Saturday, September 24, 2022


Here are a few photos of Kerf, a pair of huge concrete rings at the SE Tacoma/Johnson Creek MAX station. It was (or they were?) created by artist Thomas Sayre for TriMet's Orange Line, and the Orange Line public art guide describes them briefly:

Two landmark sculptures, “earth-cast” on site, represent the influence of wheels on the area, from a 19th-century sawmill on Johnson Creek to the wheels of the MAX train.

By "earth-cast", they mean casting concrete onsite, in a Kerf-shaped hole in the ground, without the use of the usual wooden forms. This technique gives the concrete a sort of rough natural look, and it was the subject of Earthcaster, a 2016 documentary from North Carolina Public Broadcasting about Sayre and his work, including the creation of Kerf here.

But what if there's more to it than that? This spot is a major transit hub, with a lot of TriMet buses, the Springwater trail, US 99E (McLoughlin Blvd.), and even the Union Pacific line that Amtrak uses on its way to and from California. (It doesn't actually stop here, but in theory it could someday.) So it seems only logical to round things out with a couple of stargates, like in that one movie.

So in theory you could step through one of the Kerves here and pop out of Ring of Time or the Carwash Fountain, both along the downtown transit mall, or Big Pipe Portal on Swan Island, or possibly Arch with Oaks out in Beaverton. Sounds pretty amazing, if you ask me. The only problem being that this system isn't actually open to the general public right now, and TriMet officially denies all knowledge of any such thing being in the works. Maybe they're still quietly working out bugs in the system, or trying to bring down operating costs. Or maybe they're done with that part and are slogging thru federal bureaucracy now, trying to determine whether a stargate is considered an airport, a highway, or a railroad for regulatory purposes; whether each stargate needs a US Customs office, if there's no way to prevent international arrivals, that sort of thing.

International arrivals are certainly possible, by the way. A quick scan of the interwebs led me to a Chinese company in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province that offers to crank out any kind of oversized custom art you need on an industrial scale, including large stainless steel rings that look unmistakably stargate-like.

But I have no idea if those -- or the varied local examples I listed earlier, for that matter -- are even compatible with Kerf. I don't know much of anything about stargate networking, but if it's anything like train networking, it's bound to be a lot more complicated than any layperson would expect. So if it turns out the two here can only talk to other Sayre stargates, I don't think there are any other local ones in Portland , but the internet says there are others in Raleigh and Lenoir, NC (saving a 3 hour drive between the two cities), plus one in Aurora, CO. And the latter one could be a problem due to its altitude (~5400') and the resulting air pressure difference. If you punch in "send me to Colorado" and as soon as the portal opens you're sucked through like it's a broken airliner window, that's going to lead to some bad yelp reviews, at minimum.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Rowena Plateau, June 2022 (I)

And here are some photos from a visit to the Nature Conservancy's Tom McCall Preserve at Rowena, out in the eastern Columbia Gorge on the way to The Dalles. This is another place that has showed up here from time to time over the course of this humble blog, most recently in 2017.

The (I) in the title is there because this slideshow is just phone photos, and I also have a bunch of DSLR ones from the same trip that I still need to sort through and upload. Now, a bunch of those photos aren't keepers because that's just inevitable when you bring a macro lens here on a windy day, but IIRC there were still a decent number worth sharing. I know better than to promise an exact date on when they might go up, but I'll try not to drag it out unneccessarily, if possible.

Tanner Springs wildflowers, July 2022

A few recent photos from Portland's Tanner Springs Park, a sort of pseudo-natural nature park righ in the middle of the Pearl District. This place was a regular staple here for a number of years, starting in 2006 and tapering off in 2014 for no particular reason. I happened to be in the area last month and wasn't in a hurry so I stopped in and ended up with a few wildflower photos, so here they are.

(I think it's fine to call them wildflowers, even if someone technically planted them here as part of a planned garden. I'm using the term in the sense of "local native species of flowering plant" and not by how "wild" an individual plant appears to be. Just tossing that out there in case any angry internet flower pedants stumble across this post. I have never actually met an angry internet flower pedant, mind you, but generally speaking if a thing exists, someone is mad about it on the internet. So it just sort of stands to reason.)

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Fairy Falls

Ok, now we're paying a visit to the Columbia Gorge's Fairy Falls, a little 20' waterfall above Wahkeena Falls on a side branch of Wahkeena Creek. It isn't the tallest one, or the widest, or the loudest, or the most famous. It doesn't have the most water going over it; it doesn't have a weird name, or much in the way of historical anecdotes, or any of that. It's one of my favorites, though -- just look at it. Feel free to page through the photoset for a bit first and then come back to the post, if you want.

One of the many occasional projects I have going here is a very slow virtual trip around the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop trail, with a post about each waterfall along the route in (roughly) clockwise order. So with this post we've finally made it up and across the top of the loop and down into the Wahkeena Creek watershed, and Fairy Falls is the first one we encounter on the way down. These posts have tended to run away from me, ending up full of all sorts of irrelevant tangents that I don't quite have the heart to delete. But Fairy Falls here is not really a complicated place and this post ought to be relatively short by my usual standards. I've combed the history books and the usual sources online and whatnot, and here's what I've got about today's destination...

  • Back in the Upper Multnomah Falls post from last year I mentioned that a lot of guides to the Gorge insist there are exactly eight kinds of waterfall in the world, and go on to say that you can see five of the eight kinds right here along the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop, and you can complete the set with a couple of other quick stops in the vicinity. So under that scheme, Fairy Falls is the canonical "fan-type" waterfall. There actually aren't many "fan-type" ones in the Gorge besides this one. In the wider region, the best-known example is probably Ramona Falls up near Mt. Hood. Something to keep in mind if you ever find yourself in a high-stakes "match the name to the waterfall photo" contest and need some easy points.

  • I'm not sure who named Fairy Falls or when, since I couldn't find any mentions of it at all from before the Columbia River Highway and Wahkeena Trail opened. And afterward, any references to it just used the current name like it had always been called that. Given the steep terrain in the area, it probably didn't get a lot of foot traffic before the trail went in, so my guess would be that they stumbled across it while laying out the trail, decided to route the trail right past the base of it for dramatic effect, and figured it would need to be called something, as a highlight of the trail.

    Fairy Falls was first mentioned by The Oregonian as part of a 1921 article covering all the fun new hiking options that were now available out in the Gorge.

    Meanwhile the Oregon Journal first mentioned Fairy Falls in a similar 1919 hiking article, suggesting it as a refreshing pit stop on your way down after doing the overnight hike up Larch Mountain to watch the sunrise. (This used to be a very popular hike, right up until they built a road to the top of Larch Mountain in 1937.)

