THE VALLEY OF THE GIANTS
The Valley of the Giants makes you feel small in a secret place that lets your heart soar as tall as the giants that live there.
I recently joined a small troop of travelers led by retired BLM Forester, Walt Kastner.
We traveled for hours deep into the Oregon Coast Range to explore a unique 51-acre grove of old growth Doug fir trees.
Kastner pulled a the metal tape from its spring-loaded container to measure the circumference of a nearby giant – he stretched his arms and pulled the tape all the way around the huge tree and after a few minutes:
“Finally, “27 feet! Wow!” noted Kastner. “By my formula that’s a nine foot diameter – and perhaps 450 years old – at the least – probably older.”
The giant tree was but one of scores that you will see along the 1.5 mile long forest trail that meanders through the Valley of the Giants.
Kastner advised us to pause often and admire the valley’s diversity of trees – not just their size but also their placement in the valley.
“If you stop and look around, you can see you’ve got some very large trees that are deep and complex. Look at how variable the spacing is between the trees – some are clumped up, others far apart, plus there are standing dead trees and downed trees. There’s just so much diversity and complexity in here.”
The Valley of the Giants is a small snapshot of what much of Western Oregon’s fir forests may have looked like – perhaps 150 years ago.
It is so special a place the BLM has protected the public parcel since 1976 as an Outstanding Natural Area for study and research.
“Forest scientists can come here to study and learn how these types of stands developed and by knowing that, you can incorporate what they find into the management plan for some of our younger stands where you might want to manage for older forest characteristics…it’s kind of a living laboratory,” said Kastner
The North Fork of the Siletz River bisects the valley in classic “pool and drop fashion,” noted BLM staff member Trish Hogervorst.
A hiking bridge allows you to access the trail and gain entry into a lush forestland that receives nearly 200 inches of rain each year.
“The music of the water is such a wonderful secret in some ways,” added Trish. “Not many people make it out here and you’ll often be the only one out here. It’s just beautiful!”
The Valley of the Giants is remote and access is limited because private timberland surrounds this public island of old growth trees.
The BLM offers a free brochure with a map and mileage directions.
Still, BLM Recreation Planner, Traci Meredith, noted that it’s a challenging route – even under the best of conditions.
“You can make a wrong turn pretty easily if you’re looking the other way, so stay alert and follow directions on the map.”
There is no camping in the Valley of the Giants – no campfires are allowed and you must stay on the moderately graded trail. There is a picnic table along the route, so you are able to stop for a time and enjoy the experience with friends or family.
Still, given its remote location, you should plan on a full day to reach and hike through the valley.
Traci added, “I love it out here, it’s big, open, quiet. It’s not considered a wilderness but people sure feel like they’re in a wilderness out here.”
Dan Wood and Mari Kasamoto were enjoying the giants for the first time and agreed they’d never seen anything like the grove of ancient trees before. They didn’t know that Doug fir trees lived so long.
“These big trees are amazing when they’re up in the air,” noted Wood. “But you can’t tell how tall they are until the fall – and in here you have soaring trees but also the fallen ones and you can actually see how big and wide and tall they are at the same time.”
“It’s very peaceful and relaxing,” added Kasamoto. “I would definitely come here again. It’s so special a place.”
Call the BLM (503-375-5646) to receive a copy of the recommended driving directions.
The map directions begin at Falls City, five miles southwest of Dallas. The driving route is 30 miles but it will take you 90 minutes to reach the valley. Follow the directions closely and carefully.
Caution: much of the route is in large rock or gravel and the logging roads are notorious for puncturing car tires. I discourage taking the family car or van – if you choose to do so, take along a second spare tire.
A FRIEND TO THE CRITTERS
One sure way to get to know the Oregon outdoors is to get to know its wildlife a bit better, so this week we catch up with a wildlife champion and friend to the critters at a place you can visit.
Dave Siddon has walked the talk of helping sick and injured wildlife for more than thirty years. He owns and manages “Wildlife Images” near Grants Pass in Southern Oregon.
Throughout his lifetime of study and hands-on practice, Dave Siddon has come to know hawks and eagles and vultures and scores of other sharp-eyed birds of prey very well.
