Category: Trips ‘n’ Trails

FIGHT BACK: Weyerhaeuser Plans to Clearcut Our Gorge!

FIGHT BACK: Weyerhaeuser Plans to Clearcut Our Gorge!

Weyerhaeuser plans to exploit a legal loophole and clearcut 250 acres in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Beautiful colors abound on a sunny fall morning in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area near Hood River. This is near the proposed Weyerhauser clearcut. © Brian Denekas
Beautiful colors abound on a sunny fall morning in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area near Hood River. This is near the proposed Weyerhauser clearcut. © Brian Denekas

I’ll get right to the point: This article from Friends of the Columbia Gorge offers a strong overview of this issue, and has links to sign a petition urging Weyerhaeuser to NOT go through with their clearcut.

So if you’re in a hurry: Read and Sign!

For those who have more time and/or are interested in learning more, I’ll enumerate a more extensive explanation of Weyerhaeuser’s proposed clearcut, and the reasons why this is unacceptable.

Weyerhaeuser’s Proposed Clearcut

Weyerhaeuser's clearcut plan. The areas slated for clearcutting are highlighted in red. This is just east of Hood River, south of the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail, and IN the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. This approximately 250 acre area would be the largest clearcut by far proposed since the establishment of the National Scenic Area in 1986. Image Courtesy of Friends of the Columbia Gorge
Weyerhaeuser’s clearcut plan. The areas slated for clearcutting are highlighted in red. This approximately 250 acre area would be the largest clearcut by far proposed since the establishment of the National Scenic Area in 1986. Image courtesy of Friends of the Columbia Gorge

Weyerhaeuser plans to clearcut approximately 250 acres of forest in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The site is southeast of Hood River, and directly south of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, including the beloved Mark Hatfield Trailhead. The photo to the right shows the proposed clearcut areas.

This proposed project would be the largest clearcutting endeavor since the establishment of the National Scenic Area in 1986.

A good summary of the proposed plan and community concerns can be found in this Hood River News article.

Environmental Impacts of Clearcutting

A coho salmon photographed in the aptly-named Salmon River on Mt. Hood. Salmon-bearing streams, which have often been painstakingly restored in order to support struggling salmon populations, are negatively impacted by clearcut-caused erosion. © Bureau of Land Management
A coho salmon spawns in the aptly-named Salmon River on Mt. Hood. Salmon-bearing streams, which have often been painstakingly restored in order to support struggling salmon populations, are negatively impacted by clearcut-caused erosion. © Bureau of Land Management, Creative Commons

Let’s begin by being clear about the definition of clearcutting. That means logging all trees in a swath of land, such that the forest is essentially destroyed and timber yield is maximized.

This practice obviously has a significant impact on local ecosystems. It destroys and disrupts wildlife habitat, and contributes to a phenomenon called habitat fragmentation. Habitat fragmentation occurs when large swaths of green space that function as wildlife corridors (areas where wildlife can travel freely) are reduced to small “islands” of untouched land, leaving wide-ranging animals without sufficient space to hunt and roam. The destruction of habitat can lead to increased human-animal encounters, which can be dangerous for all involved.

Clearcutting also, obviously, has significant impacts on vegetation – including effects that extend well beyond the initial cut. Clearcuts are prime ground for the spread of invasive plant species, which thrive in disturbed areas with sunny exposure. From the initial logging onward, clearcut areas also suffer soil erosion. The initial logging process churns up the forest floor, and then the lack of tree cover and loss of living roots ensures that the erosion continues unabated from there. This impacts soil health in many ways, including diminished nutrient density. It becomes harder for the forest to reestablish itself, and harder for native species to gain a foothold. More on clearcutting’s role in habitat fragmentation and the spread of invasive species here.

Erosion from clearcut forests also significantly impacts stream health, and therefore salmon and steelhead populations. It is well-established that clearcuts not only lead to increased runoff and reduced water clarity in nearby streams, but also that they negatively impact salmon and steelhead spawning. Read more here. Weyerhaeuser is choosing to disrespect the time, effort, and resources that Oregon has dedicated to salmon restoration by choosing to clearcut and damage stream ecosystems. This also is a slap in the face to local tribes, for whom salmon is a significant component of their culture.

Finally, timber harvest, generally speaking, is Oregon’s top greenhouse gas-producing industry, and clearcutting is the worst method of timber harvest in terms of climate impacts. Clearcutting emits significant amounts of greenhouse gases, while simultaneously removing significant sources carbon sequestration – namely forests. Read more here.

The impacts of climate change are becoming visible, and our region and planet are at a crucial crossroads. For many reasons, Weyerhaeuser’s plan to clearcut in the Gorge is shortsighted, out of touch, and poses a threat to the local and global environment.

Human Impacts of Clearcutting

Weyerhaeuser's clearcut plan. The areas slated for clearcutting are highlighted in red. This is just east of Hood River, south of the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail, and IN the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. This approximately 250 acre area would be the largest clearcut by far proposed since the establishment of the National Scenic Area in 1986. Image Courtesy of Friends of the Columbia Gorge
Weyerhaeuser’s clearcut plan. The areas slated for clearcutting are highlighted in red. It’s readily apparent that most of these areas are sloped, and thus at significant risk for erosion. Image Courtesy of Friends of the Columbia Gorge

As discussed in the previous section, clearcutting predisposes the landscape to erosion. This not only means a loss of soil nutrients, but also means that the landscape becomes more prone to significant instability. It is well-established that clearcuts are more prone to landslides than undisturbed or even selectively logged forests. Read more.

These risks are most severe when steep slopes are clearcut. As you can see in the image to the right depicting the proposed Weyerhaeuser clearcut area, steep slopes WILL be clearcut. This is ill-advised to say the least, potentially endangering homes and other areas that hold significance for Gorge residents and tourists alike.

A bridge in the scenic town of Mosier, Oregon, and a portion of the annual Columbia Gorge Marathon. This area's scenic value would be marred by the proposed Weyerhaeuser clearcut, and at risk for landslides. © Brian Denekas
A bridge in the scenic town of Mosier, Oregon, and a portion of the annual Columbia Gorge Marathon’s course. This area’s scenic value would be marred by the proposed Weyerhaeuser clearcut, and the area would be at risk for landslides. © Brian Denekas

The slopes that Weyerhaeuser intends to log in the Gorge are directly adjacent to key recreation opportunities, chief among them the Columbia River Gorge Historic Highway and the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway State Trail, including the beloved Mark Hatfield Trailhead and Mosier Twin Tunnels. A landslide, therefore, would not only impact local quality of life, but also recreation-driven tourism, a key component of the Columbia River Gorge’s economy, and a key part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area’s raison d’être.

The other component of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area’s raison d’être is its SCENIC VALUE. And its scenic value will be significantly diminished if there are large-scale clearcuts along the Gorge’s famously forested hillsides. Weyerhaeuser’s plan is completely antithetical to the purpose of a National Scenic Area and an insult to the beautiful landscape of the Gorge.

Finally, as discussed previously, the erosion caused by clearcutting also impacts stream health, and therefore salmon and steelhead populations. Fishing for, and consuming, these delicious salmonids is a key component of Pacific Northwest living and tourism, and a crucial part of Native American culture. Risking the health of salmon and steelhead populations by clearcutting hillsides in the Columbia River Gorge is shortsighted and potentially a violation of tribal, state, and federal laws.

Legal Shortcuts and Dangerous Precedents

Conducting community outreach and soliciting public comments is a key component of the project planning process, at least, if you're not Weyerhaeuser. WordPress Stock Image
Conducting community outreach and soliciting public comments is a key component of the project planning process – at least, if you’re not Weyerhaeuser. They have avoided talking to community leaders and community members from the towns directly adjacent to their proposed clearcuts. WordPress stock image

Weyerhaeuser’s proposed clearcut in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area sets a dangerous legal precedent. They are exploiting legal loopholes that could become wider as a result of their ill-advised behavior.

Although the National Scenic Area designation promotes the preservation of the Columbia River Gorge’s scenic splendor (the word “scenic” is in the name, after all), the legislation also allows for diverse land uses in the Gorge, from recreation to agriculture. Logging is not explicitly prohibited, though there are non-binding guidelines for doing so in a way that is sustainable and does not harm the Gorge’s scenic value. Furthermore, it is my understanding that sustainable forestry practices are only required in Special Management Areas (SMA) of the National Scenic Area, rather than throughout the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area – thus Weyerhaeuser can technically log this area legally.

Weyerhaeuser is exploiting these loopholes. What they are proposing to do may not be illegal, but it is certainly against the spirit of the law that created the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Furthermore, Weyehaeuser is deliberately avoiding a key component of environmental policy best practices: Facilitating stakeholder discussions of any significant project that will have an impact on a community.

