Ideas to Survive an Extended Shoulder Season.

8 01 2018

Many parts of the country may never experience a shoulder season for outdoor activities.  In western Oregon the shoulder season phenomena usually occurs in spring and fall as trails get too wet to ride, snow is too shallow to ski, rocks are too wet to climb and conditions are overall more challenging to deal with.  Normally by early January we are out of the shoulder season and full swing into winter activities, but this year that’s not the case.  The snow is refusing to fall!

There is an upside to shoulder seasons as most people are driven inside by the conditions and stay home.  Finding a partner to join in your adventure may be more difficult, but if you are seeking solitude this can be a great time to find it.  Gear to stay relatively comfortable and multiple activity options to match current conditions can allow you to remain outside playing all year long.

Kayaking and canoeing is the classic in-between season activity.  Whether whitewater or flat, paddlesports require water and water is often in high supply as it falls in autumn and snow melts in the spring.  With the correct gear, kayaking can keep the active outdoors person sane during rainy shoulder seasons that make many other activities not possible.


Traveling a short distance can show a significant difference in weather.  In western Oregon a short drive to the coast may bring warmer weather and no rain.  It can also bring large storms and wind so check the weather throughout the week to see changes in the forecast.  The shoulder season is a perfect time to visit the sand dunes if you have never been there.  Unlike in summer, crowds are few and noise is minimal.  A clear evening spent on the expansive dunes is similar to clear evenings on snowy slopes and it’s way easier to cook fresh oysters over a fire.  Florence and Winchester Bay dunes both offer camping on the dunes for $10.  Make sure to research the rules and regulations before heading out. Dunes Rec Guide

sand 1

Bike touring is a great activity that can take advantage of short two day breaks in weather.  The adventure starts directly from your doorstep and in many areas, 35 miles outside of town is all that’s needed for a great destination.  Depart Saturday at noon and return Sunday at noon with plenty of opportunity for stories in between.  Beware that winter clothing and sleeping bags take up much more space in your packs than traditional summer touring gear.


If you still can’t find the motivation to get out, use the time to check over your gear and fix the needs that are neglected during the prime season.  Explore maps and plan your next adventure or watch countless online videos that might help spark your next mission idea.

However you do it, don’t let this extended shoulder season get you down.  Try new things that fit the conditions, search out new places and find yourself alone in the great outdoors.

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Berry Season

5 07 2017
Portland Farmers Market Strawberries

Portland Farmers Market (Photo credit: Allison Jones)

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting Oregon berry season, you aren’t alone. Portland’s Ken Forkish (owner of Ken’s Artisan Bakery and three-time semi-finalist for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef) fully embraces the bounty of Oregon berries each summer. “The joy is in the variety that we have. Once summer kicks in, it is a different berry every week,” he says. With local berries ripening throughout the season, you can enjoy a summer of fruit.

Look for strawberries from early May through June and then again in August through September. “Late season strawberries have more flavor because they get more sunshine,” Forkish says. Totem, Hood Tillamook, Firecracker, Puget Reliance, Puget Summer and Redcrest are popular varieties. Starting in June, the bakery turns out a lovely strawberry tart along with a macaron made with strawberries and buttercream.

Raspberries ripen mid-June through July with others coming in mid-August through September. Red, Black and Evergreen raspberries are common favorites.

From July into September you’ll find local blueberries — Berkeley, Bluetta, Bluejay, Bluecrop, Duke, Earliblue, Elliott, Jersey, Liberty, Powder Blue and Rubel.

The boysenberry — thought to be the result of a blackberry crossed with a Loganberry or red raspberry — reigns mid-July through mid-August.

Marionberry season also starts in mid-July and goes into August. This Chehalem blackberry and Olallieberry cross is named for Marion County where it was first cultivated in the 1950s and is known as the cabernet of blackberries.

Lucky Forkish has local farmers who deliver directly to his bakery. The rest of us can find fresh berries at many of the 100-plus farmers’ markets statewide. Do-it-yourselfers will enjoy U-pick farms on the Hood River County Fruit LoopThe Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route, Canby Farm Loop and farms throughout the Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon.

Celebrate with other berry lovers July 20-21 at the EcoTrust Building in Portland at the Oregon Berry Festival. Admission is free, and you’ll find Oregon berries transformed into ice creams, pies, cobblers, jams, shortcakes, sauces, liqueurs, chocolates, sodas and much more. Or check out these Oregon berry recipes and cook up your own delicious dessert.

Enjoy a season of berry goodness!

