Of the Baker City Herald

Whether it was pulling that last trout out of the Powder River, taking a last tentative venture across the monkey bars, cycling the Leo Adler Parkway or rescuing a stolen bicycle from a watery grave, Baker County's youngest residents found diversions Monday on what is for many the toughest day of the year the last day of summer vacation.

Friends James Whitebread, 11, and Robbie Kuschel, 10, may attend different schools and are a grade apart, but they agreed that a day spent fishing in the river near the Baker County Library was andquot;way betterandquot; than their impending nine-month term in the classroom.

andquot;No way I want school to start,andquot; Whitebread said during a break from the fun of drowning worms. andquot;It makes my head hurt to think that much.andquot;

After a morning in which they caught and released three trout, the boys planned to spend the rest of the day andquot;finding a calm spot in the river we can swim in,andquot; Kuschel said.

Fourteen-year-old friends Jamie Collins and Heather Ewing also were looking for a special spot in the river but not for swimming. Instead, they kept an eye out for Ewing's stolen bicycle.

andquot;A friend of mine heard someone bragging that they'd stolen it and dumped it near the Boys Jungle,andquot; Ewing said. andquot;I only had it a year, and it's a great bike, a Mongoose worth $200. I want it back.andquot;

Jason Stone laced up a pair of rollerblades and pushed his sons, Blake, 3, and Beau, seven months, in a made-for-two stroller along the Parkway near the library.

It was the day before Blake was ready to start his academic career, at Baby Jumpin' Jacks Preschool.

andquot;We decided to visit all the parks and schools today and play on all their (playground) equipment,andquot; Jason said. andquot;Mom's on vacation all week, and we needed some kind of exercise.andquot;

Sisters Emily and Abigail Smith, who are 8 and 7, respectively, also took to the Parkway aboard Stingray bikes on their last morning of freedom.

The two said they'd just returned from a visit to the Oregon State Fair with their grandmother, which they followed up with a day at Lincoln City, a day that would have been a lot more fun if it weren't so windy, Emily explained.

Both girls said they looked forward to their first day of school and well they should, said their mother, Karla Smith.

andquot;They've both got great teachers (Emmy Albrecht and Kathy Mitchell),andquot; she said. andquot;And the girls really look forward to getting back to the daily routine of school.andquot;

Baker High School freshman Leigh Carpenter, who rode the day away on his skateboard, is not looking forward to the beginning of school.

He spent his relaxing vacation days andquot;skateboarding, watching movies and having fun.andquot;

At least he thinks one part of school will be okay his electives of basic metals and small engines. They'll offer him some techniques to build on his past experience.

andquot;I've ripped apart small engines before, nothing big,andquot; he said.

Eight-year-old Sarah Lusk doesn't really mind that summer is over because she said school andquot;is going to be a lot of fun.andquot; She will be a third-grader in Bonnie Gast's class at Brooklyn.

She and her little brother, Bobby, 5, spent two hours crossing monkey bars and hanging upside down on the playground equipment at the park.

Sarah said she really likes the park for its location right next to the library. She read a lot during her vacation, and likes the fact that in school she generally gets a half-hour of free reading time.

Bobby, whose favorite part of the summer was the carnival and its stomach-turning rides, will be a kindergartner in Bonnie Taie's class.