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Long Views Congressmen hike for inspiration

Hood River News Editorial

August 10, 2005

The Northwest is blessed with many mountains, and in places in Hood River County one can simultaneously admire four of the northern Cascades’ proud sentinels: Hood, Adams, Rainier, and St. Helens.

But when it comes down to it, here in Hood River, Multnomah and Clackamas counties, we only have one mountain. We share the flanks and peak of Oregon’s highest point.

The land where Mount Hood sits shares two federal leaders, however: U.S. Congressmen Greg Walden and Earl Blumenauer love Mount Hood, as do the rest of us.

Together they will share a hike, 41 miles around the mountain, starting Aug. 15. They, along with Walden’s wife, Mylene, and son, Anthony, will put on their boots and hoist their packs for a summer hike that will be far from typical.

The Republican Walden, a Hood River native and Second District representative, and the Democrat Blumenauer, of Portland, the Third District solon, will go on a hike together.

Perhaps other states have representatives from different political parties who are willing to work closely together. But how many elected officials of divergent parties are willing to take the steps that Walden and Blumenauer are about to set out upon?

How many members of Congress would spend four days together in the wilderness?

The two men have sought attention for what they are doing, but it is no publicity stunt. They have actually requested minimal media attention for all but the first few miles.

Their purpose, as Walden puts it, is “to look out across the mountain and (see) how it transitions from east to west.”

They will carry 35-pound packs, but, as reporter RaeLynn Ricarte put it in the Aug. 6 article on the trip, “their mental load could be even heavier.”

At preplanned locations, Walden and Blumenauer will meet with conservation groups and forestry experts. They are looking forward to getting professional answers to any questions that arise while they watch the rustic landscape unfold around them.

At the end of their four-day adventure, the bipartisan duo plans to begin committing ideas to paper. They will be drawing not only on information gleaned along the trail, but a thorough review of citizen testimony and reams of correspondence.

Both men expect to unveil a preliminary concept sometime this fall — but warn that it will not address all of the outstanding issues. Their initial design is expected to herald the beginning of a very long and complex process to finalize a master plan. Both Walden and Blumenauer have committed to sketching out ideas in six key areas of concern: watershed protection, transportation challenges, forest health, recreational interests, economic concerns and cultural resource preservation.

Such an examination comes at a time when the Congressmen are under pressure from conservation groups and Mt. Hood Meadows over last week’s agreement regarding Cooper Spur. The settlement between Meadows and the Hood River Valley Residents Committee will require Congressional intervention. Meadows has agreed to give up all development rights on its Cooper Spur Mountain Resort holdings and seek federal concurrence to trade that property for 120 acres of U.S. Forest Service land near Government Camp.

The timbered tract in Clackamas County is sited in an area that is more heavily developed and is zoned by local officials for low-density housing. The Residents Committee has agreed not to oppose Meadows’ plan for 480 residential units. Both the conservation group and Meadows are urging Walden and Blumenauer to champion a Wilderness designation for added protection of the Tilly Jane and Cloud Cap areas. The hike route will take them right through that scenic and revered land.

With this task ahead of them, we submit the following necessities for their backpacks:

* Clean socks;

* Ample sunscreen;

* Trail mix with lots of chocolate in it;

* Light reading to balance heavy conversations;

* Two bandannas each — one blue, one red.

And, finally, binoculars, for the stunning views, though we trust that along the rocky way both men will look for many ways and means to take the long view of things.

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