How Small Things may help Overcome Fear

15 03 2017


Sometimes what seems a simple activity to some, can be a challenge to others.  You may know, if you put sunflower seeds in your hand and hold very, very still, the birds will come when near alpine environments.  Habituating wildlife to humans is frowned upon, but in this instance, it was a challenge for overcoming fear.

Cary is a gentleman working to overcome fear and nervous about life after spending significant time in prison.  After a conversation about overcoming fears in daily life, he decided to try having a bird land on his hand even though he was really scared to do so.

Cary succeeded in his goal and has not stopped talking about it since.  This is a simple, but good reminder how healing nature can be, especially when you transfer the learning that happens outside into your daily regime.

Sponsor Inc. Mentor program helps match community volunteers with men and women just released from prison. The role of mentors is to guide and support these individuals into a successful reentry into our community, and they only ask for about 4-6 hours of your time each month.

For More info, contact:

Jen Jackson at Sponsors 541-505-5663

For an additional article about Sponsors from Outside Magazine see:

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Central Oregon Avalanches Happen

4 02 2016


From the Central Oregon Avalanche Association:

Avalanches DO happen in Central Oregon.  Skiers and snowboarders are at risk whenever they enter the backcountry, and with more and more people in the BC, the risks are not just limited to just you and your group.  We suppose it wasn’t long before something like the following incident would occur, and we are bringing it to our community’s attention because we believe that there are important lessons to be learned and talked about.
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Snowshoeing to Sahalie Falls

22 02 2013

When winter weather hits, you have two choices. You can hunker down in your Hobbit-hole with a good book and a hot beverage … or you can go play in the snow.

When the folks at the City of Eugene Amazon Community Center invited me along on a snowshoe trip to Sahalie Falls, I couldn’t say no. It’s nice to be indoors when it’s cold, but the chance to take a refreshing hike through the snow to see one of the tallest waterfalls along the McKenzie River was irresistible, and I was not the only one who felt this allure.

A group of 12 adventurous souls met on a chilly Saturday morning in February at the Amazon Community Center. For most in attendance it would be their first time on snowshoes. Luckily, there was a brief crash-course conducted by staffer Josh Lutje, to help hikers grow accustomed to the clunky appendages that would soon take them to the roaring water of Sahalie Falls.

Practicing on snowshoesThe 80-minute bus ride was broken into parts, and those who sat close to the driver enjoyed juicy tidbits and details of McKenzie River topography. This is because Lutje is a bottomless wealth of information. His vast knowledge of the terrain is considered by many of the hikers to be part of the trip’s appeal, and for good reason.

“This is one of the more difficult rapids coming up here on the right,” Lutje narrates, nodding at the river while piloting the bus along the scenic Highway 126. “It’s called ‘Screamer,’ and it’s low right now but in the summer the water is way bigger there.”

From fishing holes to secluded campgrounds, from animal identification to general history of the McKenzie River area, Lutje has it covered. Going on a trip with him is like having your own personal tour guide—and one that knows where to find a tasty hot meal in the cold snowy expanse. At lunchtime, we all piled out of the bus and made our way into Takoda’s, a little restaurant with a homey feel to it and no shortage of menu choices. I strongly suggest the buffalo burger, and the French fries at this place are so wonderful you don’t need to use ketchup.

By the time we arrived at the trailhead, strapped on snowshoes and grabbed the walking sticks, all of which were provided, we were full-bellied but hungry to get to the falls. The snow level was high enough to almost completely cover the outdoor restroom facilities, and without snowshoes, a person could easily take a five-foot plunge into a very cold place. Luckily we were all well-prepared to follow Lutje down the trail, although from time to time things got tricky—do not try to back-up in snowshoes—and a few of us ended up horizontal. This did not matter, because falling down only presented opportunities to make snow angels.

Hiking up the trail, determined adventurers were treated to an up-close view of the falls. We’re talking about a deluge of ice-cold water plummeting 73-feet; the sound is thunderous and the sight is breathtaking. Most of the hikers who made it that far up the trail were rendered completely silent upon reaching the viewpoint.

As the afternoon faded into early evening, the temperature dropped quickly. We piled back into the bus after shivering back down the trail and stowing the gear. Most of the ride back was spent talking about other gorgeous snowshoe hikes we could go on as soon as possible.

There’s much to be said for hibernating through the winter, but getting out of your comfort zone and into the snow is worth the reward.

