Summer’s here and it’s time to play outdoors

With the wet winter days behind us and the wonderful sunny days of spring upon us the anticipation of summer grown. Summertime for a lot of people means outdoor activities almost every weekend. From weddings, graduations and back yard barbecues, we spend a lot of time outdoors.

The camping season is about ready to get started with Memorial Day weekend right around the corner. High temperatures usually means high gas prices as well, which will be forcing families to choose an outdoor adventure close to home. If close to home doesn’t bother you, there are some great overnight camping choices at any one of the many Linn County parks, the newest being River Bend along the Santiam River off of Highway 20, approximately 14 miles east of Sweet Home, which is opening (officially) today, May 17, at 2 p.m.

As you may have noticed the tourism rush is on in our little town. Many people are passing through Sweet Home on their trek for outdoor adventure.

The rush scene is all too familiar to me: I get off work and rush home only to set new records for the fastest packing ever. Then, once all is packed and the family is loaded, I climb into my vehicle and blaze a trail to my camping destination. I drive like a low-flying aircraft to my weekend home, all the way yelling at all the other drivers who are impeding me from getting the good camp spot before someone else does.

Once we arrive, the unpacking and setting up camp begins. I then begin to discover what all I forgot to pack. I finally get to sit and rest for what seems like much too short of a time, then it’s time to start the rush all over again in reverse order.

I have been this guy more times than I can count so I am trying something new this year. I have already made reservations for Labor Day weekend at our favorite riding spot over at the coast. That weekend has always been a big get-together for my entire family since I was a kid.

Along with my reservation fee I paid some of the camping fees up front and will continue to pay some each month so that I will be paid in full before the weekend arrives. Why? First, by reserving my spot ahead of time, I won’t need to rush like a madman to get there. Second, with gas prices predicted to soar this summer, the extra pinch of the camping fees will already be taken care of and I’ll have more gas money for the quads.

Overall, there will be a lot less stress which will make the weekend much more enjoyable for me and my family.

As I have said before, the Five P’s (Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance) are the way to a trouble-free adventure. As you take off on your outdoor adventure trips this summer plan ahead as much as possible and be ready for the unexpected. On land, sea or sand, problems will occur at the most inopportune times. Double and triple check all your equipment and gear then get out and enjoy your passion. Hope to see you out there!

– The South Santiam and Calapooia Watershed Councils will be hosting a free hike with U.S. Forest Service Archaeologist Tony Farque on Saturday, May 20. The interpretive hike will be to Camas Prairie and the Native American petroglyphs at Cascadia Caves.

Be sure to bring a sack lunch and dress for all weather conditions. Meet at 9 a.m. at the U.S. Forest Service Sweet Home Ranger Station at 3225 Hwy 20. As space is limited, please RSVP the South Santiam Watershed Council at 367-5564.

– Foster and Green Peter reservoirs have all been recently stocked with trout, Foster as late as last week. Sunnyside Park boat ramp at Foster is the only one currently usable, as the reservoir level has been temporarily reduced to provide more efficient out-migration of juvenile steelhead. Green Peter is within a couple of feet of full pool with the Thistle Creek ramp and the Whitcomb Creek County Park and ramp both open and usable.

– North and South Santiam river levels are holding fairly steady. Flows in the South Fork are somewhat higher than in the North Fork as water from Green Peter/Foster is being released to maintain water quality in the Willamette River.

Water temperatures have increased recently, resulting in a surge of fish coming over Willamette Falls. Even though run sizes are still lower than normal, because of the good weather and water conditions, angling pressure has been relatively high in the mainstem Willamette and lower to middle reaches of the Santiams. Anglers are catching a fair number of steelhead, with bright summers becoming more plentiful. Chinook should be moving into the Santiam system right about now.

Willamette River water conditions are in good shape for spring chinook angling. Fish counts at Willamette Falls were 5,986 winter steelhead, 1,768 summer steelhead, and 10,067 spring chinook through May 2.

The spring chinook catch has been fair to good, depending on the day and the location.

– The Annual Foster Lake Fishing Derby for kids will happen from 8 a.m. to noon on June 10 this year on the banks of Foster Reservoir at the dam. The day is filled with fishing fun for youth aged 0 – 18. If they are big enough to hold a pole they are old enough to fish.

Prizes of fishing poles and tackle are awarded to youth in several categories, and multiple age groups. Every child receives a goodie bag at registration and we have a free drawing at the end of the day and participants are eligible to win. There are many activities to participate in during the day including fishing, learning how to cast better, learning how to cook and clean fish, and for the smallest of fishermen, aged under 6, there is a visit to the trout pond at the South Santiam Hatchery where they are guaranteed to catch some fish.

This derby has been an annual event for more that 15 years and it is a great chance to get outdoors.

It occurs on the same weekend as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Free Fishing Weekend so once the Derby is over, at noon, parents can begin to fish with their children without needing to have a fishing license.

All of the day’s activities are free. Fully equipped fishing poles and worms are available for kids who don’t have their own to borrow.

Last year nearly 300 youngsters registered, according to K.C. Briggs, fisheries biologist for the Willamette National Forest Sweet Home/Detroit Ranger District.

“Come on out and spend the day with us,” Briggs said.

Organizers and sponsors include the Albany Chapter of the Northwest Steelheaders, Department of Fish and Wildlife South Santiam Hatchery, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USFS Sweet Home Ranger District, Sweet Home Boys and Girls Club, the city of Sweet Home, Linn County, Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division, Sportsman’s Warehouse, G.I. Joe’s, Kids All American Fishing and local volunteers.

Shane Ullrich writes this column every other week. You can contact him at the American Barbershop, 1121 Main St., Sweet Home, or call (541) 367-8086. He wants to hear about your experiences in the outdoors, so don’t be shy.