Blue Mountain Eagle | http://www.bluemountaineagle.com Blue Mountain Eagle Sun, 2 Aug 2015 10:49:36 -0400 en http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/staticimage/images/rss-logo.jpg Blue Mountain Eagle | http://www.bluemountaineagle.com Lower returns mean higher PERS contributions http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150731/lower-returns-mean-higher-pers-contributions http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150731/lower-returns-mean-higher-pers-contributions#Comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 19:44:07 -0400 PETER WONGCapital Bureau http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150739994 A lower assumed rate of return on investments will result in higher future contributions by state and local governments to Oregon’s public-pension system and slightly smaller payments to workers hired before 1996 who retire after Dec. 1.

The decision Friday by the Public Employees Retirement System board also starts the process by its actuarial firm to calculate what those employer contribution rates will be in the 2017-19 budget cycle. Preliminary numbers, known as “advisory rates,” will be released later this year. The PERS board will approve the actual rates in fall 2016.

Several factors are involved in the calculations, but the assumed rate of return is key.

The board settled on an assumed rate of return of 7.5 percent, down a notch from the 7.75 percent rate of the past two years. For the 24 years before then, the rate was 8 percent. Oregon has had an assumed rate since the 1970s, when it began investing in what is now a retirement fund of almost $71 billion as of June 30.

Government employers already face higher contribution rates as a result of an April 30 decision by the Oregon Supreme Court, which ruled that lawmakers could not pare cost-of-living increases to retirees retroactively. The Legislature did so in 2013 as part of an attempt to reduce the system’s future liability over the next 20 to 30 years.

Milliman projects the average rate increase for school districts at 5.3 percentage points of total payroll for workers hired before August 2003; for all other governments, 3.8 percentage points, and for coverage of the post-August 2003 workers, one-10th of a percentage point.

The projected increases will apply in the next budget cycle. Rates for the current two-year cycle, which began July 1, were set in fall 2014 before the Supreme Court heard legal challenges to the 2013 changes.

With the approval of a lower assumed rate of return, the PERS board is likely to “collar” contribution rates so that overall increases are spread over several budget cycles, instead of all at once.

About 73 cents of every dollar Oregon pays out in public pensions comes from investment earnings. Most of the rest comes from contributions by the 925 employer members of PERS, which covers about 95 percent of Oregon’s public employees.

There are roughly 130,000 retirees.

The change in the assumed rate was not unexpected, although the board chose the highest of three scenarios.

Milliman, the Seattle actuarial firm contracted by PERS, had projected scenarios of 6.99 percent, 7.32 percent and 7.45 percent. Milliman’s was the lowest; Callan, the San Francisco firm that advises the Oregon Investment Council, was the highest.

California’s pension system reduced its assumed rate from 7.75 percent to 7.5 percent in 2012.

According to a recent survey by the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, about a third of the 126 statewide retirement systems it surveyed still retain an 8 percent rate. But since the financial-markets crash in 2008, the mean has dropped to 7.68 percent, and the median — the point at which half the systems are above and half below — is equal to Oregon’s former rate at 7.75 percent.

The assumed rate also is used to credit annual earnings of public employees hired before Jan. 1, 1996, otherwise known as Tier 1. If employees in that group retire by Dec. 1 of this year, the 7.75 percent rate will still apply. Those who retire afterward will be subject to the 7.5 percent rate, which takes effect on Jan. 1.

Under an example offered by the PERS staff, someone who retires on March 1, 2016 — after the lower rate takes effect — will earn the same pension benefit as someone who retires by Dec. 1 of this year.

Before Friday’s meeting, two employees filed comments urging the board not to change the current rate.

“Having to work six extra months just to get to where you would have been before is just not right,” said Tammy Noeske of Salem.

“Oregonians who work in government are weary of all the recent changes that keep moving the goal line for retirement,” said Doug Crumme of Corvallis.

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Oregon Democrats express support for Planned Parenthood http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150731/oregon-democrats-express-support-for-planned-parenthood http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150731/oregon-democrats-express-support-for-planned-parenthood#Comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 16:58:05 -0400 ZANE SPARLINGCapital Bureau http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150739995 In the midst of a controversy surrounding the release of undercover videos that critic say appear to show officials from Planned Parenthood casually discussing the sale of fetal tissue, Oregon’s top Democrats remain united in support of the organization.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to talk about it.

The Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, has in recent weeks released a series of undercover videos that it says show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs and tissue harvested from aborted fetuses. Sale of such tissue for profit is prohibited by federal law, though researchers can reimburse providers for the cost of its collection and preservation. The videos also appear to show officials discussing alternative abortion techniques to provide more intact organs.

Planned Parenthood says the videos are highly edited and present exchanges out of context. It claims the organization and its employees have done nothing wrong and that the videos are meant to promote an anti-abortion political agenda.

A spokesperson for Gov. Kate Brown issued a terse, one-sentence statement in response to questions about the videos.

“No matter what happens in other states or at the federal level, Governor Brown is committed to Oregon providing comprehensive health services to all women, and Planned Parenthood has been a long-standing and effective partner in that effort,” the spokesperson said.

Brown’s office did not comment on whether the governor had seen any of the videos, or whether the allegations and the organization’s use of state funding warranted investigation.

Since 2008, Brown has received $20,000 in campaign contributions from EMILY’s list, a pro-choice group, and about $10,000 from EMILY’s List Federal Fund. Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon has given $3,500 to Brown. The president of Southern Oregon Planned Parenthood has personally donated $150.

Brown spoke at a Planned Parenthood “Day of Action” rally in April of this year and accepted the the Pro-Choice Champion award from them in 2012. Her first job, as a lobbyist for the Women’s Rights Coalition, was funded in part by Planned Parenthood.

Brown chose Jeanne Atkins as her replacement as secretary of state when she succeeded former Gov. John Kitzhaber. Atkins led the Women’s Rights Coalition when it hired Brown in 1991 and also worked as a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood.

Speaking through a spokesperson, Atkins said she had no “official reaction” as an office holder.

“My personal belief… is that ethical questions about medical care and medical research are best resolved among medical professionals… I hope Oregonians will listen thoroughly not just to the allegations but to the responses given,” Atkins said.

On social media, Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland) used the hashtag “#StandwithPP” to show her support for Planned Parenthood. Like Brown and Atkins, she declined to discuss the issue in detail.

“We know these to be politically-motivated attacks coming from a group with a questionable background,” spokesperson Molly Woon said. “We know Planned Parenthood to be a trusted health care provider.”

Abortion opponents were less retrained.

Oregon Representative Bill Post (R-Keizer) ran on a pro-life platform in 2014. Post said if he could, he would defund Planned Parenthood tomorrow.

“In political terms, when the founding fathers said, ‘Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,’ it’s pretty hard to have the last two without the first,” he said. “When a woman goes in for an abortion, I doubt she was thinking that the baby was going to be torn to pieces and sold off.”

Post plans to introduce a bill to stop all taxpayer-funded abortions in Oregon, which are performed by a number of service providers, during the legislature’s 2016 short session.

Data from the Oregon Health Authority list 105,441 abortions performed in Oregon over the last 10 years. In fiscal year 2013-14, around 43 percent of all abortions performed in state were taxpayer funded, Post said.

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Under specter of Cover Oregon, DMV begins major upgrade http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150731/under-specter-of-cover-oregon-dmv-begins-major-upgrade http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150731/under-specter-of-cover-oregon-dmv-begins-major-upgrade#Comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 16:34:37 -0400 PETER WONGCapital Bureau http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150739996 SALEM — State government’s most recent failure in information technology hangs over it, but prompted by aging driver and motor vehicle systems that date back to the 1960s, Oregon lawmakers have launched an upgrade that will take a decade to complete.

Although the “service transformation” program will not change anything immediately, online transactions by customers with the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division are expected to multiply in a couple of years with the opening phase of DMV2U.

DMV will still have field offices – it has 60 now – but the new online system will reduce customer visits for many routine transactions.

The new system also will provide quicker access to DMV records by business customers — financial institutions, insurance companies and vehicle dealers — and police and courts.

But Matt Garrett, director of the Oregon Department of Transportation — DMV’s parent agency — said he is aware of the public and legislative focus on a project that will affect millions of Oregonians.

“A lot is riding on this,” Garrett said at a recent meeting of the Oregon Transportation Commission. “The gravity of this is not lost to anyone here. The shadow of Cover Oregon hangs upon us.”

Oregon and prime contractor Oracle have dueling lawsuits over the failed Cover Oregon website, which was intended to help individuals and small businesses shop for health insurance coverage and determine individuals’ eligibility for state-supported health care.