— Dante Zúñiga-West

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Hot Chocolate

23 12 2011

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Hot chocolate (also known as hot cocoa or just cocoa or chocolate milk or cafe au Chocolat in French) is a heated beverage typically consisting of shaved chocolate, melted chocolate or cocoa powder, heated milk or water, and sugarDrinking chocolate is similar to hot chocolate, but is made from melted chocolate shavings or paste, rather than a powdered mix that is soluble in water, and is usually not as sweet.

The first chocolate beverage is believed to have been created by the Mayas around 2,000 years ago, and a cocoa beverage was an essential part of Aztec culture by 1400 AD.  The beverage became popular in Europe after being introduced from Mexico in the New World, and has undergone multiple changes since then. Until the 19th century, hot chocolate was even used medicinally to treat ailments such as stomach diseases. Today, hot chocolate is consumed throughout the world and comes in multiple variations including the very thick cioccolata densaserved in Italy, and the thinner hot cocoa that is typically consumed in the United States.


An early Classic (460-480 AD) period Mayan tomb from the site of Rio Azul, Guatemala, had vessels with the Maya glyph for cacao on them with residue of a chocolate drink.

To make the chocolate drink, which was served cold, the Maya ground cocoa seeds into a paste, and mixed it with watercornmealchilli peppers and other ingredients.  They then poured the drink back and forth from a cup to a pot until a thick foam developed. Chocolate was available to Maya of all social classes, although the wealthy drank chocolate from elaborately decorated vessels. 

What the Spaniards then called “chocolatl” was said to be a beverage consisting of a chocolate base flavored with vanilla and other spices that was served cold.  Montezuma’s court reportedly drank about 2,000 cups of xocolatl per day, 50 of which were consumed by Montezuma himself.

Because sugar was yet to come to the Americas, xocolatl was said to be an acquired taste. The drink tasted spicy and bitter, unlike modern hot chocolate, which is typically sweet. As to when xocolatl was first served hot, sources conflict on when and by whom. However, Jose de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary who lived in Peru and then Mexico in the later 16th century, described xocolatl as:

Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant taste. Yet it is a drink very much esteemed among the Indians, where with they feast noble men who pass through their country. The Spaniards, both men and women, that are accustomed to the country, are very greedy of this Chocolate. They say they make diverse sorts of it, some hot, some cold, and some temperate, and put therein much of that “chili”; yea, they make paste thereof, the which they say is good for the stomach and against the catarrh.


Today, hot chocolate in the form of drinking chocolate or cocoa is considered a comfort food and is widely consumed in many parts of the world.

North America

Traditional Spanish hot chocolate served with churros

In the United States, the drink is popular in instant form, made with hot water or milk from a packet containing mostly cocoa powder, sugar, and dry milk.  This is the thinner of the two main variations.  It is very sweet and may be topped with marshmallowswhipped cream, or a piece of solid chocolate[citation needed]. Hot chocolate was first brought to North America as early as the 17th century by the Dutch, but the first time colonists began selling hot chocolate was around 1755.  Traditionally, hot chocolate has been associated with cold weather, winter, and dessert in the United States, and is now rarely drunk with meals.

In Mexico, hot chocolate remains a popular national drink. Besides the instant powder form, traditional Mexican hot chocolate includes semi-sweet chocolate, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla. Hot chocolate of this type is commonly sold in circular or hexagonal tablets which can be dissolved into hot milk, water or cream, then blended until the mixture develops a creamy froth. Mexican cinnamon hot chocolate is traditionally served alongside a variety of Mexican pastries known as pan dulce and in Spain with churros.


Hot chocolate is called warme chocolademelk in the Netherlands.

In mainland Europe (and particularly Spain and Italy), hot chocolate is sometimes served very thick due to the use of a thickening agent such as corn starch. Among the multiple thick forms of hot chocolate served in Europe is the Italian cioccolata densa. German variations are also known for being very thick and heavy. Hot chocolate andchurros is the traditional working-man’s breakfast in Spain. This style of hot chocolate can be extremely thick, often having the consistency of warm chocolate pudding.  In the Netherlands, hot chocolate is a very popular drink, known as chocolademelk, often served at home or at the cafes. In France, hot chocolate is often served at breakfast time, and sometimes sliced French bread or croissants, spread with butter, jam, honey or Nutella are dunked into the hot chocolate; there are also brands of hot chocolate specially formulated for breakfast time, notablyBanania.