  • I did find exactly one one example of someone calling it something besides "Fairy Falls", an undated photo with a caption calling it "Ghost Falls". The photo -- or at least the caption -- can't be any earlier than right around 1916 as it mentions the brand-new Columbia River Highway by name, and uses the new name "Wahkeena Falls" instead of the previous "Gordon Falls". No other examples have turned up besides this one so I don't think the name ever really caught on. Though if you squint just right the falls do kind of look like a ghost, of the ectoplasmic bedsheet variety. Given the politics of 1910s & 1920s Oregon, it's probably pure luck that nobody tried naming it "Grand Wizard Falls" or something, for reminding them of the Klan robes in their closets at home.

    Searching on the name "Ghost Falls" did come up with a couple of results elsewhere. The 1940 Federal Writers Project guide to Oregon claimed there was a Ghost Falls somewhere along the Eagle Creek Trail. That name obviously didn't stick either, and it's not even clear which falls they were referring to to since the guide didn't include a photo or a map. The same book also listed Punchbowl Falls as "The Devil's Punchbowl", which also didn't quite stick, maybe due to the famous Devil's Punchbowl out on the coast.

    Further afield, the search also returned an AllTrails hike page titled "Ghost Falls Trails via Bonneville Shoreline Trail", which sounds like something that would be in the Gorge, but it turns out to be for a Ghost Falls in Utah, and the shoreline in question was the shore of a vast former lake that existed during the last Ice Age, not the reservoir behind Bonneville Dam.

  • Switching gears again, in several posts now I've mentioned a 2016 study on aquatic insects in the gorge. Wahkeena Creek has a special significance in that particular area, as it has several endemic species that exist nowhere else in the universe. However Fairy Falls (or "Fairy Falls of the East Fork" as the doc likes to call it) is on a side tributary and is apparently not interesting from a bug standpoint. The study just mentions the falls briefly: "trail goes through stream near base of falls; after multiple collections at this site since 1989, no sensitive species have been encountered.". So it might be that any weird caddisflies or stoneflies that may have once been here were wiped out at some point due to hikers tromping right thru their habitat. But the main stem of the creek is unique in flowing out of a nearby underground spring, with water several degrees colder than the other streams in the area, and the endemic species might require those specific conditions, which the East Fork has never had.
  • Since Fairy Falls is one of the more photogenic waterfalls, it makes sense (to me) that there's a bit of recent classical music written about it, a piano solo for advanced students, one of several named after Gorge waterfalls by composer Ian Evans Guthrie. (The 'piano tune for...' link above goes to a page with a recording of the song, which seems to play in Firefox but not Chrome for whatever reason). If I didn't know it was recent, I could almost see it being composed for the Wahkeena Trail opening circa 1916. I say almost because the ending is probably a bit avant-garde for the conventional tastes of 1910s Portland.
  • Oh, and one other thing from the Oregonian database: The May 9th 1937 Oregonian ran a page of photos from along the Multnomah-Wahkeena trail, with the reporter's wife and kids in most of them for scale. The Fairy Falls photo just showed the falls, though, so it looked just the same as it does now. Which should be normal and expected, but somehow it feels like photos and films from 1937 ought to contain a bit more 1937-ness somehow. And I'm not 100% sure what I mean by that. Maybe hardboiled Mafia goons at the top of the falls, dangling a rival gangster over the edge by his ankles. Maybe German or Japanese or Soviet spies, barely visible in the underbrush, casing the joint and taking detailed notes for future reference in a few years' time. And maybe then our hero & heroine (Fred Astaire as a tap-dancing G-man, and plucky reporter / aspiring swimsuit model Esther Williams) show up, and suddenly the falls transform into a water slide and pool and an all-singing, all-dancing, all-swimming, all-tapping musical extravaganza breaks out, and the various bad guys soon try to slink away into the shadows, twirling their mustaches, but then a big pie fight breaks out, and in the end they're defeated by the sheer power of Hollywood movie magic, and everyone lives happily ever after. The End.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Montgomery Pride

In a post back in January I mentioned something about there being another City Repair street mural on a closed section of SW Montgomery St., on the Portland State campus, which I was bound to do a post about sooner or later. So here are a few photos of Montgomery Pride, on the block of Montgomery between 6th & Broadway. The blurb for it on the City Repair project map describes it as "a design pattern that celebrates LGBTQ Pride, the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, and Marsha P. Johnson" and the 2019 painting of it as "an event that would bring together the LGBTQ community, Urban Planning community, and the PSU community to turn an unattractive street into an enriching temporary public event space."

The street closure happened as part of the university's major renovations to the business school building next door. The business school was the newest and swankiest building on campus when I was a student circa 1990 -- a student environmental group I was involved with tried to schedule meetings there, strictly for the nice cushy chairs -- but it couldn't compete with the new engineering school buildings, facilities-wise, and that simply wouldn't do. But there's always donor money available for re-swank-ifying business schools, and the one at PSU has reclaimed its rightful place as the newest, shiniest, swankiest, most blindingly metallic edifice on campus. Across Montgomery, for contrast, is the brutalist University Services Building, built in 1970 and seemingly unchanged since then (except for some late-2000s public art on the east side of the building).

Monday, May 30, 2022

Wave Flight

Next up here's a look at Wave Flight, a sculpture in the overseas terminal of the Honolulu Airport (and I'd love to say these were recent photos, but it's been a while since I've made it over there). This was created in 1984 by local artist Donald Harvey. The Public Art Archive description doesn't say much about it specifically and is more of a bio:

A longtime Hawaii resident, Donald Harvey prefers to sculpt in clay, wood, resin and fiberglass. He graduated from Kailua High School, attended Utah State University as an undergraduate, and received his Masters in Fine Arts and professional teaching diploma from the University of Hawaii. Immediately upon obtaining his Masters degree, Mr. Harvey became an art teacher at Kamehameha Schools, then worked his way up to becoming Chair of the Kamehameha Schools Art Department. He also serves as a guest lecturer in art at the University of Hawaii, while taking continuing education courses at Hickam Air Force Base. He has works in numerous public and private collections that have included the Contemporary Art Center and the Honolulu Academy of Arts. In addition, he has been commissioned for large structures that appear at Honolulu Community College and the Honolulu International Airport.

Befitting the location, the name is an aeronautical reference. Under certain conditions, standing atmospheric waves called "lee waves" can form downwind of terrain, typically a high mountain range (like the mountains on the Big Island) or a plateau. Skilled glider pilots can ride these waves upward to achieve very high altitudes and long distances. To give a sense of why wave flying is an advanced skill, here's a firsthand account of what it's like, a YouTube lecture on how it works, and a report on a 2008 Big Island glider crash during an altitude record attempt. The pilot had made it up to over 38,000 feet before his plane came apart. As of mid-2022 the current altitude record stands at nearly twice that height at over 76,000 feet, in the ballpark of the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes. The project team behind that record flies out of the far end of Patagonia during the winter, and are aiming for 90,000 feet with their current plane, and 100,000 feet with an advanced glider still in the design phase. At those altitudes, aerodynamics are similar to near the surface of Mars, so this is supposed to be a faster and cheaper way to learn more about flying there. Although NASA managed to send a helicopter to Mars without doing this step first, so who knows.

