I can be jubilant one moment and pensive the next, and a cloud could go by and make that happen.
Here are few clouds in my sky from the last year’s worth of Lens-Artists Photo Challenges. These pictures were taken in Eastern and Central Oregon, my favorite country. Enjoy their many moods.
Special thanks to Patti, Amy, Tina, and Ann-Christine for hosting the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge for one year! Many of us eagerly await the weekly challenge and look forward to seeing all the entries.
On the first 4-mile hike, my llama was Marty McFly, AKA “The Professor.” He was not the most dominant llama there, but he was considered to be the smartest. He was always on the lookout. Llamas have large eyes, much like pronghorns, so they can spot predators.
If you go on a hike with pack llamas, they can carry all of your gear. Well, at least 60 pounds of gear. You have to weigh each pack so that they are about even on both sides.
On both of the hikes I went on, I worked with llamas from the Burns Llama Trailblazers group. They have llamas that are trained in packing, cart pulling, and livestock guarding. They train the llamas to do packing from a very young age by having them carry miniature packs.
So what’s it like walking with a pack llama? Kind of like
walking with a very big and inquisitive dog. These highly-trained animals keep
a loose lead and they’re very sure footed. Though some are more spirited than
others, they have an overall gentle nature.
We stopped for lunch at a small lake and tied off our
animals. My llama had been quiet the whole trip, but once we stopped he became
more vocal. I thought he sounded like Chewbacca from Star Wars. The reason he
was complaining was because he wanted to keep going. Llamas can walk many miles
in a single day.
On the second hike I went on this spring, we traveled three miles. My llama that day was a young female named Manzanita. She was going for Basic Pack Llama Certification. She had to walk a three-mile course with 250-500 feet elevation gain. The llamas in this level carry 10% of their body weight.
We would encounter five different obstacles. These would
include walking through tight places, moving up/over/across obstacles, and
walking at least ten feet down a flowing creek. Did you know llamas often have
a fear of water? Neither did I.
Manzanita did fine and passed all of the tests with flying colors. There are four levels of PLTA certification. At the highest level, the llamas walk on a 10-mile course with 2,500-3,000 feet elevation gain. There are 20 obstacles. The animals carry 25% of their body weight.
I was happy doing the shorter hike. My llama companions had a good walk and so did I.
If you are interested in helping out with pack trials, they can always use more volunteers to lead the llamas so contact the Pack Llama Trial Association .
There are many wild Oregon places and this post highlights just a few of them. The ever changing skies can make familiar landscapes look completely different. Here are some portraits of Oregon’s wild places.
Oregon is an inspiration. Whether you come to it, or are born to it, you become entranced by our state’s beauty, the opportunity she affords, and the independent spirit of her citizens.
Have you ever stepped inside a time capsule and discovered a place frozen in time? You have the opportunity to visit such a place if you stop at the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon. The small building, located two blocks north of Highway 26, was, at one time, bustling with activity. Kam Wah Chung, which translates to the “Golden Flower of Prosperity,” served as a dry goods store, herbalist shop, import business, house of worship, and boarding house. It also housed an informal library and post office.
A Tour Inside
As you step into the dimly lit interior of the building, you get a feel for what life was like decades ago.
Boxes and tins of everyday products line the shelves. Merchandise stocked at Kam Wah Chung appealed to both Chinese and American customers.
In the backroom, larger boxes of supplies fill the room.
The apothecary is amazing! Stacks of small neatly labeled boxes reach to the ceiling.
They used many herbs in the practice of Chinese medicine, but also more exotic things like lizard feet, bat wings, and bear parts. A small room across from the apothecary served as a place to treat patients.
You step through a low doorway to get into the kitchen. The table and wood stove look ready to serve a hot meal.
An early version of a refrigerator cabinet sits in a corner.
Religion was an important part of everyday life and small altars, with dried oranges and incense stick offerings, are tucked into various nooks.
Two sets of bunk beds are in the same room as the kitchen. Advertisements line the walls and undersides of the bunks, in case you might need to purchase a suit while staying there.
As you pass through another door, you’ll enter a private bedroom. You can’t go upstairs, but additional boarding and living quarters are located there.
History of Kam Wah Chung
The building was constructed in the 1860s as a trading post, and it was put under lease to the Kam Wah Chung Company in 1878. Ing Hay and Lung On, both originally from the Guangdong Province of China, formed a partnership and purchased the business in 1887. It served as a gathering place for Chinese immigrants who traveled to Oregon to work on railroad lines and in gold mines. In 1862, prospectors discovered gold in Canyon City, two miles south of John Day. In 1880, John Day was home to over 2,000 Chinese, the second largest Chinese community in Oregon and one of the largest in the U.S.