Weyerhaeuser has not even had the courage to face any representatives from the towns that this proposed clearcut will effect – specifically Hood River and Mosier. So it will perhaps come as no surprise that they also have elected to avoid hosting public information sessions or community forums. Weyerhaeuser is instead proceeding without public input, in a project that has potentially significant ramifications for Hood River and Mosier. This non-collaborative approach goes against the spirit of modern environmental decision-making and sets a dangerous precedent for corporations to override the will of local communities that will bear the brunt of the impacts of their projects.

Ethical Concerns

Ethical concerns abound with Weyerhaeuser's proposed plan. WordPress stock image.
Ethical concerns abound with Weyerhaeuser’s proposed plan. WordPress stock image

Weyerhaeuser’s flouting of environmental policy best practices demonstrates a lack of concern for collaborative decision-making, as well as a lack of concern for the impacts that their clearcut will have on local communities. By not soliciting community input and attempting to slip this project under the radar, Weyerhaeuser blatantly shows that they don’t care what local communities need or want. Indeed, it seems as though Weyerhaeuser is only concerned about their own bottom line.

The impacts of clearcutting on various ecosystems is not news: This is well-established scientific knowledge that anyone in the Pacific Northwest should be aware of. A northwest-based logging company like Weyerhaeuser cannot possibly be unaware of these risks. Thus we must assume that they simply don’t CARE about the ecological impacts of their proposed project. Again, Weyehaeuser seems only concerned about their own financial gain.

Finally, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area has had a hell of a year. With a still-smoldering fire that decimated an estimated 48,861 acres in September 2017, the Gorge is only just beginning to recover from a significant environmental and economic disaster. To propose to clearcut some of the Gorge’s remaining forest on the heels of the Eagle Creek Fire is tasteless and insensitive.

If Weyerhaeuser had any sense of decency, they would be helping with the Eagle Creek Fire recovery efforts, rather than proposing to destroy one of the few areas of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area that was spared from the flames.

Stopping Weyerhaeuser and Helping Our Gorge

A rainbow extends over the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area during the 2014 Columbia Gorge Marathon. This area, east of Hood River and near the town of Mosier, is just north of the proposed Weyerhaueser clearcut. © Brian Denekas
A rainbow extends over the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area during the 2014 Columbia Gorge Marathon. This area, east of Hood River and near the town of Mosier, is just north of the proposed Weyerhaueser clearcut. © Brian Denekas

First of all, I encourage you to read this article and sign the petition it links to.

Secondly, we should all contact our representatives – local, state-level, and national – and urge them to block Weyerhaeuser’s proposed clearcut:

Thirdly, I highly recommend becoming a member of Friends of the Columbia Gorge. Your donations help to power this nonprofit’s multilayered work for the protection of our beloved Gorge, and being on their email list will keep you abreast of new developments in this fight against Weyerhaeuser, as well as other topics ranging from Eagle Creek Fire trail recovery projects to group hikes.

And finally, let’s spread the word. The news only broke yesterday (May 29), so we need to begin mounting our defense. The bigger the outcry, the harder it will be for Weyerhaeuser to see their project through. Share this article, share the petition, and make a statement: YOU DO NOT MESS WITH OUR GORGE!

Thank you for your passion and activism.

Sunrise breaks in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, near Hood River. This is near the area that Weyerhaeuser plans to clearcut, and these classic views would be marred. © Brian Denekas
Sunrise breaks in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, near Hood River. This is near the area that Weyerhaeuser plans to clearcut, and these classic views would be marred. © Brian Denekas

Banner Photo: Balsamroot and Mt Adams viewed from McCall Point. This area is near the proposed Weyerhaeuser clearcut. © Jenni Denekas

My One-Year OCT Anniversary

My One-Year OCT Anniversary

Today marks one year since my completion of the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), a 367-mile journey the entire length of the Oregon coast.

A year ago, I hiked 14 miles from Gearhart to Fort Stevens with my dad to complete my south-to-north journey on the Oregon Coast Trail. A year ago, I stood at the South Jetty Observation Tower in Fort Stevens State Park with my parents, overlooking the confluence of the mighty Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. A year ago, we had a meaningful yet quiet celebration before I unceremoniously fell asleep on the couch around 8 pm in our hotel room.

OCT Finish
I hiked the final 14 miles of the trail with my dad and my mom met us at the finish. She presented me with a thoughtful gift: This custom-made medal! © Naomi Denekas

A year ago, I felt that I had both completed and begun something. Accordingly, I was hoping that this anniversary would bring a renewed sense of pride and an opportunity to reflect upon a year well-spent.

My feelings on the matter, however, are much more complicated.

I will be bluntly honest: I have cried a lot today and yesterday.

I feel like I wasted the fitness I had built up on the trail. I had originally planned to run a marathon in late 2017, and to backpack a lot. I didn’t.

I feel devastated that I have STILL not found a job, nearly a year after interviewing at a nonprofit that I used to fastidiously volunteer for. It was May 10, 2017. I remember because I had to rush back from long-overdue family time on the coast for an early morning interview slot that they insisted upon. I found out during the interview itself that it wasn’t going to work out. Job hunting since then has been fruitless and discouraging.

Above all, I feel like I should be stronger than this. Wasn’t my time on the trail supposed to be about healing and getting myself ready to face my life again? What is with all this crying and metaphorical paralysis? What will it take to get me to feel functional and capable again?

Some of this speaks to the post-trail blues that many thru-hikers face. Finding a new path, and finding success on it, can be daunting after putting your heart and soul into a singular goal for so long. Then you have to factor in the loss of the daily endorphin boost of hiking several miles with a huge pack – and, in the case of the OCT, no longer hearing the daily exhalations of waves and wind, which were a balm for my seething thoughts.

Tiny House in Seal Rock
My AirBnB in Seal Rock, while on the OCT. This tiny house was simple yet beautiful, and a welcome break from camping in the rain. Aside from wanting to keep hiking and all, I desperately wanted to just live here! I still kind of do… © Jenni Denekas

In contrast, the city is loud, jarring, and not at all like the small towns and secluded campsites of the trail. It also felt so odd to return to a closet bursting with clothes, after spending 45 days with two outfits. Accordingly, I have pared down my possessions and sold or donated a lot of clothing and extraneous items. Similarly, it feels odd to be in a spacious apartment after tents and tiny homes and cheap motel rooms. I am thankful to have my own space, but it feels strange nevertheless.

It has taken me a while to adjust, and honestly I don’t know if I will ever fully reintegrate into city life. Part of me is still on the OCT.

Some of my discontent runs deeper – actually, no, shallower. Definitely shallower.

I have realized that, shamefully, I wish I could keep adding to my metaphorical trophy case. It’s a bit of a let-down to not have a litany of stellar accomplishments from the past year to point to on this anniversary. But what the hell is the point of that?

The whole point of a thru-hike, and the whole point of anything of substance, is not to check a box and say “I did that!” The point is to immerse oneself in the journey and to learn deeply from it. And the biggest learning opportunities are the ones that you don’t plan for.

Perhaps that’s what this past year has been trying to teach me.

Indeed, I didn’t just lose my post-OCT fitness through sloth. I was excitedly running and hiking better than I had in a couple of years… until I sprained my ankle badly last June. I remember that crushing moment, panting from the pain, sitting on a rock next to my boyfriend while I mustered the energy to shuffle the final mile back to the car. In spite of my high pain tolerance, it felt almost unbearable. I was convinced that I must have broken my ankle. It was a relief to discover it was merely a sprain, but it still was a long road back from that injury. And of course, when it finally felt strong again, I sprained the other damn ankle. Just my luck.

I have also been slowed by gastrointestinal issues (which fortunately turned out to NOT be parasites from my trip), headaches, nausea, horrific depression and anxiety, and, most recently, random ovarian pain that forced me to spend a couple of days curled into a ball. It has not been an easy year for me, physically or mentally, and as much as I wish things were different, I consider myself lucky to still be here.

My depression and anxiety were really that bad for a while.

In that context, I feel silly for lamenting my weight gain and my lost fitness – which, of course, are not one and the same, as I explain here. I should focus on being thankful for surviving – and for those who helped me to pull through.

Love is bringing your asthmatic girlfriend a particle mask and chocolate while her favorite place burns
My boyfriend is a wonderfully supportive and kind person, and I feel so much love and gratitude for him. © Jenni Denekas

My wonderful boyfriend in particular has been there through all the ups and downs of this year. He helped me to get through the worst depressive downturns, to take care of me when I was ill, and to smile (a bit) when the Eagle Creek Fire tore through my favorite place on Earth. I feel so lucky to be with someone so caring and kind.

When my health allows, I also have been slowly but surely trying to find a job. I recently had an interview again – my first in nearly a year. I feel a glimmer of hope again.

As a stop-gap, and as part of the fulfillment of a longtime dream, I founded my own greeting card brand in fall 2017, Borderline Cards. It’s been an enjoyable and fulfilling endeavor, not the least because it has gotten me back into the habit of drawing regularly. But it was also somewhat born of my diminishing trust in my ability to ever find a job.

It’s also been a struggle to trust people. And perhaps not many deserve my full trust. Perhaps that has been my mistake before.