The term was also used by a 2019 Alaska Airlines promotion, partnering with a surfing website to offer last-minute deals when the surf's up. Which is an exceptionally niche play on words, you gotta respect that.

Catkin Marsh

Here are a couple of photos from Portland's Catkin Marsh Natural Area, an obscure city park in industrial NE Portland on a branch of the Columbia Slough, east of NE 33rd and west of the airport. The park consists of a 53 acre wetland area -- surrounded on three sides by the now-defunct Broadmoor golf course, and the fourth by warehouses -- plus a long skinny strip of land along the south side of the slough connecting out to 33rd, which is the only part shown in the photos. I took these while stopped briefly along 33rd after taking the car through DEQ at the test station nearby. I didn't actually turn the car off, much less get out for a closer look, so the photoset is somewhat less than comprehensive this time around.

The city bought the land fairly recently, in December 2012 -- it was part of the golf course before that, maybe serving as a natural water hazard. It was included in the city's Natural Areas Restoration Plan when it was updated in 2015, which rated it in 'Fair' health and as a high priority for restoration, though without any specifics on what they might do about it. They did remove a couple of culverts blocking this section of slough in 2017, at least. And with that, we've covered just about everything the city's said publicly about the place.

I gather the longer-term plan is for an extension of the Columbia Slough Trail to run through here someday, which I imagine is gated on both money and acquiring land or easements further east so the trail doesn't just dead-end on an abandoned golf course or at the airport security fence. The new owners of the Broadmoor site want to build warehouse space there, so making a deal for the unbuildable wetland parts of the course seems doable, in theory.

For anyone feeling really impatient to go visit the rest of the park for some reason, on the map above you can see an unofficial boot path through this strip along the slough, and conceivably you could get there that way, on an unofficial basis. But note the chest-high tall grass in the photos, and remember it's growing on top of a muddy, slippery bank that you won't be able to see because grass. So you stand a really good chance of going for a swim, which I cannot recommend here. As a data point, the city advises not eating fish from the slough more than once a month, due to PCBs and other contaminants, and discarding most of the fish even then. The slough as a whole is not considered a Superfund site, on unspecified technical grounds, but I still think this would be a bad place to take a mud bath or see what the water tastes like. Ewww. Just ewwww.

Under the Same Sky

Next up we're taking a look at Under the Same Sky, a very large mural in downtown Portland by Canadian[1] artist Kevin Ledo, whose website describes it briefly: "Under the Same Sky, 50’ x 60’, w/ exterior wall and spray paint, APTart Diversity project, Portland, Oregon, USA | Painted for the ‘awareness and prevention through art’ project, ‘paint outside the lines’". Ledo's website and Instagram obviously cover a lot of other murals besides this one; most are in a similar style[2], with a sorta-photorealistic portrait or two surrounded by a colorful design, like this recent example in Lynn, MA.

The mural's painted on the side of the historic Bishop's House building at 223 SW Harvey Milk (formerly Stark St.). The building looks extra fancy in front because it was built in 1879 as the official residence of the local Catholic archbishop, though due to a bit of exceptionally poor planning it only served in that role for a couple of years. The cathedral[3] next door was already being replaced by a larger one up in NW Portland, and when it opened this house was immediately obsolete and the archbishop had to move again. An 1892 panorama of downtown at Vintage Portland shows the Bishop's House sandwiched in between the old cathedral along 3rd and an ordinary 3-story commercial building facing 2nd. The latter building was probably demolished sometime in the 1950s to make room for today's surface parking lot, so that's where the blank wall for the mural came from. Jumping ahead to 2022, the house is now home to the Al-Amir Lebanese restaurant plus various offices upstairs. Some years ago -- and I remember seeing a news item about this at the time but can't find it now -- utility crews discovered underground wires connecting the Bishop's House building with the city's old police headquarters a block north on SW Oak, and the theory was that the wires were an old direct private phone line. It remains a mystery to this day what the line was for and who was calling whom and for what purpose.

Back in the pre-Covid era -- which seems like a billion years ago now -- I once had an office that directly faced this mural for a while. I liked it; it was colorful, and cheerful, and a big improvement over the vast blank wall it replaced. I'm kind of surprised I didn't do a post about it back then, but I suppose it didn't feel like there was any great urgency to it at the time.


1. Speaking of Canadian things, Ledo recently (2021) did a mural in Sudbury, Ontario in memory of Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, who was born there, and was kind of a big deal across Canada. Here's a CBC article about the mural. I've only been to Sudbury once, back in the mid-1990s, back when the town was most famous for the Inco Superstack, the world's second-highest smokestack (and highest in the Western Hemisphere) at 1250 feet. The superstack was built for what is still the world's largest nickel mine, back when people thought a tall smokestack dispersed toxins well enough that no additional pollution control gear was needed; you could tell you were approaching Sudbury by road because the surrounding forest became increasingly sparse and sickly-looking the closer you got, even before you got your first glimpse of the smokestack itself. The only thing I remember of the city itself was stopping for gas and the attendant saw my license plate and had never heard of Oregon before and had no idea there were states wedged in between California and the US-Canada border. I don't seem to have taken any photos of the place, though, despite how weird it seemed at the time. Anyway the big smokestack has been replaced with a couple of smaller ones and is supposed to be demolished at some point in the near future, so it's fortunate the city now has a new and much less toxic landmark for people to visit.

2.A 2020 GQ Magazine profile of the artist, co-produced with Lexus, argues that Ledo's style exceeds expectations just like the new 2021 Lexus IS does. Over on the youtubes, Doug DeMuro (a well-known auto reviewer with 4.4m subscribers) says it's just 'average', while another guy with 859 subscribers says DeMuro is wrong, which is how debates usually go over there. I have never driven one of these, or any sort of Lexus at all, and have no opinion whatsoever on the matter.

3.The old cathedral was demolished in 1895, not long after the panorama photo I linked to above was taken. A contemporary news item on the demolition said debris from the old building would be used in a new 2 story office building on the site. Which might be the same two story building that's there now. If so, the ground floor was home to the recently-departed and widely missed Cameron's Books, which had been there since the 1930s. For almost as long, the second floor was home to the Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant, which was reputedly the worst Chinese place in the whole metro area but somehow stayed in business anyway. A few years ago it morphed into today's "Golden Dragon Exotic Club", keeping the previous name and even inheriting its pile of single-star Yelp reviews. The whole building is pretty decrepit-looking these days and would likely have been torn down for condos or a luxury hotel ages ago if there wasn't a historic structure next door, mid-block in about the most inconvenient place possible. I suppose they could just build around it like the house in "Up", or the similar real-life one on the PSU campus. Long story short: Old building, semi-colorful backstory, draw whatever conclusions you like.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Park Place

Another of the many ongoing projects here involves tracking down public art around Portland (or wherever I happen to be at the time). I take a few photos of it, see what else I can find out about it on the interwebs, and (because this is an important serious-person website for those in the know) sometimes hazard a semi-informed opinion or two about it. I haven't done a lot of this lately, but I recently stumbled across something that's been on one of my todo lists for years now, so I figured I'd go ahead and finish the post about it now so it doesn't languish in drafts for ages like these things tend to do.

