Tillamook Dawn Just after 6am on a cool dripping morning, I started down the Wilson River Trail. My goal was the other end - 20.6 miles distant. From its start at the Elk Creek trailhead, the trail steadily rose along the base of Elk Mountain. The trees parted to afford this view over the Tillamook State Forest. The forecast called for light morning showers followed by afternoon clearning. A few light raindrops did splatter down as orderd, but the skies stayed grey most of the day.
Fungal Jungle Much of the beauty in the forest is on a tiny scale. I imagined what it must be like to live on such a scale - to navigate this chaotic terrain. My thin dirt trail seemed tame, almost dull in comparison.
The Woods About 4 miles along, the trail rose high on the flanks of Kings Mountain, and into the clouds. This was a new forest. Grave markers in the form of massive charred and rotting stumps served as reminders of the fires that devasted the Tillamook Forest some 60 years ago. The size of those mature trees was glorious, and left me anxious to see their return. But there is no rushing a forest. This won't truly come back until long after I'm gone. And will it burn again? Perhaps. Probably. I was just witness to a small slice of the cycle.
Over Lester Creek This rocky outcrop jutted from the cliffs along the headwaters of Lester Creek - a small side-channel pouring into the Wilson River. The small figure of a human visitor is insignificant, transient.
Collinsia Parviflora Blue-Eyed Mary is miniscule flower - measured in millimeters. This was the miniature mossy landscape on top of a rock, in the clouds, in the forest, at 2000ft.
North Fork Wilson River Bridge This impressive bridge was built for the trail, for feet and foot-powered bikes. The swirling North Fork of the Wilson River rushed underneath. My attention was turned to a constant rumble and clatter that filled the air - not from the forest or river, but from the Diamond Mill "staging area" nearby. It was the launching pad for men on two- and four-wheeled machines... thundering through the forest, conquering it, tearing through the wet soil with studded tires, canary colored leather, shiny plastic helmets, and the ever-present fumes of gas. It was a different way to experience the forest. It wasn't for me, but at least they were out there - not huddled around some television, not idolizing some artificial reality, simply making their own way - living their own life, churning and breathing, burning and spitting.
A Good Sign Near the halfway point, this sign gave orientation. But to whom? Throughout my 12-hour ramble, I saw exactly 5 others on the trail. A family of 3, not a couple hundred yards from their car, and 2 men on mountain bikes. This trail was a such a treasure, such an investment, such a prize and gift... how could it be that millions lived nearby, unfulfilled, when an answer awaited them. Surely, it wasn't for everyone, but out of millions, only 5?
Re-Fern Sword Ferns are so ubiquitos in the northwest woods, they sometimes go unappreciated and unnoticed. But, what a fantastic thing to watch this primitive giant explode into a new season - grabbing its place in the understory.
Wilson's Warbler Is there anything more appropriate than sitting on the bank of the Wilson River, being entertained by the carefree antics of a Wilson's Warbler? This colorful and busy little bird paused between liquid melodies to snatch bugs from the air, to visit a nest of peeping chicks, and simply garnish the branches with its being.
Wolf Creek Late in the day, I passed the most beautiful stream along the trail - Wolf Creek. By some mix of geology and topography, this stream possessed a character you dream for a forest creek - mossy boulders, splash pools, a drapery of flowering green life... and that sound that has no rival - echoing up the the canyon walls, to the trail, to my ears, in my head - infectious and addictive.
Oxalis Probably the most ubiquitos plant along the day was the clover-like Oxalis. Everywhere. Millions of them made a carpet of green with pinpricks of white starry flowers. And they taste good too!
April 2008: A hike along the Wilson River Trail
Fawn Lily Fawn Lilies are one of the numerous flowers that take turns decorating the forest undergrowth as the season progresses.
On Display This group of Fawn Lilies and Stream Violet was growing in-between the thick roots at the base of a tree.
Wilson River The Wilson River is one of the major rivers of the Tillamook State Forest. It flows from the crest of the Oregon coast range west toward the ocean near Tillamook, OR.
Wilson Falls Wilson Falls is located a couple miles from the Jones Creek trailhead. This tall, thin waterfall floats down the steep canyon walls, over the trail, and into the Wilson River.
Various Times: Explorations of the Tillamook State Forest
Wilson River Trail The Wilson River Trail follows the Wilson River throught the forest lowlands. In the early spring, everything glows with a fresh coat of green.
Fungi garden Old snags are the perfect habitat for fungi like these.
Bridge Creek Falls Bridge Creek Falls is a small waterfall just a hundred yards off the main route of hwy 6.
University Falls University Falls can be reached by a short trail down into a ravine. The trails in the Tillamook State Forest are designated for a variety of uses, from off-road motorized use to horses, mountain bikes and hikers. Usually, it's pretty easy to keep track of the type of trail you're on.
Fern Rock Falls Fern Rock Falls is right along a highway pullout. Not exactly a wilderness experience, but pretty nonetheless.
Elk Creek Forest Elk Creek rushes through a frozen forest down toward the Wilson River.
Wilson River Fisherman A fisherman tries his luck along the banks of the Wilson River.
Where is it? The Tillamook State Forest is located in Northwest Oregon.
Before you go... There's a really good map of the forest put out by the state forest agency. If you plan to spend any time in the forest, it's a good idea to pick one of these maps up.