“Matt Garrett is absolutely right,” said Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, the Senate co-chairman of the legislative subcommittee that approved the ODOT budget, including $30 million for the first phase of an upgrade estimated at $90 million when it is done in 2023-25.

DMV Administrator Tom McClellan said his agency still uses mainframe technology that dates back almost 50 years, and relies on COBOL, a computer programming language that dates back to 1959.

The most recent upgrade was in the 1990s.

“We took an evolutionary approach and made gradual changes in response to legislative changes,” he said in an interview. “This is the first time in 20 years that we have said we need to replace these systems, because they are the same as we were trying to replace back then – just 20 years older.”

DMV affects almost every adult Oregonian.

It licenses 3.1 million drivers. It issues 4.1 million vehicle registrations, with 3.2 million of them for passenger vehicles.

On an annual basis, DMV issues 200,000 new licenses and renews 350,000 more; license renewals are usually for eight years. It issues 1.8 million vehicle registrations — Oregon has a two-year cycle — 850,000 vehicle titles and 400,000 license plate sets.

Lawmakers began the effort in February 2012 with $500,000 for planning. In the new two-year budget, they approved $30 million and 30 full-time employees for the first phase.

Included is $20 million for new records systems for vehicles, point of sale, and licensing and regulation of dealers. The new point-of-sale system will build on an effort, which lawmakers approved $6.3 million for separately, to enable DMV to accept credit and debit cards for transactions.

Another $5 million is for the new employees, and the rest for development of the DMV2U customer portal and outside consultants to oversee the project, change management and quality assurance.

A multiyear $10 surcharge on driver licenses was proposed, but not approved by the 2015 Legislature, to help offset the cost of the upgrade. It remains an option in future sessions.

The budget also specifies the membership of a group to oversee the entire program: Three members each from the Senate and the House; two private-sector members chosen by the Technology Association of Oregon, and representatives of the Legislative Fiscal Office – which has a staffer assigned to information-technology projects – and the state’s chief information officer within the Department of Administrative Services.

“I do not know what more you can do,” Sen. Johnson said.

“On the panel you have members from the people’s branch of government, professional staff and IT experts, and private-sector people who bring a different approach to dealing with these matters. There is no fail-safe system, but you do the best you can.”

Future phases will involve vehicle titles and registrations, driver licenses and other records, through the 2023-25 budget cycle.

McClellan has been DMV administrator since November 2007. He expects to oversee the project from start to finish.

“I’ll probably not be retired, but the gray hairs are there,” he said.

The DMV project will follow several other high-profile computer upgrades affecting key functions of state government.

Among them are Oregon eCourt, which the state court system launched in 2011 and expects to complete in mid-2016, and the core systems replacement project at the Oregon Department of Revenue, which the agency started in 2013 and expects to finish by spring 2019.

Like DMV, the systems of those agencies are aging. OJIN relies on 1980s technology, and the Department of Revenue still processes tax returns with systems dating back to 1993.

Both projects have encountered some bumps — but nothing like the Cover Oregon failure, or some of the large cost overruns listed in a June 2014 report compiled by the Legislative Fiscal Office of 66 major information-technology projects dating back to 2006. “Major project” is defined as more than $1 million.

One of those was the OR-Kids system run by the Department of Human Services, which according to a 2014 state audit had to repay $23.3 million in federal funds and correct $9.5 million in balances as a result of errors between September 2011 and December 2013.

Lawmakers approved $15.7 million and 24 more employees for the Department of Administrative Services — the central technology provider for state government — to fix problems and improve security.

Johnson acknowledges past IT failures, but said there was one critical difference between Cover Oregon and the others.

“We had people in charge of Cover Oregon coming to the Legislature and not telling the truth, in my observation,” she said.

The Cover Oregon failure, in addition to the lawsuits, resulted in multiple resignations.

It also led to Republican-sponsored bills, which got a House committee hearing but did not advance, to require some officials to testify under oath and penalize “false swearing” to the Legislature.

“I think we have not reached the point where that is necessary,” Johnson said. “But I certainly expect that legislators will be observant and encouraged to ask tough questions – and not accept superficial answers.”

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PERS board to begin process to set contribution rates http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150730/pers-board-to-begin-process-to-set-contribution-rates http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150730/pers-board-to-begin-process-to-set-contribution-rates#Comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:59:05 -0400 PETER WONGCapital Bureau http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150739997 SALEM — Oregon’s public-pension board will decide Friday on the economic factors that will shape what state and local governments will pay into the system in the 2017-19 budget cycle.

Among those factors are the all-important assumed rate of return on the almost $71 billion invested in the Public Employees Retirement System fund.

A presentation is scheduled by Milliman, the actuarial firm based in Seattle that will crunch the numbers and come up with more precise “advisory rates” for payroll costs of individual state and local government employers by Sept. 25. Preliminary rates for their pension contributions will be released next summer, and final ones adopted by the PERS board in September 2016.

The actual rates that the 925 member governments will pay in 2017-19 will be based on several factors, including assumptions about inflation and wage growth. But the one that stands out is the assumed rate of return, which for 24 years was set at 8 percent, typical of what state-run pension funds had until recent years.

The current rate is 7.75 percent, which the board set two years ago and has been in effect since Jan. 1, 2014. California lowered its rate from 7.75 percent to 7.5 percent in 2012.

The rate is used when the system credits annual earnings for the regular accounts of public employees hired before 1996. It’s also used to calculate pension payments for public employees hired before August 2003, when the system was overhauled and pension benefits were reduced for new workers.

A lower rate could reflect more realistic projections of PERS earnings from investments, which account for 73 cents of every dollar it pays out to retirees.

But it also could result in higher pension contributions by government employers, which already are facing increases, and lower benefit payments for current employees when they retire.

Two employees filed comments urging the board not to change the current rate.

“Having to work six extra months just to get to where you would have been before is just not right,” said Tammy Noeske of Salem.

“Oregonians who work in government are weary of all the recent changes that keep moving the goal line for retirement,” said Doug Crumme of Corvallis.

Governments are faced with higher contribution rates as a result of an April 30 decision by the Oregon Supreme Court, which ruled that lawmakers cannot retroactively reduce cost-of-living increases to about 130,000 retirees in an effort to pare the system’s unfunded liabilities.

Milliman projects the average rate increase for school districts at 5.3 percentage points of total payroll for workers hired before August 2003; for all other governments, 3.8 percentage points, and for coverage of the post-August 2003 workers, one-10th of a percentage point.

At a board meeting May 29, Milliman laid out three potential rates of return, all of them less than the current 7.75 percent.

Milliman itself projected an annual rate of 7.05 percent over 20 years, which it says is a more typical horizon for investment decisions.

Callan, the San Francisco firm that works with the Oregon Investment Council, has developed a scenario of 7.45 percent annually over 10 years.

A third scenario could put the average rate at 7.32 percent, also over 10 years.

While the PERS board sets the rate, the actual income hinges on the range of investments overseen by the Oregon Investment Council and the Investment Division of the Oregon State Treasury.

For various reasons, the council has begun shifting some of its investments from private equities into other types that can be converted more easily into cash that can flow into the pension system. Private-equity investments have the greatest average yield for the state, but also cost the state more in payments to outside managers.

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Oregon adjutant general promoted, reassigned http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150730/oregon-adjutant-general-promoted-reassigned http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150730/oregon-adjutant-general-promoted-reassigned#Comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:40:37 -0400 PETER WONGCapital Bureau http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150739998 SALEM — Maj. Gen. Daniel Hokanson will leave as adjutant general and leader of the Oregon National Guard to take a military assignment in Colorado.

Gov. Kate Brown, who serves as commander-in-chief of the guard, will appoint a successor.

Hokanson, a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, was promoted to lieutenant general. The Senate confirmed the appointment Tuesday.

His new assignments are as deputy commander of the U.S. Northern Command and vice commander of the U.S. element of the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. He did a previous tour of duty there from August 2010 to August 2012.

Hokanson has led the Oregon National Guard for about two years, since Raymond “Fred” Rees retired after 17 years in separate stints in the job between 1987 and 2013. Hokanson was appointed by then-Gov. John Kitzhaber in 2013.

“Our loss is the country’s gain,” Brown said in a statement. “I am proud to see Maj. Gen. Hokanson’s dedicated service recognized with this promotion. We will miss his steady, thoughtful leadership.”

It is the third departure of an agency leader that Brown has announced in the past week, following Erinn Kelley-Siel at Human Services and Sean Robbins at Business Development. Their departures were linked to family reasons.

The National Guard provides combat-ready units when the president calls them into federal service, and assistance in natural disasters and civil unrest when ordered by the governor.