With that introduction out of the way, today we're having a look at Park Place, created in 1997 by Lloyd Hamrol. This consists of three groups of small brick stools or benches scattered around SE Portland's Woodstock Park. The linked RACC page describes it:

Hamrol’s “Park Place” presents itself as series of three intimate gathering places with benches scaled at alternating levels to accommodate both children and adults. The columns were designed to mirror the existing brickwork in the park and to make reference to the many strands of trees. Their varying sizes, heights, arrangements and surface patterns were intended to evoke both a sense of rational order along with the eccentricities of nature.

The three groups form a triangle in the unbusy north side of the park, roughly overlapping the off-leash dog area. My first thought, as a former teenager of the 1980s, was that these isolated groupings seem ideally suited to gothic brooding about goth things, clove cigarettes optional but likely. Though the brick seating would be much less appealing during the rainy months; gloom is one thing, hypothermia is quite another. Second thought, as a former child of the 1970s, is that the three groups are obviously solar systems, and the important thing here is to sprint back and forth between them as fast as possible, while holding a Lego spaceship and making spaceship noises. And keeping an eye out on the other two solar systems, just in case someone wanders by and mistakes your secret base in the Xyzax system for a bunch of free random Legos.

A third thought occurred to me while poking around Hamrol's website. A sited works page has an entry for Park Place along with other site-specific art, and it's quickly apparent that this one is kind of an outlier. The others tend to be much larger and often involve stone masonry in curved mathematical forms and that sort of thing (something I'm generally a big fan of). I haven't found any news items or exact numbers to verify this, but it just sort of feels like Park Place had a much lower budget than these other projects. Which could've been the plan from the beginning, of course, but this was also around the worst-ever point of Oregon's perpetual state & local budgetary woes, in the wake of the spotted owl wars and Measure 5's strict property tax limits. On top of all that, RACC (the regional arts agency that usually handles projects like this) would've been preoccupied back then trying to get its piece of the overdue, over-budget Westside MAX project over the finish line. In short there are any number of reasons that could have led up to an awkward conference call, or maybe a series of faxes, something like "Hey, change of plans, looks like we'll only have 15% of the budget we agreed on, are you still on board?", followed by "Ok, so what can we get for that price?" And what I'm really getting at here is that it somehow reminds me of the cute little Stonehenge from Spinal Tap, and it feels like there ought to be a funny-in-retrospect story behind it, but I can't find one so I'm just sort of guessing one into existence for entertainment purposes. Oh, and here's a movie clip for those who don't get the dated pop culture reference.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Dougan Creek Falls

Next up we've got a few photos of Dougan Creek Falls, a small waterfall a short walk from Dougan Falls, which we just visited in the previous post. Dougan Falls is on the Washougal River, about an hour's drive NE from Portland; Dougan Creek flows into the river just downstream of there; and Dougan Creek Falls is on the creek a short distance upstream from that confluence, if that makes sense. Or you could just go to the other post and look at the embedded map there. I mentioned this waterfall briefly in the Dougan Falls post, saying it's not worth driving an hour to see on its own merits, but if you're visiting the main falls anyway you might as well go have a look. So here we are, visiting it in a separate post, because I decided that was a rule here at one point a long time ago. Was I really that worried about running out of material? I don't remember why anymore, but changing the rule now would lead to things being inconsistent, which would bug me.

Only some of these photos are of the actual falls. Others are of the fast-flowing stretch of creek between there and the Washougal River, which is pretty photogenic too, with a few drops almost as tall as the 'real' waterfall. Though some of those are over very large logs, and waterfall pedants are in furious agreement that water flowing over a log doesnt count as a real waterfall no matter how big the log is. There's also a stretch where the creek slides over some bare rock at a low angle, and I gather there's a debate about what the minimum angle the drop has to be before it counts. And what all this really boils down to is that I wasn't sure what Dougan Creek Falls was supposed to look like going into this, so I took lots of photos of the whitewater parts just in case any of them turned out to be the thing I was there to see.

I was going to work in an analogy about this being the "B side" attraction, or the B movie on a double bill, before remembering that very few people under 50, or 40 tops, have any idea what those things even are. A more recent analogy might be, well, just about everything on basic cable for the last couple of decades. But I'm not sure anyone under 40 watches a lot of basic cable these days and likely never did. Ok, so in modern video game terms this is a side quest that pads out your total play time by a bit (so it feels more like you got your money's worth) but doesn't contribute to the main thrust of the game. I think that gets roughly the same idea across. Though I was never much of a gamer, to be honest.

Dougan Falls

Next up we've got some photos from Dougan Falls on the Washougal River, around 6 miles upstream (and up the road) from Salmon Falls, which we just visited in a recent post. This one is supposedly just 19 feet high, or 30 feet if you count a couple of smaller drops just downstream of it, but it's around a hundred feet wide, so it looks really impressive. I added the supposedly because it looks taller than that to me, but I'm also really bad at guessing heights of things, so I'm probably wrong here. It just feels like it ought to be taller than that, I dunno.

The pleasant fall day when I took these photos just happened to be Halloween, and Dougan Falls seemed to be a stop on someone's scavenger hunt for the occasion. I didn't ask anyone to explain since they all seemed to be in a big hurry, but I gather the goal of this stop was to take a group photo of your team having a picnic at the falls, optionally in costume. Every so often a car would pull up, people would spill out, lay out a blanket or set up a card table, take a few photos, pack everything back up, and head back the way they came. One group in formalwear had time for a cigarette break and a glass of bubbly or maybe cider, but overall I got the sense there may have been a few too many stops on the day's itinerary. Hopefully there was a fun party afterward that made it all worthwhile.

Unlike Salmon Falls, where your presence is distinctly unwelcome, here there's a whole day-use area with picnic tables, room for parking, and official access to the river. The area around the falls belongs to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, specifically their Yacolt Burn State Forest, which we last visited while checking out waterfalls along the Lewis River (further north of here) back in 2011. As the name suggests, this whole area ended up as state-owned land after the half-million acre Yacolt Burn back in 1902. A forest service map of the area (mostly covering their Gifford Pinchot National Forest) mentions that the adjacent campground and picnic area are operated by Skamania County rather than the state. Chapter 8.60 of their county code declares the area between Dougan Falls and the fish hatchery downstream a "Recreation Safety Corridor", and the rest of the chapter lists all the things you aren't allowed to do within said Safety Corridor: No drinkin', no shootin', no fireworks, no unauthorized camping or campfires, and a catch-all prohibition of "any activity including stopping or standing from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise (day use only)". Which is probably just official-ese for making the day-use areas day-use only, but the phrasing is kind of weird, like maybe the "stopping or standing" bit was added to close a loophole after someone with a good lawyer weaseled out of a ticket.

