So, on we go to Eugene.
You know, I used to live in Eugene when I was a just a ‘lil hempster. Pa earned Doctorate of Leisure and Recreation from University of Oregon. Maybe this gives a good representation of the town. Re-creation.
Actually it is no longer a town. It is a full on city.
I passed through this summer looking for Hemp at the Oregon Country Fair and saw a lot of people. Throngs actually.
Yeah, it seems the world is learning about this legendary mecca of counter-culture heroes & icons. The good ol’ Grateful Dead played legendary shows around Eugene, including some of the last real camping shows. Those shows were like homecomings for the band as they played to heaps of friends and cronies. Surely with Eugene’s reputation of being a think-tank for alternative action, hemp must be going on in some neat way.
So off we go to find out.
We pull west from Oly, head to the coast where we’ll head south and cross the delta of the mighty Columbia River.
Driving out from Oly about 45 minutes, we make our first stop. Satsop nuclear plant. I don’t know much about this place and no one else seems to either. It seems back in the nuclear rah-rah days, it went up and no one even knows what its doing. Power, I suppose but that doesn’t tell us much.
We make our way into position for a shot. I feel like Homer Simpson driving to the reactor looking like a mix of Frankenstein’s castle and a futuristic mailbox. Which really frightens people more, hemp plants or nuclear plants? Turns out its dormant, the fed spent millions upon dollars to build it then it was never finished which can’t be totally bad news but I really believe the money could’ve spent more wisely.
In front of the plant is the sign designating a Wetlands Preserve. Odd choice, but it fills a Washington DC statistic. Suspiciously, empty of wildlife but then again, it is winter. The view is crisp and message clear.
At the banks of the Columbia is a statue showing the point where Lewis and Clark arrived at the Pacific, halting their monumental trek across a rough stretch of continent. Sent by Thomas Jefferson to discover and explore, they set out to find what was out there, anywhere. The chances for an adventure like that now are slim to none – New continents are hard to find.
They walked across a vibrant continent that had taken care of itself for a few millennia and it only took the USA only a century and a half to have national chain stores, malls, toxins, dumps and asphalt to every corner.
A small church stands alongside and then a wild bridge that skims above the mass of water energy at the moment of place where the movement of river becomes infinity of ocean.
and on into the world…
The stretch along the Pacific Northwest coast is surely one of the richest experiences you can have from inside a rolling steel box. I’d rather walk this stretch of coast, but that will wait.
For now, I breathe it in as the road twists and turns into vistas and beaches. Darkness comes, it’s rainy now and the curves aren’t so much fun. Everyone sleeps, I drive.
We arrive at Honeyman State Park outside of Florence late and worn. The key to our Yurt is waiting for us. I made a reservation, for a Yurt. That’s how things are done now. Reservations, credit cards and tour packages for nature. Admission and fees. Concrete and double-wides. John Muir, Ed Abbey, Where are you?
The Yurts are a brilliant idea the Oregon State parks are implementing to make your camping experience more like home maybe. The Yurt itself is great. We feast late night meal on the Coleman stove and sack out in our hut.
Now a Yurt isn’t a hut and its not a tent maybe its a Year-round Universal Recreation Tent. Laminated wood lattice frame connecting to roof beams coming out like twisted sunshine as it tensions a middle ring.
On top of the ring is a Plexiglass dome that opens for ventilation. The lattice frame is covered with a treated poly/cotton cloth with a nylon or polyurethane covering on the roof. While it’s probably well-wearing, the same thing could be easily done with less treatments and production steps with sturdy hemp canvas.
The origins of the Yurt is mostly Mongolian who mad/ke these in a cruder form, covering wooden poles with animal skins.
I think a sturdy hemp weave would work great and be a fine way to provide low cost living, thinking and working space. A sturdy door, few storm windows and a little electric heater finish it off.
Minimalist beauty. Bunkbed and futon bed. Sleep well. Up and out to Eugene in the morning.
First off make our way to Hungry Bear Hemp foods where Hungry Bear himself Todd Dalotto is waiting for us. Todd has been a supporter of our journey since the start and I was sure anxious to check out his operation down in the historic Blair St. neighbourhood. The office space is turning into a hemp co-op space it seems. Todd is making his Hungry Bear Seedy Sweeties Snacks, as well as flour and butter here in his kitchen/lab. His colleague, Jerry is making Merry Hempsters body care products (lip balm, salve and ointments).
