Opal Creek Trail · Opal Creek Wilderness · Willamette National Forest · Jawbone Flats · Oregon · USA
There's no better place to lose yourself--and find yourself again--than in a pristine old-growth forest. The trail to the former mining camp of Jawbone Flats, current population 9, is actually a rough old mining road now open to vehicular traffic belonging only to the citizens of Jawbone Flats and the wilderness area's maintenance crews. All others go on foot. The road winds lazily through a forested slope adorned with half-century-old (and beyond) Douglas fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar that tower dizzyingly overhead, including a 1,000-year-old behemoth of a Douglas fir near the trailhead. Just down the hillside to the south, before Battle Axe Creek and Opal Creek proper converge upstream, the Little North Santiam River hums a rushing, syncopated rhythm to fill the void between birdsong and footfall.
Between the sight of massive trees of the ancient forest, the understory of unfurling deer, sword, and bracken fern and several species of tiny wildflowers, the pristine emerald waters of the river and its many side streams, and the rusted mining equipment of yore (protected by federal law) strewn about, photo opportunities abounded. And yet my favorite remained the mysterious yet inviting depths of this softly lit stand of red alder and young western hemlock we passed on the way back to the trailhead. In there, somewhere, is me.