Forgotten corner of Oregon

Oregon’s Forgotten Corner.

For those of you who actually read this blog on a regular basis, it may have become apparent that I am using this medium to assemble and present the first draft of a book about Oregon’s forgotten northwest corner. With the exception of those that live in this northwest corner of Oregon, most residents tend to focus on the Cascades when they consider recreation in the woods. When they do traverse the state’s northwest corner, they’re typically making a mad dash to reach the distant coast. On either side are commercial forests that until recently contained few recreational amenities to draw in the speeding driver. The traveler sees only the blue or yellow gates that prevent cars from penetrating up the gravel road into the mass of trees. For some the sight of a recent clear-cut is enough of a deterrent; for others the fear of getting lost in the labyrinth of logging roads keeps them from entering.

But for some, it’s not about reaching a certain destination, nor is it about the “purity” of the forest experience. Some of us feel an inchoate desire to ground ourselves in the spirit of a place, almost like a beacon searching out its coordinates. Have you ever seen a dog stick his nose into the air to take the measure of a place?  For me these remote valleys each have a distinct character that guide the elk, shield the beavers that call it home, and nurture the shadowy carpets of duff that split to reveal buttery chanterelles.

Digging for the buried stories

Several years ago, I explained to a friend that I was writing a book about the forests and trails that stretched from Portland to the coast. “Aside from describing trail routes, what more is there to say”, he asked? To him the Coast range was a vast expanse of forest that was occasionally visited by hunters, fishermen and loggers. Where, in these remote forests, were the dramatic stories that might interest people, he wondered?

After years of crisscrossing these mountains, I recognized that this corner of Oregon was full of stories if one only knew where to look. These remote forests were rippling with historic undercurrents. Digging deeper, I discovered footpaths made by the region’s first people. In the foothills I followed the blaze marks of the ax-wielding trailblazers. Along the wild Salmonberry River I walked the trestles and tunnels of our determined railroad builders. The deeper I penetrated the denser the story became.

More than a hiking guide.

I started this project describing two hiking routes to the coast, but soon I found myself digging deep into Oregon’s history. Not satisfied with just hiking 1,500 miles of old logging roads, I began to systematically collecting long-lost anecdotes from century-old newspapers, hunting for out-of-print pioneer memoirs, pouring through obscure community histories, and culling archeological reports.

As my hikes took me deeper into the Coast range, the research uncovered an epic contest between Oregon’s primeval forest and the determinism of the American frontier. And the cast of characters exploded beyond the foresters, private land managers and lumberjacks that one might expect to find, to include the Calapooyans, the colorful voyageurs, the hard-scrabble homesteaders, the bull whackers, and even the violent “Wobs” that shaped this remarkable history.

This book will be for those people who want to explore aimlessly and to be rewarded endlessly. It is my hope that you will enjoy your natural surrounding by following the Coast Range trails I’ve surveyed. And that my digging into the heritage of the place it will give you a greater appreciation for the complex history  that this forgotten corner of Oregon yet another dimension to appreciate.

About Jim

Love to spend time getting lost in the deep forests of the Pacific Northwest with Zoe, my Siberian Husky.
This entry was posted in Lower Columbia Trails, Misc Trails & Trips, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Forgotten corner of Oregon

  1. Celia Davis says:

    Just read about your work in today’s Daily Astorian. I’ll look forward to learning more.

  2. Clint says:

    Hey Jim,

    Great site! I know this is an older post but it struck me as a person who has lived in Oregon their entire life how little I know about the coast range. It seems sometimes we spend so much time talking about Lewis and Clark, Mt. Hood, the coast and the Gorge that we really do forget the amazing history of such a wild part of Oregon.

    Until you get out into the middle of the coast range, alone (or with friends!) you can’t really appreciate how amazing it must have been to forge a path thorough our very wild temperate jungle.

    Thanks for taking the time and energy to chase your passion and provide us with a lasting document of this really amazing area.

