use. Many attendees brought their own supplies neatly tucked into special cases. Others, like me, had the bare essentials, so we were grateful more were provided.

Drawing from reference materials

A variety of reference materials were displayed. There was a collection of bird wings, talons, and skulls. An articulated bird skeleton stood on a tabletop. We learned the basic form of our subjects by looking at mounts prepared by American Kestrel study by Siobhan Sullivan © 2018taxidermists. Though not available at this workshop, study skins, or museum mounts, are often utilized for research and artistic purposes. Photographs can help when you’re doing wildlife art and participants were snapping a lot of pictures. Reference materials are helpful in getting the details right and in understanding the underlying anatomy.

This workshop, like most hosted by the Museum, was open to people of all skill levels. Some attending the event were beginners, while others were more advanced. The artists drew the birds with a variety of media.  Several sketched in black-and-white with pencils, graphite, or charcoal; other participants added color with pastels and colored pencils.

Drawing from life

Red-tailed hawk by Siobhan Sullivan 2018 ©Drawing from life can be much more challenging. When sketching in a natural setting, you have to work fast to capture the essence of the bird. In this workshop, we sketched a live red-tailed hawk and great horned owl from the Museum’s collection. The hawk was quiet and basically stayed in one position. The owl was vocal and active the whole time. It can frustrate you when your subject doesn’t cooperate, but you have to learn to be flexible.

Participants were told to draw large shapes first then “carve down” to the details. After getting the basics down, Ian Factor advised us to capture the character of the birds. Character in this case is related to their adaptations for a predatory lifestyle and their individual personality. Wildlife Specialist Laura McWhorter provided many interesting life history facts on both of the live bird models provided for this workshop.

Participants drawing great horned owl at High Desert Museum 20January2018

Participants drawing great horned owl

Ian pointed out things each participant did well and areas that might need improvements. He was especially helpful to those new to drawing. Participants were enthusiastic about this workshop. In fact, one even asked if we could have this class every weekend.

Red-tailed hawk at High Desert Museum 20January2018

Red-tailed hawk

Do you have any ideas for art workshops at the Museum? If so, please send them to Andries Fourie at afourie@highdesertmuseum.org.

Reprinted from the February 2018 issue of High Desert Voices, a newsletter by and for volunteers working at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. To see issues of the newsletter, click here.

 

Otter Bench hike near Crooked River Ranch, Oregon

The Otter Bench Trail gives you some breathtaking views of the Crooked River. The trail head is near the town of Crooked River Ranch and the trail goes along the base of the cliffs bordering the river. We walked a couple miles in, stopped for lunch, and then headed back. There is little elevation change on the section we hiked but if you decide to head down to the river, it gets steep.

Otter Bench hike, Crooked River, Oregon 17April2017

The trail goes through juniper and sagebrush habitat and along rocky talus slopes. If you go off the trail a little ways, you can walk to the edge of cliffs that enclose the river far below. If you have a fear of heights, don’t get too close to that edge. A turkey vulture flew by at eye height when we were close to the edge. Hope it wasn’t waiting for a meal!

You get a good view of some of the geological forces at work here. The basalt columns in the lower cliffs are part of the Deschutes formation. Above them you can see light tan colored tuff. Far above the tuff area you will see more columnar basalt and it is part of the most recent Newberry formation.

There is a small dam on the river a few miles from the trail head.

There are golden eagles nesting on the cliffs and you can see how easy it was for them to find a nest site here. The Horny Hollow Trail forks off from the main trail but it’s closed seasonally when the birds are nesting. It was closed when we were there but I saw eagles flying above the highest cliffs in the distance.

I heard and saw quite a few songbirds on this hike in April. The list of species seen includes Townsend’s solitaire, black billed magpie, mountain chickadee, Brewer’s sparrow, and western meadowlark. It was nice to hear some of these songsters again.

As temperatures begin to warm up, the high desert starts its wildflower show. We saw big showy arrowhead balsamroot, purple phlox and rock cress, delicate pink prairie stars, yellow fiddleneck, larkspur, and white miner’s lettuce. After a particularly hard winter we were grateful to see these bursts of color.

This trail passes through Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Crooked River National Grassland, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife land. There is no fee to use the trail and there’s a good parking area at the trail head.

Here is a map that shows the Otter Bench trail:

Otter_Bench_Crooked_River_Ranch_Trails

Here are driving directions from BLM:

Directions to Otter Bench Trailhead from Highway 97 From Highway 97, just north of Terrebonne, turn left on to Lower Bridge Road (Sign with left arrow says “Crooked River Ranch”). After 2 miles turn right on 43rd St. After 1.7 miles turn left on Chinook Dr. After 5 miles (including a steep descent), go straight on to Horny Hollow Rd (do not take Chinook back up the switchback) Go 1.7 miles to the end of the pavement and park there.