For The Love of Pine – Vernonia, OR

“Mountainous…Unfit for settlement” 1879

Early evening on the coastal range

Those were the exact words uttered by an 1879 surveyor when he scanned the coastal range of NW Oregon. Clearly the guy wasn’t from Colorado, but as it turned out he had a point. The rolling hills of the NW are covered in thick and dense woodland, fed incessantly by moist air and rain. This is a world of cedar and pine and it was the trees, more than anything else that made settlement both impossible and possible.

It all started around the 1870’s with the first pioneers reaching the Oregon coast on old Indian trails. Lured by the promise of fertile land and the Homestead Act, they braved the perilous journey to a new life. Fertile land they did indeed find, but the darn trees were something else. Incredibly thick and prolifically abundant the early pioneers were barely able to chop the things down before they grew back, and as it turned out that was just the ticket. The area turned to logging and in 1920 the Oregon American Mill set-up in Vernonia and became the “largest in the world” fed by logging railroads in all directions. It was boom-times for NW Oregon.

The very (very) first touches of fall

Today’s Vernonia is a much smaller version of the early 20’s, but keeps much of its history alive in the Pioneer Museum, a simply fabulous collection of local bits and trivia. The curator told me most of the families who originally settled are still here so the items donated all have names of those who wore and used them, a rather unique touch. You can take it all in for free as well as a walk down to the local lake (with remnants of the old mill), and, for the more active, a 21-mile bike-ride down the path of the old railroad on the Vernonia-Banks trail to the south.

We’ve been hanging out in the area at the nearby State Park for a few days, hiking through the thick old pine, getting lost in the hills, picking blackberries (you can eat your way through the whole town this time of year) and breathing in the very (very) first touches of fall. From here we head to the coast for some beach-combing and hanging out with friends, but it’s sure been nice to touch some pine along the way.

The Vernonia Museum is jam-packed with historical goodies
Early morning sun filters thro’ the thick pine in Stub Stewart State Park
Nature’s wonder in miniature
The last colors of thistle
Gorgeous pine
Hiking in old growth forest
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  1. says

    The Pioneer Museum is free…WOW. What a great deal and so much history! I would be going crazy picking up pine needles for my baskets. We will be in that area next year…you make it look so lovely that I am getting antsy to get there. Thanks for the beautiful pictures.

    • libertatemamo says’s totally free. Great curator too. I spent almost an hour chatting with her and getting all kinds of interesting bits of history. Definitely a lovely little spot to visit.

    • libertatemamo says

      The slide repair ended up going super smoothly. I posted all about it just a few days ago on the blog (check out 2 posts back). In the end the fix was so simple we didn’t need to involve the warranty (it took less than $100 to fix, well below our deductible). I’m happy we’re past it anyhow! Nina

  2. Sandie says

    My friend Jeri and I had a discussion about how hard it would have been for the settlers trying to hack their way through all the trees out there. I learned that a lot of times they used the beach instead of trying to get through the trees. Really interesting history. I would love the museum.

    • libertatemamo says

      Makes total sense. Having seen the trees I’m actually amazed anyone settled here. It must have been quite the experience!

  3. says

    The most overused word used to be “awesome.” Now I am overusing the word “splendid.” But both words more than apply to your photos. Now all I have to do is find out where in Oregon to find Vernonia, and then get ourselves up there!

    • libertatemamo says

      It’s definitely tucked up in there…a quiet corner in the NW. It’s a perfect stop if you’re coming from the coast (Astoria) to Portland or visa versa. I’ve got it pegged on the “journey” map.

  4. alex peters says

    Great pics and even better rum and coke. In the last picture, is Pauli waiting and asking permission before she leaps off in the wilderness?

  5. says

    I particularly like, “Quelques arpents de neige”, uttered by Voltaire just a couple years after Mozart was born. (OK fine…., 1758) This was to describe in his contrite way, the economic wasteland that he saw New France to be. Darned if they didn’t inhabit it anyway.
    At least human habitation was a little more difficult where you find yourselves. Makes for better hiking I find.


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