August 2, 2008


Imagine a place...where you become lulled by the rhythm of a river...which in our realm of reality is defined as rhythm-less...or nothing less. Time becomes reasons to get up at the "regular" reason to change out of your pjs (if you wear any) reason to ask "What are we doing today?" reason to have an valid reason to do anything but allow this moment of existence to play out. Yet in this place, life is being broadcast now...calm and serene....real and alive...beckoning...calling... and then luring you to get moving, to see and experience everything. Do we need something called a "vacation" to reach this place? Do we even want to be at this space? It is definitely not scripted in our culture, it's too decadent...too mindless...time is money, no energy used is wasted energy. While on one of our hikes, we noticed some huge and mighty mature trees that had toppled over due to butt rot...a fungi that attacks the under surface of a tree's thickest core where it meets the soil. A metaphor as such today? No matter how strong, how abundant, how successful we are, the self, the body, the mind will topple without a moment to "imagine"...

As you enter the Willamette National Forest to the "place"... Casey's Riverside RV Park, it is not surprising how Oregon was able to lure us from Cambria, Pines By The Sea...and then live here for almost 9 months. Beautiful, breathtaking, panoramic, lush, vivid and vibrant were only a few of our words as we arrived at this latest waypoint. The land beckon us to explore it we did again...and again.
The Willamette Fish Hatchery provides hatchling fish to the Willamette River and it's tributaries in the surrounding watershed. It is also the nicest trout/salmon hatchery we have visited to date (we have heard the Bonneville Hatchery is even more awesome). The site features a museum and interpretive exhibit, a brood rainbow trout pond with some fish you fantasize hooking up with and a Sturgeon pond with huge prehistoric fish...that have stamped our memory cells with a video of "Jaws" the next time we venture to swim in a deep river channel.
And then there are the trails... a hiker's candy store...a mutt's fire hydrant, a young man's Amsterdam...hundreds and hundreds of miles of trails to choose from, deep into the heart of the Cascades...far more distance available then these half century legs will cover in a lifetime or two...but we did manage to sample a taste of a few of the more scenic trails that in no time flat had us walking to the beat of the river. Dick and would (and could) love notching the miles here.

The North Fork Trail is along the "Wild and Scenic" section of the North Fork Middle Fork of the Willamette River (in 1969, Congress passed the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Act declared that certain rivers possessing extraordinary scenic, recreational, fishery, or wildlife values shall be preserved in their free-flowing state, together with their immediate environments, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people). The trailhead is located at the Office Bridge park. The trail meanders along the river's edge with many perfect overlooks and beach access points for all wannabe anglers. We were rewarded with many fantastic views of frothy rapids and deep translucent blue green pools... and if that is not perfect enough, your walk is mostly under the shade of a canopy of a young, yet dense forest. This trail section is also a very popular ride for mountain bikers, although we are amazed that the difficulty is rated as "easy"...we would not only be walking the bikes most of the way, but might be tethered to them also!
The Middle Fork Trail extends along the Middle Fork of the Willamette River and winds through dense stands of mixed conifers, cottonwood and big leaf maple. Beginning our hike at Sand Prairie Campground, we saw only a short segment of the trail, but it did provide us a glimpse of the diverse and changing ecosystems that can be found along the route...from riparian to high elevation fir. Multiple trailheads offer opportunities to customize the length of one's hike, dictate elevation the gain and difficulty and offer points for easy river access. We chose a casual, relaxed riverside route to satisfy our curiosity and afternoon walk "requirements".

The Joe Goddard Nature Trail is a short loop, but you can spend hours ogling the monstrous trees. You'll walk across a rustic log bridge over Black Creek and from what we gathered, a remnant of past logging operations. You'll stroll past huge Pacific yew, a nine-foot diameter western red cedar and several Douglas firs that are more than 250 feet tall (most tops have been blown off by high winds) and ten feet wide, with the reputation as the biggest trees in Lane County. These old growth trees range in age from 450 to 700 years.

Friends and fellow hikers, Janice and Jeff, found one of the picnic tables made of hand hewn planks and cut logs and patiently awaited those elusive forest elves to take their drink order...they are still waiting.
The Black Creek Trail trailhead was reached only after a long and dusty 8 mile gravel road drive. It's hard to believe after seeing this hike, you may be the only vehicle parked there. This hike soon rewarded us with a magical wayside. The trail begins through a grove of young trees and follows Black Creek up a gentle rolling grade for 2 miles to Lillian Falls of Nettie Creek, a series of beautiful small cascading waterfalls that tumble down over 100 feet.