The Oregon Military Department contains the Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Oregon Emergency Management and Youth Challenge Program. Of its current two-year state budget of $380.4 million, most comes from federal funds; only $25 million is from the tax-supported general fund. The agency also gets federal funds not subject to the state budget.

Since graduation from the U.S. Military Academy in 1986, Hokanson has had numerous military assignments. They first brought him to Oregon in 1995, when he was aide-de-camp to Rees, then in a second stint as Oregon adjutant general.

Hokanson was chief of staff to the joint task force in Afghanistan between August 2006 and July 2007. From March 2008 to July 2010, he commanded the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which spent 2009-10 on deployment in Iraq. The unit is based in Oregon.

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Publishers, broadcasters cautious about pot advertising http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150730/publishers-broadcasters-cautious-about-pot-advertising http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150730/publishers-broadcasters-cautious-about-pot-advertising#Comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:22:44 -0400 ZANE SPARLINGCapital Bureau http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150739999 Oregonians shouldn’t expect to catch even a whiff of recreational marijuana advertising on TV and radio, even after the official start of limited legal pot sales to the general public Oct. 1.

Federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. The Controlled Substances Act makes it unlawful for anyone to place an ad on TV, radio, on the internet or in print that specifically offers such substances for sale. Under the act, facilitating such advertising is a felony that could lead to a prison sentence, fine or possible loss of a broadcast license.

While the Obama administration has said it will suspend enforcement of certain drug laws in states that regulate recreational and medical marijuana sales, broadcasters are being advised to tread cautiously.

“I doubt there’s any lawyer in town who would say, ‘Absolutely, go nuts, take the ad, I guarantee that your license will be renewed,’” said Harry Cole, a Virginia attorney who specializes in broadcast law. “Any broadcaster in their right mind is going to see this as a big risk.”

Bill Johnstone, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Broadcasters, said the decision would have to be made on a station-by-station basis.

“If the question is, ‘Do we want the advertising,’ then the answer is yes. If the question is, ‘Is it worth the risk,’ well then I’m not so sure,” he said.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group, which operates television and radio stations in both Oregon and Washington, is similarly cautious.

“Right now we’re not (accepting marijuana ads),” a regional advertising official with the company, who asked not to be named, said. “Because it’s a federal offense, and our licensing is from the federal government. It would be up to corporate. It’s not really our decision.”

The Federal Communications Commission declined to comment.

Barred from TV and radio, medical marijuana dispensaries have long sought refuge in the back pages of alternative weeklies. A.P. Walther, publisher of the Salem Weekly, said the paper attracts “open minded” readers who aren’t bothered by the ads.

“There wasn’t anything special in regards to these advertisements. (Dispensaries) are looking to distinguish themselves, and they’re looking to attract new patients, and the general public,” he said.

What audiences find appealing, and what draws their ire, will ultimately drive publishers and broadcasters advertising choices, no matter what the law states, Cole, who is a member of the law firm Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, said.

“Broadcasting is a business, and broadcasters depend on attracting viewers,” Cole said. “Just because they can broadcast something doesn’t mean they should, or want to.”

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It takes a little more time and energy, but Slide Lake is worth the hike http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150729/it-takes-a-little-more-time-and-energy-but-slide-lake-is-worth-the-hike http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150729/it-takes-a-little-more-time-and-energy-but-slide-lake-is-worth-the-hike#Comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 14:46:14 -0400 The or Strawberry hike Tim Trainor http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729911 Most people who visit the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness bee-line straight to Strawberry Lake.

It’s easy to see why: a relatively relaxing walk to a lake with good camping and fishing, some great waterfalls along the way, and one of the straightest routes to the peak of Strawberry Mountain itself.

But because the Strawberry Lake trail has all that, it sucks a lot of traffic from nearby hikes that have a lot going for them, too.

One such hike is the four mile jaunt to Slide Lake.

A great way to get to Slide is to head to the busy Strawberry Lake trailhead. The two routes share a trail for about a mile, before the Slide Lake trek shoots off by itself at a well-marked spur. Once you take the trail less traveled, traffic decreases greatly and the well-worn path becomes suddenly less so. After the fork, there is a good chance you won’t see another person, while you most likely won’t have Strawberry Lake to yourself all summer long.

The climb continues, snaking always upwards under shady pine forest and open meadows still peppered with wildflowers like balsamroot and paintbrush into July. An open rock outcropping more closely resembles the Serengeti than Eastern Oregon, with gnarled and wind-lashed trees rooted to the rocks. It’s also the first open view back down the valley toward Prairie City.

Just after the open outcrop, the route splits. A higher, more exposed route called the Skyline Trail is only for foot traffic. Those on horseback have their own trail that runs lower, wider and more protected. While cowpokes may be tempted to stay high and enjoy the better views, that could be a fatal mistake. Skyline is very thin in spots, not much wider than a hiking boot, and those with a fear of heights may even have a few scary steps just walking the ridgeline.

So don’t look down. Look up and out. Intriguing rock cliffs line the trail, and an open Slide Creek Valley stretches before you. Two small, far-off waterfalls can be heard long before they can be seen. The cow pastures near Prairie City gleam gold in the distance. Chipmunks seem to operate a relay in front of you, sprinting down the trail and leading hikers along.

Eventually, you near the waterfalls that emanate from the creek flowing from Slide Lake There were two small but beautiful falls during my trip, but that can vary on the season and the year. An excellent though dry camp site sits just 100 yards off the trails —Skyline and Slide Lake — that merge again at this point. What it lacks in nearby water, it makes up for in spectacular views back down the John Day Basin and the far-off Blue Mountains.

Still, it’s now just a few more uphill turns to Slide Lake itself and most campers will decide to stay there.

The lake is a beauty. One side is densely forested, but the far side is ringed by cliffs that look to be straight out of a geology textbook. Though the banks are muddy and don’t make for good swimming and wading, it makes for ideal fishing.

Summer 2015 offered some thick and toothy brook trout, four or five of which would easily feed a family. The catching was easy on a fly rod rigged with terrestrial patterns or stimulators. The clear, calm water made for fun sight-casting to cruising fish and there was also the excellent opportunity to work fallen trees just off the bank, where good-sized trout were in easy reach. A roughly mile walk around the lake yielded plenty of angling action, but also a few stands of stinging nettles, so explorers beware.

There are a few nice campsites at Slide Lake but also opportunities for further exploration. Trails head off to nearby Upper Slide Lake, not much more than a pool-sized puddle at the bottom of a talus slope, as well as stunning High Lake. A 8.5-mile lollypop loop route can take you back down through Strawberry Lake and the busy campground where you left your car.

While most of the hikers will be chatting about their visit to Strawberry Lake, you can be quietly content in the knowledge that you hiked farther and saw more.

—Tim Trainor can be reached at 541-966-0835 or ttrainor@eastoregonian.com.

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Showtime! http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Life/20150729/showtime http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Life/20150729/showtime#Comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 14:31:22 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729912 By Cheryl Hoefler

Blue Mountain Eagle

What would the Grant County Fair be without the sights, sounds and – yes, the smells – of animals?

For some families the fair revolves around animals, with the Heritage Barn their home for the duration of the fair.

However, long before that animal ever gets to the show ring, there is much work and preparation involved.

The Eagle asked siblings Cinch, 13, and Raney, 10, Anderson of Izee to talk about some of those preparations and share their experiences with showing animals at the county fair.

Q. How long have you been showing animals?

Cinch: I’ve been showing for seven years.

Raney: I started showing when I was 7, when I had my first heifer.

Q. What animals are you showing this year?

Cinch: Beef – a market steer, a heifer, and a cow and calf.

Raney: A market steer and a breeding heifer. My heifer is bred from one of the cows I owned and showed a couple of years ago.

Q. Where do you get your animals and how did you get interested in doing this?

Both Cinch and Raney said they buy their animals from their parents, and said their mom grew up showing cattle and her parents did it, too.

Cinch: My mom’s taught me everything I need to know.

Raney: I had quite a bit of help from my mom.

Q. How long does it take you to prepare for the county fair?

A: Cinch: In October we start them on feed and halter-break them. Then we take them to a few jackpots and show and place them. To get them ready for fair, we start washing them about two weeks before fair, every day – sometimes twice a day. A couple of days before the fair, we’ll clip them.

Q. What are some of the other things you have to do?

Cinch: I have to keep up my record book for 4-H, and we also go to other shows with our other cattle, registered Hereford.

Raney: My record book. This is my first year in 4-H.