Partners in business – Ing Hay and Lung On
Ing Hay, also known as “Doc Hay,” practiced herbal medicine and pulsology. Doc Hay lost his sight, but he claimed he could use his sensitive hands to identify ailments based on a patient’s pulse. Western medicine was in its infancy at that time and anyone could claim to be a doctor. Nearly half of patients treated by “quack” doctors died from infection. Ing Hay served both Chinese and non-Chinese patients and was a well-respected healer throughout the region. He was considered a “municipal treasure” after he used his herbal remedies to prevent the spread of illness during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.
Lung On, also known as “Leon,” was a well-educated man fluent in both English and Chinese. He used his charisma and many skills in his work as a merchant, labor contractor, mediator, and translator. After the gold rush, he turned to other endeavors. Lung On started a mail-order clothing company and also had one of the first car dealerships and service stations east of the Cascades. He also dabbled in real estate and horse racing. Lung On was a successful businessman and he willed his $90,000 estate to Ing Hay. Both men continued living in the Kam Wah Chung building for nearly 60 years and were considered valued members of the community.
The Chinese Exclusion Act
Though both had family in China, they never returned to their native country. One reason for this was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Increasing tensions between Chinese and resident laborers in a struggling economy led to a series of laws. The Act stated that Chinese could not become U.S. citizens or own land. Teachers, students, diplomats, and merchants were given limited rights, but weren’t always allowed back into the U.S. if they left the country. In John Day, Chinese could only live in a small neighborhood near Kam Wah Chung and it served as a refuge for them. More moved to John Day in 1885 when the Chinese neighborhood in Canyon City burned to the ground and they were not allowed to rebuild. It was a challenging environment for people of Chinese heritage and they felt safer living near each other.
Chinese could not own guns in Grant County so Ing Hay and Lung Ho kept meat cleavers at the ready to defend themselves. You can see evidence of how they were harassed by observing bullet holes in their metal-clad front door. The thin layer of metal didn’t stop any bullets, but it prevented fire from destroying the building.
Opening the Time Capsule
Lung On passed away in 1940 and Ing Hay moved to a Portland nursing home in 1948. He passed away in 1952 and his nephew sold the building to the city of John Day. Ing Hay wanted the building to serve as a Chinese history museum, but that request was forgotten. The Kam Wah Chung building remained locked until 1967. When the doors were opened, everything inside was largely intact. Over 30,000 artifacts have been cataloged. The apothecary contained hundreds of herbs, some of which no longer exist in the wild. One of Doc Hay’s medical books may have been compiled 300-500 years ago by one of the founders of Chinese medicine. If the book is an original, it would be one of the few copies known to still exist.
Visiting Kam Wah Chung
Kam Wah Chung was deeded to Oregon State Parks and Recreation in 1975 and leased to the city of John Day. It opened to the public in 1977. The state took over management of the site in 2004. The Friends of Kam Wah Chung help manage a small visitor center and store housed in a separate building.
Oregon State Parks and Recreation offers free 45-minute tours of the Kam Wah Chung site from May 1 to October 31. A guide must accompany visitors. The guides offer visitors a wealth of information and they obviously enjoy sharing their knowledge. Their talks are enhanced by informative recordings. The tours fill up fast so this year they are experimenting with making reservations in advance.
There are several exciting updates related to Kam Wah Chung. Plans are in the works for a larger visitor center that may include a “virtual reality” room that would simulate the interior of the building. Recent archaeological research at the site has revealed where the temple and other buildings may have once stood. In July, students can participate in an archaeology field school on the site as part of the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. Malheur National Forest, Southern Oregon Laboratory of Anthropology, and Kam Wah Chung are among those working on this project. The Discovery Channel is working on a documentary about Chinese traditional medicine and they have shot footage at Kam Wah Chung and several other locations. The program is expected to air in North America in the fall of 2019.
Visitors from around the world
This site is an important destination for those interested in history. It is the best known example of an historical Chinese mercantile and herb store in the United States. Chinese scholars have expressed great interest in Kam Wah Chung and they visit the site regularly. As news stories related to discoveries at the site have spread throughout China, it has become a destination for Chinese tourists. People from all over the world visit Kam Wah Chung.
