Oregon Sky


    Some recent pictures of the Oregon sky, taken at various times of the day, around the Eugene area.  The first photo was a little after 8 AM, looking east from Amazon Park.

Early afternoon, facing north, at the natural area east of Alton Baker Park:


Late afternoon in the Thurston district of Springfield, just after a shower passed by:


Almost sundown, between the Willamette River and the university:


Just past sunset, from our back yard in the South Hills:

Look closely - a small bat, turning in mid-air

This next picture isn't from the Eugene and Springfield area, but it is Oregon, and it's got some serious sky in it.  Took this shot at Crater Lake, early afternoon, beautiful day, mid July:



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Thanks to June, of the blog Under The Plum Blossom Tree, for the use of some of her photos.

Time To Rock And Roll Again

Yamaha CSF-60, Les Paul 55-77 TV Special, Partsocaster, MIM Strat, MIJ Strat, Danelectro 1959 double cutaway, Peavey Classic 50, 4x10

A couple of days ago I joined a rock and roll band. It wasn't something I was looking to do; it just happened.

Wanna Join a Band?

Last month I answered a craigslist posting for a Danelectro Daddy O. overdrive pedal, and while testing it at the seller's house I ripped a couple licks to see how the pedal did into his tube amp, it sounded great, bought it and went home. A couple weeks later the seller called and said he was putting together a band with a few good players, and did I want to play "lead" guitar? Well... why not. I went to a rehearsal + mutual audition, and hey, these guys are good, and every one of them seem like decent folks.

The basic sub-genre is what's known as classic rock, and it's mostly top 40 songs from decades ago that a lot of people of a certain age group and demographic consider the soundtrack of their lives, or something. As some of my ethnically diverse friends call it, "white boy music". Somehow, I managed to live through that time period without listening to much hit radio, so a lot of this is new to me. Seriously, until last week I had no idea what Boston, Bon Jovi, or Blue Oyster Cult sounded like. And that's just the "B"s.

Anyway, I get to play really loud along with a slamming rhythm section, do simple shifting chordal stuff while singing harmony, and do my screaming solo guitar thing, which is easy to do with an amp turned way up. It's like Muhammad Ali said: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee". Okay, it's been a long time since I played any rock music, and I've never been in a covers band before, but I think I can do this.

Maybe I Need More Gear

Probably not. How much stuff do I need? I now have four guitars (see the picture at the top of this page), and for me, that's a lot. In addition to those guitars, I also have an old Danelectro bass, a good cheap and new Epiphone mandolin, and a blond 1950s Wurlitzer spinet piano in the living room that never goes anywhere. That covers a lot of tonal territory, and I'm not an obsessive collector. My guitar "arsenal" at this moment:

• The '59 Danelectro is a real, made in New Jersey, 1959 Dano. A gift from my brother Jonsan, I never knew the model name, maybe it doesn't have one. The important thing is, in spite of being a bargain basement instrument of its day, it's one of the very finest sounding, and playing, guitars I've ever had the pleasure of squeezing notes out of. Lightweight, toneful and resonant, with a great feeling neck and about the highest hi-fi pickup ever, it's my "desert island" guitar - if I had to pick just one, this would be it. And its flattish large radius fretboard makes the Dano an almost perfect slide guitar, too.

• The Yamaha CSF-60 parlour sized acoustic is the only mail order guitar I've ever bought. Actually, it's an online purchase, from a small shop in Burlington, VT. I'd read a glowing review of the CSF in the Guitar Player mag in the early 2000s, and was always looking to meet one in person, but never did. Then they were discontinued, and so - oh well too bad, missed out. In 2008 I saw one for sale, NOS, a slightly shop worn demo, but who cares - sold on the spot, and thanks Google. One great thing about buying from a "real", smaller shop is that they usually take the time to set up their guitars well, as this one was.