    Keep it up!

  3. colin penno says:

    I remember leaving Cannon Beach for the drive back to Portland and, across a broad valley (for the coast range) seeing the very same rumpled ridge that spans the top of your web site. What is that ridge and is it accessible? I’ve always wondered.


    – Colin Penno

    • Jim says:

      The Ridgeline to the north of US 26 originates from Humbug Mtn (not to be confused by a mountain with the same name further south along Oregon’s coast) and extends about 20 miles westwards. At its western end it looms above the intersection of US-26 and US 101. From that point it extends northwards forming the mountainous backdrop to Seaside. It eventually decreases in height as it approaches the northern end of the Clatsop Spit.

      The banner picture on my site is a view of Saddle Mountain (a northern outlier to this chain of peaks) taken from the ridgeline I described above. The best way to access this area to see both Humbug Mountain and Saddle Mountain is to use the forest service road located just to the west of the summit of the Humbug Mountain pass (elevation sign posted alongside the highway marks the summit of the pass). Watch for the resumption of the metal guard rail on the north side of the road – that’s where the dirt road veers off the highway and heads north. It’s hard to spot when driving west so proceed slowly after reaching the summit (heading west). It’s easier to spot coming up the pass from the west (heading east) as it veers of at an angle from the main road.

      Follow the logging roads, always opting for the road leading higher up. This will eventually lead you up the crown of Humbug Mountain from where you can get a beautiful view of Saddle Mountain. At the very top there is a telecommunication tower so you can call home and brag about your ascent! 😉


  4. ryan francesconi says:

    Is your book still in progress? Any idea when it would be available?

    • Jim says:

      Dear Ryan:

      I’m just finishing up the negotiations with the publisher. Hopefully it will be the OSU Press. I expect that it will take us into the fall to convert most of the trails that are described on the website into the quality required for actual publishing. The book should include 25 trails (each with its own map), a map each for the northern and southern routes, a series of 4 regional maps (corresponding to the subdivision of the trails) and an overall map for the area extending from Portland to the Coast.

      In the meantime, I’m also slowly putting up maps that people can download from the website.

      Jim Thayer

  5. ryan francesconi says:

    Thanks for the reply and this great site, Jim. I sent you an email the other day – though maybe it got lost in the spam somewhere. Would it be possible to have a look at your northern route gpx? I’ve been riding some of those same roads lately already and would love to see exactly what you came up with. I’m helping catalog the best of these roads for a gravel riding project in Oregon. Looking forward to the new book as well. -Ryan

    • Jim says:

      Look at Ridge Runner’s delight in the Saddle Mountain section. There is one change I need to make on that route. Just before the so-called “Suicide Curve” you should go right instead of left. This alternate route avoids the area that was washed out by the ’97 storm. I’ll try to get to it today.

      Anyone want to meet tomorrow to go down to the Salmonberry and check on the river flows?

  6. ryan francesconi says:

    Would love to check out the Salmonberry soon. Can’t do tomorrow though. I’ve yet to be down there but am excited by the proposed trail prospect. We need that trail to give more recreational touring cyclists a safe route into the Portland area from the coast.

    I’ve been looking at your overall northern route closely. Would you say it’s about 95% rideable? Granted, this isn’t for a beginner, but I think it is doable in a single massive (summer) day. The amount of climbing is pretty extreme (14000 ft), but not out of reach.

    What do you think? Are there many sections that would require walking the bike?

  7. Bruce Harrison says:

    At one time living in a logging camp was a common experience for men seeking employment in this area you refer to as “the forgotten corner of Oregon.” I personally know of two sites of old logging camps. In fact, I once found a many-holed outhouse in the woods at the site of an ancient logging camp. My father told of visiting with old-timers about staying on in a logging camp north and west of Humbug Mountain. Some of the men would walk forest trails home to Hamlet on the N0rth Fork of the Nehalem after the end of a week’s work. Wouldn’t it be fun to know the route they walked?

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