There I was, afoot in the woods hovering the edge between Bull Run watershed and the Columbia Gorge. Ghosts of trees long passed lingered in every direction a body might want to look. Old springboard notches remained in the old stumps recalling an intense image of wiry young men, axes, cross-cut saws, oxen, mules, steam engines and rope. I swear it, the smell of cut wood and earth lingered up the air and I began to wonder what secrets these woods might tell. These forests were logged by the Bridal Veil Lumber Company from the 1880-1930’s. Life by the axe bit, felling trees larger in diameter and height than most humans alive could imagine. During those first miles, descending the heights of Larch Mountain on Mt. Hood National Forest, I followed a trail that was once a skid trail where felled trees were drug from the woods by animal power.
Walking alone, the intensely harvested forest of Bell Creek drainage eventually gave way to what once was; Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar so large that they seemingly sucked the air from the surrounding space. With my breathe stole the behemoths dwarfed all else.
Trees of all sorts, but especially the exceptionally large and old are (and have been) revered by many people and cultures. Perhaps the appreciation of the remaining large trees is accentuated by their rarity. Today, the biggest Douglas Firs on the planet reside in Olympic National Park in northwestern Washington State. Two trees, specifically, are deemed the largest Douglas Firs in the world, topping out at nearly 400 feet tall. Centuries old, trees of this size and height have endured countless storms, stout winds and wildfires. Their canopies are an ecosystem, providing habitat for a very specialized community of plants and animals. People say, “if the woods could talk.” They can and the story told is a long one.