When the Yamaha six string mail order bride arrived, it didn't disappoint: a really nicely made and very playable acoustic. Maybe a bit stiff feeling, with a smallish voice at first, but a couple months of daily playing this all solid wood guitar really opened up it up tonally, as I knew it would. As the GP article said, it sounds much larger than it actually is (it's about the same size as a typical electric!), and strung with John Pearse nickle wound 12-53, it's even more so. Pop in a Markley magnetic soundhole pickup, and through a good tube amp the CSF-60 can go all the way from Django-esque Maccaferri sounds, to clear voiced bluesy and folk style fingerpicked tones, to full bodied yet jangly strumming with a thin-gauge pick, to fat jazzy single note lines and chord solo comping. Versatile indeed.

• My old Gibson Les Paul Model 55-77 TV Special in a limed blond finish, is a fantastic player and always has been ever since I bought it new, and sounds every bit as good as it looks. One piece flat top mahogany body with no maple cap; a strong three piece bound mahogany neck with a smoothly tapered profile that ranges from slim near the nut to chunky at the heel, and a rosewood fingerboard with big fat frets; a pair of the classic early '50s design wide and harmonically rich single-coil Gibson pickups, now known as P-90. It's all original, except for modding the wiring to suit myself, and the tuners have been replaced a few times; they had a habit of breaking when I was a young stupid rocker running around and sometimes jumping off stages. Amazing that it, and I, are still in one piece.

• The recently put together and still ongoing Fender JapaMexiCaster (MIJ body, MIM neck, various parts) project guitar is turning out well, I got lucky with the assembly. Good, usable tones right off the bat, no adjustments needed, and the neck is a dream to play. I like to do a lot of bends and string vibrato, and friend David's sterling fret work makes playing almost effortless. The Squier Classic Vibe flat top pickups, with vintage spec lower output, simply sound great. Without staggered pole piece magnets, all the strings have uniform output, throughout the entire fretboard. Also, the pickups mounted on a metal pickguard (anodized aluminum) instead of plastic gives a very Tele like tone. This guitar isn't quite done yet, but good enough to play right now.

Fender Partsocaster, Franken-caster, skinny strap, rosewood fingerboard Stratocaster, gold, anodized pickguard, tweed amp, tube amplifier
A Nice Pair: Classic 50 And Franken-Caster

Buddy Can You Spare an Amp?

Compared to me, the guys in the band have tons of nice equipment; Donnie the drummer has a fully equipped recording studio out in the country where we practice, and John the singer has at least a dozen guitars and 3 or 4 amps. I have some low wattage home-brew amps but nothing really gig-able, so John has kindly and graciously let me use a Peavey Classic 50 4X10 for the time being, until I can cobble up my own rig.

The Classic 50 is quite a decent amp, gets loud enough and has a nicely voiced clean channel, excellent for use with effects. Set the master full up, with the gain about 4 to 4 1/2, and it gets close to a 1960s silver-face style tone; coupled with the efficient and crisp sounding Eminence 4x10" speakers in an open back cab, it easily keeps up with a hard punching drummer. As with most modern amps, the overdrive channel isn't very natural sounding, but the clean side is where it really shines as an all around usable and capable jam and gig rig. Overall the C-50 sounds just short of great, and I've heard these amps are very rugged and dependable. Plus, it looks like cool '50s tweed style retro.

wah wah, Vox 847, chrome top wah, pedal,
Hey - Wahs In The Bag?

I Don't Need No Wah Wah, But I Got One Anyway

It was time to open up the old effects pedal suitcase (and a couple cardboard boxes full too), dump them out onto the floor, dust the little suckers off, and get reacquainted with all of them, which was a lot of fun in itself. Made some shorty cables, plugged up a few likely suspects, and gradually narrowed the floor-toy field down. I have way too many effects units, from all eras and price points, and a few rose to the top of the stomp box heap based on their sound and how well they worked together.

amp in a box, Dano, Daddy-O, OD, distortion, effects buffer
Whoa - Daddy O.

