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A new forest that’s as natural as the old one

We hiked up to the Elkhorn Crest Trail on one of those early autumn days when both the nostalgia of summer, and the treachery of the coming winter, are palpable.

It was, to be specific, the final day of September.

Which is about as early as you can get in autumn.

Although quite late, obviously, for September.

Our route was the Cunningham Cove trail. 

This path starts next to the North Fork of the John Day River, within sight of the Forest Service’s historic (and rentable, July 1-Oct. 31) Peavy Cabin, and climbs 2,000 feet to the Crest Trail.

And by “climb” I don’t mean the gentle ascent of the quadriceps-friendly, switchbacking trails common to the Wallowas.

The grade of the Cunningham Cove trail alternates between merely grueling and borderline ridiculous.

Sometimes casting a vote feels like a gamble

By Jayson Jacoby

Baker City Herald

When I read “The Grange” I think of potlucks where the apple pie is always exquisite and the conversation, inevitably, turns to crops.

I don’t think of slot machines and roulette wheels.

But I might have to start.


The personal touch that can mean so much

I spent part of the summer of my 16th year in southern Germany, honing my language skills and acquiring a taste for large, soft pretzels and Bavarian pilsner.

The language skills, never formidable, have atrophied considerably over the ensuing years.

I still enjoy a cold beer, though.

For the first few days of my European tour I wasn’t thinking about my accent or about malt beverages.

I was just miserable.

Homesick, to be specific.

And my case of that common affliction was, or so it seemed to me then, an especially nasty strain, one peculiar to teenagers who haven’t ever been alone in a foreign land and who struggle mightily to conjugate vital Germanic verbs.

(Even today, more than a quarter century later, the phrase “past participle of the neuter form” fills me with dread.)

A sea of relative tranquility in a fiery summer

By Jayson Jacoby

Baker City Herald Editor

Wildfires have been much in the news this summer, as is typical here in the arid inland West.

Yet Baker County ranks as something of a tranquil anomaly amidst the breathless recounting of square miles scorched, and the dramatic scenes of leaping flames.

With the notable — and unfortunate — exception of the Sardine fire in mid-August, which temporarily damaged about 6,100 acres of valuable livestock grazing land east of Baker City, the 2012 fire season hereabouts has been distinguished by the absence of fire rather than the abundance.

Wilderness slobs staining Baldy Lake’s beauty

By Jayson Jacoby

Baker City Herald Editor

I like wilderness but I wouldn’t want to live there.

It’s not enough like my family room, for one thing.

Sitting on an old log in a camp a dozen miles from the nearest road, and watching the rays of the westering sun transform a slope of drab granite into ivory sculpture, is memorable indeed.

The government is ruining little kids’ big days

Never mind what President Obama wants to do to your tax bill.

The man is up to something vastly more insidious than squandering your nest egg.

He has ruined thousands of little kids’ birthday parties across our fair land this summer.

And who knows what’ll happen with Halloween and Christmas coming up.

I’m serious.

Kids are being turned into social pariahs because their soirees lack the necessary and expected accoutrements.

Helium balloons.

The culprit in this scandal is the federal government.

And we know who’s in charge of that.


Watching a child’s first steps to independence

The real landmark moment for a parent isn’t watching your child walk with timid steps into a classroom for the first time.

It’s what happens later the same day.

When the kid comes bounding out of the building, backpack straps bouncing off her little shoulders and a big smile on her face.

That’s when you know that her world has expanded, finally and irretrievably, to include a place where you will always be something of an interloper.

A place where you are always welcome, to be sure.

But also a place where you are not, strictly speaking, necessary.

Anti-bullying attire, and reality TV’s reach

The other day’s mail delivered an interesting package to my office desk.

(It’s my only desk, actually, so the “office” is superfluous; at home I just pile stuff on top of the TV, where it’s perfectly positioned to fall on my toes. And does.)

Inside the sturdy envelope was a black cotton T-shirt bearing on its chest the word “BULLY” printed inside a lemon-yellow circle, with a watermelon-red diagonal line slashing through the word.

This, of course, is a popular, and T-shirt-friendly, way to brand something — anything — as undesirable.

The “Ghostbusters” movie logo is perhaps the most famous example of the style. But you can insert just about any word or object into that slashed circle — “WAR,” for instance, or a photograph of Phil Collins, and get your point across.

Portland chews on remaining fluoride-free

By Jayson Jacoby

Baker City Herald Editor

So it looks as though Portland, the city which venerates the bicycle with near religious fervor, might decide whether dental health is as important as cardiovascular.

The dread specter of fluoride, humble defender of our collective enamel, has risen once again to haunt the City of Roses.

Anthony Lakes’ future, and summer’s past

Most times I enjoy talking with people who aren’t from Baker County. In particular I like to meet out-of-towners whose interest in our fair land is rather more substantial than wondering how quickly they can refill their fuel tank and get back on the freeway.

This foreign perspective can help dissipate the fog of provincialism that I fear obscures my perspective.

(Literally foreign, on occasion — last Sunday I met a group of French hikers up at Anthony Lake. I tried to explain how to get to the Lakes Lookout and then I worried all afternoon that I had led the visitors astray. The problem wasn’t language — one of the hikers spoke more precise English than I do — but my abysmal ability to convey the various trail and road junctions and the general lay of the land.)

Perhaps “obscures” is too harsh a verb.

Although my affection for Baker County is great, it has not rendered the place’s blemishes invisible to my eyes.

(I don’t, however, need some carpetbagger to tell me there’s some junky looking yards around. Every town has those, and well that this is so; a man’s castle and all that, even if the castle has roof shingles shaped like Fritos and a yard that could hide a herd of wildebeests.)

What I mean is that certain things I take for granted pique the curiosity of people who don’t get their mail here.

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