Even further variations exist. In some cafes in Belgium and other areas in Europe, one who orders a “warme chocolade” or “chocolat chaud” would receive a cup of steamed white milk and a small bowl of bittersweet chocolate chips to dissolve in the milk.  Particularly rich hot chocolate is often served in demitasse cups.


While hot chocolate is generally consumed for pleasure, there are several potential health benefits associated with drinking hot chocolate. A 2003 study from Cornell University found that cocoa contains large amounts of antioxidants that may help prevent cancer.  Also, the Cocoa Bean has demonstrated evidence that it helps with digestion.  From the 16th to 19th centuries, hot chocolate was valued as a medicine as well as a drink.  The explorer Francisco Hernández wrote that chocolate beverages helped treat fever and liver disease.  Another explorer, Santiago de Valverde Turices, believed that large amounts of hot chocolate was helpful in treating chest ailments, but in smaller amounts could help stomach disorders.  When chocolate was introduced to the French in the 17th century, it was reportedly used “to fight against fits of anger and bad moods”, which may be attributed to chocolate’sphenylethylamine content.  Today, hot chocolate is consumed for pleasure rather than medicinally, but new research suggests that there may be other health benefits attributed to the drink.

On the other hand, several negative effects can be attributed to drinking hot chocolate. Hot chocolate contains high amounts of sugar.


Several negative effects may be attributed to the drinking of hot chocolate. The types and severity of health risks vary between different styles of hot chocolate.  Hot chocolate made from milk also contains the sugars naturally found in milk. Processed cocoa powder usually contains additional sugars.  Some brands also contain hydrogenated oils and fats, the most common of which are coconut derivatives.

The very small amount of caffeine found in cocoa may also be a concern, though a typical eight ounce cup of hot chocolate contains nine milligrams of caffeine, while an eight ounce cup of coffee may contain up to 133 milligrams depending on the brand. As such, caffeine is not a major health concern associated with hot chocolate.

To read the entire article please go to:

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Dress for Winter Weather Success!

19 12 2011

Wallowa Mountains Backcountry Experience

The idea of sliding, bounding, or otherwise trekking through a snow-covered landscape is appealing to so many of us, even though we know the reality: it’s COLD out there! The best way to ensure that your winter adventure is fun is by wearing the right clothing. Here are some of our suggestions for dressing for winter-adventure success.

Oregon snow is generally wet, so the main idea is to stay dry. Synthetic fabrics such as poly-propylene, Capilene, and Polartec fleece are designed to keep moisture away from the skin and to stay warm if wet. Natural fibers, such as wool and some silk blends, do the same. Cotton does not have these properties, however; in fact, it retains water and gets very cold when wet. For this reason, in the winter, we tend to avoid wearing cotton all together.

The other general rule is layering. We put out a lot of energy when playing in the snow, which means we will sweat. It is good to think ahead about this, and be prepared to stash warm layers away during physical exertion, so they’ll be dry when you decide to take a rest. As someone who likes to climb mountains in the snow, I generally wear a thin base layer and a wind- or water-proof shell during an ascent, and then put on my down coat and hat near the top. For the base layer, I prefer something that fits relatively close to the skin, like your classic “long underwear.”

Wearing good socks is also important. My all-time favorite socks for adventuring are knee-high Smartwools because they have the warmth of wool, but also have synthetic, stretchy fibers blended in, so they keep their shape, are soft, and durable. The thickness of sock depends on the fit of your boots. If you have space, you can wear a thin, liner sock inside a thicker sock, but if your boots are snug, choose a sock that allows you to move your toes for circulation.

Boot choice may be a whole other article, but here are a few tips. Generally, you choose the right boots for the activity. What is important: a fit that allows your foot to flex and your toes to move for circulation; waterproofing if you are in contact with wet snow; and durability & warmth. Leather hiking boots, with a waterproof coating such as SnoSeal, or Sorel boots, can work for snowshoeing, especially if you cover the tops with a waterproof “gator.” This keeps the snow from going down inside the boot. Gators can also be helpful over x-country ski or ski-touring boots, if you are travelling through deeper snow.

What you put on top of your base layers also depends on your chosen activity and the weather. For pants, if you are going to be exerting yourself and potentially sweating a lot—such as x-country skiing, snowshoeing, or back-country skiing or boarding—a lighter-weight waterproof shell on the bottom is probably enough. If skiing with chairlifts, sledding, or winter camping, heavier, more insulated waterproof snow pants are the way to go.

