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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. — You can hike or bike along a safe Washington County bike trail, enjoy a warm, dry campout and learn about a unique chapter of Oregon’s timber history all on this week’s getaway.

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.

“Much of the trail is pretty flat so you don’t worry about a lot of hill work,” noted Miller, who is a longtime cyclist. ”It’s nice because newcomers can get used to riding on their bikes or riding with a group of friends. It’s a safe trail because you are away from road traffic too.”

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

There is a towering trestle at the Buxton Trailhead – where Steve Kruger, (ORPD) said, “We’re 85 feet up in the air, so you can really get a feel for the trail’s history.”

A century ago all of this was a railroad line that moved the big timber between nearby Vernonia and Portland.

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

Visitors to the trail can also enjoy Stub Stewart State ParkIn fact, you can’t miss the state park 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 of the comforts of home inside each of 15 cozy and heated cabins that go for $52 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 so be sure to roll up to the town’s remarkable Vernonia 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 museum volunteer, Tobie Finzel.

“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 that is also on the National Historic Registry.

The Vernonia Pioneer Museum houses a remarkable photo collection from the heydays of old growth logging and provides visitors with a snapshot on a time in Oregon - it is worth your time to visit.

Be sure to follow my Oregon adventures via the new Grant’s Getaways Podcast:

Each segment is a story-telling session where I relate behind the scenes stories from four decades of travel and television reporting.

You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon travels and adventures in the Grant’s Getaways book series, including:

"Grants Getaways I," Photography by Steve Terrill

"Grant's Getaways II," Photography by Steve Terrill

Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures,” Photography by Jeff Kastner

Grant’s Getaways: Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon,” Photography by Jeff Kastner

Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids,” Photography by Jeff Kastner

The collection offers hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a kid of any age.

 My next book, “Grant’s Getaways: Another 101 Oregon Adventures” will be published in 2022.

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