Monday, June 02, 2008

Tall Trees

View Up 2, originally uploaded by nateborr.

As one of only two members of my immediate family currently on my continent of origin and the only one who hasn't been to Eurasia within the past two months I'm feeling rather like a homebody, and consequently kind of ridiculous for not posting as much as my more traveled hermanos.

Despite near total radio silence I continue to do my whole eat/sleep/breathe thing, though, and besides slowly reconstituting the sort of bachelor-grade domestic existence to which I am accustomed I've spent a lot of time with Kyle on various not-too-flashy activities, which kind of makes up for several months of being geographically unable to actually go out on dates at all. We made one of our neater excursions on Saturday to Valley of the Giants, a 50-acre plot of old-growth Douglas fir and hemlock forest overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

Valley of the Giants isn't obscure but it doesn't seem to get a whole lot of traffic. Some of that may be due to the BLM's seeming online coyness about it, though it probably is due more to the fact that it only offers a two mile loop trail accessible only by 30 miles of privately owned gravel logging roads. But for a short casual hike at the end of a long commute drive it's pretty spectacular and very much worth it.

As expected, it's fantastic to walk among a bunch of conifers that are a couple hundred feet tall and a couple hundred of years old. What I wasn't expecting, though, and what was much neater was how much a part of the forest the dead and fallen trees are: The ground below the sparse-enough standing trees are full of big toppled trunks (some weathered, some shattered, most with bright orange wood) that you don't see in human-managed forests, serving as nurse logs for smaller trees, growing fungus, or forming one more surface for the primordial-looking moss that grows everywhere out here. I don't know how old the dead trees are (it is hard to leave the hike without thinking "I should go learn more about trees") but often enough you see a huge living tree straddling a huge fallen one to the point of engulfing it with its roots. More trees than I somehow would have thought break off partway up and stand there for a while longer, too, so that your eyes follow these unhealthy-looking trunks up until you realize that you're looking at a fifty-plus-foot stump.

It was also nice that we had the trail to ourselves, having arrived in the late afternoon in the late spring. The single picnic table half a mile in from the trailhead was all ours as we ate some chicken-salad-and-alfalfa-sprout sandwiches. We also got no rain to speak of, no mean feat given that the nearest "town" is Valsetz, a former logging settlement (now apparently just the foundation of a onetime company store) that was previously the rainiest town in Oregon. Pleasant. Of course no one was around to take our picture together so I had to take one of those arm's-length snapshots, which kind of documents that we were visiting something green.

After the drive back out and north to McMinnville Kyle's car developed a sometimes nasty-sounding rattle that her mechanic decided was caused, as she put it in private correspondence earlier today, by "a two foot long, 5-inch diameter log shoved up against my exhaust heat shield". So perhaps sixty miles of driving on somewhat littered logging roads is best left to a vehicle other than a middle-aged Ford Taurus. Nonetheless, a worthwhile trip.


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