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GOA, NAFY, and RACC

GOA is happy to announce that, as a result of our successful pilot program last summer, The Regional Arts and Culture Council has kindly awarded us a grant to work with our friends at New Avenues for Youth on a series of adventures–as well as a great final project–for ’09.

Throughout the summer, we’ll be getting these awesome young people out into some of the beautiful natural areas around Portland, and writing about and photographing our adventures. Then, we’ll be working with the young folks to help them produce a book of their work by the end of the year.

Thanks RACC!

Looking forward to it, New Aves!

A scene from last year's Willamette paddle with New Aves.

A scene from last year's Willamette paddle with New Aves.

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One of the most incongruous sounds in the wilderness (in our humble opinion) is the ratchety-raspy machine-like defense/distress call of an alarmed squirrel. We’re (obviously) having a hard time describing it, but will tell you with certainty that when you are hiking in the woods, you’ll darn well know when you’ve managed to perturb one of these critters.

Of course, the ones we are used to seeing around town would have time to do nothing but rasp themselves silly if they made all that fuss in, say, your local park. Nope, like the ravens and crows we talked about in the previous post, our squirrel neighbors have learned not just to live, but to thrive among us.

They do love our attics, decks, and sheds, and are only too happy to take up residence therein. (You didn’t think they were all out there building nests in trees, did you?)

They are also pretty darn smart when it comes to getting fed. They find bird feeders pretty easy pickings, much to the annoyance of many. No matter what contraptions we invent to keep them off the feeders, they seem to solve the puzzle. Take a look at this video from a British documentary:

Pretty remarkable, huh?

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Whichever of the noisy, omnipresent black birds we have here in Portland (we believe it’s ravens, please correct us if we’re wrong), they are always a reminder that bit of wild nature still exist in the midst of our busy city lives.

While their call may not be the most mellifluous sound you ever heard, and there are theories out there that they may have something to do with the declining numbers of songbirds, there’s one thing you can’t take away from them: They know not only how to live among us humans, but to use our technology for their own purposes–in ways that are pretty amazing, actually.

Here’s a youtube clip of some pretty clever crows using cars as giant rolling nutcrackers–even refining the technique to work with crosswalks and traffic signals:

How did they come upon this knowledge? Probably just a coincidence the first time, but to put two and two together like that and actually plan that outcome is . . . well, it’s beyond anything we’d ever think possible for a bird, put it that way.

There are lots more such clips on youtube, Like this one where a crow uses bread (which, mind you, he could just as well eat himself) to catch a fish (looks like a Bluegill to us).

Kind of makes you wonder just who we have living among us, doesn’t it?

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All 58?

Ken Burns’ latest film project got us thinking: would it be reasonable, (or even a remotely possible) goal to try and visit every last one of America’s national parks in one’s lifetime? Our searching of the interwebs has uncovered at least one man who did so–who, in fact, did even better by visiting all 388 sites in the NP system.

As you can tell by Alan Hogenauer’s story, 388 was a 50-year project. It wouldn’t take nearly as long to get the 58 parks (heck, a busy week or so in and around Utah could net you seven of them right there) but it would, of course still take some serious time and effort.

We’ve googled ourselves silly and we’re kind of surprised that we can’t find anyone else who has done it–just a lot of people who have stated visiting every national park as a lifetime goal. Will they get there? Who knows.

There are quite a few people who have visited every Major League ballpark, however, in case you were interested.

So, if you want to do this seemingly very doable thing that surprisingly few people (maybe just one?) have done, we’re thinking the keys are dedication and getting a somewhat early start.

So go do it!

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Oh, and if you do, please take your camera!

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The benefits of spending time outdoors–whether it be a major backpacking trip or just sitting on the grass under a tree–are for all intents and purposes, inarguable.

Fresh air, exercise, sunshine, new experiences . . . no one in their right mind would contend that these aren’t healthy, important, and fun.

But why do we at Great Outdoors Academy find that writing, drawing, or photographing our experiences outdoors are just as healthy, important, and fun?

First of all, and perhaps most mundanely, it helps us remember. If we stumble upon a great campsite, walk, or vista, we want to mark down how, when, and why we got there so we can return some day, or tell a friend how to get there.

Secondly, it helps us connect in real time with the place we find ourselves in. Most of the time, our minds are swirling with thoughts and very few get through to the point that we actually notice them and how they are affecting us. Writing helps us know what is going on in the lives of our minds at any given moment.

Writing outside, we get to discover ourselves and the world at the same time.

You won't know until you get there.

You won't know until you get there.

Last but not least, we find that what we write about, we care about. If we sit by a clear mountain stream and take photos, write about, or paint the pristine scene we are enjoying–only to come back a year later and find it littered with camp trash, we tend to take that personally, and want to do something about it.

Long story short (pun intended) the expressive arts help us belong to the outdoors, and help the outdoors belong to us.

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The Camping Guitar

Anyone who loves the outdoors and also plays the guitar (even if you just know a few chords!) should have a camping guitar.

Sitting around the campfire, you’re the rock star you always thought you should be. Hey, who else is around to steal your thunder, right? All the attention is right where it should be–on you, my friend.

We’ve always found that people love a good singalong, and they’ll really let loose with their vocal prowess much more readily in the wild–if only to keep the bears away.

So what makes a good camping guitar? Well naturally, it’s got to be an instrument that you don’t mind scratching up a bit, dragging through the dirt, leaning on a tree–even using for firewood if necessary (kidding, sort of). Other than that, it’s just important to pick something that will stay in tune.

But the two most important things are: don’t ever spend any more than fifty bucks for a camping guitar, and never EVER play “The House at Pooh Corner” by Kenny Loggins.

campfire guitar

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TImberline Murals

At GOA, we love it when the arts and the outdoors come together in timeless fashion. Oregonian writer Larry Bingham took a look this week into the life and work of Douglas Lynch, the Portland artist who created the outstanding murals at Timberline Lodge. The story and photos are here.

One of the things that struck us most about the story is how, during the recovery plans from the Great Depression, jobs were included for writers and artists.

It’s just kind of interesting to think there was a time when those sorts of things were thought of as important, ya know?

Douglas Lynch Mural

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