My pedal setup for now:

• Danelectro Daddy O. - The Daddy O. is first in chain, always on, gain about 1/3 up, with maybe 40-50% overall volume boost. Set up that way, it's not so much an effect, but rather a slightly overdriven basic tone generator and general buffer line-amp pedal, boosting the signal slightly to keep a wah and other pedals down the chain tone-happy. With gain, master volume, and bass, mid, and treble controls, there's a lot of useful tone shaping here; pedals set up like this have recently been called "amp in a box", and that's a fair description.

It's been said that the Daddy O. is a favorite of some famous name guitarists, and I can see (and hear) why. Like a good tube amp, this versatile pedal has a very wide dynamic range: with the guitar volume rolled back, the tone is fairly clean, with a lot of punch and fidelity. Turn the guitar volume pot up, and the sound gradually gets bigger and fuller, with that gritty edge reminiscent of an amp with hot glowing tubes, cranked way up.

• Ibanez UE 300 - After the Daddy O., it's into an early '80s Ibanez UE 300 all analog three-in-one effects box, which has a compressor / limiter (only used as an effect, and not always on - useful for Lowell George-like slide parts) and a period correct TS-808 Tube Screamer section, before the signal goes to the built-in external loop send jack.

• Danelectro Chicken Salad - Then, it's out to a Danelectro Chicken Salad vibrato - a very good sounding real optical process Uni-Vibe clone, not a simulator or digital emulator. Really nails that smoky, swirling pitch-shift "Bridge of Sighs" vibrato sound.

• Ibanez DL-5 delay - Next is the lady-bug shaped early '90s Ibanez DL-5 Soundtank digital delay, with short to medium delay times that sound totally analog, with none of the usual digital delay harshness or sterility. As a side note, Ibanez is an amazing company - even their lower end pedal lines, such as the plastic enclosure Soundtanks, don't sound at all like econo-boxes, with superior audio response and believable effects.

• Vox V-947 wah - After the delay, it's into a chrome top Vox V-847 wah-wah pedal. Not an old Thomas Organ company wah, but a '90s Jim Dunlop reissue. I used to have a Thomas Vox wah, and though this Dunlop has the same retro '60s vibe and look as the Thomas, it sounds somewhat different. It's more like a Cry Baby wah in a Vox skin, and that ain't bad. The important thing is that this Dunlop/Vox doesn't have full bypass switching or an active buffer in the circuit - it's set up just like all the original wah pedals from the 1960s and '70s were.

Many self-styled experts and online forum posters frown on wahs, or any other effects boxes, that don't have what they call "true bypass" switching, but consider this: think of any great classic recording from the 1950s through the '80s, with a wah guitar on it - you're hearing an un-bypassed wah pedal, whether Vox or Cry Baby or Jordan. Even if you never use it, having an old style wah in the effects chain does something to the overall tone of the guitar and amp, smooths it out, takes off some high end harshness, and adds an indefinable mojo or magic. It's rock and roll.

• After the wah, it's back into the loop return input of the Ibanez UE 300, and the analog stereo chorus in the UE pedal, which can sound very Leslie like. After the chorus, the signal goes through a JRC4558 IC output buffer in the multi-box, which powers it out the long cable to the amp.

Except for the delay which is rarely on, the effects chain is all analog, no modeling, no PCM, no emulation, no modern style tone-sucking multiple A/D and D/A converters - and played though a big tube amp, the tone is fat, complex, alive with rich harmonic overtones, and very 33 1/3 rpm.

Uni Vibe, Dano, effect pedal, Mini Series,
Yumm - Chicken Salad
analog, effects, multi effect, pedal, leslie simulator
UE Dewey And Louie

But What's Rock and Roll Without Distortion?

I tried all the distortion and fuzz pedals I had (kind of embarrassed to say I own 17), and although each one had its own unique character and sound, none of them had that sort of raging British amp stack on the verge of blowing up sound that I had in my head. But then I tried this: turned the gain way up on the Tube Screamer in the UE 300, and rolled the tone way back, and voila. The combination of the Dano Daddy O. set on low overdrive running into the pushed Screamer adds up to a really nice wailing distortion, with tons of long singing sustain: pretty darn good enough with the Strato-Parts-O-Caster and '59 Danelectro, and incredibly thick and moaning with the P-90 neck pickup of the '77 Les Paul Special. Much of the credit for that big tone may be due to the Ibanez UE 300 being chock full of the famed early '80s JRC-4558 ICs, although - who knows? Maybe it's just more audio magic.