Nestled in an old growth forest of giant trees, the setting is spectacular, with a lush growth of ferns and tree foliage surrounding the entry points of each waterfall. As the stream tumbles over boulders and logs draped with brilliant green moss, you easily visualize how nature's offering of a bed full of soft emerald cotton balls would look like... these comfy mounds nestled throughout the stream bed, beckoned us to sit and enjoy the beauty. The trail climbs steeply from the falls, through a tableland full of colorful rhododendrons, north to the Waldo Lake Trail.

Exploring a segment of the Salmon Creek Trail was like entering the "secret garden". Walk across the Salmon Creek Gorge Bridge and you enter a realm of filtered sunlight with the golden rays arching in every direction...tree moss 4 to 6 feet in length hang lifeless from overhanging branches... silhouettes of watchful scarecrows, without the crows. The soft, cushioned carpet, which is really the trail, is bordered with sword ferns and vanilla leafs and leads you deeper and deeper into the forest...and everywhere you'll be treated to a color palette of every variation of yellow and green. Creekside access points lead you to some wonderful beaches to soak up the sun and deep pools to cool you down or snag a wary trout or two.

Our effort to log a few more miles on Oregon's segment of the Pacific Crest Trail proved somewhat disappointing. We drove miles on a beautiful paved roads, then onto a dusty washboard road and finally a pure mean and ugly 4-wheel drive slab of dirt to get to this high elevation access point on Summit Lake, aptly named for it lies virtually on the crest of the Cascade Range. We were then unceremoniously greeted and swarmed by hundreds of hungry fans....mosquitoes. We lathered ourselves in deet, then rubbed whatever other nasty, foul smelling goop we had, in every nook and cranny in hopes we could be a "turn off" to those pesky, blood sucking skeeters. Didn't work... all those repellents were like a dry rub on pork ribs. But we did make an honorable effort to put in a few miles before every orifice starting tinkling with unwanted critters. So we packed up, drove back 3,000 feet down the mountain and finished off the day with option #2.
The Larison Creek Trail skirted beautiful Larison Cove, a local jewel with its deep Persian green water. This is wonderful place to kayak or canoe for nestled strategically around the cove are small boat docks allowing access to those secluded boat in only campsites. We skirted the cove and then followed a feeder stream up a canyon through a dense forest. Upon our return, we witnessed the danger that many mountain bikers can encounter while on these narrow trails. A young woman bicyling up the path apparently lost footing on the loose gravel and plumetted with her bike 30 feet down the canyon...only to be stopped by the the thick layer of foliage. Miraculously, she was not impaled on the exposed roots of an upturned tree that she hit on her way down. Battered and bruised, confidence and ego shaken, she sustained only some minor scratches...we were amazed of her bilingual she demonstated her comand of that language that use only "4 letter words"... she used it as a mantra to eliminate her pain and embarrasment. Anyway, hearing here screams, we ran down the trail and scrambled down the mountainside to aid her boyfriend in recovering her and the bike. Fortunately, all ended well. She cleaned up nicely and the last we saw her she had already returned to the trailhead and was nursing her bruised face with multifple icepacks. Clear reasons here why with our bicycle talents we stay to flat, paved paths.

As our stay at Casey's came to a close, we decided to spend a couple of days, fine tuning technique and skill levels, while also wetting a few flies for any wary trout to gawk at. And were caught...and then ceremoniously released to be caught again in the future.

So as our two week retreat in this beautiful setting slowly reaches a sunset...we can only reflect how much we have enjoyed this seminar in relaxation and mindlessness. We will miss the therapy sessions offered by this natural theme park...being lullabyed to sleep by the soothing sounds of the river 's rapids, watching the spectacular confrontations between eagles...osprey and the mighty bald... and then awakened to the golden rods as the morning sun filters through the canopy of branches. But most of all... we will miss our solitude in enjoying this wilderness alone... no crowds and lines on these e-ticket rides disguised as hiking trails, trout streams and vivid, never ending forest roads ( and your green Forester would be tearing up the gravel up here).
For everyone else, take heed to the advertisement;
"Oregon, we love dreamers"

We end the day with some river rockin', good food and a toast to all who partake in this lifestyle.

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