I like it because it gives everyone a quick glimpse of what we're looking at and why. Even a trained geologist will enjoy Furry's way of supplying information about our volcanoes and diverse landforms. As a naturalist, I enjoyed my first read, and I know it will be a great tool for others looking to see the big picture on the dry side of the Cascades. Unfortunately, the author didn't give us an index, but his appendix supplies directions to places he talks about.
For example, in the "Plants" section he takes you on a tour of Awbrey Butte, then on to Century Drive/Cascade Lakes Highway, a 100-mile trip from Bend to Dutchman's Flat, around Crane Prairie Reservoir and back to Bend. The diversity of plants on that route will keep you busy all summer - but he neglected to tell you what a thrill it is to canoe in the full moon on places like Crane Prairie and Hosmer and Davis lakes.
The author's tour of the faulted countryside of the old lake basins of Fort Rock and Christmas Valley will make your mouth water. He suggests you take in Hole-in-Ground, Fort Rock and Crack-in-the-Ground all in one trip. Good idea, but don't miss Derrick Cave, the blowouts, or South Ice Cave on the way back to Bend.
And if you want to stay the night on the desert in a classy place after enjoying Crack-in-the-Ground, stay in the Outback Bed and Breakfast on the east end of Christmas Valley. Or you can camp at the Lost Forest and put up with saw-whet owls serenading you all night long...
Furry overlooked the story about the old buckaroo from the sagebrush country who died and went to heaven. Saint Pete found him forlornly standing in front of the Pearly Gates and asked, "Who're you, cowboy?"
"Sam," the old buckaroo answered.
"Where you from, Sam?" Peter asked.
"Fort Rock," he replied.
Peter sighed, opened the gates and said, "You can come on in if you want to, Sam; but this place ain't near as pretty as Fort Rock."
After talking about the furry animals, Furry (sorry, I had to do that...) takes you into what he calls, "Other Organisms." Most people overlook that complex part of the biota of the High Desert, which is a shame. The organisms Furry describes are vital to the overall health and welfare of everything around us. Opening the door to the world of lichens is a wonderful way for visitors to the Rimrock country to enjoy the colorful relationships between soil, water, air and pack rat urine.
On page 10 of Beyond Sagebrush's geography section, you can find the story of renaming good old Bachelor Butte to "Mt. Bachelor." I fought that one, but it was like tilting at windmills - as Furry states, marketing won the day. I guess it was more important to ski on a snow-capped "mountain" than an insignificant "butte."
His panoramic photos from the summit of Pilot Butte are a good idea. They give newcomers names of the landforms they see, but I would have also liked it if he had drawn a dotted line over Newberry to show where the skyline was in its heyday.
As a retired sailplane instructor who once made a living watching clouds, I loved Furry's section on climate. I found a few things I'd like to discuss with him, like the shape of a thermal, but overall, he gives us lots of good information about our weather, and his photos of clouds are delightful.
The best part of Furry's book is his discussion about what makes a "desert," a subject that is perplexing to visitors and residents alike. And his description of other deserts of the Earth only makes it better.
So, don't hesitate good people; skip on down to your favorite bookstore and purchase a copy of Beyond Sagebrush. Keep it in your backpack, and/or glovebox. That's what I'm going to do. It's an excellent reference for what you look at while hiking, or what you see whizzing by as you thunder down the road at 60 miles an hour. If you stop and take a second look, Furry has done his job.
You can meet the author at Sunriver Books and Music on Feb 14 at 5pm.