Adventures in Oregon: Willamette National Forest
When Andrew and I found out we were moving to Oregon, we avidly pored over the Oregon tourism website (check it out here but be forewarned: you will totally want to pack your bags and catch the next flight here). The abundance of natural beauty excited us and we vowed to explore as much of the great outdoors in Oregon as we could. I thought you might be interested in tagging along so I’m starting a new series called ‘Adventures in Oregon’ and I’ll periodically update you on new places we’ve checked out. Hope you enjoy it!
During Sydney’s visit last week, we decided to spend our Black Friday amongst the evergreens in Willamette National Forest. You can actually purchase a permit from the National Forest Service for $5 to cut down your own Christmas tree. We thought this sounded like a fabulous idea and a great alternative to waking up at dawn to do battle with the shopping hordes. The weather was wet and chilly but not totally miserable so we loaded up in the car with Thanksgiving leftovers, numerous layers of clothes and a saw for the perfect utterly natural Christmas tree that I envisioned. It would be just like the Griswolds in Christmas Vacation, going out into the woods to find the perfect tree, except we wouldn’t have road rage against a couple of rednecks and run off the road.
We set off on the road, stopping to purchase our permit and collect a map noting where we could cut. As we drove into the forest, the rain picked up its pace. Supposedly, the type of tree we would want would be at higher elevations so we wound our way up, up, up into the mountains.
We stopped to eat our lunch at the Hackleman Old Growth Grove and hiked a short little loop trail while we were there. Some of the trees in this grove are over 500 years old – just incredible to see! The trail itself was a lovely little walk. The primary loop is a nice wide path that is wheelchair accessible, with another small foot path looping out deeper into the woods. The rain continued to pour on us as we hiked but I was so in awe of the massive sentinels lining the trail, that I didn’t really notice.
This wasn’t an area for cutting Christmas trees but I did notice that the firs there had very sparse needles and looked, well, rather homely. No offense to the trees – they looked perfect in their natural setting but they would have looked rather sad in my living room. I realized that we might have to go to higher elevations and probably hike for quite awhile to find something decent.
After we ate our lunch, we headed over to an area labeled ‘Tombstone’ on the map – inviting name, right? We had all gotten pretty darn wet at the grove and as we drove, the rain intensified, coming down in sheets. We parked the car and debated the merits of venturing into the woods in search of a tree that might not be there – as if in answer, the sky opened up and the rain came down even harder. We took that as a sign to try for the tree on another, less soggy day. We wound our way back down the road and, almost like a consolation prize, the rain lifted long enough for us to stop and hike a quick interpretive trail over Trout Creek for a view of Walton Ranch.
The view was just beautiful with the clouds hugging the hills and evergreens framing the vista. The meadow below tends to draw elk in the winter months, so we’ll definitely head back up there again to see if we can catch a glimpse.
The rain gave us a respite just long enough to soak up the beauty of the trail before escorting us back to the car. Though our search for a tree was a bust and the rain didn’t know how to take a hint, it was still a lovely first look at Willamette National Forest, and enticed us enough to head back just two days later. Check back tomorrow to find out what Oregon looks like when it’s not raining – here’s a hint … it’s absolutely beautiful!