The reason for all these rules (as well as the campground and other facilities) is that the falls are a popular local swimming hole, and have been for as long as anyone remembers. And although the location feels pretty remote, it's still close enough to Portland to attract city people too. It made the Portland Mercury's 2014 list of summer swimmin' holes, which is a thing they put together for a big summer issue every few years. A 2013 Willamette Week article also mentions it & the rest of the river briefly, as a summer water activity for the whole family. (Most of the article concerns windsurfing in Hood River, so you'll have to scroll down a bit.) It also has largely positive Yelp reviews. A Youtube search on "Dougan Falls" and "diving" returns the usual stuff you'd expect, but also several clips of some people scuba diving below the main falls, as the river forms a surprisingly deep pool there. There are no coral reefs to explore here, and no need to ward off sharks or Bond henchmen with a speargun, but if you just want to go hang out with some trout (or chill with the salmon, in season), this is apparently a great place to do that.

Obviously there's more to do here than swim. There's waterfall hunting, obviously, which is how I first heard of this place. There's not much of anywhere to hike to from here, but I did come across one OregonHikers thread about it, I suppose because the "hiker" and "waterfall photo fan" Venn diagram overlaps by a lot. A short stroll across the day-use area does get you to nearby Dougan Creek Falls, a smaller and less impressive waterfall on the eponymous creek, a Washougal River tributary. That waterfall is not really worth visiting on its own merits, but it's so close by that you might as well pop over for a look if you're in the area anyway. But that's a separate blog post, which you'll see here as soon as I'm done with it, whenever that turns out to be.

If swimming around below the falls and leaping from the top seem too tame, you can always go over the falls in a boat. A page at American Whitewater describes the segment of the river ending at Dougan Falls, starting several miles upstream, which goes over enough waterfalls on the way down that it's come to be known as "the Waterfall Run". An Oregon Kayaking page describes the various challenges in more detail, if you're curious, or you could just watch these two videos of kayakers doing the Waterfall Run, and one of some rafters having a moderately bad day at Dougan Falls.

I was there well outside of peak outdoor fun season and didn't see anyone running the falls that day, and (other than scavenger hunters) most of the other people I saw were on motorcycles. It turns out this is a popular thing. I think I mentioned in the Salmon Falls post that the drive along Washougal River Road is ridiculously scenic. Motorcycle Roads Northwest recommends it as one of the best roads in Clark County, and a forum thread on another site has people going on about how much fun it is. Both mention turning around here, because the roads past Dougan Falls are all gravel. Motorcycles are not a subject I know anything at all about, but the sheer volume of tutorials and forum threads and such about how to ride on gravel tell me it's an acquired advanced skill, along the lines of driving a car on snow. For drivers of the four-wheeled persuasion, the Skamania County Chamber of Commerce recommends the road as a scenic drive, though their directions have you arrive at Dougan Falls the back way, via one of those gravel roads, and then turn off at Salmon Falls Road and head down to SR-14. Which skips a lot of the best scenery, but at least the route doesn't leave Skamania County at any point, which is the main thing, of course.

Dougan Falls also gets a quick mention in the 2015 book Gold Panning the Pacific Northwest, as the downstream end of the stretch of river where it's worth looking. The books says the very best spot along the Washougal River is much further upstream, at the mouth of -- wait for it -- Prospector Creek. Because early pioneers around here were so unimaginative that they literally gave away the spot where the gold was just because they couldn't think of anything else to call it. The book refers the reader to a 1977 Washington Dept. of Natural Resources circular, St. Helens and Washougal Mining Districts of the Southern Cascades of Washington for more info, and notes that the abandoned gold mines around the area are notoriously hard to find and usually concealed by vegetation. Which led me to a website called Mindat (as in "mined at", I think), and its map of said Washougal Mining District, and a page with photos of the district's long-abandoned "Last Chance Mine". Which I am not going anywhere near, because of a rather memorable safety lecture we got back in Cub Scouts about not going anywhere near abandoned mines. Which, unrelatedly, was right around the same time my parents decided that gold panning might be a fun outdoor activity for the whole family. It wasn't, unfortunately, as it involves a lot of uncomfortable squatting in the hot sun, swirling a pan of sand or mud around, finding nothing, and repeating this for hours on end. Or at least it seemed like hours on end; it may have been more like 20 minutes, exactly once, though the still-almost-brand-new gold pans sort of lingered around the house for years afterward. If I remember right, someone finally bought them when we had a garage sale years later, probably thinking they'd just stumbled across a new fun activity for their whole family.

If your personal hobbies lean more toward complaining about things on the internet, which -- let's be honest -- is true for quite a lot of people, you're also in luck. You might have noticed a few houses right at the falls, and more along the road just before you get there. Turns out there's a whole subdivision lurking in the forest just downstream of the falls, behind the houses you can see from the road. I'm not sure what the total population nearby is since it doesn't seem to count as an unincorporated community or even a census-designated place, but it does qualify as an official Nextdoor 'neighborhood'. So all you need to do is buy a house here so you can join that corner of Nextdoor, and then you can complain to your heart's content about kids these days, tourists, outsiders, newcomers, Californians, the government (federal, state, and county), and all of the other usual suspects. At least I assume that's what the Nextdoor group is for, going by what I've heard about all other Nextdoor groups. I don't imagine there's a lot of other breaking news happening around the greater Dougan Falls metro area, at any rate.

Downstream of the subdivision is the Kiwanis Club's Camp Wa-Ri-Ki, which until 1973 was the Washougal Honor Camp, a minimum-security work camp belonging to the state prison system. Inmates were kept busy fighting forest fires, planting trees, building logging roads, and so forth. The library's newspaper database has a few news items about the place, which may hint at why it closed after just over a decade in operation. It opened in August 1960, and had its first of many escapes a couple of weeks later. This was followed by escapes in 1961, 1965 (this time robbing a motel before being recaptured), 1966, 1967, June and July 1969 (possibly leading to awkward conversations years later, when asked what they were doing during the moon landing), and 1970. Things quieted down after the change in ownership and most mentions of the camp afterward were in connection with an annual craft fair. And that's about all the news there was about Dougan Falls and vicinity (at least in Portland newspapers) up until 2017 when it figured in a lurid Portland homicide case. It seems the killer dumped the body at the falls instead of a genuinely remote location because going any further would have involved driving on gravel, and that led rather directly to his getting caught. Legal wants me to put a disclaimer here to the effect that this is not meant as helpful advice on being better at crime, and should not be construed as such, as this is not that kind of website. And with that I'm going to do an abrupt & awkward transition to a different topic, because a.) I didn't want to end the post on a down note, and b.) avoiding that fairly recent news as if it didn't happen doesn't sit quite right either. So, switching gears in 3... 2... 1...