Soundtank, DL-5, 1980s, effects, pedal, stomp box, floor toy
They Call It A Tank, But It Looks Like A Bug
no pedal board, hard wired, floor toys, effects pedals, analog effects
Well, Here's Another Nice Mess...
Origami Night Lamp, origaminightlamp, blog, rock effects pedal battery
Cute, But It Only Lasted Six Minutes In The Chicken Salad

Dead Battery Blues

I went to get some 9 volt batteries for all the pedals, and whoa, they're really spendy - like $4 apiece for alkalines. So I bought a pedal power adapter, a One Spot, just like everyone else in the world. While a useful thing to have, a 9V adapter setup has downsides, including the added wiring mess - see the photo above. One solution would be a pre-wired pedal board. But an effects board would mean lugging another bulky thing around, instead of carrying the pedals in the old, nicely beat up, and funky tweed Towne suitcase, which has seen hundreds of stages and jam rooms in its (and our) past lives.

tweed, The Epiphone MM-30/AS mandolin, Epi, mando, Yamaha CSF-60, parlor, acoustic, guitar, Epiphone mm-30/as, yamaha parlor acoustic
Ol' Tweed
Eventually I'll need to find my own good and loud and gig worthy amplifier, and maybe I'll buy the Classic 50. And messing around with gear is great, but now I really need to get some serious practice and rehearsal time in.
I'll admit it - my playing style is weird: flat pick and two fingers, country chicken-pickin' meets the blues, with J. J. and Keith and Willie and B. B. and Doc and Wes jamming bossa nova in the club car of a lost train heading out to that mythical hula party in the sky, musical mash up. It's gonna be fun warping that into something that fits into the "classic rock" speedy white boy music thing.

Gibson Les Paul TV Special, les paul special, les paul junior, blond, blonde, lea paul
Sennheiser e 835

A final note: my band and jam vocal microphone of choice is a Sennheiser e 835 - super intelligible, slices through even the densest mix, a top quality German mic for $99 - and it sits on an ancient 1960s Shure cast-base stand.

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All photos taken with a Lumix ZS25.  Click or tap on any picture to see larger, higher def images.


Honeybees In Lavender

bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee

    We visited a lavender farm a few miles east of town, up the McKenzie River highway between Walterville and Leaburg.  The sweet fragrance of the lavender was everywhere, the many plants laid out in neat rows.

bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee

But alongside the floral aroma was something else - a low, constant humming vibration.  Getting down to lavender flower level, you can see where that sound was coming from: thousands of honeybees, busily doing their mid-summer foraging.

bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee
bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee
bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee

These busy honeybees are usually moving from flower to flower too fast to get a good picture of them, or to get an idea of how many there were.  In the photo below there are at least eight or nine of them in this one small area, as well as a possible bumblebee:

bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee

I wonder what lavender honey tastes like?

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All photos taken with a Lumix ZS-25 pocket camera.  Click or tap on any picture above to see larger, higher def images.

Wednesday Bach Blogging: The Swingle Singers, Jazz Sébastien Bach


    The totally astounding Swingle Singers, from their 1963 album Jazz Sébastien Bach (also known as Back To Bach in the US), performing Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major, part of Johann Sebastian Bach's Well Tempered Clavier Book 1, BWV 846.