Q. What’s your favorite part about showing animals?

Cinch: I really like going to the shows and showing them in the ring. Everything is fun for me. I got reserved grand champion with a registered Hereford last year.

Raney: I like everything about it. I like getting them ready and showing.

Q. What do you do with the money you earn?

Cinch: I put about $1,000 in the bank and give some to the church. I pay my mom and dad back for feed, and then I save some too. I usually have about $200 left over for spending money.

Raney: From my steer, I’ll put $1,000-$2000 in my college account, and save some for my steer the next year. Whatever is left I pay mom and dad for my feed.

Q. What’s it like when fair is over? Are you sad to leave your animal?

A Cinch: Nope, not sad at all. It’s a business thing. My first steer was probably the hardest one, but now it’s no big deal.

Raney: No, I’m not emotional. I just start with another animal for next year.

Raising cattle – registered Herefords – is the family business, High Desert Cattle Company in Izee, for the Andersons.

The breeding animals, Cori explained, are what they continue with in the business, and the market ones are what their children show.

“It’s a family deal, and what we do for a living,” she said.

Cori said going to the county fair and showing animals is a great experience for their children and also helps them save for college, and “they are very good help, too.”

The children are members of both the American and Oregon Junior Hereford associations, she added, and members of the Izee Livestock 4-H club.

Cori herself is involved in the 4-H program, and an active presence during the county fair, where they exhibit their cattle to the public.

She also gets to connect with friends from all over the Northwest during that time.

The Andersons moved to Izee about 11 years ago from Central Oregon.

The youngest member of the Anderson family, Monel, 8, is an active participant in the family business too, playing a supportive role, helping her older brother and sister get their animals ready for fair.

Cori said Monel might show next year, but it will be two more years before she can show a steer.

The livestock auction at the Grant County Fair is set for 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, in the Heritage Barn at the Grant County Fairgrounds in John Day.

See the full fair schedule in the Aug. 5 issue of the Blue Mountain Eagle.

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Secretary of State probing energy tax credit sales http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150729/secretary-of-state-probing-energy-tax-credit-sales http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150729/secretary-of-state-probing-energy-tax-credit-sales#Comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 14:26:25 -0400 Hillary BorrudCapital Bureau http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729913 SALEM — The Oregon Secretary of State’s office has launched an inquiry into the Oregon Department of Energy’s handling of tax credit sales.

The extent of the investigation is unclear, but a senior auditor from the Secretary of State’s office recently requested more than 70 pages of records on privately brokered sales of Oregon business energy tax credits from 2013.

The state awarded the tax credits to owners of renewable energy and efficiency projects, such as a cellulosic ethanol plant and public transit districts across the state. The owners could use the credits to offset their taxes, or sell them at a discount to raise cash.

The Department of Energy traditionally helped project owners find buyers for their tax credits as part of the state program, but private brokers started to negotiate the deals as early as 2009. The department does not verify the sales prices of credits sold in private deals, and energy officials quietly stopped enforcing pricing rules for the sales in 2009, the EO Media Group/Pamplin Media Group Capital Bureau reported in June.

The agency is now in the process of retroactively changing pricing rules going back to mid-2012, so deals that violated the rules in place at the time will be legitimate.

Business energy tax credits issued from 2006 to 2014 could cost the state up to $968.1 million in tax revenue, according to the Department of Energy. A majority of that cost — $703.6 million — comes from tax credits that were sold to investors.

Although an auditor is conducting the investigation, it is not an actual audit, according to energy agency spokeswoman Rachel Wray.

“Those forms were pulled because the Secretary of State’s office has some questions about our processes,” Wray said Tuesday. “It is not an audit.”

Wray referred other questions about the inquiry to the Secretary of State’s office.

Tony Green, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, declined to comment on any aspect of the auditor’s work, including the timing of the investigation and what prompted it.

“As you know, the Audits Division has some investigatory responsibilities that are confidential in nature until resolution is reached,” Green wrote in an email Tuesday.

The Secretary of State’s office operates the state’s government waste, fraud and abuse hotline. Under state law, those complaints and the investigation findings are confidential until the agency completes the inquiry.

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Business Oregon director resigns to return to Wisconsin http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150729/business-oregon-director-resigns-to-return-to-wisconsin http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/bme/capital-bureau/20150729/business-oregon-director-resigns-to-return-to-wisconsin#Comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 14:12:21 -0400 PETER WONGCapital Bureau http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729914 SALEM — The director of Business Oregon, the state agency that promotes new and expanded business in the state, is leaving after slightly more than a year in office.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Sean Robbins’ resignation Wednesday. It will take effect in the fall.

Her announcement said that Robbins, his wife and two young sons will return to Wisconsin, where Robbins worked for nearly a decade before he became chief executive of Greater Portland Inc., a public-private partnership, in 2011.

He was named by then-Gov. John Kitzhaber to lead the Business Development Department, also known as Business Oregon, in June 2014.

“I’m grateful to Sean for his leadership and contribution to Business Oregon over the last year,” Brown said in her statement. “He crafted a thoughtful vision into an effective strategic action plan for the agency, laying a solid foundation for the next director.”

His is the second resignation of an agency director within the past week. Erinn Kelley-Siel is leaving as director of the Department of Human Services, which has the largest workforce in state government, upon Brown’s appointment of a successor.

Both mentioned family reasons as paramount in their resignations.

Sen. Betsy Johnson, whose budget subcommittee handled the Business Development Department spending plan, said she accepts Robbins’ explanation that his resignation was prompted by family reasons.

“When he called and left me the message, I was so distraught that I called him back and asked if there was a backstory – and he said no,” said Johnson, a Democrat from Scappoose who is Senate co-chairman of the Legislature’s transportation and economic development budget subcommittee.

Brown has replaced two other agency directors — one on an interim basis — since Kitzhaber resigned and she became governor on Feb. 18.

Robbins said his approach was to focus on growing businesses already in Oregon.

In an interview published July 22, 2014, in the Portland Tribune, Robbins said Oregon cannot compete with other states that offer cheap land and public subsidies to new businesses.

“If it’s most important for your business to be in the cheapest state you shouldn’t be in Oregon,” he said. “But if you’re looking for talent, innovation, a place that talent wants to be, this is a place to invest.”

Yet Robbins said Oregon is very competitive on the West Coast.

“We have some value to add to people in California and Washington who simply can’t afford to live there any more,” he said.

Robbins succeeded Tim McCabe, who retired after six years of leading the business agency.

Before Robbins came to Oregon in 2011, he was executive vice president of the Madison Regional Economic Partnership in Wisconsin for two years, and senior vice president of Vanta Commercial Properties for two years before then. He was a commercial real estate analyst in the Milwaukee area from 2003 to 2007.

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Person of interest cooperating with investigators in suspicious mail case http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/News/20150729/person-of-interest-cooperating-with-investigators-in-suspicious-mail-case http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/News/20150729/person-of-interest-cooperating-with-investigators-in-suspicious-mail-case#Comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 13:03:45 -0400 From Oregon State Police http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729915 On July 27, multiple government offices received suspicious letters, which drew concern they may be contaminated with hazardous materials. Hazardous material teams responded to these locations as well as investigators from multiple law enforcement agencies. Preliminary testing from the hazardous material teams could not detect any harmful substances.

On July 28, investigators identified Lance T. Storm, 34, of Eugene, as a person of interest. He was located and interviewed regard this investigation. Storm was very forthcoming and eager to discuss the letters he mailed. Storm told investigators the communications were not intended to cause alarm and he denied the inclusion of harmful substances.

Storm did not appear to present any violent or dangerous behavior and was not perceived as a threat to the community. He was released and the reports containing detailed information obtained during the investigation involving will be forwarded to several district attorney offices for consideration of charges.

The following counties where letters are known to be received were Grant, Harney, Umatilla, Klamath, Lake, Grant, Jackson, Wasco, Marion, Polk, Lane, Sherman, Tillamook, Gilliam, Columbia, Linn, Jefferson, Wheeler, Union, Douglas, Baker, Yamhill, Wallowa and Coos. The Oregon State Police was assisted by the FBI, US Postal Service, The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, and law enforcement agencies from counties where the letters were received.

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Track event takes two athletes across the globe http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150728/track-event-takes-two-athletes-across-the-globe http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150728/track-event-takes-two-athletes-across-the-globe#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 17:16:20 -0400 Angel Carpenter http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729916 GOLD COAST, Australia – Two local track athletes jumped at the opportunity to compete in Australia at the 15th Annual Down Under Track and Field Event.

Garrett Hitz of Prairie City School and Kenzie Wilson of Grant Union, who will both be seniors this fall, were invited to attend the meet which included 300 or more athletes competing at Griffith University.