Um, anyway, one thing I've always liked to do here on this humble blog is link to other people's pages about the same place or thing I'm writing about. At first it was just to share other perspectives or images that I thought were interesting, which occasionally resulted in them linking back to me, incidentally boosting both of our search engine ranks in the process. But that doesn't really work anymore, plus now there's an important principle at stake. In 2022 it feels like a real achievement -- when writing a post like this -- to wade through a few dozen pages of search results, picking out the few that were created by actual human beings and aren't auto-generated junk created by an algorithm at some sketchy content farm. For some search categories it's already too late; search on the name of a street, any street, and you'll have to wade through real estate listings for every possible address on that street and others in the surrounding area, from several competing spammers, before you'll see a single result about anything else. Doesn't matter if a given property hasn't been on the market since before the internet existed; the top search result for it has already been claimed and is defended zealously. A few years ago the hot thing was to take the (freely available) US Board on Geographic Names database and do things like generate a "hunting and fishing report" page for every named body of water in the country, naturally including heavily polluted rivers in industrial Southside Chicago. Oh, and one for Dougan Falls even though the whole river upstream of Salmon Falls is a strict no-fishing zone. There are real estate listings, Yelp results, and more claiming to be for Bayocean, Oregon, even though the entire town fell into the ocean way back in the mid-20th century.

The auto-generated junk isn't always as obvious as the ones above, either; for a Dougan Falls example, let me point you at a couple of pages at and Narcity. Both are kind of clickbaity and are padded out by embedding other people's photos a la Buzzfeed. If I had to guess, my guess would be that the first was written by a live human and the second, unbylined one is by an AI, but I can't quite put my finger on why I think so, and I could easily be wrong on both counts. So yeah, realistically I don't actually think linking from one site way down on the tenth page of search results to another on the fifth or twentieth page is going to turn back the tide of garbage, but it still feels like it's worth doing. It's sort of a John Henry vs Skynet thing, if I can mix metaphors a bit.

Long story short, here's what I've got this time around:

Sunday, May 08, 2022

SE 6th & Stark street mural

Next up, here are a few photos of the other Green Loop street mural on the eastside, after the one at SE 2nd & Caruthers that we just visited. This one's at SE 6th & Stark St. and has sort of a Hispanic / Central American theme to it. The theme comes from being right outside the Milagro Theatre, the Northwest's only Hispanic live theater company. Which staged La Bici -- an original play with a bike safety theme -- in fall 2021, I guess in conjunction with the mural and the whole Green Loop PR effort.

I didn't really have a lot of material for this post, or any other super-genius startup ideas to share with you, so I put the intersection into the library's Oregonian database to see if anything interesting had ever happened here. It turns out that way back in 1924 there was actually a bike shop here, or (strictly speaking) a motorcycle dealer that also sold bikes. The classified ads read "BICYCLES, $10 DOWN, $1 PER WK., Tricycles, coasters, scooters, etc., EAST SIDE MOTORCYCLE CO., Cor. E 6th-Stark. EA 1000". More ads of theirs appeared starting in 1933, now advertising that they sold new Harleys as well as used motorcycles of all types. An assortment of other industrial-type businesses followed, which I won't bore you with since it's just not very interesting.

I also tried searching on the theater's street address, which also wasn't very interesting until around 1948 when the current building went in. The new building was originally home to the shiny, new House of Fong Chinese restaurant & nightclub. Which in that era would have naturally had space for a live band and dancing after a dinner of inauthentic Chinese food. I'm imagining something along the lines of Club Obi-Wan in the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, though perhaps without the huge Hollywood song-and-dance production numbers. This space also doubled as banquet space so your large business or fraternal group could have a big party here, and the papers listed lots of these events over the next couple of years. These notices stopped abruptly in October 1950, so the place may have gone out of business right around then. One of the last mentions of the club came in May when a safecracker (who was arrested elsewhere in town) was found with plans to the House of Fong building, and a receipt for buying a gun.

The empty building was advertised for sale occasionally for a few years, eventually becoming the Backstage Coffee House sometime before 1961. This was obviously long before my time, but the name and the date make me think beatniks, free jazz, and improv poetry, maybe some avant-garde theater or interpretive dance, that sort of thing. And sure enough, the first mention of the place in the paper was when it became the venue for a new local repertory theater company. It seems the coffee house stayed open rather late and segued into the Backstage Club (featuring live music again) at some point in the evening, and later that year it saw a police raid for violating the city's new after-hours dancing ordinance, with several arrests including the club's 71 year old co-owner. The news story explained that Portlanders of 1961 were not permitted to dance in public after 1:30am, unless the club had a liquor license in which case patrons could keep dancing until 2:30am. I'm not sure of the subsequent details of that particular legal drama, but by December of that year the club was advertising that it opened at 2:30am, 7 nights a week, featuring a gentleman named Wally Dee at the piano bar. The aforementioned co-owner passed away in 1962, and her obit mentioned that she had once had her own jazz orchestra that performed regularly at the Crystal Ballroom (yes, that Crystal Ballroom). In 1963 the club or some part of it was known as the Downstage nightclub, which saw another police raid, this time for various liquor law violations, with six arrests for various severe offenses such as drinking liquor from a plastic container.

That may have been curtains for the club, as the next time the street address appeared in the paper was in 1967 when it became home to Eagles Lodge No. 3256, and various fraternal activities ensued for the next decade or so. 1975 saw yet another police raid, this time for operating an illegal bingo game. Five people were arrested, one on felony charges, although all charges were dropped soon afterward when it turned out the police had not gotten a warrant first before barging in.

The Eagles migrated elswhere around 1977, and after that the building was briefly home to a craft mall in 1978, and an Asian-style furniture store in the 1980s, before becoming the present-day theater in the early 90s.

So that's what I've got for this particular location, but if you're still interested in history and are up for a longer bike ride, might I suggest continuing east on Stark to see the old Stark St. Milestones, a series of stone distance markers that continue east along Stark all the way to Mt. Hood Community College, with one marker per mile minus a few that have been misplaced since the mid-19th century. Milestone P2 is the first you'll encounter, embedded in the north wall of Lone Fir Cemetery. If you get to MHCC and you're still up for a longer ride, the same milestone numbering continues east as part of the Columbia River Highway, with mile 31 putting you west of Multnomah Falls, and mile 35 is around the Ainsworth freeway exit. The HCRH bike trail will (largely) get you as far as The Dalles, and fragments of the old road continue east as far as Pendleton. At which point it becomes the Old Oregon Trail Highway and continues eastward to Idaho and points unknown. If you're feeling ambitious, I mean.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

SE 2nd & Caruthers street mural

Next up is another of the city's four(?) new-ish Green Loop murals, this time on the eastside where SE Caruthers deadends west of 2nd Ave., between the Portland Opera building and the docks for the Portland Spirit fleet, hence the musical theme on this one. This is a quiet dead-end street for cars, but as a bike route it's a major intersection between the Springwater Trail, the Tilikum Bridge, the Eastbank Esplanade, people headed to or from OMSI & the Hawthorne Bridge, and I guess now for people doing the Green Loop thing too. Meaning if you're a mere pedestrian and you're here taking photos of the mural, you really need to watch out for traffic and not just stand in the street like a drunk Tour de France spectator.

