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Walk on wilderness land side next week.

Byline: THE OUTSIDER By John Rezell The Register-Guard

The view from the top of Mount June looked like a heavenly dream sequence from an old movie.

Billowy clouds floated beneath the edge of the rocky cliff and reached up to touch a whitewashed sky - hardly the postcard-perfect view one usually expects as the payoff to a robust hike.

But this was hardly a usual hike. Robust, yes, but not one to write home about. Rather, one to write Congress about. If you're into that sort of thing.

My guide, Chandra LeGue of the Oregon Natural Resources Council, and I stood atop the natural rocky mountaintop, getting a chill from the cold breeze blasting our sweat-soaked shirts when a flash burst into view.

A tiny hummingbird zipped before us, stopped on a dime in midair and hovered over the yellow flowers for just a moment or two before, just like that, it darted away - like a fleeting thought that pops into mind and disappears just as quickly.

What hit me right then was the same message Chandra would later offer as we hiked back down to the trailhead.

When it comes to talk of preserving wilderness areas like this vibrant slice just south of Dexter, it's about more than a battle over trees and lumber. It's about an ecosystem teeming with life.

Some might label a cloudy hike a disappointment. Some might call it an opportunity to focus on something other than the view.

And, really, that's why Chandra will be out and about with a team of hike leaders starting Saturday, guiding folks into these areas during Wilderness Week, June 24-July 2 (complete schedule at www.onrc.org). It's a chance to plant a thought or two about the value of these lands and maybe activate someone.

"The Hardesty Mountain/Mount June roadless area, at about 7,000 acres, can be called Eugene's backyard wilderness," Chandra said. "Large areas like this are increasingly rare in our National Forests, but they are essential to making Oregon such a great place to live, work and play. They are also essential for wildlife habitat and for providing clean, cold water for drinking and for fish."

Chandra points out that the Clinton administration passed the Roadless Area Conservation Rule to protect almost 60 million acres of these roadless areas nationwide (including 2 million acres in Oregon).

Since then, the Bush administration has repealed it, putting these areas at risk. It's not something a lot of average folks think about each day in Eugene. That's why Chandra wants to see people get out during Wilderness Week to enjoy these areas.

Just maybe someone will see the trees for the forest. They might take note, as Chandra did, of the tiny hemlock cones that lie idle on the forest floor, waiting to capitalize on opportunity.

"They are very shade tolerant," Chandra says. "They just sit and wait for a Douglas fir to fall and open up some sunshine. Then they'll take root."

She points out the Pacific yew and the chinquapins that stand solo, fighting for their little piece of the forest. She points out the cat's ear flowers along the Sawtooth Trail as they slip out of the forest into a large meadow clinging to the side of the mountain.

Together it all forms an intricate ecosystem that's even more beautiful than any dream. Whether or not you want to save it is up to you. Either way, this week you get can get a free view - no matter what your politics might be.

John Rezell, aka Raz, thinks it's time for some really extreme adventures. Got any ideas? Invite him along to one at Eugenemeraz@att.net.

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Be on the inside looking at The Outsider John Rezell's blog at www.registerguard.com/outsider/
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Title Annotation:Sports; Guided hikes into roadless areas focus on Eugene's "backyard wilderness"
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 20, 2006
Words:632
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