Whetstone mountain southwest of the Bull of the Woods Wilderness and is just west of Mt. Jefferson (10,497′). Whetstone mountain, Opal Creek Wilderness Area combined with the Bull of the Woods Wilderness make up the largest contiguous, low elevation old-growth forest left in Oregon. Prior to the westward expansion, the Santiam Kalapuya Indians occupied this region. Archaeologists and natural historians report that many lithic sites produced artifacts dating back 2,000 years. It is believed that the Santiam Kalapuya regularly used trails below Whetstone mountain for trade with tribes from around the region. The Santiam Kalapuya were also known to summer at the site known as Jawbone Flats.
Opal Creeks more contemporary history is one of mining that began in 1859 when westerners were in pursuit of gold. Jawbone Flats was further developed for additional mining interests with President Roosevelt’s “new deal.”
This area was part of what is known as bio-region, aptly named “Cascadia” and was once thought to encompass the entire region from northwest California, east to the Cascade crest and north to the south eastern portion of Alaska. Fragmented by urban development and resource utilization, Opal Creek/Bull of the Woods Wilderness areas represent a peek into what was once the most biologically diverse area on the planet. Some speculate that areas like Opal Creek contained Douglas Fir that perhaps, exceeded the size of the Sequoia’s in California.
Much of the area is infrequently visited and requires some tenacity to travel along it’s drainage’s, ridge-lines and summits. There are literally hundreds of plant, animal, fungi, lichen and moss species to observe and enjoy. Massive trees loom everywhere while rhododendrons and vine leaf maple search out the meager sun breaking through the tree canopy above.
On this particular day, Oregon had just emerged from a late spring snow storm that reached the low elevations of the Willamette Valley. When we began traveling along Opal Creek, the entire forest canopy was blanketed under a heavy water laden snow. As the day progressed, the snow began to melt and descended from the canopy in a great cacophony of ice droplets. It might as well have been diamonds and as we walked, everywhere, glints of ice and sun added an unusual beauty to the day. I attempted to capture the glittering ice droplets and instead captured an interesting scene of wonderful light, a living giant and one of it’s passed cousins in the background.