The member credits listed on online music download sites, as well as on web videos of the Swingle Singers, are often not quite correct.  The actual credits for this recording, along with identification of the members in the photo, are:

[back row; left to right]
Anne Germain (2nd Alto)
Claudine Meunier (1st Alto)
Christiane Legrand (1st Soprano)
Jeanette Baucomont (2nd Soprano)

[front row; left to right]
Jean-Claude Briodin (1st Bass)
Jean Cussac (2nd Bass)
Claude Germain (1st Tenor)
Ward Swingle (2nd Tenor)

[not in the photo]
Pierre Michelot (Double Bass)
Gus Wallez (Drums)
Andre Arpino (Drums)

Until the original group disbanded in 1973, the member lineup changed somewhat.  Some of the other Swingle Singers during that time were:

Alice Herald (Alto)
José Germain (Bass)
Hélène Devos (Alto)
Joseph Noves (Tenor)
Nicole Darde (Soprano)

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Ward Swingle (1927 - 2015) led what might be considered a storybook life: a kid from Mobile, Alabama moves to Paris, gets involved in the musical scene there, creates a whole new way of crafting vocal music, founds a singing group that is still rocking out to this day, and gathers multiple Grammies and numerous other awards along the way.  And with such a great last name - Swingle - it was meant to be.

The Swingle Singers had a lot of devoted listeners during the time the original group was together, and for good reason - their music was, and remains, deep, intelligent, harmonically complex, and it rocks and it swings.  When I was a kid, I was a big fan of The Swingles, and I guess you could say I still am.

Rémi C.'s fun and informative blog Dans l'ombre des studios has interviews with, and articles about, former members of the first, Paris based edition of the Swingle Singers, as well as lots of other cool stuff, such as vintage photos, and even a previously unreleased studio track.  The site is en Français, and as usual, hilarity results when a browser's translate function is used.

Here's one of the photos from that blog:


A picture of the group as they gigged around the world back in the 1960s:


Something else from the original Swingle Singers: the first (Vivace) movement of the Concerto for Two Violins, Strings and Continuo in D minor, BWV 1043.  Not only does it swing from beginning to end, but their vocal performance, rather than the usually heard orchestral instrumentation,  really accentuates Bach's complex multi-layered polyphony:


And a live performance from 1969: The Swingles doing Bach's Partita No. 2 Sinfonia.  After a slow, meditative first part, the tempo quickens, and they really get grooving: a great mix of Bach's genius music and the swinging power of Jazz Vocalese à la Swingle.

At Crown Point

Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30,

The vistas at Crown Point are amazing.  When the Columbia River Highway, the first road to be paved east of Portland, was built just prior to World War I during the 1910s, it was intentionally routed to be picturesque rather than practical.  During that era, when there were few, if any, paved roads in most parts of the country, goods and passenger traffic went via steam powered railroads and ships, and automobile use outside of cities was mainly for day trips and excursions.  The old highway winds through the hills and bluffs of the Columbia Gorge, with many scenic turnoffs, picnic spots, and places to take in the grandeur of this part of Oregon, including Multnomah Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, and Vista House at Crown Point.

Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, Takeo Anderson Clifford, Tayo, sundown, sunset

As we were going up the winding road to the point, we drove through a summer hailstorm; the hail stopped and the sun came out just as we got to Vista House.

Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, Takeo Anderson Clifford, Tayo, sunset, sundown

Crown Point is a great place to be at sunset; here's a few more shots taken while we were there:

Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, sunset, sundown
Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, sunset, sundown
Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, sunset, sundown
Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, sunset, sundown

In a couple of the photos above, you can see Interstate Highway 80 far below Crown Point, running next to the railway along the Columbia River.  Built in the 1950s and '60s, this expressway is made for speed rather than beauty, and modern travelers and giant semi-trucks can conveniently propel themselves to their destination without being bothered by the wonders of the natural world.

Here's a couple more pictures, that we didn't take; the first is a scan of an old postcard, and the second is something from the 'net showing a long shot of Vista House and its location:

Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30,

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Most of the photos were taken with a Lumix TZ-3 (Travel Zoom) pocket camera.  Click or tap on any picture above to see larger, higher def images.