Accordingly, I have been paring down my inner circle since I completed the trail. I am done with expending more emotional energy and effort than I get in return. In turn, that gives me more time and energy to dedicate to those who deserve it. I have made a point to focus on the people who bothered to be part of my journey, and who generally give me as much as I give them.

Indeed, on this anniversary, I am reflecting gratefully upon everyone who was part of my journey on the OCT. It took time, effort, some unintended side effects (like trench foot, and the death of a cell phone), planning, caring, and commitment to make that happen, and I am very grateful for all of your contributions. Thank you, Dani, Aaron, Steph, Rosemary, Charissa, Joe, Stacey, Susan, Mom, and Dad.

And again, I feel so thankful for the beautiful relationship that my boyfriend and I have built over the past year, which has its roots in the OCT. When Aaron joined me for a weekend on the southern coast, we felt something beginning. We got together shortly after I returned from the trail, and we will be celebrating our first anniversary later this week.

Love
Aaron and I in December 2017 at a friend’s beach birthday bash! © Stephanie Hughson

Aaron has always been a dear friend, and became my rock during the horrible winter that drove me to do the trail in the first place. He joined me on a portion of my journey on the OCT, and stayed in touch with me throughout the rest of my trip. He has always been a calm, consistent, kind, and humorous source of support. (And to be clear, we do have a lot of fun together! I’m not always a crying mess!) I am truly grateful for, and humbled by, his love.

This anniversary of my completion of the OCT marks a year of unexpected events. Many were – and are – ugly and frustrating. But the truly beautiful surprises – including my relationship with the sweetest person I have ever met – are better than anything I could have planned.

And that’s the thing: Life unfolds as it sees fit, and all we can do is embrace the good that it gives us.

I will finish by quoting one of Cheryl Strayed’s many pearls of wisdom from Tiny Beautiful Things:

You don’t have a right to the cards that you think you should have been dealt. You have the obligation to play the hell out of the ones you are holding. And my dear, you and I were granted a mighty generous hand.

Banner Image: Two people who look suspiciously like me and my boyfriend embrace in a burnt forest. Image drawn by yours truly. The Eagle Creek Fire was another devastating loss in the past year, and like everything else we’ve faced together, my boyfriend and I helped one another to stay strong through it.

Eagle Creek Fire: What Now

Eagle Creek Fire: What Now

As of November 30, the Eagle Creek Fire is 100% contained, but the work has only just begun. Read on to find out how to help restore this beloved landscape and support our Gorge towns.

For a comprehensive look at the Eagle Creek Fire’s history: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584/

Eagle Creek Fire
Trail runners watched from the Washington side as the Oregon side of the gorge burned, on Sunday, Sept. 4. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love

Before the Eagle Creek Fire was contained, it burned 48,861 acres on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The vast majority of trails on the Oregon side of the Gorge remain closed due to fire damage and subsequent landslides.

The destruction of this beloved landscape was, and is, heart-wrenching. I was unable to tear my eyes from the news for weeks after the Eagle Creek Fire exploded. Then I was numb and frozen for months. I feel like only recently I’ve pulled out of this fog of grief and despair.

Indeed, it is easy to feel devastated by what has happened. But as much as we can, we need to keep moving. We need to pitch in by supporting the restoration efforts and the communities who were impacted by the fire, and we need to show our gratitude to those who helped as the Gorge burned.

My best recommendations are listed below. I will keep updating this post. Thank you for doing your part to help.

Support Restoration Efforts

Eagle Creek
Punchbowl Falls along the Eagle Creek Trail, near where the fire began. I hope it can be as verdant again one day. © Jenni Denekas

This will be a long process, but eventually we will restore and rebuild the Gorge’s beautiful forests and trails.

The following four organizations have formed the Gorge Trails Recovery Team, and deserve monetary donations as well as contributions of volunteer hours:

I’ll also give an honorable mention to the Trails Club of Oregon. They have pledged to work to restore the Gorge, too, and they have quite a project ahead of them: Nesika Lodge, which is owned and operated by the Trails Club, was damaged by the fire. Miraculously, it is still standing, but it will need a lot of work in the coming year. Consider a donation, or sign up to volunteer on their website. You can also contribute directly to repairing Nesika Lodge here.

Support Our Awesome Gorge Towns

Thunder Island Brewing
Thunder Island Brewing © Christopher Muhs, Creative Commons

This is a fun task: Help these towns recover economically by patronizing their awesome businesses!

  • I love Thunder Island Brewing in Cascade Locks. They have a great location, great food, great drinks, and they support the iconic PCT Days celebration each summer. On top of it, they opened their doors to fire crews fighting the Eagle Creek Fire, providing them free meals. They deserve our business!
  • Check out the Columbia River Gorge Visitors’ Association website for more awesome businesses to support.
  • Go to PCT Days next year! Located in Cascade Locks, this event is a way to provide both moral and financial support to the small town at the epicenter of the Eagle Creek Fire. This event celebrates the Pacific Crest Trail (which also has been impacted by the fire) and is an opportunity to hang out with PCT thru-hikers and connect with the local outdoor community.

Donate to Search and Rescue

  • Donate to Hood River County Search and Rescue’s Mike Anderson Search and Rescue Fund, named for a recently deceased deputy. This will directly fund SAR efforts. You can donate at any US Bank branch, or deliver or mail donations to: 601 State Street, Hood River, OR 97031. Hood River SAR evacuated the 150-plus hikers who were trapped on the Eagle Creek Trail when the fire began, and they have also been part of myriad rescues in the Gorge and on Mt. Hood throughout the years.
  • Mountain Wave Search and Rescue also helped during the fire. You can donate to them here.

Donate to the Fire Crews

Eagle Creek Fire
The Eagle Creek Fire on Sunday, Sept. 4. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love

It is an understatement to say that these brave folks who put it all on the line for our beloved Gorge are heroes. Show your gratitude by donating to them. The ones in red are, in my opinion, the most worthy of donations. They are fire crews that were battling for their backyards, and/or did something exceptionally heroic. But again, everyone who helped is a hero. They all deserve our support.

  • Albany Fire Department: They contributed some of their fire fighters to battle this blaze, as well as the massive Chetco Bar Fire on the southern Oregon coast. (Two areas close to my heart.)
  • Cascade Locks Fire and EMS. At the bottom of their homepage, there is a “donate” button. Cascade Locks was at the epicenter of this fire, and it is not in a very populous or affluent county. They need and deserve our support.
  • Corbett: Fire District 14: This fire crew was battling for their backyard.
  • Forest Grove Fire and Rescue: They contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • Hillsboro Fire Department: They contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • Gresham Fire and Emergency Services: They were part of the crew that saved the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge from the blaze (and did so through the night, from Sunday, September 4, to Monday, September 5, when the structure was first threatened).
  • Northwest Interagency Coordination Center: They play an integral role in planning fire responses and also make information on fires and air quality available to the public on their awesome website.
  • Oregon Department of Forestry: Their Fire Protection program was an integral part of the fire fighting effort. Since it’s a state agency, we probably can’t donate to them directly, but please, in the future, vote to support funding for them!
  • Oregon Air National Guard: They assisted in many ways with the fire.
  • Oregon National Guard: They assisted in many ways with the fire.
  • Portland Fire and Rescue: They contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • Skamania County had to contend with the Archer Mountain fire (sparked by the Eagle Creek fire) and supported the Stevenson Red Cross evacuation efforts. Like their neighbors across the river, Skamania County is not very populous or affluent. The county was asking for monetary donations to support their fire and other emergency services, and I’m sure contributions would still be welcome. Contact Sarah Slack at 509-427-3980 to contribute.
  • US Forest Service: They assisted in a variety of ways, and are one of several agencies that coordinate the Interagency Hotshots. Some Hotshots helped with the Eagle Creek Fire. Since it’s a federal agency, we can’t donate to them directly, but please, in the future, vote to support funding for them!

Unfortunately, I don’t know all the agencies and fire crews that were involved, and I don’t have links to donation pages for all of them (some of the links are just to their websites). Please reach out with any information about donating to these groups who put it all on the line for our beloved Gorge. It is an understatement to say they deserve our support!

Additionally, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office recommended donating to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Their mission, as stated on their website, is “to help families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and to assist injured firefighters and their families.” Donating to this cause has less of a direct link to the Eagle Creek Fire, because there were no (human) fatalities, but honoring fallen heroes is important.

Support Those Who Helped with Evacuation Efforts

Eagle Creek Fire
The Eagle Creek Fire on Sunday, Sept. 4. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love
  • The Red Cross operated shelters for evacuees in Stevenson, WA and at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon. Donate to the Red Cross, specifying either the Cascades division or the Disaster Relief FundThe latter also assisted with all the hurricanes of fall 2017.
  • As previously stated, Skamania County had to fight the Archer Mountain fire (sparked by the Eagle Creek fire) and supported the Stevenson Red Cross evacuation efforts. The county was asking for monetary donations and I’m sure they’d still appreciate any money you can spare. Contact Sarah Slack at 509-427-3980 to contribute.
  • According to this post by KGW News, Gone Towing helped to evacuate residents in Level 2 and Level 3 areas, free of charge. They deserve your future business!

