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Posts tagged ‘Oregon’

Nature’s Return to the City

Spring has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest and with each passing year my longing for a life in the country grows. My ears strain to hear the croaking toads through the rain and my eyes scan the grey skies for lines of geese and ducks returning to their summer retreats.

To get my springtime nature fix I hop in the car and head out on Highway 99W to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Sherwood, Oregon.

Encompassing 1,856 acres within the floodplain of the Tualatin River basin, it is one of only ten urban wildlife parks located within the United States. Forested areas, wetlands, and grassland common to Western Oregon are all represented in the park, and in twenty years of development by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nearly two hundred species of birds, over fifty mammal species, and twenty-five species of reptiles and amphibians common to the Northern Willamette Valley have been cataloged.

Visitors approach the refuge via a walking trail that descends into the basin and crosses a small, shaded pond. Benches are available there for people who’d like to stop and listen as a group of frogs croak out a happy welcome to you. Continuing on, the land opens up into a savanna where offshoots of the trail curve around hundreds of transplanted trees in this birdwatchers’ paradise. The trail then turns west to run alongside Rock Creek, the main river system inside the refuge. At several points along the trail natural and planned overlooks provide excellent opportunities to watch animals living along its shores.

The creek and its companion trail flow into an old growth forest where a natural aviary composed of tall coniferous trees host several species of birds. If you listen closely, you may hear the beats of a woodpecker as it carves out a home or the whoosh of hummingbirds as they gather nectar from wild berry bushes. Mounds of ferns at your feet are perfect places to watch slithering lizards racing from one hiding place to another. Further along, a bridge crosses over an area of Rock Creek where enormous tadpoles, fish, and newts are visible in the rushing water.

The grand conclusion to this mile-long trek is a nearly 360 degree view of the wetlands area. This wide expanse of the refuge is dotted with trees and covered with wispy grasses and stiff reeds. Hundreds of ducks and geese can be seen throughout the year, along with several cranes and a pair of resident bald eagles, who perch high in an old oak tree to watch the wetlands below with wary eyes.

Access to the refuge is free from dawn until dusk and facilities, including a shaded area with picnic tables, are available for public use. During the summer months when the water table recedes a second, two mile trail branches out from the main route, circling around the refuge and returning to the Wildlife Center and its “Nature’s Overlook” gift shop (open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. — 4:00 p.m). Educational events are planned throughout the year, including the Tualatin River Bird Festival in May to kick off the summer season with family-friendly activities and lectures about the refuge’s environment, animals, and planning for further development. Trails are for walking only and no pets are allowed inside the refuge. For more information, please, visit their website at: http://www.fws.gov/tualatinriver/wildlife.html

USS Yukon

USS Yukon

Dena Weigel Bell; Photographer

These two photographs, used with permission by the Military Sealift Fleet Support Command, were taken from St. John’s Bridge as the USS Yukon made its way up the Willamette River to the Cascade Shipyard in Portland, OR.

A link to the article where it was published: http://www.msc.navy.mil/msfsc/news.asp?show=1258403567&edition=112009/

Kumbaya, I’m Stealing Your Song

The weather is changing. The days are lengthening. My thoughts are returning to the outdoors after a long hibernation away from Portland, Oregon’s rainy days of winter.

Let’s go camping!

We’ve got our tent, our sleeping bags, hotdogs, s’mores, and everything else we’ll need. The camp is set up around the fire pit and now, as the sun sets, what comes to mind but that old campfire classic; “Kumbaya”.

As it turns out, its controversal history is tied to Portland.

Reverend Marvin V. Frey, (1918-1992) claimed to have composed the song, originally entitled “Come By Here”, in 1936 after hearing a prayer delivered by a storefront evangelist named “Mother Duffin” in Portland. This contradicted research showing that sometime between 1922 and 1931 the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals added the song, under the name “Come By Heah”, to its catalog. It was sung in Gullah, a creole pidgin dialect that was spoken by the former slaves of the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia. The first four recordings of the song were made on wax cylinder by the founder of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center, Robert Winslow Gordon, between 1926 and 1928.

In 1939 Rev. Frey included the song in his collection of lyric sheets, Revival Choruses of Marvin V. Frey (printed in Portland, OR) and later claimed the change in the title to “Kum Ba Ya” came through a missionary family returning from Africa in 1946 but “no scholar has ever found an indigenous word ‘kumbaya’ with a relevant meaning” to the song, according to the liner notes to a 1959 album by a singer named Pete Seeger.

So, when you’re strumming your guitar around the campfire this summer don’t picture the happy hippies of the 1960’s who popularized it as a peace-loving anthem. Instead, picture the good Rev. Frey capitalizing on a slave’s song of hope.

Pete Seeger’s version of Kumbaya: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3H-MeS6LhhU&feature=related

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