Canoe Day Out - Messing About In A Boat

canoeing, Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling,





Kenneth Grahame's classic, and so very British, The Wind In The Willows is one of those books that can be read every couple of years, without ever tiring of itAnd every time I do, I suddenly want to get out on a river.  And like Ratty and Mole, go messing about, in a boat:

Messing About In A Boat

"This has been a wonderful day!" said [the Mole], as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. "Do you know, I've never been in a boat before in all my life."

"What?" cried the Rat, open-mouthed: "Never been in a—you never—well I—what have you been doing, then?"

"Is it so nice as all that?" asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

"Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing..." he went on dreamily: "messing—about—in—boats; messing-------"

"Look ahead, Rat!" cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

Packing A Picnic Hamper

Along Ratty's upper reaches of the Thames or the River Pang or wherever it is he happens to live, being out on the river is a peaceful experience.  Many centuries of landscape domestication, since the time of the Roman occupation, had tamed the flow, and whole series of weirs, locks, and diversions into canals resulted in calm, slow moving streams, perfect for a relaxed, dreamy day out in a boat.

On The River

Unfortunately, we don't live in England; here in the western U.S., the rivers tend to run fast and relatively wild.  Boaters out west take their fun seriously, often in deadly earnest: zooming up and down the Rogue or Klamath or Snake Rivers in supercharged jet boats; running whitewater rapids in tiny solo kayaks or giant 20-man inflatable rafts full of screaming tourists; or pulling skiers at top speed around reservoirs in 500 horsepower water hot rods with dodgy mufflers.  Not much chance of a quiet, peaceful day out, sculling around a slow moving river in a pram or a skiff - and, it's difficult finding a small row boat out here, since no one does that sort of thing.

A few months ago, at an acoustic instrument jam party, I happened to mention, after a couple of beers, that I was looking for a boat.  Friend Randy (a genius mandolin, fiddle and guitar player) said "Well, how about a canoe?  I have one I don't use any more."  A canoe... wow... I hadn't thought about a canoe.  So, okay, done thinking, how much?  "Does $100 sound good to you?  I'll throw in a couple oars, too."  Sold, on the spot, sight unseen, let's shake on it, and have another beer.

It turned out to be a really nice, high quality canoe: a Northwoods brand, made in Spokane, Washington.  About 15 feet, not too heavy, and unsinkable, which is some kind of relief, less to worry about.  Fits nicely atop the roof rack on the Oasis:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, Isuzu Oasis, canoe launch

Okay, we have a canoe, now where can we have a relaxed, Wind In The Willows type of day on the water?  We don't live right on the riverbank like Water Rat does, yet it would be nice to have some aquatic fun fairly close to home.  The Willamette River runs through town, but it's not exactly peaceful and calm - the current is strong enough that all boating is a one way trip downstream, with numerous shoals and rock hazards: fun in a different way.

There are some stretches of the Willamette that back up behind shallow dams, bars, and locks, with water calm enough for leisurely paddling, but those are some distance north, closer to Portland, and not here.  A few lakes and reservoirs are also within a 100 mile radius, but that's also not here.

Check out this spy satellite image:


That's about smack dab in the middle of the greater Eugene-Springfield mini-megalopolis.  South of the river you can see the university (Duck U.); north of it is the big football stadium (Duck U. Field), and the beginnings of inner outer suburbia.  The big, fairly empty, fairly green area in between is a city park, formerly a giant sawmill, and now a sort of green-belt semi-natural open area.  With bike and running paths, three pedestrian bridges over the river, a soccer field, an outdoor events area, musical amphitheater, kid's science center, and lots more, it's a cool place for sure.

In the center of the shot above, there's an oblong-ish pond, with a waterway coming into it from the east, and flowing out towards the west.  That stream was originally a mill race for the old sawmill, and the pool was a log holding pond for that mill.

Not so long ago, the Cascade Range east of here was swarming with loggers, busily leveling the old growth forests, and sending giant logs down the river to the big sawmills along the Willamette in Eugene and Springfield, all of which are now shut down.  Except for a few books, such as Ken Kesey's monumental Sometimes A Great Notion, it's a part of Oregon history that has mostly gone down the digital memory hole.  And in our town, now populated by hipsters, college students, retirees, californians, and transient derelicts, most people are completely unaware of this area's recent past, at the very tail end of the Industrial Age.