Author: Eileen Garvin


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Camp Confluence and Partners for Youth Empowerment.

5 07 2017

sara3By: Sarah Worl     Photos: Marty Oppenheimer and PYE Global

With support from our Instructor Development Funds, I was able to attend Camp Confluence, organized by Partners for Youth Empowerment (PYE) in Whidbey Island, Washington. Camp Confluence was a 6-day gathering of camp directors, lead facilitators, and staff that are involved with camps based on the Creative Community Model. The Creative Community Model was developed by PYE over decades of youth summer camps across the globe. In their own words from the PYE website:

“With arts-based practices and leading-edge group facilitation strategies, Creative Community Facilitators cultivate environments in which people can realize their potential. By embracing positive risk-taking and free creative expression, youth and adults alike open up to new possibilities. Research shows that creative expression—in a supportive setting—nurtures qualities like empathy, teamwork, and problem solving, while also fostering joy, hope, and the desire for a meaningful life”

At Camp Confluence we talked a lot about the “Emotional Arc” that a camper experiences from the day they enter camp to when they leave, and how to support that transformative experience with community agreements, plenary activities, supported creative risk-taking, free time, nature time, and more. I appreciated the emphasis on the camper’s experience and curating the week’s activities to support their journey.

We also spent a whole day talking about how to further Equity and Anti-Oppression in all levels of our summer camps; from camp staff demographics, to camper recruitment, to food and sleeping arrangements, to incorporating explicit community agreements around equity in the beginning of the camp. It is rare that I am in a space of people so committed, honest, and eager to talk about Anti-Oppression in their institutions and programs and I am very grateful to have participated in those conversations and to emerge with a greater awareness of actions I can bring back to my work. I am looking forward to my upcoming outdoor recreation and summer camp season to see how I can incorporate bits of the creative community model into my work.

I’ve learned a lot of very practical facilitation skills from the PYE trainings and camps I’ve been involved in over the years. I’ve also witnessed many young people and adults (including myself) overcome old stories of fear and self doubt as we explore our creativity, connection to ourselves, connection to others, and connections to nature together in a supportive environment. I believe many of you that work with youth know what I’m talking about when I say that those moments of witnessing youth light up with hope, joy, and connection are what keep me coming back to this work, and giving me hope for the present and future. I am so grateful to be a part of the community at the River House Outdoor Program; a community that is so committed to fostering these types of magical and transformative experiences for youth and adults.

P.S and Fun Fact: A local summer camp hosted by the Oregon Country Fair called Culture Jam is based on the Creative Community Model and brings in facilitators that have led PYE camps across the U.S and internationally. The River House supports Culture Jam each year with a couple days of outdoor play at Fern Ridge! PYE also offers facilitation trainings in the Pacific Northwest each year- check them out at  Their website also contains many great summer camp and youth program resources!

-The River House Instructor Development Fund (IDF) is an investment in our staff to seek extra training and experiences that can be brought back to their work and personal lives to help enrich experiences for both participants and instructors.


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Outdoor Recreation: Awe inspiring – and good for you!

7 07 2013

ImageHas the view from a mountaintop left you breathless? Have you felt the thrill of a run down a black diamond trail? Or been warmed all over at the sight of a doe and fawn silently crossing a meadow? You may know these benefits of outdoor recreation, but you may not know that your outdoor activities were also reducing your stress, building your bones, combatting obesity, and lowering your risk of heart disease. If your kids and spouse were along, sharing the activity with them was also strengthening your family.  And, oh, by the way, you were probably contributing to society, too.

This month, Eugene Recreation is celebrating and sharing many surprising benefits of recreation. The benefits of outdoor recreation are so remarkable, however, they deserve special recognition.

Outdoor Rec is particularly beneficial

According to Geoffrey Godbey, the author of several studies about recreation, the benefits of outdoor recreation go beyond better health; they “touch on all the aspects of well-being, including physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and social health.” He adds, “Just being outdoors…has been shown to confer health benefits….”4 such as reducing stress.

The American Institute of Stress estimates 43 percent of U.S. adults experience adverse health conditions due to acute or chronic stress. People with high stress levels are more at risk for the common cold, heart attack, and cancer. Stress has also been linked to obesity, high systolic blood pressure and elevated heart rates.4

However, 100 studies of recreation experiences in wilderness and urban nature areas found “reductions in stress” was a frequent outcome.

