Forest Service Heritage trip offers ‘rich’ forest education

Sean C. Morgan

The U.S. Forest Service Sweet Home Ranger District hosted some 34 participants in its Heritage Expedition 2000, the second of which was held last week.

The program, part of a national fee demonstration, was split into two sections, 17 persons in each session, this summer based on heavy demand for it. Participants, at $350 each, joined Forest Service personnel on Aug. 13 for the four-day experience.

Meeting at the Sweet Home Ranger District office, the group traveled into the forest hiking in the wake of Andrew Wiley’s expedition into the mountains, which was aimed at finding a passage from the Willamette Valley through Sweet Home to Central Oregon. The expedition ultimately led to the construction of the Santiam Wagon Road, which provided a route to take Willamette Valley beef to hungry Central Oregon miners.

Daily hikes centered around the Santiam Wagon Road and its history, providing participants a look at everything from the Native American and settler cultures of the past to a tour of today’s forests through the eyes of scientists.

Throughout the week, the group camped at House Rock Campground.

As participants hiked the old wagon road, they could round a bend to find a living historical display, including early settlers and Native Americans of the region.

At two different gravesites along the way, Sweet Home High School junior Megan Foucht brought tears to the eyes of many as she recounted the tales of Charity Ann Noble Marks, who died in childbirth near Fish Lake, and James McKnight, who accidentally shot himself at Tombstone Prairie. Both died in the late 19th century.

The Santiam Wagon Road was part of the first transcontinental automobile race in 1905. To commemorate that event and help explain what happened, Salem residents Cliff and Sheila Rutledge brought their 1903 Oldsmobile curved-dash to the forest.

For more information, see complete story in this week’s The New Era.