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May 6, 2002

Outdoor group celebrates its jubilee

By RANDI BJORNSTAD 
The Register-Guard

Whatever your idea of outdoor exercise - a stroll through magnificent gardens, a 5-mile hike through the woods, a climb to the top of one of the Three Sisters or a weeklong camping trip into wilderness - the Obsidians probably have just the outing.

This month alone, the group's calendar lists a dozen hikes, a couple of mountain climbs, a potluck with slide show of Peru and the Amazon, and a bus trip to three horticultural stops, including an iris garden.

About a week ago, Obsidian member and bicycle enthusiast Norma Lockyear led a group on a 40-mile loop through the Willamette Valley near Shedd and Tangent. In two weeks, she'll head up another entourage, biking 45 scenic miles in and around Scio, including through five covered bridges.

Lockyear has been a member of the Obsidians since 1985.

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The Obsidians held an open house Sunday for their 75th anniversary. Member Dave Predeek (center) leads a group on a short wildflower hike.

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Obsidians and guests pause during a wildflower tour on the group's 4-acre grounds near Laurelwood Golf Course. The group formed back in 1927 as the Eugene Outdoor Club.

Photos: WAYNE EASTBURN / The Register-Guard

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"I moved here and wanted to do things outdoors, and the group had lots of activities - even if you were alone, you could do things in a group and make new friends," she said. "I've been part of it ever since."

Organized 75 years ago, the Eugene-based group boasts 500 members - ranging in age from 5 to well over 80 - who regularly get together in small groups and fan out across Oregon and adjacent states to stroll, hike, climb, bicycle, ski, snowshoe, camp and canoe.

For no particular reason except habit, their leaders say, they keep a fairly low profile - no telephone number in the phone book, no address but a post office box on their letterhead.

But on Sunday, the Obsidians emerged from their unintentional anonymity for a few hours to play host to each other and the community at an anniversary open house - "75 Years and Still Out There," the commemorative T-shirts read - at their clubhouse tucked away on four acres of wooded land off the southeast edge of the Laurelwood Golf Course.

Among those who came to reminisce was 80-year-old Dorothy Scherer of Springfield, who giggled like a schoolgirl as she recalled "becoming acquainted" with her late husband, Clarence, back in 1948 through Obsidian outings.

"On my first hike, which was somewhere near Bend, he asked if I could ride over in his car - he had a big convertible," Scherer said. "After the hike was over, he decided to show me how fast he could go up this butte, around and around, in his big car."

After that, the couple went on Obsidian trips and summer camps for the next year or two. They became engaged after a summer camp in the Grand Tetons, and were married in December 1950. The couple remained active in the group, she said, until her husband's death in the mid-1990s.

Sunday's event was also a chance for newcomers to check out the Obsidians.

"So you hike, climb, take bus trips and eat," a prospective member joked after glancing through the long list of coming attractions on a brochure handed to her by member John Jacobsen.

Not a bad assessment, Jacobsen admitted with a grin. But while the group now emphasizes a wide variety of outdoor activities, its beginnings had a rather more serious purpose, he said.

Back in 1927, two young men - a University of Oregon student named Henry Cramer and his friend, UO graduate Guy Ferry - set out to climb the Three Sisters. They never returned.

"They had signed a visitor log somewhere along the way - they wrote that it was cold and the weather was getting bad," Jacobsen said, looking through newspaper clippings in one of the Obsidians' many scrapbooks. "A bunch of local outdoorsmen went up to look for them but didn't find them - their bodies were found two years later - but the experience made them realize that Eugene should have an organization focused on search-and-rescue activities."

They formed the Eugene Outdoor Club, which soon emerged as a social group as well as one devoted to finding lost hikers, Jacobsen said. From the beginning it involved both men and women, and it earned its permanent moniker a year or two later.

"A number of people in the group organized a summer camp outing and climbed all three of the Sisters," he said. "They decided 'Obsidians' would be a more fitting name for a bunch that tough. At the next year's summer camp, they officially changed it."

THE OBSIDIANS

  • What: A group of people interested in outdoor activities, including organized hikes, mountain climbs, bicycle tours, canoe trips, bus tours and camping outings throughout the year in Oregon and other states

     

  • Membership eligibility: Must attend three hikes or one climb to become active member

     

  • Cost: Membership dues, $20 per year; individual hikes, $1 for members or $4 for nonmembers; individual climbs, $2 for members or $10 for nonmembers

     

  • Information: John and Janet Jacobsen, 343-8030. The Obsidians also maintain an informational bulletin board inside the north entrance of the YMCA at 2055 Patterson St., Eugene. People may sign up there to participate in group's activities.

    Copyright 2002 The Register-Guard


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