For the top, outer layers, I usually pack the following, and decide at the trailhead, based on the weather: a warm fleece or wool jacket or vest; a down or synthetic “puffy” coat; and a waterproof “shell” jacket. Even if you don’t choose to wear all of this at the beginning, it is usually a good idea to stuff them in your pack. Winter weather can change quickly, and it is always good to be prepared.

As for accessories, you will want a heavy, waterproof pair of gloves or mittens; a tightly woven or lined hat that covers your ears; something for your neck, if your other layers don’t cover it; and a visor, sunglasses, or goggles to keep the snow out of your eyes. If you plan to go really, really fast, a helmet may also be in order.

In your backpack, it is a good idea to carry the following items for an all-day outing: extra socks and gloves; water in a container that won’t freeze; hearty snacks; your extra layers; fire-starting apparatus; and your basic first aid/survival kit. If it is a wet-snow day, placing these items inside a large Ziploc or garbage bag is a good idea. Bringing a thermos with something hot in it adds a luxury you might not have thought possible on a snow adventure!

The key to staying comfortable in a winter setting is preparing before you go out. If you are heading out on a trip with the River House Outdoor Program this winter, know that we have a closet full of winter clothing for participants to use. Sorting out gear is something we do during Pre-trip meetings. If you are heading out on your own, there are a lot of great places to gather winter gear, new and used. Locally-owned shops include SportHill (, Backcountry Gear(,  Berg’s (, Boardsports (, and Tactics ( Second-hand stores Buffalo Exchange, Play-it-Again Sports, Goodwill, & St. Vincent DePaul often have good finds. At REI and Cabela’s you’ll find anything you could possibly need; and, next October, remember the Ski Swap. Stay warm!

Written by: Jessica Land

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Snowshoeing with Hannah and Pepper

30 12 2010

It’s snowing!!  I know it’s snowing outside before I even have a chance to look out the window.  My dogs run from one end of the house to the other (stopping to look out the window), both so excited to go outside and prance in the snow.  Sadly, in Eugene the snow doesn’t stick around long enough to fully enjoy it.  I don’t understand why they enjoy the snow so much, since neither are northern breeds.   

We have two dogs.  One is an elderly Doberman Pincher by the name of Hannah.  Our other dog is a small, middle-aged, energetic, 15 lb. Poodle/Bichon mix by the name of Pepper.  Every year we take a day trip with our dogs to a nearby snow park so they can frolic in the snow.  My partner and I prefer to cross-country ski, but we make this compromise for the dogs.

If you can walk, then you can snowshoe.   The key to snowshoeing with your dogs is to keep them safe.  First, it’s a good idea to give your vet a call and make sure your dogs are healthy enough for this activity.  As with humans, dogs, too, can get frostbite or hypothermia.  Because neither one of our dogs is a northern breed we equip them both with dog coats.  Hannah gets an extra layer with a sweater underneath.  Because Hannah is an elderly dog she is more susceptible to hypothermia.  Keep an eye on your dogs and watch for signs of discomfort such as shivering, or slowed breathing.

Because Pepper is so small, he gets tired quickly and we have to carry him for part of our trek (wrapped in a blanket).  We come prepared with a carrier for him.  Hannah carries a pack on her back; we load it with snacks and plenty of water.  When we stop to take a sip of our tea, our dogs take a break and drink water.   We periodically stop and check their paws for packed snow and ice.  Hannah wears protective booties, but we don’t have any for Pepper since we carry him part of the way.  Pepper’s paws tend to trap snow so we like to put paw wax on his paws.  When snowshoeing with your dogs, I highly recommend either booties or paw wax to protect your dog’s paws.

I still don’t know who gets more enjoyment from these outings; the dogs or my partner and me.  Our car ride home is quiet with the dogs sound asleep in the back and we humans grinning from ear to ear after enjoying the outdoors.  If you can take time in your lives for your furry companions, it is truly rewarding.

Winter is here and I suggest you grab your snowshoes and go frolic in the snow.  If you don’t own snowshoes you can rent them at Berg’s Ski and Snowboard shop.  We enjoy going to Midnight Lake/Bechtel Shelter, Salt Creek Falls or Waldo Lake.  Enjoy the Outdoors.

Written by Melinda Koshi Vega the Office Manager at the City of Eugene Outdoor Program

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