To reach the Valley of the Giants in the safest manner, a visitor must access it from the east side of the Coast Range, through Falls City. We took Highway 22 and then the side roads to Falls City. We picked up a BLM map there and were on our way into the mountains. Somewhere along the way, Joe told me a story about chocolate pudding in connection with attending a hillbilly wedding of his best friend that took place in the woods near Nashville, Oregon, not far off Highway 22. It was a story that could have been an award-winning comedy routine or a great scene for an Oregon-themed reboot of Deliverance.
After a 90-minute drive up, down and around potholed logging roads, we found the trail head. No other vehicle was there. We descended a wet path into the Valley, into a shaded realm where it rains 200 inches a year, and I beheld the biggest trees I had ever seen in Oregon—300-400 year-old Douglas firs and other towering conifers. Some were split by lightning. Some the wind had dropped. Some were standing tall, 20-24 feet in diameter. No log truck today could hold a log this size. No mill today could mill it. These trees were never going to be cut but they would die one day, fall and rot, or perhaps even burn. All forests eventually burn. Even forests where rain falls 200 inches a year.
Joe and I wandered among the trees and found our favorites behemoths. We didn’t say much but, at one point we came together under a tree that just kept going and going, finally disappearing into the sky, (which we could barely glimpse) and I said, “Why did we ever turn away from this as a religion?”
“I didn’t,” he said
I brought along lunch for us and no longer recall its contents. We sat on some boulders in a creek and ate and talked of philosophy and religion as the water meandered by.
We took the path back to the trail head. We passed a a few people along the way. Near my truck, we met an older man and woman, Ed and Rose. He had logged in the area decades ago and wanted to see the Valley one last time. I asked him why the Valley was never logged. He said it was something about the steep terrain of this particular draw; they couldn’t get equipment in to get the trees out is what he had heard. It was before his time in the woods.
I don’t think that was the real reason and I don’t think Ed did either, but he didn’t want to articulate it.
An hour later, Joe and I drove out the other way, with no map, south toward Siletz, through the rugged canyon country of the upper Siletz River. The clearcuts in this area were the worst I’ve ever seen. It looked like a war had taken place. We got lost a couple of times, but Joe figured it out after some backtracking.
I dropped Joe at his girlfriend’s house. We shook hands and planned another adventure. That was the last time I saw him.
We’ve lost contact. I’m sure he’s heard what happened to me. I think about our unique bonding over all things Oregon and that trip to the Valley of the Giants. He taught me well that day. It was one of my finer days of being an Oregonian.
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