A web search brings up no mention of the name of the old mill north of the university, and the city's website would have you think this was always a park.  In any case, after that sawmill closed down, someone came up with a plan to turn its mill race into a couple miles of boating waterway - a great idea.

Over the border to the east, the city of Springfield has allowed the upstream portion of the waterway to get choked up with fallen trees and other debris - it's still marked as a "canoe path" on their park maps, but you can't actually canoe it.  Maybe someone should go talk to Mayor Quimby:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, Springfield, clogged, choked, waterway, fallen trees

Possibly due to a more efficient parks department in our town, the canoe way in Eugene is open, and beautiful.

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing,

Over time, the banks of the old mill race have gotten nicely grown over with grasses and shrubs, reeds, lilies and other aquatic plants, as well as the willows, alders, and other trees along the stream.  Also, what's really great is that hardly anyone knows this boating way exists, and whenever we're paddling around here, there's no one else out on the water, and you rarely see another human.  Besides the faint background sounds of the city, it's easy to imagine that we're way out in the middle of somewhere.

We took along a picnic hamper, just as Ratty and Mole would do, and had a calm and leisurely paddle.  And saw a lot of birds.

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, heron, blue heron, waterway

This big heron landed in the water near the south bank, its huge wings spread out as it floated silently down, until it touched the surface of the stream with barely a ripple.  I should have had the camera out for that, but all I could do was watch amazed.

Most of the birds pretty much ignore you when you're boating, but if you're walking along the bank, they'll fly or paddle swiftly away.  On the waterway, you're just another aquatic animal.  Here's a family of ducks:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, ducks, duck family
Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, ducks, duck family
Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, ducks, duck family

The pictures are not the best - the old beater Elph pocket shooter was the bee's knees back in 2006, and it still takes shots as good as it did when new, but technology marches on, and now it's our disposable sports camera, and if it drops into the water, no big loss.

We saw a kingfisher, who would wait until we got almost close enough to take a picture, then fly a couple hundred feet downstream, laughing all the way.  A few geese, but I forgot to get the camera out of the vest pocket, since we were having fun paddling along right in the middle of their gaggle.  There were hawks circling high overhead; little chickadees calling from their perches on streamside willows; a cormorant dived straight down at speed, beak first into the water a long way upstream; and swallows darted quickly over the water in pursuit of their bug lunch, almost too fast to see.  Didn't get a picture of a swallow, but under one of the bridges were some of their nests, built of mud, and precariously attached underneath:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, swallows, swallow nests, under bridge

It was perfect weather for a British style float on the water - mid 70s (23-25º C), mostly overcast, very light breeze.  At one point we thought we were in for a soaking; the clouds got darker and disturbed looking, and you could watch sheets of rain floating earthward, but only a few drops hit the surface of the stream:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, waterway, sky, clouds, rain

Weather like this always makes me sleepy, especially after lunch, and I'm not alone.  It is said to just let sleeping ducks lie:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, waterway, sleeping duck

Along the banks there's a good variety of water loving plants; here's one of them, an unknown kind with nice yellow flowers:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, waterway, yellow flower

Coming back down current, after turning around at the weir upstream, there was another heron on the north bank; possibly it was the same one we had seen earlier.  Just so you know, the old camera has very little zoom - we were actually this close to the big bird:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, waterway, heron, blue heron

It was another perfect day on the canoe way, peaceful slow paddling, enjoying the time and the place, and just messing about.  In a boat.

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Click or tap on any picture above to see larger, higher def images.  Most photos taken with an ancient Canon Elph SD550.  Excerpt from The Wind In The Willows, by Kenneth Grahame (1908); illustrations by Earnest H. Shepard (1933).  Sawmill photo courtesy Old Mill District, Bend (not Eugene), OR.