And More Broadly… Fight Climate Change

Hurricane Harvey
NASA has been watching Hurricane Harvey from satellites and the International Space Station. © NASA, Creative Commons

NOTE: If you don’t believe the facts, kindly shut up and find a way to help with the Eagle Creek Fire that DOES gel with you. Don’t waste time arguing about reality when so much else needs to be done.

Fall 2017 brought Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and catastrophic fires throughout much of the American West, making it clear that we are starting to reap what we have sown. It is imperative that we intensify our efforts to combat climate change.

First, I’ll list some nonprofits you can donate to. Second, I’ll list some suggestions for reducing your own carbon footprint.

Climate-Change-Fighting Organizations

  • Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a fantastic organization that is taking a multifaceted approach to combating climate change. I’m linking to their Get Involved page so you can access a whole host of ways to contribute. Click on the large Donate button in the upper right corner if that’s how you wish to help.
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists is also a reputable and awesome group. I recommend checking out their Global Warming Solutions page to learn about various ways to combat climate change. You can also just click on the Donate button in the upper right corner if that’s the route you’d prefer to take.

Combat Climate Change in Your Own Life

Most of these suggestions are Oregon-specific, or Portland Metro-specific. I’m just speaking to what the majority of my audience will find relevant. For a whole host of ideas on how to combat climate change no matter where you live, I advise checking out NRDC’s Get Involved page and the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate Change Solutions page, as previously mentioned.

Sherman County Windmills
Windmills amid wheat fields in Sherman County, Oregon. This growing industry not only allows farmers to turn a larger profit on their fields, but also helps contribute to combating climate change. © Sam Beebe, Creative Commons
  • Sign up for renewable energy through PGE. It’s easy and it’s helpful. Do it.
  • Drive less, use transit more: You can even get to outdoor adventure destinations using transit!
    • Check out the Point for getting from Portland to popular destinations on the Oregon north coast, or to travel throughout the state.
    • Check out the Central Oregon Breeze to travel between central Oregon and Portland.
    • Check out the Mt. Hood Express to get from Portland to our lovely local volcano.
    • Once the Gorge is safe to explore again (sigh), check out the Columbia Gorge Express for the Oregon side, and the Gorge WET Bus for the Washington side.
    • Greyhound and Amtrak serve a fair amount of Oregon destinations, too. That’s how I reached the California-Oregon border for my trek on the Oregon Coast Trail.
    • And, of course, you can use the handy Trimet Trip Planner for strategizing transit in the Portland metro area.
  • When you have to drive, carpool! You can even check out rideshares:

I want to remind you that this list is a work in progress. I welcome your input. Please post your (well-researched) ideas in the comments below!

Again: Detailed history of the Eagle Creek Fire is available here: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584/

Banner Image: I drew this after visiting the Gorge for the first time, post-fire. A couple that looks suspiciously like my boyfriend and me consoles one another in a burnt forest. © Jenni Denekas

Oregon Coast Trail: Gearhart to Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, Fort Stevens State Park

Oregon Coast Trail: Gearhart to Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, Fort Stevens State Park

Enjoy a continuous span of smooth sand from the beautiful small town of Gearhart to the picturesque Peter Iredale shipwreck

Peter Iredale Sunset
Sunset over the Peter Iredale Shipwreck in Fort Stevens State Park. © Jenni Denekas

Serenity abounds on this smooth and scenic span of sand. The easy-to-navigate route and smooth terrain invite a state of calm meditation. Keep an eye out for bald eagles and sea shells, especially in the early miles.

This lovely beach walk concludes at the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale in Fort Stevens State Park.

Only three miles farther is the south jetty of the Columbia River, and the finish line for northbound hikers on the Oregon Coast Trail. I highly recommend combining these two hikes if possible! Read about the hike from the Peter Iredale to the south jetty.

This nine-mile hike is also a worthy goal in itself, and could be accomplished with a car shuttle or by utilizing transit. Alternatively, you could do a grueling 18-mile out-and-back. The format of your hike doesn’t matter so much as getting out there and enjoying this stunning north coast scenery!

Peter Iredale Panorama
The shipwreck of the Peter Iredale in Fort Stevens State Park, and vistas that extend south to Gearhart and Tillamook Head. © Jenni Denekas

Trail Data

Distance One Way:  9 miles
Elevation Gain: 0 feet
Season: All
Features: Beach, Shipwreck, Historic Site, Wildlife
Trailhead Amenities: None
Passes/Permits: None
Usage: Hikers, Dogs
Maps: Build your own OCT map at SARtopo.com
Agency: Oregon State Parks (Del Rey, Sunset Beach, and Fort Stevens)

Know Before You Go

  • Check the Tides: Although this route is by no means impassable during high tide, it is preferable to go during low tide. At low tide, the footing is better, because there is more firm, wet sand exposed. Tons of shells will be exposed at low tide. Also, when the tide is out, you can actually walk up to the Peter Iredale!  Check the tides here.

Hike Description

Gearhart beach and Tillamook Head
Looking south from Gearhart, towards Tillamook Head. © Jenni Denekas

A full day of beautiful scenery awaits. Embark from the beach access road at the end of 10th Street in Gearhart. You will head north from here; the ocean will be on your left.

The walk begins in an area that is often overrun by cars, but the amount of vehicles will diminish briefly after about 0.5 miles. Keep an eye out for sand dollars during low tide in this area, and watch for bald eagles soaring overhead.

As you approach the Del Rey State Recreation Site access road (about 1 mile from Gearhart), the amount of cars and beach-goers will increase again. Keep an eye out in this area; in my experience, drivers and motorcyclists here tend to be reckless and inconsiderate.

Gearhart Beach
En route to the Peter Iredale shipwreck, you will enjoy long spans of solitude on a beautiful, level beach. © Jenni Denekas

Thankfully, once you are past Del Rey, you will enjoy relative solitude for about 3.5 miles. Soak in the quiet expanse of sand and sea as you continue along the level beach. Keep an eye out for sea shells and wildlife in this span. During the summer, elk come down from the mountains to calve in the dunes. Give them a wide berth if you see them, but certainly snap some photos and soak in the views of these majestic creatures.

About 4.5 miles from Gearhart, you will pass another beach access point, this time at Sunset Beach. This area tends to be less busy than Del Rey, but you will likely still see an uptick in cars and people in this area.

Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale
The shipwreck of the Peter Iredale marks the end of this stunning coastal trek. © Jenni Denekas

Soon, however, you will seemingly leave civilization behind as you commence another long stretch of secluded beach. Here, you have the Oregon National Guard to thank for your solitude: You are walking parallel to Camp Rilea, which limits public access to the coast in this span. NOTE: The coast itself is public, as per the 1967 Beach Bill, so you don’t have to worry about trespassing or anything!

About 4.5 serenely quiet miles past Sunset Beach, you will arrive at the picturesque shipwreck of the Peter Iredale. Ideally, you should plan to arrive at low to mid-tide so that you can walk out to the wreck, but it is visible, and highly photogenic, at any time. Allow plenty of time to enjoy this lovely area before you move on.

Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale
Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale, Fort Stevens State Park. © Jenni Denekas

Next, you can either get a ride back to Gearhart, turn south to complete an 18-miler, or press onward to the south jetty of the Columbia River and the finish of the Oregon Coast Trail.

When I completed my northbound trek on the OCT, I went from Gearhart to the south jetty in one day (12 miles). This was completely do-able, and made for a pleasant final day on the trail. I would recommend following suit.

Jump ahead to the hike from the Peter Iredale to the South Jetty Observation Tower.

How to Get There

Save the Planet! Strategize transit on the OCT Transportation page.

Driving Directions:

From Astoria: Take Hwy 101 S towards Seaside. Turn right onto Pacific Way. Turn right onto North Marion Avenue. Right before Gearhart by the Sea and McMenamins Gearhart Hotel & Pub, turn left onto 10th Street. (NOTE: There is NO PARKING at the trailhead, and parking for an extended time on the beach is inadvisable due to the tides. The best place to park would be the lot at Gearhart by the Sea.)

From Seaside: Head north on Hwy 101. Turn left onto Pacific Way. Turn right onto North Marion Avenue. Right before Gearhart by the Sea and McMenamins Gearhart Hotel & Pub, turn left onto 10th Street. (NOTE: There is NO PARKING at the trailhead, and parking for an extended time on the beach is inadvisable due to the tides. The best place to park would be the lot at Gearhart by the Sea.)

Trailhead Coordinates: 46.030928, -123.927881

Next up: Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale to South Jetty Observation Tower, Fort Stevens State Park.

Backtrack: Gearhart Beach Access (Pacific Way) to the Next Gearhart Beach Access (10th Street).

