Brian's Photo Blog — Article 330
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Outing to the Valley of the Giants
Monday 2 June 2014   —   Category: Outings
Over Memorial Day weekend, my wife Catherine, my daughter Olivia, and I, went on an outing to the remote Valley of the Giants. While this may sound like a dangerous location out of a fairy-tale story, it’s actually a protected grove of huge, ancient Douglas-firs and western hemlocks — many of which are hundreds of years old and hundreds of feet tall. But actually getting to this grove is a whole nother story!

After studying the available information, it doesn’t seem very likely that you are going to get to the Valley of the Giants without first going through the small Oregon village (population about 1,000) of Falls City. We got an early start that day, had breakfast at McDonald’s in Independence, and arrived in Falls City around 8:15.

While we were in town, we decided to visit the waterfall which gave the village its name. It’s a bit hard to find, as there doesn’t seem to be any signs giving directions or marking the spot. But I’ll tell you how to get there! At the west end of town, verge right onto Mitchell Street at the fork in the road (don’t go over the bridge to the left unless you’re ready to head to the Valley of the Giants). Continue up the street for about 250 yards until you see a small sign in the grass on the left that reads Trespassing Encouraged. Park along the road, and go past the sign to the waterfall. Enjoy!

Following the instructions in William Sullivan’s excellent book, 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range, we went back to the fork in the road and took the left branch over the Little Luckiamute River. After a 15-mile, 45-minute drive down a decent but winding gravel logging road, we reached the entrance to the abandoned logging village of Valsetz, about halfway to the Valley of the Giants.

According to Sullivan, at this point a gate in the road should have been locked, but to my surprise it was standing wide open. Consulting my indispensible Topo Map for iPad app, I could see it would save us some time and miles to continue straight through the old village site. But because we had never been there before, it seemed wiser to stick to Sullivan’s instructions by turning left and taking a different road. But on the way back ....

Continuing on, we followed the road along the South Fork of the Siletz River for five or six miles. Then, crossing a bridge, we drove along the North Fork Siletz River all the way to the Valley of the Giants. This area is such a maze of logging roads that I don’t know how we would have found our way without the GPS and USGS topo-map capabilities of my iPad Mini! The 30 miles of gravel roads had taken us just about 90 minutes to traverse. At our arrival time of 10:10, we were the only vehicle parked there, even though it was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend — the early Byrds get the worms!

For the next three hours we enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the 2.3-mile loop trail, with plenty of stops for pondering the giant trees, investigation, photos, and a picnic lunch. I’m so glad that we arrived relatively early, because as time went by, more and more people showed up, including little kids with voices many times larger and stronger than their diminutive bodies! Sheesh! How can you listen to the silent voice of nature with that kind of infernal racket?! If I wanted to hear shouting kids, I would go to the mall!

Because I like to live somewhat adventurously on my outings, I decided to try an alternate route home. Instead of returning back east to Falls City, I thought I would strike out on various logging roads heading west and north, hoping to eventually arrive at the H. B. Van Duzer Forest State Scenic Corridor on Oregon Route 18 just west of Grand Ronde. But it wasn’t meant to be.

We made it pretty well for a few miles, even though the roads were not quite as good as the ones we took to get to the Valley of the Giants. At one point I stopped on a logging road near the top of the southern face of Stott Mountain, at an elevation of about 2,850 feet, to admire the view shown in the panoramic photo below.

A little bit further on, things took a nasty turn for the worse up on the top of Stott Mountain. From the look of things, it seemed that recent logging activity had been taking place there. Instead of a gravel road, it had been churned up into soft, deep, fresh soil. That wasn’t too bad with my 4x4 2009 Toyota Tacoma, but there were also exposed, wicked-looking roots snaking along the surface here and there which I had to drive over. Not wanting to give up, I pressed on for maybe 50 to 100 yards. But eventually I had to come to a halt, exit the truck, and take a critical look at the road ahead.

First, there were a couple of large, black, oily puddles in my way. But the deal-killer was the two large, deep ditches which cut right across the road! Right beyond them, not too many yards from where I was standing, the nice gravel road started again, leading to my hoped-for destination. But there was no way around or over those ditches, so I regretfully had to admit defeat. It was time to turn around and head back the way we came.

Easier said than done! The road was so narrow and churned up that it was impossible to turn around. Therefore I put the truck into low 4x4 and drove in reverse over the 50 to 100 yards of bad road until I came to a place where I could turn. Even though I was disappointed, I was very grateful that one of those exposed roots didn’t pop a tire, or worse! I’m also regretting that I didn’t take any pictures of this part of our adventure, but in the intensity of the moment I sure wasn’t thinking about photography!

The rest of the trip was uneventful, and even boring. We made our way back on the same roads to the Valley of the Giants, and then back on the same roads to Falls City. The only difference was that we took the shortcut through the site of the old Valsetz village, which I had mentioned above.

During this outing I took 118 pictures, the best 43 of which are in the new Valley of the Giants 2014 album. All in all, it was a worthwhile trip, and I hope that one day, you too will make your own expedition to the Valley of the Giants.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 330
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