The oil comes via their partner Erich who is sourcing and working on projects in Mongolia and Peru. In Peru the seeds are batch pressed removing only the finest of the abundant oil of the seed. The seed is left in good condition and since it is no longer viable, the seeds clear the feds without the sterilization ritual. The seeds are then ground into fine, nutritious flour. Some seeds are crushed and used to coat the molasses and grain snack bars.
Also Todd’s goal of hemp butter is now coming together. A savoury and versatile butter that is sure to surprise a lot of people who don’t know this aspect of hemp. Todd first envisioned making hemp butter while volunteering for Food Not Bombs where he tested his prototypes at weekly large free meals gatherings.
The Merry Hempsters products use the same vital oil form Chile and combine the rich oil with wildcrafted herbs and essential oils to make the truly kind ointment and salve. Both are already standard in my travel first aid kit. Great for about any skin woe from surf coral cuts to achy knees to burnt out lips.
The oil producing operation is overseen by Erich who has been experimenting with organic crop research for years. Mainly with Quinoa and flax though his knowledge of any fiber crop is quick and thorough. He told stories of travelling and exploring some far off corners on his own hempen road. He works with the Chilean hemp farmers to encourage organic crop growing and ensuring quality hemp plants for the best oil seeds. The situation is sketchy but primarily due to lack of awareness and difficulty marketing hemp without a foreign connection. Erich is helping farmers maintain a valuable resource in their rotation by providing a market and knowledge.
He does worry about the work ethic of the average American who has lost touch with a hot days, aching back day toiling in the fields. Probably a safe bet but laziness is the mother of invention, isn’t it?
In the same space we looked at some clothes made by a local household co-op. They sell around at markets, shops and do custom order of clothes, household accessories and nice pot handle covers that I gotta get. Religious focus and sense of purpose keeps this family spreadin’ their energy through their hemp creations.
Now I had never really thought of this, sure there is hemp content shampoo but a hemp oil hair treatment seemed a bit odd. The Hempen Road’s fearless assistant Misa stepped forward to undergo this experiment for crew. What ensued was an hour long, hair treatment and massage that could relax the Egyptian Sphinx. Rose operates “the Hairy Truth” hair salon in the same building as Hungry Bear and has a variety of folks coming in for the hemp oil treatment which leaves hair soft and nourished. Read your shampoo bottle, how many of the ingredients can you pronounce. Misa remained in bliss for several hours and we wisely took a bottle of hemp oil home.
The next day I decided to get furiously ill and wallow in sickness all day so I wouldn’t have to go out and have fun anymore.
Our intrepid crew carried on with the help of our mystery guest host, Marji.
So… I’m guessing now but… I know they went to talk with Carolyn Moran and Harry Bondareff of Living Tree Paper Company. They market a made in USA, hemp content, stationary paper that is as elegant as it is is eco.
Mixed with Esparta grass, an annual from Africa, agricultural waste (cotton linters, straw etc.) and post consumer recycled tree paper. They began the paper project to provide a quality eco paper to print their magazine on. The magazine is called “Talking Leaves” and is the publication of the DEEP Ecology group. I know Carolyn has traveled a lot and Harry is a good guy (I met him at Real Goods solar living festival on Summer Solstice in California) so there you have it, we’ll see in the film.
Next, they all went to the famous Eugene Saturday Market which boasts a buffet of handmade arts and crafts. This being last one before Christmas, I’m sure it was hopping. I saw some of this footage and there seems to have been a lot of hemp vendors and even hemp food. I was too busy with my pet virus to have this fun.
On to Sow Much Hemp which is a variety shop and project of Bruce and Deidre who are a real sweet couple of folks. They helped me with some Tibetan healing energy and I looked around the shop the next morning.
The best description would be like the modern day hemp equivalent of a old time general store crossed with a remote, traditional artists co-op. Located in a re-worked heritage home, you feel like your going to visit your old Grandpa as you walk up the patio where you want to sit and drink lemonade, but its December so we go inside and drink herb tea. Inside is comfy too, a little of everything in a real international atmosphere.
Lots of unique items from far off lands, rugs, tapestries, sarongs, prayer flags, scrolls, handmade books, and assorted religious icons. Also a beautiful array of dyed hemp cloths and yarns.
(p.s. we interview master natural dyer Carolyn Kolander in Portland). The store seems like you’ve been there all weekend after just a half-hour as you check things out and learn the stories in a relaxing think space.
Thanks to the patience of my road-mates and the Eugene hempsters, I was semi-alive the next day and we headed north.
We’ll be back in Oregon soon to see who’s doing what in Portland. For now we pull out of the fertile Willamette Valley watching the empty farmland flash by in shooting green patches.