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Find more Trails & Travels!

Banner Image: Sunset over Tillamook Head, viewed from the beach at Gearhart. © Jenni Denekas

Oregon Coast Trail: Peter Iredale to South Jetty Observation Tower, Fort Stevens State Park

Oregon Coast Trail: Peter Iredale to South Jetty Observation Tower, Fort Stevens State Park

Trek between a picturesque shipwreck and the South Jetty Observation Tower, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River

Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale
The shipwreck of the Peter Iredale marks the beginning of this stunning coastal trek. © Jenni Denekas

For those hiking northbound on the Oregon Coast Trail, this is the home stretch. If it’s a clear day, the finish line may literally be in sight!

For those hiking southbound, this is a stunning way to begin your OCT journey, with a shipwreck and distant views of Tillamook Head and the Coast Range ahead of you.

This is also a wonderful day hike, showcasing two iconic features of Oregon’s north coast.

Bottom line: No matter what your goal is, this route between the Peter Iredale shipwreck and the South Jetty Observation Tower makes for an incredible excursion.

Trail Data

Distance One Way:  3 miles
Elevation Gain: 20 feet
Season: All
Features: Beach, Shipwreck, Historic Site, Jetty, River, Views
Trailhead Amenities: Public restroom (usually clean, and with running water!)
Passes/Permits: NoneUsage: Hikers, Dogs
Maps: A map of Fort Stevens State Park is available here, or you can build your own OCT map at SARtopo.com
Agency: Oregon State Parks (Fort Stevens)

Know Before You Go

  • Weather: Even if it’s sunny when you set out, I recommend packing plenty of layers and mentally preparing to fight through some gusts. This exposed section of beach, near the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River, is prone to wind, mist, and otherwise variable weather. I’ve experienced northbound and southbound winds – and all wind directions in between – in this area! On a few occasions, I’ve even experienced all wind directions in one outing.
  • Check the Tides: Although this route is not impassable during high tide, it is preferable to go during low tide. At low tide, the footing is better, because there is more firm, wet sand exposed. Also, when the tide is out, you can actually walk up to the Peter Iredale! Check the tides here.

Hike Description

Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale
The shipwreck of the Peter Iredale marks the beginning of this stunning coastal trek. © Jenni Denekas

This beautiful, easy-to-navigate route begins at the remains of the Peter Iredale, which ran aground in 1906. A popular Oregon coast destination in its own right, the Peter Iredale draws flocks of beach-goers in the summer. The shipwreck also is, deservedly, a common subject for local photographers.

If you haven’t been seduced by the idea of a nap in the sand or a game of Frisbee, head north from the shipwreck (keeping the ocean to your left).

Over the next three miles, the crowds will thin and you will enjoy a wide, level beach bordered by tall, verdant dunes. The footing is generally solid, although there are a few shoe-sucking patches here and there.

South Jetty
Heading up the dunes to the South Jetty Observation Tower in Fort Stevens State Park. © Jenni Denekas

As I mentioned above, if it is a clear day, your finish line may be in sight the entire walk. But it is more likely that your destination will be shrouded in mist until you are about a half mile away. I can’t decide if it is more difficult to push towards an unseen destination, or to be staring at one’s destination the entire time. Either way, you can distract yourself by looking for shells and pocketing small, rusted, wave-polished fragments of the Peter Iredale.

Continue onward until you reach the protected cove by the South Jetty. Head right (northeast) towards the dunes and follow the narrow, arcing trail through the beach grass for an easier ascent than climbing the riprap.

Your finish line is the South Jetty Observation Tower. This small, wooden structure provides 360-degree views of your stunning surroundings. To the north and east is the mighty Columbia, and the mountains of Washington. The vast expanse of the Pacific extends to the west. To the east is the Coast Range. Southward is the long ribbon of beach that extends to Gearhart and Tillamook Head.

View from the South Jetty Observation Tower
The Coast Range and Tillamook Head, viewed from the South Jetty Observation Tower in Fort Stevens State Park. © Jenni Denekas

Soak in these vast vistas. Savor this moment.

If you have just finished the Oregon Coast Trail, a host of emotions will sweep over you now and in the coming days. Allow yourself plenty of time to process your experience. And, of course: CONGRATULATIONS!!!

If you are just starting your southbound journey on the OCT, obviously you’ll reverse these directions and begin your hike from the jetty. I encourage you to take a moment to soak in the view from the observation tower before setting off.

If you are on a day hike, either catch a ride back to the Peter Iredale, or turn around and walk the three miles back to your starting point, for a six-mile day.

Other Ways to Enjoy this Area

  • Go for a Run! Race to the Bar is a fundraiser for the Lower Columbia Hospice that occurs annually in early September. The start and finish is the Peter Iredale shipwreck. The 10k (6.2 miles) is an out-and-back to the South Jetty. Better yet, make a weekend of it and camp at Fort Stevens State Park after the race!
  • Want to Chill? You can walk a short distance from the parking lot to the Peter Iredale and enjoy a relaxing beach day. It’s a great spot for beach combing, sand castle building, Frisbee, and other relaxing beach endeavors. NOTE: The shipwreck is down a steep, soft, sandy dune, so it is not universally accessible. But everyone can at least enjoy views of the shipwreck from the parking lot!

How to Get There

Save the Planet! Strategize transit on the OCT Transportation page.

Driving Directions:

From Astoria: Take Hwy 101 S towards Seaside. You’ll cross Youngs Bay as you leave Astoria and head into Warrenton. Turn left onto East Harbor Street in Warrenton, and then take a left onto South Main Avenue. Turn right on SW 9th Street, and then take another right onto NW Ridge Road. After about one mile, turn left into Fort Stevens State Park. Follow the signs to the Peter Iredale Shipwreck. (NOTE: You do not have to pay a day-use fee to visit the shipwreck, but you will have to in order to visit other areas in the park.)

From Seaside: Head north on Hwy 101. Bend left onto OR 104 North, and continue onto NW Ridge Road. After about 2.5 miles, turn left into Fort Stevens State Park. Follow the signs to the Peter Iredale Shipwreck. (NOTE: You do not have to pay a day-use fee to visit the shipwreck, but you will have to in order to visit other areas in the park.)

Trailhead Coordinates: 46.178075, -123.980525

Next up:

  • Explore Fort Stevens State Park!
  • Check out some cool attractions in Astoria!
  • Celebrate!

Backtrack: Gearhart to the Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale.

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Find more Trails & Travels!

View from the South Jetty
The Coast Range and Tillamook Head to the south, and the jetty at the Columbia River, viewed from the South Jetty Observation Tower in Fort Stevens State Park. This is a satisfying conclusion to a northbound hike, and an enticing beginning to a southbound trek. © Jenni Denekas

Banner Image: Sunset over the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale in Fort Stevens State Park. © Jenni Denekas

Eagle Creek Fire: How to Help

Eagle Creek Fire: How to Help

*Archive Post! See Eagle Creek Fire: What Now for the most recent updates on the fire and how to support restoration efforts*

As of 7:00 pm on Friday, September 29, the Eagle Creek Fire encompasses an estimated 48,831 acres on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It is 46% contained. The Archer Mountain Fire, which was sparked on the Washington side by the Eagle Creek Fire, is still burning, but 100% contained as of September 13.

It’s been raining intermittently since Sunday, September 17, and all evacuation orders have been lifted at this time. However, as they said on InciWeb, “Conditions have significantly reduced fire behavior, though it will continue to smolder or creep within the fire perimeter, producing smoke for some time. Significant growth is not anticipated, but soaking rains will be necessary to fully remove heat from the fire.” With the rain, there is also landslide danger, which is exacerbated by fire damage. We’re not done yet, and the Gorge will still need to be restored. We still have lots of work to do.

NOTE: I’ll try to keep this page updated as much as possible, but for the most up-to-date and accurate information on the Eagle Creek Fire, visit: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584/

Eagle Creek Fire
Trail runners watch from the Washington side as the Oregon side of the gorge burns, on Sunday, Sept. 4. The fire has since spread to the Washington side. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love

The destruction of this beloved landscape is heart-wrenching. I have not been able to tear my eyes from the news since the Eagle Creek Fire exploded.

It is easy to feel devastated and helpless in this situation. I’ve been feeling that way since the fire began. But as much as we can, we need to pitch in and support the fire fighting and evacuation efforts – and eventually, the restoration efforts.

My best recommendations so far are listed below. I will keep updating this post. Thank you for doing your part to help as this tragedy unfolds.

Donate to Search and Rescue

Donate to the Fire Crews

Eagle Creek Fire
The Eagle Creek Fire on Sunday, Sept. 4. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love

Before I get into specifics, please note: Fire crews have requested that folks STOP bringing donated items to them. In particular, they have enough bottled water – which is awesome, because that need was filled really quickly! Thanks to those who did that.

Also, unless you have to, please do not go to the Gorge. No gawking, no dropping off donations. Do not make the area more crowded – or the situation more complicated – for the first responders. Give them room to do their thing.

