When summer’s glorious colors have faded and an amber glow wraps around the land, I am especially fond of the trips that breeze along some of Oregon’s finer roadways on a crisp October afternoon.
When it comes to fall colors in the Oregon Coast Range Mountains, try two unique and easy to find trails: the Four County Point and Steam Donkey Trails.
Just off Hwy 26, at mile post 35, pull into a spacious parking area where a new information board with a trail map will guide you to one of the most unique Oregon hiking destinations called Four County Point Trail.
Once you reach the marker, you can straddle the site and admire Clatsop, Tillamook, Washington and Columbia counties – all in a heartbeat – a fun cap to an easy hike and a geographic feature you won’t find anywhere else in the state.
Back on the Sunset Highway, continue west less than ten miles to reach the Sunset Rest Area. It’s a popular stop for travelers that journey from the valley to the coast, but if you take a stroll across a wooden bridge, you will enjoy a short trek that reaches back to touch a bite of Oregon history.
The Steam Donkey Trail is an easy, 1/3 of a mile loop and all of it is wheelchair accessible. While the so called “steam donkeys” have long left the woods, in their day they were something special as state of the art iron and steel machinery that hauled the big timber out of the woods.
At the Tillamook State Forest Center, you can see a real steam donkey on display and learn more about the role of steam donkeys in Oregon timber history as well as the remarkable story of how they got one here for you to admire.
“The steam donkey was created really just to yard logs out of the woods,” said Chris Friend, recreation specialist at the Forest Center.
He said the story of their donkey reaches back to a time before the Tillamook Burns, the collective and devastating fires that raged across half a million acres in the1930’s.
“The company that owned this one had no reason to salvage it once their land and timber holdings burned over so they just left it there. As a result, this machine was pretty much stranded in the woods with no roads to it.”
In fact, the Forest Center’s donkey was hidden for decades deep in the Salmonberry River drainage, until a small army of volunteers decided it was worth an effort to try and fly it out.
“So, they measured its size, estimated its weight and slowly dismantled the old steam donkey for an airlift,” said Friend.
It took tremendous effort and no small amount of donated time and money to bring this chapter of Tillamook logging history to the Forest Center
It’s a scene worth exploring along trails where the fall color prime time is passing – so hurry here soon.
You can download free trail brochures from the Oregon Dept of Forestry and the Tillamook Forest Center is open each Wednesday through Sunday. The Center will close for winter at the end of November.