There has been a significant increase in the number of visitors from the Netherlands. Locations near Kam Wah Chung were featured in the highly popular Dutch reality program “Wie is de Mol?” which translates as “Who is the Mole?”
I am fortunate that this site is only about two hours away from Bend, Oregon, where I live. It’s a trip well worth taking.
Here are a few interesting facts about Kam Wah Chung:
More than 90 unopened bottles of bourbon whiskey were found under the floorboards and in the walls, stashed there during the Prohibition. Today they are valued at around $10,000 each. Several bottles mysteriously disappeared during various renovations.
Ing Hay’s great-grandnephew, Robert M. Wah, MD, served as president of the American Medical Association in 2015. The call to work as a healer continues in this family.
$23,000 worth of uncashed checks were found under Ing Hay’s bed. They would be worth about $250,000 in today’s dollars. Some think he never cashed them because he knew his patients couldn’t afford to pay the bills.
To view a 2015 Emmy nominated documentary about Kam Wah Chung produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting, see Oregon Experience – Kam Wah Chung. The personal stories recounted by people who knew Ing Hay and Lung On helps to bring the history of this remarkable place to life.
This is a reprint of a June 2019 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.
The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Here are pictures that feature several of the elements that I took at Yellowstone National Park.
The five pictures above of Yellowstone elements each include wood, water, fire, and earth. In this case, the fire is below the surface. This area sits inside a giant caldera and geysers and hot springs are common in the park. Steam rises over these thermal features.
You may be wondering where the element of “metal” is in these photos. In the photo below, I was using our metal car as a blind to take pictures of the bison and accidentally took a picture of myself holding my metal camera. 😀
Hope you enjoy my interpretation of this challenge!
Last June we happened to be in Tillamook, Oregon the day the new Tillamook Creamery visitor center opened.
They have 1.3 million visitors a year and the new 38,500 square foot facility is a welcome addition. The original visitor center opened in 1949. We visited that much smaller center years ago.
Yes, you can still watch them making delicious cheese and get samples, but there’s a lot more there now.
The new displays are interactive and informative.
I loved the layout of some of these displays. Crisp, bold, and bright. They are works of art.
Tillamook County Creamery Association creates the products you find in stores today. This co-op was formed in 1909 and there are almost 100 families in it now.
They have a big store with everything from clothing to specialty dairy products.
If that’s not enough, they also have a dining area with several options. You can get ice cream, yogurt with toppings, and a range of other choices. These include everything from tempura battered cheese curds (huh?) to mac and cheese, pizza, sandwiches, and a few breakfast items. I was pleasantly surprised to see the food at the center featured in a funny article in Food and Wine.
If you have the time, this is a stop worth making.
The trailhead is 14 miles northwest of Dayville, Oregon. This trail is in the Sheep Rock Unit of the monument. The Island in Time trail is a 1.3 mile long out and back trail with an elevation gain of 200 feet. The Blue Basin Overlook trail also starts here. It’s a 3.25 mile trail with a 760 foot elevation gain. There are several other trails nearby.
The geologic history
The unique blue-green colors of the rock formations in Blue
Basin are stunning. They range from
a pale dinner mint green to a darker, bluer green. The blue-green and tan
claystones and siltstones are part of the John Day formation. There were multiple eruptions of Cascade
Mountain volcanoes 29 million years ago. The ashfall formed the blue-green
layers of this basin. Celandonite and clinoptilolite give these formations
their green color.
You’ll see impressive tiered layers of rock bordering the trail. At the end of the trail, an amphitheater of colorful stone will surround you. I had the place all to myself on my hike. Rotate your way around this photo sphere to see what I saw.
I also noticed the smaller landscapes on this trail. Here are a few of those scenes.
Fossil and facts on Blue Basin trail
You will see several fossil replicas covered with protective plastic bubbles along the trail. They removed the actual fossils to protect them from the elements. Over 2,000 species of plant and animal fossils have been identified in the vicinity.
Map and a word about dogs
Here’s a map of the Blue Basin. Please note the warnings associated with this trail. In the warmer months of the year, you may see rattlesnakes. In October, I saw none. Blue Basin experiences high temperatures in the summer months so be prepared.
There are 13 metal grate bridges on this trail. The sign says dogs may refuse to cross and you may have to carry them. My dog would not cross the first bridge. Sorry, but I couldn’t imagine carrying a 60+ pound dog over 13 bridges. She waited patiently in the car on that cool day.