For many years he was a fixture at the Oregon Zoo – even started their raptor program.
Twelve years he decided to go home to Wildlife Images and follow his father’s life’s work rehabilitating sick or injured animals and educating folks.
His father, Dave Siddon Sr., was a well-known figure in the wildlife rehabilitation world. He opened the clinic in 1981 following his own passion for helping cougars and eagles and bears get well and get back to the wild.
Dave Sr. passed away in 1996 following a battle with cancer, and his son promised to dedicate his life to the center’s most important mission.
“When my father was dying of cancer he came to me and said – ‘would you consider leaving the zoo and making sure my place doesn’t die along with me?’ and how do you say no to that? So I came down here and dedicated my life to making sure this place continues to do the good work it does.”
Dave Siddon, Jr was well prepared for the challenge. He worked for Sea World where he trained sea lions and dolphins, he worked at the zoo for a dozen years and he has blazed his own trail into the world of wildlife rehabilitation.
Wildlife Images spreads across 24 acres offering wildlife viewing opportunities at every turn: perhaps a fox, a bobcat, a large brown bear and especially the wildlife that fly.
Siddon noted that some animals come to Wildlife Images from would-be pet owners who realize too late that some critters just don’t make good house pets.
The center receives and treats over 2,500 animals annually, and approximately 90 percent of those that survive their initial injuries are returned to the wild.
The organization’s clinic, nature center, and animal holding facilities are located on twenty-four acres of natural habitat adjacent to Oregon’s famous Wild and Scenic Rogue River, which serves as an excellent location for wildlife release.
Each year thousands of visitors tour the center to see animals ranging from grizzly bears to mountain lions to small arctic foxes and even tiny hummingbirds.
As we strolled past display cages containing coyotes, a badger, porcupines, red foxes, and others, Dave pointed out with pride the close up opportunities that visitors enjoy at an open-air exhibit for bald eagles, turkey vultures, and ravens.
As we walked into the small building, Dave reached over and lifted a large metal window. The opening looked out to a grassy area, dotted with many small native plants and towering trees jutting to the sky.
A fine mesh net draped over the entire scene and prevented the birds from leaving the grounds. “Perfect perches,” I noted as I admired the very natural setting.
Dave then shared more of his father’s vision and passion. “It was my father’s real dream to put together a facility for the bald eagles and other raptors where people can see them without wire and obstructions. They’re such beautiful and majestic birds, you’d like to see them in some sort of situation that mimics what you’d see in the wild.”
Wildlife Images offers unique educational opportunities to schools, organizations, and the general public and conducts tours six days a week year-round. Reservations are required, and the facility is closed most national holidays.
You can visit - wander with a tour and learn more about the remarkable people that help Oregon wildlife – motivated by Siddon’s simple yet powerful belief: “If you don’t have wildlife it’s not a good place to be.”
NESTUCCA RIVER BACKCOUNTRY BYWAY
The Nestucca River sings on its way to the sea and along the narrow winding roadway that follows it you may hear its song.
Be prepared to spend some time in these mountains and savor the road that threads through the heart of these mountains.
It’s a place where milky white clouds wisps dance above giant Doug fir trees or tiny wild iris bunches burst to life close to ground.
I am on a back road so significant that the Bureau of Land Management designated eleven miles of it a National Scenic Byway.
You certainly won’t worry about getting lost on this scenic byway because right at the very start – at Dovre Campground - there’s a huge wooden map to show you the way– plus, it identifies several different campgrounds that invite you to make a longer stay.
The byway’s campgrounds – like Dovre Campground – are sheltered under a cool canopy of big leaf maple and alder.
There are a dozen campsites tucked away at Dovre, plus a larger covered picnic site for a possible family gathering.
But don’t get too comfy in the campground!
Soon, it’s time to trade in the truck and the roadway for a different trail.
Sometimes the campgrounds are but a starting point that can launch you onto side trips like the short hike up Dovre Creek where you can enjoy the Dovre Creek Waterfall.
It’s a stunner of a cascade style waterfall in spring and summer – and offers cool respite when the day heats up.
There is so much unmatched rugged beauty on this byway.