OK, that said…

Donate to emergency services at the epicenter of this disaster:

  • Cascade Locks Fire and EMS. At the bottom of their homepage, there is a “donate” button. Cascade Locks is being hit hard by this fire, and it is not in a very populous or affluent county. They need all the help they can get.
  • Skamania County is fighting the Archer Mountain fire (sparked by the Eagle Creek fire) and has been supporting the Stevenson Red Cross evacuation efforts. Like their neighbors across the river, Skamania County is not a very populous or affluent county, and they need all the help they can get. The county is asking for monetary donations to support their fire and other emergency services. Contact Sarah Slack at 509-427-3980 to contribute.

I’m still looking for a complete list of the groups that are fighting the Eagle Creek Fire, and links to donate to them. Please comment on this post if you have information! But so far, at least, I know that the following crews are involved:

  • Albany Fire Department: They have contributed some of their fire fighters to battle this blaze, as well as the Chetco Bar Fire on the southern Oregon coast.
  • Corbett: Fire District 14: This fire crew is battling for their backyard.
  • Forest Grove Fire and Rescue: They have contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • Hillsboro Fire Department: They have contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • Gresham Fire and Emergency Services: They are part of the crew protecting the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge from the blaze (and did so through the night, from Sunday, September 4, to Monday, September 5, when the structure was first threatened).
  • Northwest Interagency Coordination Center: They play an integral role in planning fire responses and also make information on fires and air quality available to the public on their awesome website.
  • Oregon Department of Forestry: Their Fire Protection program is an integral part of the fire fighting effort. Since it’s a state agency, we probably can’t donate to them directly, but please, in the future, vote to support funding for them!
  • Oregon Air National Guard: They are assisting in many ways with the fire.
  • Oregon National Guard: They are assisting in many ways with the fire.
  • Portland Fire and Rescue: They have contributed fire fighters to battle this blaze.
  • US Forest Service: They are assisting in a variety of ways, and are one of several agencies that coordinate the Interagency Hotshots. Some Hotshots are helping with the Eagle Creek Fire. Since it’s a federal agency, we probably can’t donate to them directly, but please, in the future, vote to support funding for them!

Again, unfortunately, I don’t know all the agencies and fire crews involved, and I don’t have links to donation pages for those in the second bulleted list. Please let me know if you have any information as to how to donate to these groups putting it all on the line for our beloved Gorge. It is an understatement to say they deserve our support!

Additionally, the Multnomah County Sheriff recommended donating to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Their mission, as stated on their website, is “to help families of firefighters killed in the line of duty and to assist injured firefighters and their families.” Donating to this cause has less of a direct impact on efforts to combat the Eagle Creek Fire. However, as I said above, it is an understatement to say that wildland firefighters deserve our support! These brave folks are heroes and honoring the fallen is important.

Support Those Who Helped with Evacuation Efforts

Eagle Creek Fire
The Eagle Creek Fire on Sunday, Sept. 4. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love
  • The Red Cross operated shelters for evacuees in Stevenson, WA and at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon. Donate to the Red Cross, specifying either the Cascades division or the Disaster Relief Fund. The latter also supports those affected by the hurricanes, and more.
  • Skamania County is fighting the Archer Mountain fire (sparked by the Eagle Creek fire) and supported the Stevenson Red Cross evacuation efforts. The county is asking for monetary donations. Contact Sarah Slack at 509-427-3980 to contribute.
  • According to this post by KGW News, Gone Towing was helping to evacuate residents in Level 2 and Level 3 areas, free of charge. Call (503) 602-2626 to donate to support their efforts. Any additional funds will be donated to the Red Cross and local fire departments. They also deserve your future business!

Support Restoration Efforts

Eagle Creek
Punchbowl Falls along the Eagle Creek Trail, near where the fire began. I hope it can be as verdant again one day. © Jenni Denekas

This will be part of the long game, but eventually we will restore and rebuild our beautiful Gorge.

Support Our Awesome Gorge Towns

Thunder Island Brewing
Thunder Island Brewing © Christopher Muhs, Creative Commons

Once it is safe to do so, please help these towns recover economically by patronizing their awesome businesses! I’ll also update this section if/when opportunities to donate to evacuees and to rebuilding efforts arise.

  • I love Thunder Island Brewing in Cascade Locks. They have a great location, great food, great drinks, and support the iconic PCT Days celebration each summer. Then on top of it, they opened their doors to fire crews, providing them free meals, at the start of the Eagle Creek Fire. They deserve our business!
  • Check out the Columbia River Gorge Visitors’ Association for more awesome businesses to support!
  • Go to PCT Days next year! Located in Cascade Locks, this event is a way to provide both moral and financial support to the small town at the epicenter of the Eagle Creek Fire. This event celebrates the Pacific Crest Trail (which also has been impacted by the fire) and is an opportunity to hang out with PCT thru-hikers and connect with the local outdoor community.

And More Broadly… Fight Climate Change and Climate Change Denial

Hurricane Harvey
NASA has been watching Hurricane Harvey from satellites and the International Space Station. © NASA, Creative Commons

NOTE: If you don’t believe the facts, please shut up and find a way to help with the Eagle Creek Fire that DOES gel with you. Don’t waste time arguing about reality when so much else needs to be done.

From Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, to the catastrophic fires throughout much of the American West, we are starting to reap what we have sown. It is imperative that we intensify our efforts to combat climate change.

First, I’ll list some nonprofits you can donate to. Second, I’ll list some suggestions for reducing your own carbon footprint.

Climate-Change-Fighting Organizations

  • Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a fantastic organization that is taking a multifaceted approach to combating climate change and raising awareness. I’m linking to their Get Involved page so you can access a whole host of ways to contribute. Then just click on the large Donate button in the upper right corner if that’s the route you’d prefer to take.
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists is also a reputable and awesome group. I’m linking her to their Global Warming Solutions page, so that you can read about various ways to help combat climate change. You can also just click on the Donate button in the upper right corner if that’s the route you’d prefer to take.

Combat Climate Change in Your Own Life

Most of these suggestions are Oregon/Portland Metro-specific. I’m just speaking to what the majority of my audience will find relevant. For a whole host of ideas on how to combat climate change no matter where you live, I advise checking out NRDC’s Get Involved page and the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate Change Solutions page.

Sherman County Windmills
Windmills amid wheat fields in Sherman County, Oregon. This growing industry not only allows farmers to turn a larger profit on their fields, but also helps contribute to combating climate change. © Sam Beebe, Creative Commons

I want to remind you that this list is a work in progress. I welcome your input. Please post your (well-researched) ideas in the comments below!

Again: Up-to-date and accurate information on the Eagle Creek Fire is available here: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5584/

Banner Image: The Eagle Creek Fire, viewed from the Washington side of the Gorge on Sunday, Sept. 4. The fire has since spread to the Washington side. © Jeff Fisher & Jennifer Love

Oregon Coast Trail: Netarts to Oceanside

Oregon Coast Trail: Netarts to Oceanside

Connect two small coastal towns by walking a beautiful span of beach

Three Arch Rocks
Three Arch Rocks near Oceanside. © Jenni Denekas

Enjoy a broad array of coastal scenery in a mere 2 miles. This lovely beach walk begins on the northern side of Netarts Bay, which abounds with shellfish, wildlife, and human crabbers and clam diggers. As you continue north along the wide, smooth beach, Oceanside’s iconic sea stacks, known as Three Arch Rocks, swim into view. The final stretch into the quiet town of Oceanside offers abundant tidepools.

Trail Data

Distance One Way:  2 miles
Elevation Gain: 148 feet
Season: All
Features: Bay, Beach, Ocean, Tidepools, Sea Stacks, Small Towns, Wildlife
Trailhead Amenities: None
Passes/Permits: None
Usage: Hikers, Dogs
Maps: Build your own OCT map at SARtopo.com
Agency: Oregon Coastal Management Program (State of Oregon)

Hike Description

Netarts Bay
The beginning of the walk from Netarts to Oceanside offers views of Netarts Bay and Cape Lookout to the south. © Jenni Denekas

After utilizing the easy Netarts Beach Access, you will find yourself on a broad span of smooth sand, facing the northern terminus of Netarts Bay. The scenery is immediately stunning, with vistas reaching south to Cape Lookout and north towards the sea stacks by Oceanside. You’ll also likely see people clamming in the shallows in front of you.

Turn right (north) and head up the wide, level beach. Soon the surf will intensify as you leave the sheltered bay. After about 0.75 miles, you will cross Fall Creek. The creekbed is rocky, although the stream itself is not typically very deep.

Netarts to Oceanside
Rocks, pools, and sea stacks abound in the final push from Netarts to Oceanside. © Jenni Denekas

About 1.5 miles into the hike, on the final stretch to Oceanside, rocks and pools abound. Make sure to slow down in this area and look for sea creatures. Take some time to look up, as well: Just off shore is a cluster of six sea stacks, including Storm Rock, Finley Rock, Shag Rock, and Seal Rock. The three largest formations are known as Three Arch Rocks.