Amazing paleontology center
Don’t miss the amazing Thomas Condon Paleontology Center while you’re here. The displays impress me and I’m always excited to see paleontologists hard at work in the viewing area. I often wonder what new treasures they will uncover in their daily work.
The Tin Pan Alley Art “gallery” is located in a short alleyway in downtown Bend, Oregon. The alley features large pieces of art created with a variety of media. Some are 2-dimensional while others are more sculptural. Do you have a favorite among these wonderful pieces of art?
This collection is part of a public art initiative that supports local arts and culture. It takes our outdoor lifestyle into consideration. Another example of outdoor art is featured in many of Bend’s roundabouts.
This is The Visitor by artist Carol Sternkopf. This is a mixed media piece that combines photography, vinyl, paint, twigs, wood, metal, and salvaged home decor. Nature and animals were important in Carol’s childhood. She incorporates them into her art. She hopes viewers think about the “larger story within the magnificent blue owl’s eyes” in this piece.
Here’s a picture of the whole collection. We like to go to the Lone Pine Coffee Shop in this alley. It’s small, but it’s our favorite. The owner takes the craft of creating the best cup of coffee very seriously.
Metal and wood
This is Love Lost, Love Found by artist Bill Hoppe. This colorful metal work represents the artist’s interpretation of an 11th Century Indian manuscript. The many pieces of this sculpture were created by hundreds of community members. This was part of a community engagement goal set forth by the Central Oregon Metal Arts Guild.
This is Tomas’ Riddleby artist Judy Campbell. This piece is created from steel, wood, and lights. Judy was inspired by infinitely repeating patterns, or fractals. In this piece she sought to bring the “abstract concepts such as love, mystery, and infinity into the earthly plane.”
This isRide with Me by artist Jeff Remiker. The mountain culture, especially biking, is a big part of Bend. Jeff was inspired by a childhood love of bike riding. He incorporated wood and metal work into this rustic piece. Viewers can interact with this piece by putting things into the bike basket.
This is an untitled piece by artist Andrew Wachs. This piece was inspired by basalt rock formations that can be found throughout Central Oregon. The artwork represents a close-up perspective of a vertical overhang. Andrew works with metal and wood design in his studio, Weld Design Studio.
Photographs and paintings
This is Southwark by photographer/artist/adventure seeker Amy Castaño. This photograph of a bikeway in London captures some of the many textures and sights of the city. Amy looks for unique viewpoints, different angles, interesting parts of the ordinary, and the perfect radiant light.
This is A Parade of Strange Ideas by artist Phillip Newsom. This vivid painting represents a spontaneous procession of ideas “emerging from the unconscious and growing as multi-dimensional shapes in some back-alley of the mind.” Phillip’s work includes book & magazine illustrations, animal portraits, murals, landscapes, and graphic designs.
I visited Blue Pool on a cool September day. Mother Nature was busy there producing colorful works of art. The colors in the pool are unbelievably beautiful and intense. On this day, the warm colors of fall leaves were reflected on the water.
As I mentioned in Blue Pool is a Jewel, the reflections look like Impressionist paintings. I could have stayed there for a long time taking pictures. Can you see why?
Last night we had a front row seat to watch the paddle parade go by on the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon. This event has taken place for many years, rain or shine. It was kind of blustery weather last night but there were still a lot of people participating in the parade.
The event is hosted by Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe in the Old Mill district. Participants dress up their watercraft and themselves with colorful lights. The parade takes place from about 4:00 to 6:00 pm. After it’s over, everyone gets together for nice warm drinks.
Santa and a few of his elves were there to help spread good cheer. The flamingos towing the raft looked sort of tired.
The boats went a little past the Flag Bridge and then turned around.
The breezy conditions made it hard to paddle upstream but it was easy going back down.
Everyone looked like they were having a great time. There were a lot of people watching this year — more than I’ve seen before.
We watched part of the parade from inside a nice warm restaurant. It was a wonderful way to watch one of Bend’s special winter events. 🙂
In Yellowstone National Park, much of the wildlife is hidden from view. You have to look carefully to find the animals and sometimes they will reveal themselves to you.
Elk in the Lamar Valley are hidden as they blend into the landscape traveling along a ridge top.
However, when they cross a pond they are revealed. The splashing water draws your attention and their pale colored rumps make you take notice of them.
From a distance, this just looks like two lumps in a field. Sandhill cranes’ plumage helps them stay hidden from view.
However, when they raise their head and you see their distinctive silhouette and red cap, they are revealed.