Fights the obesity “epidemic”

In addition to stress, outdoor recreation fends off obesity, which has been linked heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and other life-threatening illnesses by offering “inherently pleasurable activities (that) have the greatest potential to increase human movement in daily life.”4 In other words, the pleasure people get from outdoor recreation makes them willing to be active and that improves their health. One such activity is walking.

“Just a half an hour of brisk walking each day is associated with a 30-40 percent lower risk of heart disease in women.”5  The 20-year nurses study showed walking provides the following benefits for older adults: manages weight, controls blood pressure, decreases risk of heart attack, boosts “good” cholesterol, lowers risk of stroke, reduces risk of breast cancer and Type 2 diabetes, lengthens lifespan, protects against bone fracture, prevents depression, colon cancer, osteoporosis and impotence, lowers stress levels, improves sleep, relieves arthritis and back pain, strengthens muscles and bones and elevates overall mood and sense of well-being.5

Children benefit in still more ways

“Children who spend time outdoors are healthier, overall, than their indoor counterparts.”4 A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School found children spend more than “75.5 percent of their day inactive, watching television, sitting at a computer, and doing homework.”1 And, the authors said, “The more time children and adolescents spend being sedentary, the less likely they will spend any time being moderately active at all. The more time children spend being active, the higher their self-efficacy and self-esteem.”1 Furthermore, Researchers have found that “recreation is fundamental for children’s physical, mental, social and emotional development.”1   Another benefit of outdoor recreation is even more remarkable.

While you’re camping, hiking or just enjoying a natural setting with your spouse and children, research has found that you’re also strengthening your family ties. “Outdoor recreation programs contain inherent challenges and offer opportunities for overwhelming mastery experiences that produce feelings of efficacy and have positive effects on family functioning.”8

And, “[f]amilies who recreate together tend to be more cohesive, and have a greater chance of staying together…By participating in activities together, family members elicit feelings of trust, harmony, teamwork and goodwill.”1

Inactivity in children can result in “obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”4 Multiple studies (and no doubt your own observations) found children are most likely to be active when they are outdoors and, conversely they are more likely to be sedentary when indoors.

It takes only a little

“Researchers have discovered that even a little time outdoors can reduce the symptoms of ADHD for the 4.4 million youth ages 4-17 that have been professionally diagnosed with behavioral problem …Some children were able to cut their dosage of medication in  half just by spending some time outside.”1

Another phenomenon that has broad implications for youth wellness has been called “nature deficit disorder.”1 Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods-Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, coined the phrase to describe the consequences when children do not spend time outdoors; these include “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.”4

Everyone benefits

Finally, outdoor recreation benefits society by promoting stewardship. “People who enjoy outdoor recreation become more familiar with natural resources and the environment. This increased knowledge helps them understand how their personal actions can affect the environment.”1

The next time you stop to admire the view while on a hike, paddle a canoe out on a lake, or just take a brisk walk, congratulate yourself for your active and more healthful lifestyle.

More information

Eugene Recreation’s Outdoor Program at the River House offers outdoor activities for youth and families year-around such as hiking, tree and rock climbing, kayaking, rafting, canoeing, sailing, snow shoeing, challenge course, skiing, skateboarding, surfing, and more.  The Full Moon Rising program works collaboratively with local school districts to get children outdoors. The program’s curriculum focuses on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics used in outdoor activities.

For many opportunities this summer to “get out there” check out the “Outdoor” section of the Recreation Guide at

Tell us why you love recreation

We’d like to know why you love recreation. How does it benefit you? Post your reason as a comment to this blog and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $50 Recreation gift card. Details and citations at

Recreation: building bodies and brains while having fun playing games


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Have Fun, Play, and then who knows?… You might learn something!

7 12 2012


I have received numerous articles and videos recently of some respected people who are championing the value of “Play”.  Here are a couple of recent ones that I highly recommend:

Play is more than fun it’s vital!

The Importance Of Play

In light of these great resources I wanted to take the discussion to the next step and provide you with some tips and suggestions to lead others in playful games and activities and point you in a direction to find further resources to PLAY!  Who knows where you can take it from there, but chances are you might learn something.

So here we go:


from the SBCC Manual

Start with the group as it is, considering the age range, clothing, available play area, and their psychological readiness to interact with each other and go on from there.

Aim for games where everyone is involved. Standing around idle is opportunity for shoving, etc. And nobody likes to be “eliminated” from play for a long period of time and have to just stand around watching.

Be very open and welcoming to everyone, even a bit silly, modeling the style of play you want to encourage. Assure them with words and gestures that each game will be fun. Dress up the games with names promising fun, add appropriate “pretend” elements, and develop the group’s ability to play together.