Once you have gotten your fill of stunning coastal views, it’s time to head into Oceanside. There are quite a few trails snaking up the hillside into the small, quiet town.

Consider enjoying a delicious meal at Roseanna’s Cafe (1490 Pacific Ave, Oceanside, OR 97134) before you continue north from Oceanside to Cape Meares on the Oregon Coast Trail.

How to Get There

Thru-Hiking? Strategize transit on the OCT Transportation page.

Driving Directions: From Tillamook, follow OR-131 West about 6.5 miles to the town of Netarts. Turn left onto Crab Avenue West and follow the street until it ends. Follow the stairs at the end of the street down to the beach.

Trailhead Coordinates: 45.436964, -123.950058

Next up: Oceanside to Cape Meares.

Backtrack: Netarts Beach Access.

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Find more Trails & Travels!

Cascade Head: Hart’s Cove Hike

Cascade Head: Hart’s Cove Hike

Embark on a coastal adventure filled with lush forest, stunning scenery and abundant wildlife

Hart's Cove and Chitwood Falls
Hart’s Cove and Chitwood Falls © Jenni Denekas

Cascade Head is one of the most stunning destinations on the Oregon coast – and that is saying something. Although not officially part of the Oregon Coast Trail, you would be missing out if you did not hike here, and I would be remiss for not writing about it.

There are a few different trails snaking up and over Cascade Head, but Hart’s Cove is my personal favorite. On this hike, you will pass under massive old growth Sitka spruce en route to a wildflower-studded promontory overlooking Hart’s Cove and sea stacks. You will enjoy clear views of 75-foot Chitwood Falls as it plunges off a basalt cliff into the cove’s churning waters. Pack binoculars to view sea lions, a host of bird species, and other wildlife.

We have The Nature Conservancy to thank for this beautiful hike – and for preserving a lot of other stunning natural locations. Please consider a donation.

Trail Data

Round Trip:  5.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
Season: The trail is open from July 15 through December 31
Features: Forest, Old Growth, Views, Ocean Views, Waterfall, Wildlife, Creeks, Wildflowers, Meadows
Trailhead Amenities: None
Passes/Permits: NW Forest Pass advised, and you should also consider a donation to the Nature Conservancy
Usage: Hikers, No Dogs
Maps: USGS: Neskowin, OR
Agency: US Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy

Hike Description

Hart's Cove Trailhead
The trailhead is unmarked, but the trail itself is well-defined. © Jenni Denekas

Set off from the parking lot on the well-defined but unmarked trail. You will descend 0.8 miles of forested switchbacks before the trail levels out and crosses a footbridge over Cliff Creek.

From here you will wind your way through windswept coastal rainforest thick with salal, huckleberries, kinnikinnick, and several fern varieties, and dotted with massive old growth trunks. Listen for sea lions; their loud barks carry remarkably well from the ocean.

In about 0.9 miles you will enter the Neskowin Crest Research Natural Area, an area set aside for the study of ecosystem dynamics. Just past the Research Natural Area sign you will reach a bench overlooking the next headland – and a bit of Hart’s Cove. The view is rather obscured by trees but it is a pleasant spot to relax nevertheless.

Hart's Cove Trail
On the way to the Hart’s Cove viewpoint, you will pass through lush, old-growth, coastal rain forest. © Jenni Denekas

Continue along the trail as it snakes downhill. After about 0.5 miles you will cross Chitwood Creek. The old bridge was washed out when I last hiked this (fall 2011), but there are usually logs or boards placed across the small stream.

You will ascend a gentle incline for about 0.3 miles before you emerge from the trees into a grassy meadow, which is laden with wildflowers in summer. There are many small tracks that arc through this vast landscape, but you should follow the most well-defined trail. This will lead you toward a small stand of Sitka spruce.

In a moment, you will enjoy stunning views of Chitwood Falls as it plummets into the turquoise waters of Hart’s Cove.

Hart's Cove
Hart’s Cove and sea stacks offer a stunning reward at the turnaround point for the hike. © Jenni Denekas

Just to the side of the cove are several sea stacks and a rocky beach—which, upon careful inspection, will reveal hordes of sunning sea lions. Even if you can’t see these brown pinpricks clearly, you will readily hear their loud barks over the crashing waves. Bald eagles and a host of sea birds also can be spotted here.

Once you have thoroughly soaked in the stunning views and wildlife sightings, retrace your steps—and enjoy the final, grueling climb to the trailhead!

How to Get There

Thru-Hiking? Strategize your transportation to this trailhead on the OCT Transportation page.

Driving Directions: Highway 101 North from Newport and Lincoln City: 1. Follow Highway 101 north to the junction of 101 and Highway 18. 2. Continue on Highway 101 for 3.8 miles. 3. Turn left onto an unmarked gravel road (Forest Service Road 1861). 4. Follow the twisting, gravel road 4.1 miles to its terminus at a small parking lot. (3.3 miles in, you will pass the marked trailhead for the Cascade Head Trail; the trailhead for Hart’s Cove is 0.8 miles farther).

Trailhead Coordinates: 45.069391, -123.978417

View another stunning hike on Cascade Head, from OregonHikers.org!

Return to OCT North Coast Trail Data.

Return to the Oregon Coast Trail main page.

Find more Trails & Travels!

Building a Positive and Comfortable Community at Oregon Country Fair

Building a Positive and Comfortable Community at Oregon Country Fair

Nestled in the trees, teeming with positive energy, and showcasing stunning local crafts, Oregon Country Fair is an amazing experience. Held annually since 1969 in Veneta, 15 miles east of Eugene, this fun and funky event is an Oregon tradition.

I finally took part in this tradition in summer 2017, spending a long weekend camping near the fair with friends and my boyfriend. OCF far exceeded my expectations, and I highly recommend attending. The best part, to me, was the atmosphere.

Welcoming and Positive

Oregon Country Fair Stilt Walkers
Stilt walkers are a common sight at Oregon Country Fair. © Jenni Denekas

The atmosphere at Oregon Country Fair was consistently welcoming. From the moment my carpool pulled into our camp, we were told, “Welcome home!” When I was introduced to friends of my friends, I was enveloped in hugs. Passers-by greeted each other with, “Happy Fair!”

The conversations that occurred were generally upbeat. One of my friends kept steering us away from political discussions, reminding us that the fair is a special place, removed from the rest of the world. Focusing on the positive infused our experiences with a joyful, relaxed vibe.

Free expression abounded in various forms. People wore a whole array of unique outfits, adorned their camps with vibrant decorations, and passed their time with silly games. The fact that everyone was accepting and non-judgmental helped to make this possible.

A Supportive Community

Oregon Country Fair sign
Oregon Country Fair is a bit of a maze… an amazing one! © Jenni Denekas

A lot of people chose to use recreational drugs, but no one was ostracized for indulging – or for abstaining. I do not use drugs at all, and felt a lot more accepted and a lot less judged than I was expecting. As someone said, in reference to my energetic demeanor, “I take drugs to feel as good as you seem to feel naturally!” Essentially, as long as you were friendly and having fun, you fit in just fine.

Even when someone was having a hard time, they were supported. Indeed, the community atmosphere of OCF was apparent when folks helped those who were having a tough “trip.” More relevant to my personal experience, folks were also quick to help if you got lost in the labyrinthine fair.

I also saw the community spirit of OCF in action on our final morning at camp. One of my friends shouted out that it was my boyfriend’s birthday, and everyone sang to him. Afterwards, one guy gave my boyfriend the “key to his new age.” Later in the day, my boyfriend and I re-visited one of our favorite stalls. The man running the booth presented my boyfriend with a birthday grapefruit. This was apparently one of the “best grapefruits in the world,” no less.

Indeed, impromptu giving was common at OCF, and the atmosphere was welcoming and respectful. I sincerely hope this was the case for everyone in attendance.

But I want to note that, as a white woman, my appearance may have influenced how I was treated and therefore what my experience felt like. In other words, it’s time to talk about privilege, race, and cultural appropriation.

Race and Cultural Appropriation

I could see how a person of color may feel less comfortable than I did at OCF. Cultural appropriation abounded, including some people who shouldn’t have been wearing feather headdresses. (Alas, they were.) Some booths showcased traditional crafts made by people who were not part of that culture. On the plus side, there was a display about local tribes, their culture, and the genocide rained upon them in the 1800s by white settlers. I’m not trying to excuse the appropriation that I noticed, but I am glad that there was some acknowledgement of the tribes and their history, at least.

My boyfriend and I also noticed that there were not many POC at the fair. Obviously, Oregon is not the most diverse state, but the attendance at OCF still did not seem to reflect the state’s population – and I have to wonder why. Perhaps cultural appropriation makes it unappealing. Perhaps the referral system for campgrounds (which I will delve further into in a moment) means that long-time white attendees invite their white friends, thus creating a cycle. Perhaps something else is at play. On the plus side, I did see a “Black Lives Matter” poster in the fair, and my boyfriend (who is half Japanese) said he felt comfortable and welcome at OCF. Again, I’m not trying to excuse the problems I noted; I’m just pointing out some positives.