Hitz, son of Joe and Nancy Hitz of Prairie City, earned gold in the pole vault event, reaching 4.04 meters (13.25 feet).

He also took silver in javelin, throwing a lighter rod than he’s used to, hitting the 48.68 meter mark (159.71 feet).

He also placed seventh in the 110-meter hurdles and eighth in the 300 hurdles.

Wilson, daughter of Jeanette and Charlie Wilson of John Day, finished fifth in the triple jump with 9.7 meters (31.82 feet) and sixth in the high jump with 1.40 meters (4.59 feet).

She also competed in long jump, but scratched in the event.

Both athletes said the experience will help them as they continue track and field at their high schools.

Hitz said he practiced hard and attended track and field camps in the months leading up to the trip.

He said it was his first time out of the country.

“Through this experience, I have seen the level of athletes that there are at my age group,” he said. “I think it has helped me in motivating me to become a better athlete and want to work harder in practice.”

Nancy Hitz, traveling along with her son, said the coaches instructing Garrett in pole vault told him to “look at his thumb instead of the bar” as he vaults up.

“It’s trusting and having faith that they’re in the right spot,” she said.

Garrett said he especially enjoyed the wildlife and the landscape, and visiting with the athletes from Australia.

Both he and Wilson said the time zone change was tough on them. Jet lag was hard to overcome, and competition started just two days after landing.

Wilson said she was impressed by her coaches.

“One ran in the Olympics,” she said. “They taught me new ways to work on my jumping and improve my technique.”

This was Wilson’s second time out of the country, but the differences between this trip and the European art trip she went on last year were amazing, she said, adding that it was funny to see Aussies wearing heavy coats in their 60-degree winter weather – while she and Hitz and other Americans wore their regular clothes.

Hawaii was a different story though. The tour included the opportunity for athletes to travel a few days in Hawaii – the entire trip was July 6-17.

“It was a fun break,” Wilson said.

She said one of the best parts of the entire trip was the friendships she developed with the other athletes.

“I made a lot of new friends from different places – it’s going to be nice because I plan to meet up with them later,” she said, “I enjoyed seeing more of the world.”

In the 2015 Prairie City High School track season, Hitz was 1A state champion in pole vault, fourth in javelin, fourth in 110 hurdles and fifth in 300 hurdles. Wilson earned third in long jump and triple jump at the Wapiti League District Meet.

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Safety first: students hone firearm-handling skills http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150728/safety-first-students-hone-firearm-handling-skills http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150728/safety-first-students-hone-firearm-handling-skills#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 17:15:19 -0400 Angel Carpenter http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729917 JOHN DAY – Ten hunter education students learned firearm safety in a July 6-18 class, ending the hard work with a fun field day. The class is sponsored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Instructor Deanna Maley led students, young and old, in the class, teaching topics such as muzzle control (keeping the firearm pointed in a safe direction), types of actions (bolt action, break action, pump action), as well as ethical and unethical situations, which includes being respectful to the non-hunting population, respectful to wildlife and to the land, she said.

Firearm safety is the No. 1 lesson learned.

“Once they pull the trigger – whether it’s a bow, shotgun or pistol – that decision can’t be changed at that point, so it’s about being aware of their surroundings,” she said. “If there is a bad decision made, it could affect them for the rest of their lives.”

She said she wants the students, “not to be afraid of weapons, but to understand that there is a responsibility or a respect that has to go with handling weapons.”

Maley, who is the ODFW office coordinator, took a hunter education class with her daughter CheyAnne, then in grade school, in 2005.

“I later decided that was something I wanted to get involved with,” she said. “I’m passionate about teaching the kids about firearm safety, whether they’re hunting or shooting at targets.”

The course includes five evenings in the classroom, one evening of testing and a field day at a local shooting range where students can put their practical skills to the test. At the range, students have the opportunity to shoot .22 rifles and Neil Bauer’s muzzle loader. Helping teach the class were Chris Labhart, Bryan Nelson, Mike Springer and Bauer.

Youth under 18 are required to take the course in order to hunt on public lands.

Adults also take the course if they plan to hunt in another state where hunter ed certification is required, or to obtain a concealed weapons permit – sometimes taking the course with their children, or to increase their knowledge on the subject.

Maley said the class is not necessarily just for those who plan to go hunting, but also for 4-H shooting sports or target shooting. “It’s not just about hunting, but there are other avenues that you can be involved with.”

A resident of the Fox area, Maley said she has a long commute to work (more than 35 miles), and to add the hunter ed course, from 6-8:30 p.m., to her day is a lot to take on.

“When I look at it, it’s 12 days out of 365 days - it’s not that much,” she said.

She and other hunter ed instructors are interested in seeing younger adults become involved in the program “to keep it going and teach these kids.”

“If it doesn’t change we’ll find a continuous decline in our hunting population - and all aspects of firearm,” she added.

Those interested in helping teach future hunter education classes can contact Maley at the ODFW office, 541-575-1167.

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Amy Black is back at hoops http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150728/amy-black-is-back-at-hoops http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150728/amy-black-is-back-at-hoops#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 17:04:36 -0400 Angel Carpenter http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729918 SISTERS – Before getting full swing into summer work, Prairie City High School 2015 graduate Amy Black returned to the basketball court.

She was selected to play in the June 26-27 1A Oregon Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Series basketball tournament in Sisters.

Making it all the more special, her team, one of two east side teams, was coached by Crane’s Travis Stub and her mom Penny Black as assistant coach.

“It’s a great honor,” said Penny, who was Amy’s coach throughout high school. “It was great to get all these girls together as seniors – Amy has had a relationship with these girls since the Huntington Tournament as junior high athletes.”

She said Amy also formed new friendships with other girls involved in the tournament.

“They developed a great camaraderie,” Penny said of the seven girls on their team. “It’s fun to see them relax and use their talents with each other instead of against each other.”

The team won their first game, with Amy scoring in the double digits, then lost to the other east side team, which included talented Condon athletes.

Two west side teams were also in competition.

Amy was selected as honorable mention for the 1A OBCA 2015 Girls All-State Team.

Amy will attend Eastern Oregon University in La Grande this fall with plans to enter the nursing program.

Currently, EOU has a full and senior-laden women’s basketball roster, coach Black said.

Amy plans to take a year to develop her basketball skills, playing intramural ball, and try out for the team next year.

“She’s looking forward to getting a feel for the campus and focusing on academics,” Penny said.

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JD Swim Team captures first at home meet http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150728/jd-swim-team-captures-first-at-home-meet http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Local_Sports/20150728/jd-swim-team-captures-first-at-home-meet#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:20:28 -0400 Angel Carpenter http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729919 JOHN DAY – Practice paid off for the John Day Sea Dragons as they flew to first place at last weekend’s home invitational before a large crowd that turned out to cheer on the teams at Gleason Pool in John Day. The local team also earned the Sportsmanship Award. Lakeview took second place and Prineville finished third; the Burns team also competed and Baker, La Grande and Pendleton teams brought in a few swimmers as well.

Some visiting swimmers at the meet were heard praising some John Day team members for cheering them on, and they intended to reciprocate.

Head coach Crista Waldner said the combination of hard work and a home meet helped her team win the competition. Home meets, she said, bring out more participants, and the swimmers’ familiarity with the pool is a bonus.

“That helps a little bit, but also the kids are improving a lot,” Waldner said. “They’ve had all season to practice and improve their technique.”

The local team hosts the East Cascade District Championship Swim Meet this weekend which includes Lakeview, Burns, Prineville and John Day. The action begins Friday evening and continues Saturday and Sunday with preliminaries in the mornings and finals starting early afternoon each day.

“They’re at a good place in the season right now,” said Waldner. “A lot of the kids on the team are working really hard, and we’re excited to see the kids swimming at districts this weekend. We would love community support. It’s free, and the swim meet is definitely worth attending to see the kids compete.”

The John Day Swim Team awards banquet will be held 5:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3, at the John Day City Park.

