Rick Ahrens treks into the Obsidian Past

January 24, 2003

Rick has done a great job of ferreting out photographs and pertinent information harking back to the origin of The Obsidians. Many of his slides were composites of as many as four photos! Justice can’t be done in a brief review.

A good part of Rick’s presentation covered the first two decades (’30s and ’40s), which made for interesting comparison with our current activities. Although the basic nature of our activities hasn’t changed, some characteristics could be very different. For example, just getting to a trailhead could be an adventure — the McKenzie “highway” was a rough one lane dirt road. Summer camps were packed in to the camp sites and the facilities hence were relatively primitive — ax and saw were used freely for the set-up. Many of the camp sites were in what is now Wilderness Areas that are no longer available to large groups. The President’s Tea with all its whimsical quality was initiated way back in ’31! Camp cooks soon became highly appreciated as “persona grata”.

True to the origin of The Obsidians, early activities (including the Summer Camps) were largely centered around mountain climbing (in large groups of typically 30 or 40). This led to the establishment of the ranks of Chiefs and Princesses as recognition of climbing Oregon’s ten highest peaks. It’s not surprising that the Three Sisters came in for a lot of attention. Incidentally, these three peaks were called Faith, Hope and Charity back in the mid-18th century, which befits the category of “sacred geography” as discussed by Rick in a recent talk. Activities of the Club were frequent items in the local newspaper; and, would you believe, a couple of Eugene Mayors were among the early climbers.

Rick closed with very humorous vignettes of Obsidian activities and apparel — the variety of headgear was a surprise! So, take care, you may be on candid camera!

Bep Fontana


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