Entry from the 2020 Travel Stories: Discovery
Places: Corvallis, OR
My brother and I woke up early in Corvallis, Oregon and set out to beat the Saturday morning crowds. Even in the pandemic, you could count on these parks to be crowded with people communing with nature, camping with family, or grilling next to the creek. The crowd would undoubtedly dissipate the farther in towards the wilderness we crept. Unsure of the roadway conditions, we still did our best to get there early.
Heading west from Corvallis, we first stopped in Detroit, Oregon. Near the lake is a road called French Creek Road. We followed French Creek Road for 4 miles before it turned into National Forest Rd 2223.
The road continued a few miles before another road appeared on the left, Forest Road 520. Having committed the day to adventure and spontaneity, we took this road. We had only travelled a few miles, but the beauty and nature stretched the perception to that of at least 100 miles. We took this road as far as we could, even traveling over roads so rocky they seemed unintended for our journey. At the end of this nearly scary drive, we saw other tire marks, and fire pits, left as proof that we were meant to find this place.
We left the car and continued on foot to explore this campground we had found. It was a primitive site, in a dispersed camping area. These sites are free to use, and campers are encouraged to practice “leave no trace”. There were at least 3 fire pits visible from the overlook, and more were suspected to be within the forest. Had we known this was here, we may have planned on camping. The space was exposed to all the elements, and as far into the wilderness as I have been to set up camp. I could only imagine how amazing the views of the stars would be at night, and how real the threat of bears might be. We explored this area for as long as we felt we could without losing too much time. It was too early for us to stop and camp, so we just recorded the location for future visits.
We returned to the car and retraced our path back to NF-2223, where we drove to the Phantom Bridge Trailhead. This drive was also full of adventure and discovery, and we saw another roadway in the vast distance. We decided to track it down and drive as far as we could.
From each of the peaks Mt. Hood was visible in the distance.
Returning to French Creek Road, we decided to follow National Forest Road 2207 in search of the road we had seen from a distance. The road meandered and wound down the mountains into a valley encompassed in ferns and moss. The creek was running along side us for most of the journey. Mt. Hood, once visible and prominent, faded above the canopy of green and the bright summer day faded into an etherial rainforest. We drove on and on, seeing occupied campsites within the trees in the distance.
We could smell bbq and the evidence of gatherings. There were families swimming in the creek and bathing in the waterfalls as we passed. With each passing adjacent road, we hypothesized if that was where the campers were parked. We wondered how far the road went, and finally gave up the hope to find the end of it. We stopped for lunch at the Sullivan Creek Falls, which we did not know the name of until we regained cell service the next day.
After eating, swimming, and relaxing in the hammock, we were ready to find a campsite. This time we returned to a lookout we had seen from a distance on the way to our first adventure of the day. We passed many campers who had found amazing spots that we vowed to come back and stay in one day. This may never be possible, since most of this area was burned in a wildfire in 2020.