A Comfortable Space for Women

A moss peace sign near the Community Village in Oregon Country Fair.  © Jenni Denekas

On the other hand, it was really comfortable to attend the fair as a woman. This especially struck me when I went to the large bonfire/drum circle, and was dancing in a crowd of joyful hippies. I realized OCF was the one and only time in my adult life that I have danced in a crowded place and not been groped. Although that is a sad commentary on our society as a whole, it is a positive commentary on what OCF is like – at least, in my experience.

Of course, I can’t speak to everyone’s experience – and if anyone has something to share, I would be happy to help bring it to light. I did notice flyers by some of the restrooms about reducing the rate of assaults at OCF, which implies that that does happen. And of course, once is far too many times for that to occur.

However, what I experienced and witnessed suggests that it was a relatively safe space for women.

For instance, I was pleasantly surprised that I never saw any of the many topless women being catcalled, mocked for not having a “perfect” body (whatever that means), or otherwise treated any differently than anyone else. Folks seemed to maintain eye contact and treat these topless women with just as much respect as anyone else. I also was glad to see diverse body types baring it all. It seems that body positivity is alive and well at OCF.

There also was an awesome area set aside specifically for women at the fair. This space is the Moon Lodge, a magical den among lush vine maples draped with diaphanous fabric. Filled with comfortable nooks, this space provides a welcome escape from the bustle of the fair. Visitors can read feminist books, draw, chat with other awesome women, test out various tinctures, listen to a talk, or participate in a ceremony. The Moon Lodge also offered information on sexual assault and domestic violence, and free tampons and pads. It is an all-around great resource for women and girls. I was also glad that I didn’t feel the need to retreat into this haven due to anyone’s bad behavior; it was simply somewhere that I visited voluntarily, and enjoyed a lot.

Referral System for Camps

Camp at Oregon Country Fair
Home sweet home in the trees, at a camp near Oregon Country Fair. © Jenni Denekas

So how does this great atmosphere come about? I think the safe and welcoming vibes at OCF stem from the fact that the camps require referrals. For instance, to stay at our camp, one had to be invited by someone who has camped there before. Then each guest still has to fill out an application in order to be approved. Additionally, at our camp, they would throw out troublemakers and whoever invited them. By relying on networking and on strict consequences, the camps help facilitate a safe and enjoyable atmosphere.

However, as I previously mentioned, I wonder if the referral system perpetuates a lack of racial diversity at the fair. I recently heard of some discouraging statistics that indicate that 75% of white people in the United States do not have any close friends who are people of color (link here; get ready to be sad). If that is the case, then the white people who already camp near OCF will invite their white friends, and the demographics of this event will not change. Referrals will not fix this situation, obviously, so it seems necessary to implement new strategies to address the lack of diversity.

Though there are some potential areas of improvement, I was overall impressed with the atmosphere at Oregon Country Fair. Indeed, the vibe was the best part of the entire experience. I can understand why a lot of people consider it a home-away-from-home, and keep coming back.

Ready to plan your visit? Check out my Oregon Country Fair page, or visit the OCF official website.

Have you been before? Share your OCF experience in the comments!

Cutting Someone Out, Versus Being Cut Up: Healing While Hiking the OCT

Cutting Someone Out, Versus Being Cut Up: Healing While Hiking the OCT

In order to heal, sometimes you need to rip off that bandage.

Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams, viewed from Lunch Counter. My first attempt resulted in a hole in my leg, and an important lesson (or several). © Jenni Denekas

My first attempt on Mount Adams led to a hole in the back of my leg (long story).

I didn’t let it slow me down; within the next few days, I was out on another backpacking trip. Then another. Then another.

During these trips, I was careful to prevent infection: I kept the wound clean, I kept applying antibacterial ointment, and I kept changing my bandages. Frustratingly, even after a few weeks, it was not healing.

I realized that changing the bandages was actually doing more harm than good. Each time I removed the gauze, it also removed a layer of skin. I realized that I needed to uncover the wound and let it scab over. The sooner I let it out in the open, the sooner it would toughen up and begin to truly heal.

This was a distressing prospect; I have a high pain tolerance, but the hole went clear through my epidermis to the layers beneath. Anytime a branch snapped the back of my leg, I had to work hard to not scream. Showering was awful. It was going to be a painful and fraught healing process. But going through it head-on was the only way I was going to heal.

Indeed, it is often the case that the more difficult, head-on approach is what allows a person to heal.

By the way, I’m not talking about medical issues anymore; I’m talking about emotional pain.

Nearly six years after my fateful attempt on Adams, I was in quite a lot of emotional pain. There was a variety of reasons for this, but foremost was the fact that the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with cheated on me. We ended our relationship, but we were trying to remain friends. I wasn’t ready to let go entirely. In other words, I didn’t want to rip off that bandage.

However, it was killing me. I was stuck in a series of highs and lows that revolved around him. I would feel low until we talked, uplifted while we conversed, then shattered when we said an awkward, halting goodbye. I felt a hole where an “I love you” used to be. I would invariably cry after we hung up.

I held onto a small shred of hope that somehow we could work things out. Then I fought back fiercely against that notion, reminding myself that what he did was a deal-breaker. That I wouldn’t stand for that sort of shit. Back and forth I would go, again and again.

I was not going to heal until I faced the entirety of the pain, until I realized we were truly done, until I realized he didn’t respect me and he wasn’t my friend. Again, I had to rip off that bandage.

I realized this throughout my trek on the Oregon Coast Trail. During my 367-mile journey, I grew stronger, physically and emotionally.

On my hike, I learned a lot about shedding the unnecessary weight I was carrying. I’m not talking about my pack when I say that, nor am I talking about the body weight that my ex apparently thinks I should lose (which was part of what made me cut him out). Rather, I’m talking about focusing on what built me up, brought me peace, and gave me strength. I’m talking about getting rid of what tore me up, brought me anguish, and made me weak. Shedding that weight was the only way I could get through the heavy mileage.

Viewpoint in Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Viewpoint in Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. © Jenni Denekas

I also realized that there was a much wider world beyond my heartbreak, and I had been missing out on it while sitting alone and sad in my apartment. I realized that I would rather have the rest of the world, rather than the shattered remnants of a relationship.

I came back to a phrase that I conceived a while ago, in a different context: “You have to decide whether it’s more important to remain hurt, or to become whole.”

I don’t mean that you should bury your feelings. It is vital to sort through them in order to truly heal. Rather, I’m talking about not wallowing. Wallowing is a surefire way to remain hurt. It’s like leaving a bandage on a wound when it really needs to be out in the open, and scab and scar over. Wallowing is also a roundabout way of engaging in denial. It’s a state of waiting for someone to step in and help, rather than doing what you need to do to save yourself.

I decided that keeping my ex in my life was only going to continue to hurt me. It was reopening the wound over and over again. It wasn’t allowing me to move forward. It was keeping me stuck. It was a question of whether I should remain cut up, or cut him out.

Then my ex sent me a message that nearly literally made me see red. My decision was already made, but he unwittingly chose the moment I would rip off that bandage. In my fury, I finally told him what I should have said months before.

I was crushed and uplifted. I was pumped. I was exhausted. I was proud. I was liberated.

It was the start of my new life, one in which I did not accept anything less than the treatment that I truly deserved.

In order to get what I truly deserved, I needed to “run as far as I could in the direction of my best and happiest dreams across the bridge built by my own desire to heal,” to paraphrase Cheryl Strayed in Tiny Beautiful Things. I needed to pursue what I wanted and deserved. And the first step was getting rid of anything that ran counter to my best and happiest dreams.

Staying in touch with a liar and a cheater at the expense of my happiness and my wholeness was not worth it. Not at all.

Netarts to Cape Meares
On the hike from Netarts to Cape Meares. I felt much lighter after tearing off that bandage. © Jenni Denekas

When I cut him out, I gave myself license to enjoy the rest of the world. The next day, hiking from Netarts to Cape Meares, I was singing and frolicking. I was pensive at times, too. But I saw more, I relished more. I felt lighter and fuller. I was free.

The final portion of my trek was better due to my decision, and my life since then has been better, too. I am happier, I am more whole, and I have found love again.

All this would not have been possible without that first step of shedding what wasn’t serving me. Doing so took over 200 miles of hiking and thinking and gaining strength. But I got there. I am still moving forward, I am better for it, and I am thankful. And that is what I recommend for you all: Ripping off that bandage, shedding that emotional weight, and pursuing your dreams.

What’s ahead is better than what you’ve left behind. I promise.

Read more reflections in the Moments section.

Check out my Oregon Coast Trail journal.

Rainbow over Coos Bay
Rainbow over Coos Bay. © Jenni Denekas