As you continue your drive west on the byway, keep in mind that the road parallels an ancient river – marked by 40-million year old basalt rock formations that – even on cloudless days – are drenched from seeping groundwater.
The water drips and drops across the lush moss and water-loving wildflowers that hang from the rock walls.
Soon, you will reach Fan Creek Campground and it is the place to be for more riverside fun – towering trees set this site apart that also offers larger RV sites for the motor home crowd.
Stop in at Alder Glen Campground for a whopper of a waterfall.
You may be drawn to the wildflowers that grow right next to even more shoreline campsites – in fact, one in particular rests just across from the namesake falls. It is a dandy campsite for the falls will lull you to sleep at night.
You are apt to find me along this river in summer – especially on a day when sunbeams light up the scene and a Fairy Slipper orchid waves you along the river as it rolls toward the sea with its magical, ageless song.
If you like to travel in Oregon, the Nestucca River Scenic Byway is not to be missed!
WILLAMETTE SPRING KINGS
As sure as springtime tulip and dogwood blooms come into their own this month, spring salmon fishing season is hitting its stride this time of year.
In fact, Willamette River salmon anglers have enjoyed a strong run of fish the past few weeks and it’s only getting better on the river that runs through the heart of Oregon.
Portland resident Amy Convery, must be an eager angler. She didn’t think twice about a 4 a-m wake up call because it paid off with a gorgeous fish.
This week, she joined local guide, Brandon Glass, for a day of fishing and landed a mint bright ten-pound summer steelhead.
Jack Glass, Brandon’s father, and I watched from a short distance away as Brandon deftly netted Convery’s gleaming prize.
Glass offered that it has been a “roller-coaster” of a spring weather season that has made normally predictable angling conditions more challenging this year.
“Angling’s been quite good on the Willamette so far,” noted Glass. “But there have been a lot of day to day water fluctuations due to all of the rain. So, visibility has been the big threat. Some days it’s less than a couple feet of viz when we’d really like to have twice that.”
Longtime fishermen Rod Brobeck and Trey Carskadon joined Jack Glass (Hook-Up Guide Service) too. We were on a “dawn patrol” angling adventure in the Meldrum Bar area near Oregon City.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has forecast more than 100,000 spring salmon to swim up the Willamette River between April and June.
It’s a healthy number of fish by any calculation, so the Willamette is open to salmon angling seven days a week and anglers enjoy a daily limit of two hatchery salmon.
Carksadon noted that the Willamette Springer is the premier fish by which all other salmon seasons are measured. That is, if the spring run is strong, the anglers respond and that sets the stage for all of the other seasons that follow.
So far, the angling interest has been strong – proven by a glance at the so called “aluminum hatch” of boats along the entire 26 mile length of the river length of the river from Oregon City to the confluence with the Columbia River.
“It just doesn’t get any better than a Willamette Spring King,” noted Carskadon. “A very high fat content gives it a buttery taste…that’s what makes this fish so special. This is one of the few places with a run of fish right off the front porch of a major metropolitan area and also one of the finest eating fish on the planet.”
Trolling with salmon lures called “Quikfish” and baits like dyed prawns is popular pastime for sure, but this season a new shore side angling dock at Oregon City provides bank anglers good opportunities too.
Brobeck, Executive Director of the not for profit Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, said that his group spilt the cost of the football field length dock with the state’s Restoration and Enhancement Board.
The new quarter million-dollar West Linn Fishing Dock offers bank anglers a stable and safe shoreline area to cast and land fish.
“We do of habitat work all across Oregon,” said Brobeck. “But we also try to provide access for fishermen and this project is something solid – we can stand on it and we fish off it and most importantly, there’s good fishing here too; especially for spring salmon and sturgeon.”
One more thing to keep in mind: if you boat the river, do it safely!
The spring river current is strong and the temperature is frigid cold at this time of year, so Carskadon (Chairman of the Oregon State Marine Board) added, be sure to wear a pfd.”
“Right now, we have 45-degree water. If you go in the water without a pfd,you’ve only a few short minutes before cramping up or hypothermia kicks in. It cannot over-stated how cold or how powerful this river is right now. We absolutely have something special here and people should get out and enjoy it, but please wear a pfd.”