Unlike the two westside plazas, I don't think this one was meant to host food trucks even seasonally. But given the level of bike traffic through here, it might be a good site for a super-genius idea I had a while back. So here's the startup pitch: If you're commuting by bike and are hungry on the go, right now you need to stop somewhere, get off the bike, and order something, and wait. Meanwhile SUV Steve, your office archnemesis, can just roll through the nearest drive-thru. (Which means SUV Steve consistently gets to the office before you, lands that big promotion, and gets an even bigger SUV, destroying the world even faster, just to be clear on what's at stake here.) The pro cycling world has solved this problem already: Riders roll through a feed zone partway through the race, grab a musette bag from a team soigneur, and continue on their way without stopping or even slowing down very much. Imagine that crossed with a Portland food cart: You'd order and pay through the app ahead of time, and give a rough ETA for when you might be there, and then just roll through and snag your breakfast burrito and keep going, and be at work on time for that one crucial meeting. There'd be an RFID tag scheme or something along those lines to match the right bag to the correct rider, and a newbie lane for people who aren't good at the bag-grabbing part of the arrangement, and some way for people to return the reusable bags, and a really solid EULA so nobody can sue you if they crash after a bungled handoff or something. But overall I think this could totally work, given the right location, at least on a seasonal basis.

The reason I'm telling you all of this instead of pitching it to VCs is that I don't actually want to be in the food service business again, personally, and especially not in a way that involves getting up at zero-dark-thirty to make the breakfast burritos. Don't want to deal with Portland customers again, or constantly hiring and training new food-cart soigneurs (who are bound to get sick of being rained on before long). And before any of that, navigating the city's kafkaesque permit system. And at some point doing a few weeks of crisis PR when it turns out some of your customers are egregious litterbugs. So if any of that sounds more appealing to you than it does to me, feel free to go ahead and have at it, be my guest, and remember that I have absolutely zero liability if things don't work out in practice.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Madison Street Plaza mural

Ok, here are some photos of yet another painted intersection, once again in downtown Portland. If you aren't familiar with this mildly weird local thing, the previous one of these that I covered back in January tries to explain a bit. The current one we've visiting is another twist on the usual theme in that it's an official city government project by the Bureau of Transportation and painted by hired artists, not at all a community volunteer thing. Madison St. Plaza here (which is just across from the Portland Art Museum) is one of at least four new 'plazas', all painted as part of a wider effort the city calls "The Green Loop", which is a bit hard to explain. It's sort of an official bike loop around the central city -- that's downtown plus the central eastside -- enhanced with things that are either trendy here right now, or were trendy before Covid, or at least were cool sometime in the last 15 years or so. So, occasional "everybody ride the Green Loop today" events, complete with obscure local bands you probably haven't heard of playing along the route; food cart pods; street paintings like the one here; that sort of thing. I was all ready to snark about this; I figured the city was trying to create a Disney-fied version of the real things, aimed at tourists and rich developers and conveniently close to upscale hotels downtown and around the Convention Center, and routed past the front doors of sponsoring businesses.

Eventually I realized what the city was really up to. Despite our heavily cultivated reputation around being the perfect bike & pedestrian city, we still have a really high rate of traffic fatalities and serious injuries here, and the numbers keep increasing, which leads to people asking the city how they're going to fix it. The city seems to think that one quick and easy, if partial, mitigation would be if people would stick to side streets more and avoid riding in heavy traffic and darting around 18-wheelers and gigantic SUVs from the 'burbs. You can even put together a network of these safer routes around town and give out maps. The city's done that for years now, and some people pay attention to that sort of thing religiously and others... don't. A lot of other people respond badly to safety-based appeals; they see it as victim blaming, or at least being told to eat their vegetables instead of just gobbling glucose gel packs all the time. So the plan, as I understand it, is to take the existing safer routes and make them look cool and trendy, so people will sort of gravitate to them of their own accord without any safety lectures. At least I think that's what the plan is, unless I'm giving them too much credit.

Whether the execution on the street murals and the curation of food carts and so forth is good enough to pull this off is a whole other question, obviously. And of course there will be cynics out there who see right through what the city's trying to do and reject it out of hand, and if too many people start thinking that way the city will have to come up with an alternative (but still safe) route that isn't 'corporate', but without anyone clueing in that it's another safety campaign. But hey, that's why city bureaucrats make the big bucks. Or at least why they have a good pension plan. I mean, I assume they still have a good pension plan, I dunno.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

assorted spring flowers, 2022 edition

Welp, it's the end of the month again, and I seem to have spent March 2022 playing hooky from writing and editing, instead taking pictures of flowers and goofing off with various combos of weird lenses and old (2000s & mid-2010s) digital cameras from Goodwill. So that's what I'll be posting this month. Gotta keep the old once-a-month-since-2005 streak going, after all.

I could probably turn this into another overlong post rambling on about various lenses and whatnot, which would then end up stalled in Drafts for months as I agonize over whether it sounds pretentious, or hipstery, or just tedious (and people talking about photo gear on the internet is very often all three); whether it appeals to a sufficiently broad audience (for all the good that's ever done me), that sort of thing. And then you, o Gentle Reader(s), would finally get a bunch of flower photos just as the fall leaves are turning, and I know better than to specify which fall. More to the point, I have about 45 minutes to finish this thing and there's no way I'd even have a first draft ready by then, so for now we'll all have to settle for some random flowers without context. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Salmon Falls, Washougal River

The next installment of the ongoing waterfall thing takes us to Salmon Falls, a low (7') waterfall on the Washougal River about an hour's drive NE of Portland. The link goes to its rather cranky Northwest Waterfall Survey page, which is mostly about why it's too small and doesn't deserve its own page, and only has one because it has an official name and a major road and bridge are named after it.

It has a nice setting and is reasonably picturesque, despite a rather ugly fish ladder on one side of it. So if you feel like visiting, it's visible just upstream of the Salmon Falls Rd. bridge, which you can get to by going out SR14, turning at the same place you would for Cape Horn, but continuing north a few miles instead of parking at the lot there. Or just take Washougal River Road til you get to that bridge, which is a slightly longer but more picturesque route.

