That Very Pleased Look

Linda Burton posting from Salem, Oregon – Put your compass on the Salem map point. Now, draw a circle 100-miles around. This center-of-the-universe view reveals the truth of it – Salem is positioned right smack between the “mountains and the deep blue sea.” Take this varied terrain, add the fact that the climate is mild year-round, and there you have it: the perfect earth-air-water recipe for an out-of-doors way of life. East are the Cascade Mountains; Mt Hood, Mt Jefferson, Mt Washington, Three Fingered Jack; the Mt Jefferson Wilderness and the National Forests – Mt Hood, Willamette, and Deschutes. West are the Pacific Ocean and the Oregon beaches; Lincoln City, Tillamook, Newport, Agate Beach, Yachats, the Florence dunes. Also to the west is the Coast Range, Mary’s Peak the highest point at 4,097 feet. All of this is home to bear, elk, deer, beaver, and many species of birds and fish. Let’s talk about fish, and that statue of former Oregon governor Tom McCall, standing by the Willamette River in Salem’s Riverfront Park.

The 10-foot high bronze statue shows a fisherman in wader boots, fly rod in one hand and his catch – a steelhead – in the other. He appears to be emerging from the water with a determined but very pleased look on his face. Any fisherman can relate to that! Based on an actual photo of Governor McCall at the Umpqua River, Rip Caswell did the sculpture, using McCall’s waders and the actual fly that caught the fish to create a true-to-life scene. McCall was governor from 1967-1975; the statue was installed in this capital city in 2008, to call to mind his relentless commitment to the state’s environment.

Residents of Salem have a lot to choose from in this environmentally friendly, out-of-doors-wholesome place; there is much to do, much to enjoy. Beginning with that Willamette River, right in the heart of downtown. The tributaries of the Willamette originate in the mountains south of Eugene; the main stem of the river flows northward about 187 miles and empties into the Columbia. Native fish include cutthroat, bull and rainbow trout, and several species of salmon; non-native species include brook, brown and lake trout; large and smallmouth bass, walleye, and bluegill.

Then there is the Santiam River, a tributary of the Willamette, and a major source of water for Salem. The North Santiam is impounded, forming 400-foot-deep Detroit Lake. If fishing isn’t your thing, use all that water for swimming and boating, and that includes the trusty canoe, the adventuresome kayak, and the nothing-could-be-more-fun rafting experience. Check out North Santiam River Trips @ Just KEEPS Kayakin is a kayak rental and excursion business, call 503-881-3983.

More earth-grounded pursuits can be found in the many parks; hiking to horseback riding. Sometimes you just want space; go to Bush’s Pasture Park at 600 Mission Street and run around, they have open green spaces and nature trails. Easy to moderate hiking trails within 50 miles of Salem are listed at and include Ten Falls Canyon Trail, a beautiful family hike past 10 waterfalls; and the moderate Mary’s Peak East Ridge hike, to Mary’s Peak, of course. More reservedly, sign up for a group trail ride on a well-trained horse at Into the Wild Equine Adventures,

The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway is an awesome thing, it’s actually the first bike route in the nation to get a state designation; it begins at Champoeg State Heritage Area, goes through Keizer, Salem, Albany and Brownsville, and ends at Armitage County Park north of Eugene. You can get detailed maps of the bikeway @

Bird lovers can really fog up their binoculars around here; of course birds love this environment as much as people do! Check out the Willamette Valley Birding Trail; the Willamette Loop encompasses Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, Minto-Brown Island Park, Staats Lake, Willamette Mission State Park, The Oregon Garden, Mount Angel Abbey, Silver Falls State Park, Fisherman’s Bend Recreation Site, and Hunsaker Road Pond.

And if you just want to see it all, soaring in peace and quiet over the beautiful Willamette Valley on a center-of-the-universe day, try a hot-air balloon. The Balloon Flying Service of Oregon has been doing it for more than 20 years; they’ll give you an hour-long flight and a continental breakfast. .

You’ll wind up with that very pleased look, just like Tom McCall, enjoying the out of doors in Oregon.