Oregon Tavern Age: Trails Inn

Downtown Estacada. A weekday. Noon.

I was sitting in OTA country, the Trails Inn, to be precise, and my mind drifted to some 35 years ago when I last visited an earlier version of this joint, the Timber Room.

It was tiny and dark then, not expanded, lightened up, remodeled like now. No video slots and poker. No liquor. A tavern with a jukebox. No craft malt liquors brewed in the commie cities by socialists.

What’s left of the old Timber Room is now full of machines collecting tax revenue for the state.

I was so hoping this joint had remained the same, but…joints adapt in OTA country or they die. Wait, didn’t I recently declare the death of OTA country because Donald Trump killed it? Yes, I did. I suppose now I was sitting in former OTA country. Really, if I think about, there may be a dozen real OTA joints left. They are going the way of the circus and canasta.

Fantastic old logging photos dominated the decor and that’s all to write about that. At least the new joint honored its past.

But 35 years ago my friends bicycled up to this joint for a round of 59-cent drafts of Hamm’s or Oly or Heidelberg or Rainier, before bicycling another 15 miles east of Estacada into the foothills of the Cascade Range to camp and drink along Fish Creek in a Mt Hood National Forest campground that was primitive to say the least, which always attracts a strange breed, even today. (Just check out the primitive campgrounds along Elk River on the Southern Oregon Coast. Who these campers are is impossible to discern.)

Prior to my reunion with the Trails Inn I drove up to the campground on a story mission. The campground as I remembered was gone because of the hellacious forest fire that ravaged the area in the summer of 2020. But the story mission became a lot more interesting as a result and I hope to take it on soon. I think it has the potential to be a truly original work of fiction. Or it could be, to quote Professor Jennings on the potential of his novel in Animal House…a piece of shit. You never really know until you get into it.

But back to Timber Room during the Reagan years: packed full of rural degenerates drinking hard in the late morning, (while waiting for the liquor store to open) including a one-armed man playing pool who had recently been released from prison and spoke with the most profane and awful grammar I have ever heard. The Timber Room was one of my first OTA experiences, although I didn’t call it OTA for decades afterward. Really, if I think about, OTA country is what really inspired me to become a writer and I suppose I’ll document it until the end of my writing life or OTA country finally goes extinct.

After the memorable encounter in the Timber Room, we would meet several of these degenerates back at the campground, a shared girlfriend, a kid named Billy, and a man soaring on something who introduced himself by wildly exclaiming, “Hi! My name’s Todd. I was born by Todd Lake, Oregon! I live in Oregon City and I love Oregon! Don’t get no more Oregon than that!

At the time I thought, “No Todd, it don’t.”

But this new Fish Creek story, oh yeah Todd, it will get more Oregon than you, brother.