John Day Swim Invitational

John Day individual results, top three:

Ryan Coalwell

Male 9-10 200 Free, 3

Male 9-10 100 IM, 2

Male 9-10 50 Free, 1

Tori Coalwell

Female 13-14 200 Free, 1

Female 13-14 100 Free, 1

Female 13-14 100 Fly, 1

Female 13-14 200 IM, 1

Female 13-14 100 Breast, 1

Female 13-14 50 Free, 1

Trevyn Coalwell

Male 11-12 50 Back, 1

Amelia Hall (10) F

Female 9-10 200 Free, 3

Travion Hall

Male 6 & Under 25 Free, 1

Quinten Hallgarth

Male 11-12 200 Free, 1

Male 11-12 100 Free, 3

Male 11-12 50 Fly, 1

Male 11-12 100 IM, 1

Male 11-12 50 Breast, 1

Elexas Helmick

Female 6 & Under 25 Free, 3

Justin Hodge

Male 11-12 200 Free, 2

Male 11-12 100 Free, 1

Male 11-12 50 Back, 2

Male 11-12 100 IM, 3

Male 11-12 50 Breast, 3

Male 11-12 50 Free, 3

Russell Hodge

Male 13-14 200 Free, 2

Male 13-14 100 Free, 2

Male 13-14 100 Back, 3

Male 13-14 100 Breast, 3

Male 13-14 50 Free, 2

Sivanna Hodge

Female 9-10 200 Free, 2

Female 9-10 100 Free, 3

Female 9-10 50 Free, 3

Cayden Howard

Male 8 & Under 50 Free, 3

Colbie Howard

Female 6 & Under 25 Back, 3

Taylor Hunt

Male 13-14 200 Free, 3

Male 13-14 100 Fly, 2

Male 13-14 100 Back, 2

Male 13-14 200 IM, 2

Zeri Janssen

Male 8 & Under 25 Back, 1

Male 8 & Under 25 Free, 3

Clay Johnson

Male 15-18 100 Breast, 3

Thomas LeQuieu

Male 11-12 50 Back, 3

Aiden Martell

Male 6 & Under 25 Free, 3

Male 6 & Under 25 Back, 1

Sierra May

Female 8 & Under 25 Back, 3

Rhea Mead

Female 11-12 100 Free, 2

Female 11-12 50 Breast, 3

Female 11-12 50 Free, 3

Jessica Reames

Female 13-14 100 Back, 3

Talon Van Cleave

Male 9-10 50 Back, 3

Auna Waldner

Female 15-18 200 IM, 2

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New water rule just bad policy http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/be/editorials/20150728/new-water-rule-just-bad-policy http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/be/editorials/20150728/new-water-rule-just-bad-policy#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:13:47 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729920 Let’s just cut to the chase. The new rule on the Waters of the U.S. needs to be rewritten. The sooner the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers do that, the better.

The 73-page rule, which was supposed to clarify certain aspects of the Clean Water Act, doesn’t do that. If anything, it raises more questions than it clarifies. Most troubling is the fact that any determinations over WOTUS are left to agency staff members. Landowners have no means of appealing those determinations.

This is among the many shortcomings pointed out in the 12 lawsuits filed against the EPA and the Corps over the rule. The plaintiffs are 28 states, ranchers, farmers, and environmentalists. Pretty soon you’ll see a bumper sticker reading, “Honk if you’re sued over WOTUS.” Such complaints and reservations were voiced all through the public comment period for the rule. If EPA and Corps officials read the comments, they sure didn’t do enough about them.

Other agencies listen to the public. When the Food and Drug Administration jumped the tracks writing the regulation for the Food Safety Modernization Act on irrigation water for onions and handling spent distillers’ grains, its bigwigs at least went to farmers and others who were impacted and listened to them.

Not the EPA and Corps, which apparently seek to establish a facade of infallibility for themselves. The EPA and Corps are telling all farmers, ranchers and other landowners, “trust us.” That’s not good enough. Trust is earned, and the EPA and Corps have a long way to go.

Considering the EPA’s track record in such matters, that would require a massive leap of faith. After all, this is the agency whose bigwigs maintained off-the-record email accounts that served as hotlines to their friends in environmental groups. This was the agency that insisted on closed-door meetings about rules on dust. Yes, dust. Apparently, even the most mundane issue is worthy of secrecy and intrigue for the EPA.

We assume that not everyone at the EPA is secretive and has a personal agenda. But we also understand that such an assumption does not derive from some past activities.

Last spring, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy characterized the problem with the WOTUS rule as being primarily public relations.

“I want to tell you up front that I wish we had done a better job of rolling out our Clean Water Rule, from calling it WOTUS instead of the Clean Water Rule, to not being more crystal clear out of the gate about what we were and were not proposing, to not talking to all of you and others before we put out the interpretive rule,” she told the National Farmers Union.

But this battle is not about public relations. It’s about good public policy.

That’s what WOTUS or the Clean Water Rule lacks.

So the EPA and Corps can do the right thing. They can go back and consider the more than 1 million public comments that flooded into their offices suggesting improvements to the WOTUS rule.

Or they can wait until a judge orders them to fix the mess they created.

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Annual Chamber fundraiser just around the corner http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/News/20150728/annual-chamber-fundraiser-just-around-the-corner http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/News/20150728/annual-chamber-fundraiser-just-around-the-corner#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:13:20 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729921 The Grant County Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for its annual raffle and local area residents will be able to buy tickets at local businesses and other outlets soon, according to Chamber president Jerry Franklin.

“It was very well received last year and we’re hoping for another great year,” said Franklin of the Chamber fundraiser.

Last year, the Chamber grossed over $10,000. Upwards of 100 prizes were donated by Grant County businesses in 2014 increasing the odds for ticket holders to win a prize, said Franklin.

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‘American Pickers’ coming to Oregon http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/News/20150728/american-pickers-coming-to-oregon http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/News/20150728/american-pickers-coming-to-oregon#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:13:16 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729922 The American Pickers team is coming to Oregon, and maybe even Grant County, if Chamber president Jerry Franklin has anything to say about it.

“It’s one of my favorites,” Franklin says of the popular TV show.

The Grant County Chamber of Commerce was contacted recently by American Picker’s Productions who will be coming to Oregon and they are looking for interesting places to visit and film for possible use on the show American Pickers, which appears on the History channel.

“American Pickers” is a documentary series that explores the fascinating world of antique “picking.” This hit show follows two of the most skilled pickers in the business, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, as they embark on an epic road trip across the U.S. in search of America’s most valuable antiques from motorcycles, classic cars and bicycles to one-of-a-kind vintage memorabilia. Mike and Frank are on a mission to recycle America, restore forgotten relics to their former glory, and learn a thing or two about American history along the way.

The Pickers team is currently looking for leads prior to their Oregon visit. They are on the hunt for interesting characters with interesting and unique items.  Some of what they look for: vintage bicycles, toys, unusual radios, movie memorabilia, advertising, military items, folk art, vintage musical equipment, vintage automotive items, early firefighting equipment, vintage clothing and pre-50’s western gear.

If you have a large collection or want to refer someone to Mike and Frank you can contact Jerry Franklin locally at Eastern Oregon Realty, 541-575-2121, or email: your name, number, address and description of the collection and photos to americanpickers@cineflix.com, or call 855-old-rust.

Please note that Mike and Frank only pick private collections so no stores, malls, flea markets, museums, auctions, businesses or anything open to the public.

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Fossil Beds journey takes visitors to Cenozoic Era http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/fossil-beds-journey-takes-visitors-to-cenozoic-era http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/fossil-beds-journey-takes-visitors-to-cenozoic-era#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:06:12 -0400 Angel Carpenter http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729930 KIMBERLY – Delve deep into history – millions of years back – with a visit to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.

The Thomas Condon Paleontology Center is a state-of-the-art facility, offering an abundance fossil displays and information.

Located between Dayville and Kimberly on Highway 19, the Center hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily with free admission.

Scientists can be seen as work through a fossil laboratory viewing window.

“A Place of Discovery” is an 18-minute movie for young and old to enjoy, and a junior ranger room offers youngsters a place color and learn more about the prehistoric mammals that once roamed the area.

Several hikes in the Monument showoff the unique landscape, including two hikes at the Blue Basin Trailhead, just a few miles north of visitor center.

One direction leads hikers on mile-long Island In Time Trail, a path which gently ascends to a feast for the eyes – a blue-green claystone canyon landscape.

Held within the layers, created by redistributed volcanic ash, are many of the fossils one can find on display at the visitor center.

For a more strenuous adventure, the Blue Basin Overlook Trail loops up and around the canyon lending a breathtaking, bird’s-eye view of the canyon formation and beyond.

The trail is 3.25 miles long with a 760-foot elevation gain.

Hikers are required to stick to the trail, and digging for fossils and taking rocks or fossils is prohibited.

If a fossil is found, take a picture of it and show a ranger.

For a more recent history lesson, there’s the Historic Cant Ranch, located across the highway from the visitor center.

Built in 1917, the Cant Ranch is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Museum items owned by the James and Elizabeth Cant families are on display, and visitors are allowed to pick fruit from the historic orchards on the property.

A few short trails provide views of the Sheep Rock Overlook and the John Day River.

