Put these 10 Oregonians in a room and they might not have much to talk about. The only thing they have in common is that they did something interesting, outside. But in the varied nature of their accomplishments, it's easy to understand the beuaty of the outdoors: They're huge. You can do pretty much anything. So as you take aim at your own eclectic outdoor adventures, keep these 10 in mind.
THE DIRT: Retired schoolteacher, reluctant fly-fishing legend
OUTDOOR CRED: The picture snapped on Oct. 21, 2002, shows a beaming Grant Martinsen hefting what looks like a swollen prehistoric fish. It's actually a 71.5-pound salmon—the largest ever caught by a fly-fisherman—that Martinsen bagged on the lower Rogue River. The AP picked up the story, and Martinsen became something of an international celebrity. The Martinsen Effect still hasn't dissipated: "I have people come in to take a picture of the fish," says Jim Carey, owner of the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach, where the mounted fish is displayed. Martinsen is surprisingly dismissive of his record catch. "I'm more of the line where if you catch a big fish you eat it," he says. "I thought it would make a great barbeque."
THE LARGER VIEW: Martinsen is an inspiration to, and the envy of, fly-fishermen worldwide.
THE DIRT: Computer programmer, webmaster and founder of www.Oregonbigfoot.com
OUTDOOR CRED: Autumn Williams spends countless hours slogging through the wilds of the Northwest searching for a beast whose legend has spooked Oregon campers for generations. "Having seen these creatures, I don't question if they are, I simply would like to understand what they are," Williams wrote in an impassioned email. In 1999, she created Oregonbigfoot.com to catalog bigfoot sightings worldwide. "Whil fishing we herd sumthing faloing us arond the lake," rites—er, writes—one astonished fishing guide.
THE LARGER VIEW: Williams is helping keep alive the Northwest's hirsute outdoor folk legend, Bigfoot.
Joseph Lafayette Meek (1810-1875)
THE DIRT: U.S. marshal, bear wrestler
OUTDOOR CRED: You know those dubious stories about people wrestling bears? Joe Meek, Oregon's federal marshal in the 1840s and '50s, actually did it. Attacked by a grizzly bear, Meek tangled with the thing before managing to shoot it with his rifle. According to his biographer, Stanley Vestal, Meek later debunked a rumor that he had slain the bear with a knife, saying "I shoved my rifle against him and blew out his heart. That's all—no fingers bitten off, no knifing; I merely drove a little lead into his palpitator." How modest.
THE LARGER VIEW: Meek's story offers this simple lesson: Wrestling a bear = outdoorsman.
THE DIRT: Urban naturalist, greenspaces advocate and author of Wild in the City: A Guide to Portland's Natural Areas (Oregon Hitorical Society, 448 pages, $21.95)
OUTDOOR CRED: An urban naturalist with the Audubon Society of Portland and head of PSU's Urban Greenspaces Institute, Mike Houck has been instrumental in bringing wilderness to the city. He's been pushing for greenspaces and sustainable development since way before the ideas were hip: "When I told people I was an urban naturalist back in the '80s, they thought I meant I was a nudist," Houck jokes. He helped develop Metro's pioneering 1992 Greenspaces Master Plan, which has since dictated Portland's efforts to preserve wild places within the city limits.
THE LARGER VIEW: Houck is now working on creating a giant network of trails, parks and greenspaces throughout the Portland metro area.
THE DIRT: Journalist, mountaineer
OUTDOOR CRED: Jon Krakauer couldn't be reached for comment for this article, probably because he's engaged in some unbelievably cool outdoor pursuit—and getting paid for it. Such a life. Krakauer was raised in Corvallis, and the mountainous Northwest was his first outdoor playground. His first book, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster (Anchor, 416 pages, $25.95), was an international hit. Sales graphs towered as high as K2; the book was translated into 24 languages; and Krakauer became a living paradox: a celebrity outdoors writer.
THE LARGER VIEW: Into Thin Air is one of the best accounts of the immensely attractive peril that can only be found in the outdoors.
Oswald West (1873-1960)
THE DIRT: Oregon governor from 1911 to 1915
OUTDOOR CRED: Had it not been for Oswald West's tricky political maneuvering, the Oregon coast might well look like the cluttered beaches of Malibu. In 1913, West pushed through legislation that declared all of the Oregon coast public highways and, thus, protected land. His argument: Mail wagons frequently used the beaches to pass from one coastal town to the next. Today, West is honored with a beach of his own on the Southern Oregon coast, and his restored cabin still stands overlooking Haystack Rock.
THE LARGER VIEW: Like the Oregon coast? Thank Oswald West.
Lilla Leach (1886-1980)
THE DIRT: Philanthropist, botanist
OUTDOOR CRED: Born in 1886 in Barlow, Ore., and a graduate of the University of Oregon, Lilla Leach was one of this state's most prolific botanists. She and her husband spent a decade tramping through the biologically diverse Siskiyou mountains, racking up a string of botanical discoveries. Her crowning achievement is the Kalmiopsis leachiana, a delicate purple flower found only in the Siskiyous. The 180,000-acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Southern Oregon was named in honor of the find.
THE LARGER VIEW: In addition to their scientific contributions, the Leaches' legacy lives on in Portland's Leach Botanical Garden."
James G. Deardorff (dates unknown) & Thomas Dryer(1808-1879)
THE DIRT: Bickering mountaineers of great eloquence and questionable wit
OUTDOOR CRED: In August 1854, Thomas Dryer, the notorious Oregonian founder and publisher, climbed Mount Hood with a small party, which became the first to reach the summit. Or was it? Writing in The Oregonian, Dryer offered a harrowing picture of the peak, all volcanic gases and shifting glaciers. Almost exactly three years later, James G. Deardorff and his party reached the peak with "nine hearty cheers" and found nothing of the sort, prompting them to claim the "first-ever" title. (It didn't help Dryer's credibility that he had earlier measured Mount Hood's height at a ridiculous 18,361 feet—reality: 11,239 feet.) According to Jack Grauer's history of Mount Hood, a snit fit of monocle-fogging intensity ensued in the pages of two Portland papers, The Oregonian and the Democratic Standard. "A little modesty and prudence sometimes saves young men a good deal of trouble," declaimed an indignant Dryer. To which Deardorff replied, "With regard to your bar-room slang and poetical black-guardism...your effusions have become an old song without effect." Have at you!
THE LARGER VIEW: While the controversy was never resolved, Deardorff and his party are generally credited with the first ascent of Mount Hood.