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Grant's Getaways: Cycling through Oregon history

Take a ride on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail in Washington County.

VERNONIA, Ore. — There are many ways to explore Oregon’s byways and a growing way to see the sights and hear the sounds is simply rolling along on two wheels.

Winter’s cold and wet rarely slows down Sally Miller and Hannah Vaandering from putting in their training miles on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail in Washington County.

“Near Banks, much of the trail is pretty flat so you don’t worry about a lot of hill work,” noted Miller, a longtime cyclist. "It’s nice that way so newcomers can get used to riding on their bikes or riding with a group of friends. It’s also safe because you’re away from road traffic.”

The B-V Trail is made for cruising through a Northwest Oregon forest; plus, you can also enjoy 13 railroad trestles that give you a flavor for the area’s history.

There is a towering trestle at the Buxton Trailhead – where Oregon State park ranger, Steve Kruger, said, “At 85 feet up in the air, you can really get a feel for the trail’s history.”

A century ago this was a railroad line that moved big timbers between nearby Vernonia and Portland.

Kruger added that the trail is Oregon State Park’s first “Rails to Trails” conversion; it’s 21 miles of paved pathway with a gentle 2 to 5 percent grade.

Visitors to the trail can also enjoy Stub Stewart State Park – in fact, you can’t miss it because the trail runs right through it.

Plus, the park’s rental cabins make a wintertime campout and trail riding a super way to combine cycling into a weekend getaway.

You will find nearly all the comforts of home inside each of 15 cozy and heated cabins that go for $47 a night.

“Typically, each will sleep five adults with two doubles and a single bunk and there’s a nice kitchen table and chairs,” noted Kruger. “Plus, electric heaters in each cabin are really nice this time of year.”

Back on the B-V Trail, you reach end of the line in the town of Vernonia, Oregon, so be sure to roll up to the town’s remarkable Pioneer Museum. Inside, you will discover that a different sort of logging heritage runs deep in what was once a "company town.”

For many decades, Vernonia’s life blood centered on the Oregon-American Lumber Mill that ran around the clock and employed nearly 2,000 workers in the early 1920s.

And back then, “the trees were unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” according to Tobie Finzel, a volunteer at the Vernonia Pioneer Museum.

“The trees were so big across this country that it would take the men a couple of days with the crosscut saws just to get an old growth tree ready to fell.”

More than 2 billion board feet of Doug fir lumber came out of the Vernonia mill during a run that ended in 1958.

The museum is inside the only remaining building from those days and it is also on the National Historic Registry. The museum houses a remarkable photo collection from the heydays of old growth logging too.

“I think it was more to chronicle life in the woods back then and they could sell the photos to the loggers because they were in the pictures,” noted Finzel. “So, it a very real way, we are connecting directly with the past here.”

The photos, the memorabilia and other pieces of logging equipment make the Vernonia Pioneer Museum worth your time for a visit.

If you would like to visit more of Oregon – consider a walk on the wild side with my latest book: “Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids.” You’ll find activities to engage any kid, from archery to clamming on the coast to hunting for thundereggs to zip-lining through trees in an aerial adventure park.

In addition, be sure to check out  Grant’s Getaways Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon.” You will enjoy 48 uniquely Oregon adventures highlighting my fish and wildlife encounters. scores of colorful photos by “Grant’s Getaways” photographer, Jeff Kastner, show off some of our finest moments in the field.  You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon adventures in: "Grant's Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures."

 You can reach me: Gmcomie@kgw.com

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