Once there, your best bet is to park at the turnout on the south side of the bridge and walk halfway across the bridge and take your photos from there. After that there really isn't anything else to do here. You can't get any closer to the falls, or down to anywhere on the river upstream or downstream of there. It really looks like this ought to be a nice community swimming hole or river access spot, but instead you're confronted by lots of very stern "Private Property" and "No Trespassing" signs, even more than what you'd ordinarily see in a very conservative rural area like this. There's actually an interesting story behind this, which I'll get to in a minute.

Before we get to that, a bit on the significance of the falls, which seemed to mystify the Waterfall Survey reviewer. The page mentions that this was said to be a historical barrier to migrating salmon but is doubtful about this claim. It's true, though. In general, any sheer drop over about six feet is a barrier to migrating salmon, since for most salmon species that's about as high as they can jump in a single leap. (Chum salmon are a bit less talented in the jumping department and can only manage something like 4-5 feet.) This would just be an interesting bit of fish trivia, except that it was key to a mid-20th Century scheme by salmon biologists to try to improve on nature.

By the 1950s, fishery scientists had figured out that salmon runs were declining across the Northwest, and they even knew the reasons why, more or less, hydroelectric dams and other habitat losses being the major contributors. They also understood, correctly, that there was zero chance of fighting the dam-building industry and winning in those days, and came up with an alternative they hoped would avoid that fight. The idea was that all across the Northwest there were whole watersheds that ought to be perfect salmon territory, if not for a waterfall or two in the way, often just a foot or two too high for salmon to get past. So they figured that putting in a fish ladder here and there would let salmon pass these barriers. Which, in theory, would open up a vast swath of territory for new salmon runs, replacing the ones lost to dams, and everyone lives happily ever after.

A big complicating factor is that under normal circumstances, salmon imprint on their stream of origin and want to return there and nowhere else, and won't go looking for a new stream if home ends up behind a dam. Obviously sometimes they do go rogue and look for new territory, otherwise they wouldn't have been all over the region in the first place, but exactly what environmental cues make them do this are still not understood very well. A 2009 thesis I ran across summarizes what was known about it at that point, and in the 1950s it would have been a complete mystery. So (as explained in a 1956 Oregonian article about the newly modernized Washougal River) they dealt with the salmon-and-egg problem by building a whole fish production system, centered on a fish hatchery about as far upstream as you want the new salmon run to go, along with fish ladders at all barriers downstream so the salmon can do their one-and-done commute. Then you start with some migrating fish collected somewhere else, fertilize the eggs in a big vat, and raise the baby salmon in pens until they're big enough to release, and hopefully they imprint on the river and hatchery at that point. Then they swim out to the sea for a few years, and eventually instinct leads them right back to the hatchery, where they're stunned and processed into new baby salmon. This process is not exactly nature's beautiful circle of life at work, and the whole rationale behind it has really fallen out of favor now, but it does more or less work as designed, and it provides a guilt-free supply of catchable salmon, so I guess there's that.

Aside from fishing, parts of the Washougal River have also become popular for whitewater sports, and there are a couple of pages at American Whitewater for river segments that begin and end right around the falls. The latter page notes that the historic take-out above the falls is private property and boaters are no longer welcome there. Down in the comments there's a repost of a belligerent email dated 2006 and addressed to the site admins, pointing out that the state only owns the fish ladder, while all the land around it is private property, and the landowner will definitely call the sheriff and press charges against all who trespass there. The email then demands they remove any mention of Salmon Falls from the website (which they obviously haven't done), and finishes by saying so-and-so "pays the taxes".

The "pays the taxes" bit was an odd phrasing and it piqued my curiosity. A few minutes of googling led me to the 2011 decision in a long-running land dispute dating back to sometime before 1963. This wasn't a trespassing case, exactly, but an adverse possession situation. This is the legal doctrine that if you live on or use a piece of property as if you own it, for some amount of time, and nobody stops you, you become the new legal owner. You don't have to actually squat there full time, but you do have to use it, and the exact definition of "use" depends on the nature of the property. That could mean farming on farmland, and for commercial property it might be running a business there, or paying bills, or doing maintenance, or collecting rent. In this case, the disputed land was a steep, blackberry-choked hillside with no obvious uses at all, beyond a couple of trails the plaintiff/adverse possessor had created for their own personal access to the river. Apparently the legal precedent here is that no matter how useless a property seems to be, the act of putting up "No Trespassing" signs or otherwise excluding people from the land counts as using it, since that's the full extent of what any owner could do with it. This wasn't a purely hypothetical issue here, since the general public had come to see this as a customary river access spot, and a previous landowner was on record saying it was basically futile trying to keep people out, though he'd call the sheriff sometimes when things got out of hand. Also at issue, apparently, was which adjacent landowner had put up "No Trespassing" signs first, and who was more diligent about replacing these signs after they were stolen or vandalized. The court found in favor of the plaintiff -- the person who "pays the taxes" in that 2006 nastygram was the primary defendant -- and the case ended in 2012 when the state Supreme Court declined to review the decision.

I'm not a lawyer, and have no opinion about the case or its outcome either way; I just like finding a clear explanation for all the anti-trespassing signs, so I don't have to guess, which usually ends up as a ridiculous yarn about Bigfoot. Looking around the area nearly a decade later, the place just had kind of a weird and bad vibe to it, even though I couldn't put my finger on exactly why at the time. It seems as though the whole area settled down into a sort of tense neighborhood Cold War after the case wrapped up, neighbor against neighbor, and each neighbor separately against you, an outsider and potential trespasser (and thus a threat to their land title). This is probably not somewhere where you'd want to have car trouble and need to knock on anyone's door for help.

If it's any consolation, when agents Mulder and Scully stop by a few weeks or months later to investigate what really happened to you, they'll almost certainly uncover some sort of ancient evil that's the real reason behind the endless courtroom battle, for all the good that will do you. In support of this theory, here's a strange YouTube video from Salmon Falls that I only ran across after hitting 'publish' on the first version of this post. It seems there's some kind of creepy underwater cave or rock formation or structure right at the falls called "The Tube", and the poster got in the water there to check it out, and it's bound to be related to the aforementioned ancient evil somehow. It might be a lair, or a portal, or something along those lines. That's all I know about the place, because there's nothing else about it on the interwebs as far as I can tell, and any narration the video had has gone missing because the poster unwisely set it to a Pink Floyd song, and the music industry muted it. Allegedly for copyright reasons, but it stands to reason the copyright police are in league with the ancient evil, and are doing their part to keep the truth from getting out there. That, or the whole thing is a plot by Google to sell YouTube Premium, since signing up supposedly unmutes the video. Also here's a video of a guy unwisely jumping off the bridge at Salmon Falls, ending right as he hits the water. Just gonna assume he was drawn there against his will, and eaten right after that. But enough about Salmon Falls.