For more information, call 541-987-2333.

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Journey calendar http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/journey-calendar http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/journey-calendar#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:09:27 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729923 1 Grant County Kruzers Show N Shine

Prairie City

541-575-2525

www.ortelco.net/~kruzers/

5-8 Grant County Fair

Fairgrounds, John Day

541-575-1900

www.grantcountyfairgrounds.com

7-8 NPRA Rodeo

Fairgrounds, John Day

541-575-1900

www.grantcountyfairgrounds.com

9 Cow Kids Rodeo

Fairgrounds, John Day

541-575-1900

www.grantcountyfairgrounds.com

10 Shinyribs in concert

Diamond Hitch Mule Ranch, Kimberly

www.mulesacrossamerica.com

12 Grant County Fly-In

Grant County Regional Airport, John Day

541-575-1151

www.gcra.org

12 The Brothers 5K Run/Walk

Seventh Street Complex, John Day

541-620-1822

11-13 Quilt Show

Fairgrounds, John Day

541-792-0670

TBA Hilton Half and Family Fun Run

Prairie City to John Day

hiltonhalf.blogspot.com

17 Farmers Market ‘Harvest Festival’

S.W. Brent Street, John Day

541-932-2725

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Directions and details http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/directions-and-details http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/directions-and-details#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:08:50 -0400 http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729924 • From Highway 26, between Dayville and Mt. Vernon, turn south on Forest Road 21/Fields Creek Road, at about milepost 144.

• Drive about 10 miles, and turn right on Forest Road 2150, at the sign which reads “Cedar Grove Trail 203A” and “Aldrich Mtn. Lookout 15.”

• Drive about 6 miles to the Cedar Grove Trailhead 205A. You’ll see a sign which reads “Aldrich Mtn. L.O. 9” and “Cedar Grove Tr. 203A.” Across from the sign, the south side of the road seems to be wide enough to park along. The trail starts right next to that sign.

Visit: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/malheur/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=39928&actid=63

• Located about 6.5 miles south on Fields Creek Road, from Highway 26, between Dayville and Mt. Vernon. Day-use area, camping for tents and small trailers, vault restrooms, six-horse stalls. No water and no fees.

Visit: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/malheur/recarea/?recid=39914

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Explore the treasure of Cedar Grove http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/explore-the-treasure-of-cedar-grove http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/explore-the-treasure-of-cedar-grove#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:08:44 -0400 Cheryl Hoefler http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729925 Yes, it’s true, Grant County has its very own “botanical” site.

Cedar Grove Botanical Area, about 10 miles south of Highway 26, and not far from Fields Creek Road, offers a hiking trail through lush woods of the Malheur National Forest, amid a bounty of wildflowers, down to a peaceful botanical area.

Perfect for a day trip escape or during a weekend adventure.

But it’s a group of trees that gives the 26-acre Cedar Grove its “botanical” distinction and name – a grove of Alaskan yellow cedars, which is the only known such stand east of the Cascades in the United States. The trees, some more than 300 years old, are a relic from the Pleistocene age.

Despite being easy to get to and not far from any towns, Cedar Grove seems to only see light use, which could be for several reasons. Though recovering now, wildfires did burn through the area some years ago and it was closed for a time. Plus, there’s no camping, no restrooms, water or other services nearby, and even parking is limited.

However, visitors will be pleasantly rewarded with this accessible venture into our rich forest land. And camping and restrooms are not far away. Billy Fields Forest Camp is just about 10 miles from Cedar Grove, back on Fields Creek Road.

Upon arriving at Cedar Grove, the trailhead from the gravel road seems a bit hard to spot, amid the brush and maze of dirt paths. But start right alongside the sign and you’ll be on your way. It’s a bit dusty and dry there, but after a few hundred feet, you’ll come to a gate, and after passing through that, the scenery and trail changes to a more lush venture, as it enters the forest along the slopes of Aldrich Mountain.

And a cool one too. On summer days when the John Day Valley temperatures are soaring, Cedar Grove offers a welcoming drop of several degrees. Even in mid-July, lupines and wild columbines are still in colorful abundance.

The trail to the botanical area – and the Alaskan yellow cedars – is clearly visible, well-marked and not long, only about two miles down and back up. The trail is part of the National Recreation Trails system, and markers on trees keep trekkers on the right path.

But “short” does not mean “easy,” and remember – what goes down must come back up.

The trail descends, with several switchbacks, down a steep hillside to the botanical area near Buck Cabin Creek. And, even though the trail is open to the public, it has not yet been logged out or maintained for the season, so visitors should be prepared to shimmy over or around a few downed logs. A sign at the trailhead does caution its “more difficult” status.

Horses and mountain bikes are welcome on the trail, in addition to foot travelers, but no motorized vehicles.

So, despite the lack of nearby services and a cautionary word on the trail’s difficulty level, Cedar Grove is easy to get to, and quite a spectacular local treasure, waiting to be discovered. Just remember to take plenty of water, snacks, a hiking stick or pole – and a camera for those wildflowers and yellow cedars.

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The Grant County stars invite you! http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/the-grant-county-stars-invite-you http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/the-grant-county-stars-invite-you#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:08:00 -0400 John Fiedor http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729926 When is the last time you stayed out at night and just gazed into the brilliant heavens? A starry night sky can stir any person with a mixture of wonder and questions, smattered with a tincture of unease, soul-searching, and maybe peace. Stargazing is so easy to do, inexpensive and quite rewarding – a life-long enjoyment. Still, though some may be curious, many are not sure where to start to explore, or how to get started as a stargazer. This article may help.

First, give in to your curiosity, your desire to learn about the nightly sky. In the least, it only takes time and a clear night sky. We are very fortunate as Grant County has one of the most pristine, most beautiful, night skies in the country. Add a few simple, inexpensive items, plus a bit of guidance and you are ready to explore the wonders of a starry night.

So, how should one prepare and get started? Here are a few suggestions for your first nights out, some adapted from Ken Graun’s, “Guide to the Stars” planisphere – available online with a Google search. Start by learning about and finding individual stars, and then the star patterns in the night sky in the form of the constellations. You can jumpstart the learning process by enlisting the help of someone who is familiar with the night sky, or, attend a local night sky program, one that gets you out under the stars and points out features.

If you have to learn by yourself, don’t despair. A great tool to have at the start is a planisphere. A planisphere is a flat, hand-held star chart that rotates, usually made of two plastic layers. It can be adjusted to display the visible stars, and constellations, for any time and date. They are very inexpensive, a good one costing less than $20. Should you have the technology, you could find – and copy – a star chart online. The source I use often is at http:// www.telescope.com/content.jsp?pageName=Monthly-Star-Chart, offered by Sky and Telescope.

Next, you need to find a dark area away from car and other bright or glaring lights. Needless to say, clouds will obscure portions, or all, of the night sky. Many times they will clear off an hour or two after sunset in Eastern Oregon. Though the moon is a wonderful sight and worth later exploration with binoculars or a telescope, avoid nights when the moon shines bright as it will make the stars more difficult to see. You should stay outside in the dark area at least 15 minutes to let your eyes adjust and acquire your best night vision. The iris in each eye will open to its maximum and allow the most light into the eye. You may be surprised how much you can see in what you thought was total darkness.

To see your star guide in the dark, or to move about more safely, use a red flashlight. Red light is best at preserving your night vision. Placing red cellophane, or red paint, over the lens of a normal flashlight might suffice, if the red light is not bright; add more layers of red if so. The red light should only light up an area within three-to-four feet away.

Initially, face either north or south, as the constellations in these areas of sky are vertical and easier to identify. Using your star guide, which should be labeled with north or south, start by matching the brightest (biggest) stars on the guide with the brightest stars in the sky. The planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – can be brighter than the brightest stars. If you find a bright “star” not on your star guide, it is most likely a planet. Online charts that are updated by month will usually have the planet positions noted along with the stars.

A constellation is a group of stars in the night sky that form a recognizable pattern traditionally named after its apparent form or identified with a mythological figure. The stories behind the mythological figures are fascinating. The book Urania’s Mirror, published in 1824, is worth a look, as it visually paints those mythological stories. P.D. Hingley calls it “One of the most charming and visually attractive of the many aids to astronomical self-instruction produced in the early nineteenth century.” Online, search for Urania’s Mirror at https:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urania%27s_Mirror.

Modern astronomers have divided the sky into eighty-eight constellations, of which most can be seen from Grant County locations throughout the year. The constellations are much bigger than you might expect. The constellation Orion is the height of a hand span with your arm extended. The Big Dipper is greater than the length of a hand span. If you are having trouble finding any constellations, try to identify a few of the brighter and easier patterns, like the Big Dipper, Orion and Sagittarius. Use these as anchor points to work from and find others around them.

