Westfir is four miles north and west of Oakridge, and unless you are an avid mountain biker, fan of the Aufderheide Scenic Drive, or have deep logging roots, itâ€™s likely you have never been there. But you should go there, as soon as possible, namely to make a visit to The Westfir Lodge.
The Westfir Lodge is one of those gorgeous Oregon anomalies, a funky little place full of dichotomies and located in the middle of nowhere that somehow ends up feeling like the center of everywhere about five minutes after you get there. I was there the night of the Lodgeâ€™s grand (re)opening, June 1, and watched more than one person get sucked into the Westfir vortex. The result was an eclectic group of cool folks gathered around the fire pit under starry skies, the conversation going strong until well after the last train blasted by along the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River across the street.
Westfir was a company town, built in the 1920s to support the Western Lumber Company. The mill closed for good in the 80s, and what is left is a tiny hamlet in an undeniably gorgeous settingâ€”forest, river and fresh air, complete with a lovely red painted covered bridge. The Office Bridge is the longest standing covered bridge in Oregon and was built in 1944 to connect the town to the mill. Across the street were the mill offices, which were transformed into the Westfir Lodge in the 1990s.
The original owners brought a unique sensibility to the place. The Westfir is like your quirky grandmaâ€™s place, if grandma was a native Oregonian born to a logging family who read Victorian romance novels and traveled the globe in their spare time. Interspersed with classic Victorian furnishings, elaborate woodwork and vibrant, fanciful dĂ©cor are historical photos, maps and paintings of Westfir and of Oregon, as well as knick knacks from all over the world. Outdoors, lush rose gardens contrast with a table made from a massive cedar and a round, serrated saw blade set in the patio concrete.
New owner Eric Staley acquired the Westfir last December. Staley is a real estate developer who lives in Bend, but long before that, he was a boy growing up four miles upriver from the lodge, in Oakridge. Bringing the Westfir back to life is a passion he didnâ€™t necessarily see coming but nevertheless has overcome him like one of the trains that pass through here late at night.
Staley has applied a â€ścome one come allâ€ť sensibility to the Westfir, opening the restaurant to the public for the first time and creating an inviting patio complete with handcrafted fire pit, made by an Oregon artist from an old railroad ore cart and discarded saw blades. Staley hired a â€śfood savantâ€ť named Nancy to serve as den mother and run the kitchen.
Staley is hoping the Westfir will become a gathering place for everyone: locals, folks accessing the incredible network of mountain biking trails that begin on the other side of the Office Bridge, day trippers driving the aforementioned Aufderheide Scenic Byway, Eugene residents looking for a getaway, and anyone else who wanders by.
From the scene at the opening night party, Iâ€™d say Staleyâ€™s goal is already well underway. I felt immediately at home, and left well fed in both belly and soul, and with a handful of new friends. Thatâ€™s my idea of the perfect Oregon experience.
about author Kim Cooper Findling
Kim Cooper Findling grew up on the Oregon Coast and became a Central Oregon girl in the mid-90s, taking in the sunny skies and never looking back (except a few wistful glances at the ocean). She is the editor of â€śCascade Journalâ€ť and the author of â€śDay Trips From Portland: Getaway Ideas for the Local Travelerâ€ť and â€śChance of Sun: An Oregon Memoir.â€ť Catch her around the state sampling microbrews, hiking river trails, revisiting the ocean, taking silly pictures with her iPhone and hanging out with her family.
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