Pronghorn have bars of white on their coats that somehow help them stay hidden from view. These two does are wandering near the river’s edge.
However, when you see them close up, their markings are clearly revealed.
Sometimes all you see are tiny specks in the distance. You try to zoom in as close as you can with your lens but they still remain hidden. The white arrow in this fuzzy photo is pointing at two grizzly bears hundreds of yards away.
However, these magnificent creatures are revealed when you visit a place that helps conserve them. This image was taken at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. I don’t think I would want to be that close to a grizzly on a trail so I will settle for this view. 😉
Learn about the natural world by visiting Sunriver Nature Center
Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory is a great place to learn more about the natural world. This small interpretive center is on the west side of Sunriver, Oregon. It’s in an area that includes pine forests, meadows, and the meandering Deschutes River. The “edges” between these habitats are good places to see wildlife.
You can observe local wildlife by walking the trails on your own or going out with a guide. The Sam Osgood Nature Trail winds around the property. In the spring and summer keep an eye out for trumpeter swans. Guided bird walks take place every Saturday morning in the spring, summer, and fall. I have been on several of the walks. You’ll see waterfowl in the pond, raptors flying overhead, and songbirds along the walk. Great gray owls have been spotted in the area occasionally. You never know what you might spot on one of these walks.
There are also programs for families and kids. There are Kids Nature Camps for kids 4-10 years of age at certain times of the year. Family programs might include offerings such as Family Birding, Aquatic Explorations, and Eco Bike Tours. During the school year, staff travel to nearby schools to give presentations.
The Sunriver Nature Center building has live animals, diorama displays of local habitats, hands-on exhibits, and a collection of rocks with a focus on meteors. Their collection of live animals includes birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Birds of prey are used in daily educational talks in the amphitheater.
This is a licensed rehabilitation center so there may be some birds not on public display. With the help of staff and volunteers, the birds get much needed medical attention. If possible, they are released back into the wild.
The Oregon Observatory
The Oregon Observatory offers spectacular views of daytime and night skies. There are opportunities to see galaxies, nebulae, and planets and their moons. The observatory has a large collection of telescopes available. Kids can learn about astronomy through visits, classes, and through community outreach. Look at these amazing photos from the observatory! Hours vary – click here for the most current information.
A few sights to see at the Sunriver Nature Center
One of my favorite places to hang out is near the bird feeders. You’ll see lots of birds, and an occasional squirrel, taking advantage of a free meal.
Here’s a room where reptiles, amphibians, and insects can be viewed. It’s called the Creature Cave.
Birds of prey can be seen up close and personal in their enclosures. A building was constructed recently to house and exercise the Center’s raptors.
Check their website to find out about current events and to register for camps and walks. Staff and volunteers take some of their wildlife ambassadors (like the great horned owl pictured below) to events in the area. Sunriver Nature Center is a non-profit that depends upon donations. Click here to donate.
We saw this red fox in Yellowstone National Park in June of this year. This is the Rocky Mountain subspecies, Vulpes vulpes macroura.
The red fox is not seen often in the park because they are nocturnal and they blend into their preferred habitats along the edges of meadows and forests. The females nurse their kits during late spring and this may have been a female out looking for food. Foxes usually use dens created by other animals.
We were fortunate to see a female with kits on another spring visit to Yellowstone. Litter size averages four to eight kits. Vixens gives birth in late March to April. Both parents care for the young through their first few months of their life.
When wolves were introduced into the park, many coyotes were eliminated by the wolves and this may have caused an increase in the number of foxes. Coyotes prefer sagebrush and open meadow habitat and hunt more by day so they don’t compete as much with foxes.
The red fox is the smallest dog-like mammal in the park. The males weigh 11-12 pounds and the females weigh 10 pounds. They average 43 inches in length. Most foxes live 3-7 years but in Yellowstone can live up to 11 years.
Foxes can have a wide variety of coat colors–from red to black. Their thick tail aids in balance and they use them to signal to other foxes. Foxes wrap their tail around themselves in cold weather to help them stay warm.
Red foxes have a varied diet. They feed on voles, mice, rabbits, birds, amphibians, eggs, carrion, and some plants. Animals that prey on foxes include cougars, wolves, and coyotes.
Video of a flying red fox
Here’s a National Geographic video of a fox hunting in the winter. They have extremely good hearing and listen for animals beneath the snow. When they sense prey, they pounce or “fly” to catch it under the snow. Flying Red Fox
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A 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.