Whatever the situation begin with simple games, easily explained, with simple equipment that provide easy access and that have few rules, that will end quickly so transition can be made to new games. Make room for new arrivals or latecomers and quickly incorporate them into play. Be ready to shift games as group size changes.

Form a circle. This is an easy way to establish that everyone is included and allows for the group to be able to see you giving instructions.  Remove sunglasses when talking to the group and try to position yourself facing the sun so that your participants are not looking into the sun while trying to look at you.

Begin with a general description of the game including its imagery, objective and if possible a familiar game category. Try to give them choices as to who plays what. Practice any special moves or phrases ahead of time.

Have a balance of strenuous and lower activity games. Let players stretch their bodies and feelings slowly at first. Try to conclude with an appropriate “wind-down” game as well. Be sensitive to when the players are getting tired and may need a less strenuous game, or even to stop playing.

Be very safety conscious, and give clear safety instructions to the participants. Make it clear that the objective is a good time for everyone. Use “Bumpers Up,” and “Wog” where appropriate.  Stress the use of strategy and teamwork.  Avoid rough contact games.


Work towards building trusting relationships between players. Balance individual expression with group awareness and community sharing. Play down aggressive competition, stress cooperation.

Keep your sense of humor. As the Referee-leader, don’t take yourself too seriously.  One outburst of anger can turn everybody off. Encourage and keep alive the make-believe imagery of the games. Play with them as much as practical and possible. Ideal situations are those where the children take over the leadership of the play.

Try to keep teams evenly matched – Some kids will always try to stay together, boys and girls will tend to separate from each other, some will need some “nudging” to get them involved, hopefully most will show some enthusiasm once you get started. Expect some resistance, be enthusiastic! Have some “Divider Games” in your tool-kit.

Have a signal for “everyone refocus and pay attention” such as everyone raising the “one way” sign. Learn some effective “Attention Getter” activities.

Be prepared to modify the game to maintain or create a balance in the level of challenge. Keep the game from being too goal-oriented. Give everyone equal opportunity to play different roles, and don’t allow certain people to dominate. Adjust the challenge, simplify or complicate moves, in order to adjust the speed of the game, its and the ease of achieving its goal. You want everyone to have as an opportunity to enjoy participation in the game.

Be flexible – if a game isn’t working, adapt the game or do something else.

End the game or change to a different game at the height of FUN.  As a facilitator you need to be aware of the group’s energy and interest level.  Ending a game when everyone is having a good time will keep the energy of the group up and the individuals engaged to listen to what’s next.  Don’t play a game and wait for everyone to be tired or bored in order for you to introduce the new activity.  For some groups, you’ve already lost them.

Watch your time!


Recently a new game book has come out entitled “Find Something to Do” by Jim Cain.  It is a small book containing 123 Games and activities using little to no equipment.  I recommend the book as a helpful quick reference to get the ball rolling and play with groups.  The activities are written to be useful for a variety of leaders so I would encourage you to take a look.

A suggested activity that I have played for years to get the fun and play going with one of your groups is one of my favorite games called Transformer Tag


Heads and Tails Tag

Objective:  to tag the other team

Description:Demonstrate to the participants the two body positions suitable for wogging (moving at the speed between walking and jogging!) Some participants will place one hand on top of the head, while others will place one hand on their rear-end.  Have participants stand with their hands by their sides.  Each participant will be allowed to decide which team they are on when you say “GO!!!”

Participants then immediately declare their identity on their head or their tail. One team (the heads) attempts to tag the other team (tails) and vice versa. When tagged, the tail is transformed into a member of the heads team and vice versa. The game continues until one team (heads or tails) has dominated the world, transforming all of the other teams’ members! Can be repeated although I usually do not play it more than 3 times in a row.

Robert Brack, Spencer Butte Challenge Course Director

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The Knots Your Headphones Know

9 04 2012

This is a follow up to my post about the “5 Knots Everyone Should Know.”  I was recently sent this picture after my orginal post and thought I would share it here. 

I think I will start to take a closer look at my headphones and see what knot they are trying to teach me.  Who knows, maybe the next update will be the “5 Knots Everyone Should Know How to Untie!”

-Robert Brack, Spencer Butte Challenge Course Director

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Exploring the Idea of the Third Place

30 01 2012

“The Third Place” is a term coined by sociologist Dr. Ray Oldenburg.  It is his suggestion that people primarily spend their time at home, their 1st Place, and at work (or school for youth), their 2nd Place.  In contrast, Third Places are public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact.  It is where you go to meet with others, find a connection, or to engage in recreation.   