Most star charts will have a shaded, irregular area stretching across the face of the chart, labeled the Milky Way. This represents the glowing ribbon of low light stretching across our night sky, our own galaxy, one of billions in the universe. Our Milky Way is made up of billions of stars in the distance, to far to see individually, but teaming up together to cause the glow. In the darkest areas, Grant County offers a spectacular view of the Milky Way, best seen with the naked eye.

What other items might you have with you when you stargaze? You definitely want comfort in this type of recreation. How about a nice blanket to lie upon and some soft ground, and perhaps a pillow to prop your head? Standing or sitting in a chair is okay, but remember your head may have to tilt back awkwardly for long periods to look straight up. Dress for the weather. It does tend to get chillier after dark, so bring extra layers. Bring friends and share the experience. Have some drink and snacks available, as you may stargaze for several hours if all goes well. Don’t feel afraid to cut a session short. You’ll know when you have had enough for an evening. If you need to use the restroom, use your red light as you do so. Avoid white light.

What about scopes? Initially, avoid telescopes. They can be frustrating to use without practice. First, become comfortable just gazing with your eyes. Later, try binoculars. It will change your views greatly, bringing the stars and planets closer and brighter, but so close you cannot see those large constellations. The general favorite in binoculars for stargazing is the 10x50mm size. At night it is important to get as much of the starlight into your eyes as possible to see stars at their brightest. The 50mm wide lens grabs a lot of starlight and is about as big as binoculars can get without becoming too heavy to hold steady by hand. Whatever binoculars you may have on hand, give them a test at night. You can also go online and search for “astronomy binoculars” for more advice.

When using binoculars for stargazing it is important to stabilize them for steady viewing. Laying on a blanket steadies your whole body and allows you to use your elbows to steady your view overhead. A tripod is also great, but added equipment, and some tripods won’t allow a view straight overhead.

What is there to see the next few days ahead? A good online site, one I use for checking what to look for in the week ahead, is http://www.skyandtelescope.com/ observing/sky-at-a-glance. Other such sites are also available if you search for them.

Regarding meteor showers, there are several periods during the year when these occur on a regular basis, and are best seen with the naked eye. Each shower will vary in the number of meteors, even from year to year. They are best seen when the moon is not visible, the sky at its darkest. On August 11-12, 2015, the Perseid Meteor Shower looks to be a night of potential, with a moonless, dark sky, and possibly 120-160 meteors per hour. With the widest view of the night sky as you can find, lie on your back and get comfortable. Aim your feet to the north as that is the direction the meteors will emanate from as they streak across the sky above. I like to imagine the earth I am pressed against as a spaceship hurtling through space. But that’s me.

Hopefully you now have enough tips and encouragement to get started and to step out under a clear night sky and do a little stargazing. Believe me, once you become fairly familiar with the starry night you’ll become used to being out in the dark. The stars and constellations will actual welcome and comfort you in spirit, as friends.

John Fiedor, former director of visitor services at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument near Dayville, writes from his Dayville home.

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Take a trip down history lane http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/take-a-trip-down-history-lane http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/take-a-trip-down-history-lane#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:07:46 -0400 Cheryl Hoefler http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729927 Whether you’re looking for staycation ideas this summer or just have a free afternoon, consider taking a local trip down history lane.

Grant County has several museums and historical groups, each offering a wealth of information and artifacts on our area’s rich past.

Here are the details for each – hours, location, admission costs and contact phone numbers.

• Kam Wah Chung and Company State Heritage Site, John Day, 541-575-2800. Hours at the interpretive center at 125 N.W. Canton St. are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. The museum, across the street near John Day City Park, is open by guided tours only, led at the top of each hour. No admission fee at either, although donations are welcome. Open May 1-Oct. 31.

• Grant County Historical Museum, 101 S. Canyon City Blvd., Canyon City, 541-575-0362. Hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admission: Adults, $4; Seniors over 62, $3; children ages 7-17, $2; children under 6, free. Open May 1-Sept. 30.

• Grant County Ranch and Rodeo Museum, 241 E. Main St., John Day. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday, or by appointment. Admission: Adults, $3, children under 12, free. Open May 1-Sept. 26.

• Sumpter Valley Railway Depot/DeWitt Museum, Bridge and Main streets, Prairie City, 541-820-3330. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $3 for adults, children under 12, free. Opens mid-May through mid-October.

• John Day Fossil Beds National Monument’s Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, State Route 19, one mile north of Highway 26, 541-987-2333. Summer hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission is free; donations accepted. Open year-round.

• Grant County Genealogical Society Research Center, Parsonage building behind Historic Advent Church, 281 W. Main Street in John Day, 541-932-4718 or 541-575-2757. Hours are 1-4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays, or by appointment. Open year-round.

• Long Creek Historical Society, Long Creek, 541-421-3621. Meets the fourth Friday of every month. The group plans to relocate the settlers fort built in 1878, and build an interpretive site and museum. Open year-round.

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Hiking with Haley: Local adventurer shares hiking tips and experiences http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/hiking-with-haley-local-adventurer-shares-hiking-tips-and-experiences http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/Journey/20150728/hiking-with-haley-local-adventurer-shares-hiking-tips-and-experiences#Comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:06:54 -0400 Cheryl Hoefler http://www.bluemountaineagle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2015150729928 With thousands of miles of dirt and gravel under her boots, local hiking enthusiast Haley Hueckman knows plenty about both day trips and backpacking in Grant County.

From tips and equipment to personal experiences and favorite spots – both beginners and advanced hikers can benefit from her knowledge and advice.

The Eagle talked with Hueckman recently, and asked her to share her passion and know-how for other trail trekkers.

Q. Let’s start with some basics. What are some good tips, as far as supplies and safety equipment that a beginner hiker should know before hitting the trail – either for a day or overnight trip?

A. The most important tip for day hikers and backpackers alike, is water. Staying hydrated is crucial. Bring water when you start your hike, and if you suspect you”ll need more later in the day, plan your trip according to natural water sources. If you carry water bottles, I suggest Nalgene bottles. Personally, I carry a 3 liter bladder. If you need to purify drinking water from a stream or creek, you have two options. You can use iodine drops or a pump. Both will suffice. It’s also important that you carry lightweight equipment. They make backpacking tents, sleeping bags and cookware. Another important tip is packing your backpack. Distributing weight onto your hips and not your shoulders. ALWAYS let someone know where you’ll be and an estimated time of when you’ll be done.

Q. Not all trails are created equally; they vary greatly in length and difficulty. What are some things hikers of all abilities should look for when deciding on a trail?

A. Hikers should always carry a map, and know how to read it. Look for reliable water sources, and trails that have been maintained. Not all trails are routinely maintained and can sometimes be difficult to cross. Injury is always a possibility. The more you hike, the more weight you should be able to carry on your trip. Prepare to carry your food, shelter and water.

Q. Grant County has an abundance of trails winding through breathtaking scenery. How can a person find out where they are?

A. The best place to get information on trails is the Forest Service – either at the Supervisors office in John Day or the Prairie City Ranger District. They will have maps there as well. You can get forest maps or if you plan on being in the wilderness, they offer wilderness maps as well. It’s imperative, if you’re headed to the wilderness, to learn and know what wilderness ethics are.

Q. How long have you been hiking and how did you first get interested?

A. I’ve been going on day hikes for as long as I can remember. I grew up near the Strawberries and can remember being on the trail with my family. Backpacking never peaked my interest until college where I met my friend Jessica, who introduced me to the idea of sleeping on the trail. In the summers I worked for the Forest Service and learned an infinite amount about our forest. My first trips were in the Strawberry Wilderness and I soon found out I loved to hike where no one could drive.

Q. Got any lessons to share with others?

A. Good hiking shoes and water. These two things are key in a safe and comfortable hike, short or long. And gummy worms. I always bring gummy worms for the trail.

Q. What’s your favorite local day hike? And your favorite overnight, longer hike?

A. One of my favorite day hikes is the Pine Creek Trail. Up to Baldy Mountain. For a backpacking trip, start at the Strawberry Campground, then to Slide Lake for the night, over to High Lake, to the summit of Strawberry Mountain and then back down to the Strawberry Camp trailhead.

Q. Any memorable experiences?

A. One of my more memorable moments hiking was at Little Strawberry Lake. It’s a popular spot to see mountain goats. However on this particular morning, I spotted 12. I’ve never seen that many up there.

When not out on the trail, home base for Haley Hueckman, and her cat, Stella, is John Day.

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