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Jared Kennedy | 07.11.2019

When I first heard that Chandra LeGue would be taking a sabbatical from Oregon Wild to publish Oregon's Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide, I buzzed with anticipation, even then knowing I would have to wait for over a year to see the book in print. (Note: I serve on Oregon Wild's Board of Directors). Having had multiple chances to tromp through Oregon's wilderness and climb to the top of ancient trees with Chandra, I was excited at the prospect of her authoring a guidebook, especially on old growth hikes.

My first hike with Chandra was a group trip to Rooster Rock in the Menagerie Wilderness. Later, she organized and helped guide our trip into the Devil's Staircase, a place that finally received the wilderness designation it deserved just a few months ago. I got know Chandra as someone who knows her flora and explores on her own timeline, never in a rush and always eager to point out something special she discovers along the trail.

All this is to say that Chandra is the perfect person to write this guidebook. Oregon's Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide is an update to Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood, originally published in 1991. Wendell, who recently passed away, was a well-known wilderness advocate well loved by anyone who ever had the chance to join him on a walk through the woods. As Chandra says in the book's introduction: "Wendell's book was far more than a hiking guide," written during the "timber wars" of the 90s that ultimately led to the Northwest Forest Plan and many of the forest protections we take for granted today.

Back when Wendell wrote the original, there was a real concern that all of our remaining ancient forests would be logged. Today, many are now protected, but Oregon's forestry laws are still the least strict in the West, and as much as any other time, timber interests continue to exploit loopholes (and public fear of wildfire) to find ways to cut down old growth and places with old-growth characteristics. Chandra works daily to protect the forests she calls home. And to say she is at home in these forests is very much an understatement.

 

Chandra leads the way to the Devil's Staircase Waterfall through the Siuslaw National Forest. Photo by Jared Kennedy.

Oregon's remaining old-growth forests are mostly in small pockets, found in areas where it was too difficult to build roads, where protections were put in place just in time, or where activists or private landowners had the foresight to keep these ancient forests intact. Oregon's Ancient Forests: A Hiking Guide covers 91 such places across Oregon, from the Coastal Fog Zone, the Douglas-fir-dominated forests of the Cascades, and the mixed conifer and drier Ponderosa and lodgepole pine forests of northeast Oregon. Even if you have spent a lifetime hiking the trails of Oregon, you will still find new hikes and places to explore. Each entry has the highlight information and turn-by-turn directions you'll need to take each hike, but it also includes the protections currently in place for each forest and a specific guide to where you can find the biggest, oldest groves and other elements that make the forest special.

I would encourage everyone who loves Oregon's forests to take the time to read Part 1: Understanding Oregon's Ancient Forests, that precedes the trail guides. This section has an extensive review of Oregon's forest ecology, history of logging and protections, the diversity of forest types, and what makes an old forest special. More importantly, it provides critical talking points that will help the everyday reader become a stronger advocate for Oregon's forests. It's an accessible and informative review of the work that remains to make sure these forests remain intact. And then, when you are exploring the hikes found in Section 2, you will have a much deeper understanding of what you are experiencing when walking the trails and standing under the canopies of giant trees.

 

Chandra pauses on a hike to point out native plants growing along the trail. Photo by Jared Kennedy.

The book, published by Mountaineers Books, is a worthy fit on any bookshelf. Nearly every facing page has a beautiful photograph showing off the trees and vistas that make exploring Oregon's woods a joy. You will find yourself picking this book up time and again, and planning trips to the far corners of Oregon. The book breaks the trails into 14 distinct regions, each with a map showing the various land management agencies and logging protections in place.

Oregon Wild is selling the book on its website for $26.95. When you buy the book from Oregon Wild, all of the sales proceeds go directly to its work protecting and restoring Oregon's wildlands, wildlife, and waters. Oregon Wild is also offering the book as a gift to anyone who becomes a member. You can also purchase the book from Amazon and in bookstores in Oregon and Washington.

BUY NOW: Direct from Oregon Wild | Amazon

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