“They are places that allow people to put aside their concerns and simply enjoy the company and conversation around them. They host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.” – Dr. Oldenburg

I had the pleasure to hear Dr. Oldenburg speak at a conference I attended several years ago.  While I could not be particularly engaged by his public speaking style, (His monotone delivery was only interrupted by the occasional left hand movement to turn the page of his notes.) I found myself inspired and on the edge of my seat with the ideology of a Third Place and its importance in a community. 

In Dr. Oldenburg’s book, The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts, and How They Get You Through the Day, he defines the characteristics of a Third Place and describes the value a community has in having  multiple  Third Places.  Written in 1989, Dr. Oldenburg cites how multiple Third Places are important to a vibrant community and provides community members an improved sense of belongingness, or a positive sense of place. 

It is in these Third Places where people go to enjoy “informal interaction.”  One example that I think back to is a particular diner in my home town.  It had easily existed over 30 years by the time I frequented it as a teenager.  Sitting in various places were lawyers, farmers, custodians, salespeople, teachers, retirees, and even a couple of Gen Xrs (me and my best-friend).  People ate together, “hung-out,” and socialized, not because of status but because they shared a community.  The fact that they lived together was their common denominator; in some cases they had gone to school together, volunteered at the same organization, etc…  It was in locations like this where there were people one would call “regulars,” and I observed a familiar behavior that Dr. Oldenburg would use as a descriptor of a Third Place.  People would walk-in to the diner, and scan the room for others they knew.  In most cases, they did not expect to see a particular person they knew; rather they went there because they expected to know someone.  If they did not know someone, the setting was informal enough that they could easily start a conversation with someone new.  It was equally familiar to watch people wave to others as they left, or hear a, “See you later John!” yelled out over the crowd.  Similarly, I would go to a local hardware store and right next to the door was a pot of fresh coffee.  (Not terribly great coffee, but free…)  I was greeted every time I walked in, not by the people working there, but by other adults, just standing there, drinking a cup of coffee, and talking; giving each other advice on the project they were working on.  (Or would eventually start… maybe)  Whenever there was a big storm that rolled through town, it was most assured, THAT local hardware store was a place of mobilization.  You could find people to help, people with tools and people with time; another Third Place. 

What was interesting about the lecture given by Dr. Oldenburg were the various reasons that have led to the decline of the Third Place, such as urban sprawl, individual consumerism, and an absence of an informal public life.  As a result “living becomes more expensive and the means and facilities for relaxation and leisure are not publicly shared, they become the objects of private ownership and consumption.”   

“Life without community has produced, for many, a life style consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community.”

To combat this shuttle is to inspire, utilize, and encourage the development of these Third Places.


Third Places are GOOD FOR YOU!  I advocate, along with Dr. Oldenburg, that Third Places should be kept free to enter, low cost to enjoy, provide areas of discussion, and and involve playful interaction.  There is a deeper connection to be found within your community and Third Places are the local settings where this is lived out.  Real community is local; everything else (like this blog and the social media we will post it on) is really just a metaphor. 








Can the Outdoors be a Third Place? 

 That is a great concept, however not one I would endorse.   For me (and I imagine this is true for you as well.) the Outdoors represents a deeper type of connection AND the Outdoors provides us much more than the means to a social interaction.  There is a different kind of energy when you place yourself into the canopies of the trees and on the slopes of a mountain, or when you are attacking waves of water in a raft, or sailing out where the wind and the water meet.  There are different goals to be fulfilled in Nature and those ends can be fulfilled in times we are there in solitude or in the company of a group.  Maybe your connection to Nature would be a great discussion to have on a future blog post, for now I would like to maybe draw attention to perhaps recognizing the value of those Third Places that assist in bringing you to the Outdoors, and other places where you are a participant in enjoying the company of those around you.   

 Third Places are the heart of a vital community where there exists an essence of home, lived out by local community members, where support and comfort are extended.  I think of local coffee shops or a bar that I might frequent, places like neighborhood parks or “Summer in the City” events as some of my Third Places.  I think of other Thrid Places that exist in our neighborhoods such as our local Community Centers (go visit Campbell Community Center for one afternoon, it is a hoping Third Place!), sport fields, skate parks, and local bookstores. 




 What are some of your Third Places?  Where are you “a regular”?  Where can this community go, scan the room, and hope to see you there?    Where are the Third Places that we can meet, dream, plan, and later re-live our next outdoor adventure?

-Written by Robert Brack

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