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Ecotours teach wonders of nature – Oregon firms combine education and awe-inspiring sights

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As they hiked into the old-growth forest, the tourists fell silent. They looked at the ancient trees sweeping skyward – the massive Douglas firs with their rutted bark, the smoother and redder cedars and the scaly hemlocks.

Typh Tucker
Associated Press

http://www.spokesmanreview.com/local/story.asp?ID=13996

"It’s so beautiful," said 22-year-old Christine Steenken, visiting from Los Angeles with her boyfriend, Christopher Mock. Mock was considering attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland and the hike was a way to get to know the area.

"We get out to the forest in California," said 24-year-old Mock. "But it takes four hours, and it doesn’t look anything like this."

Heads tilted back and the group witnessed fir needles cascading slowly, silently down through the trees to the forest floor.

Jeff Davies led the group along the Salmon River Trail inside the Mount Hood National Forest in the shadows of Oregon’s tallest mountain and on Portland’s doorstep. Davies is owner of EcoTours of Oregon Day Tours.

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Salmon River Trail

Hiking the Salmon River Trail does not require a tour group. To reach the trail on your own, take Interstate 84 east from Portland, then drive south on U.S. 26 through the cities of Sandy and Welches. Take a right on Salmon River Road. Drive about a mile. The trailhead is on the left.

EcoTours of Oregon books its tours as there are people to fill them. Call (503) 245-1428 to inquire.

The full-day old-growth tour costs $44.50, including transportation to and from Portland, or $51 with a catered lunch.

On the Net: http://www.ecotours-of -oregon.com/

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For the last 12 years, he has earned a living by introducing people to Oregon’s remaining virgin forests. Among other tours, his company offers a trip to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation where visitors can enjoy traditional food and American Indian culture, and a Mount Hood driving loop in which visitors can see Multnomah Falls, the Columbia Gorge and Timberline Lodge all in one day.

Oregon is bursting with tourist attractions – its wild Pacific coast and sea life, the volcanic Cascade Range in the west and the Wallowa Mountains in the far east. In central Oregon, Crater Lake is a key attraction as are the state’s numerous scenic rivers.

Several companies in Oregon specialize in ecotourism – taking people to wild areas and educating them about such matters as conservation, native history and geology.

Davies takes tourists to sites in a van, picking them up at their hotels. During the trip he explains to them what they will see and gives them handouts – about clearcutting, Mount Hood’s volcanic past, and what defines an old-growth forest.

On the Salmon River Trail, Davies talked enthusiastically, delivering information about the woods around him.

"There might be 400 old-growth dependent species in here," he said while hiking through the stands of trees.

At the next stop along the trail, Davies pointed out an old Pacific yew draped in moss. The slow-growing tree, he said, was cut for a cancer-fighting drug that is now made synthetically.

Then he pointed to a giant Douglas fir. "That tree might be 500 years old and worth about $7,000 to the logging industry," he said.

Wind buffeted the trees and morning sun started to reach the forest floor. Davies inhaled deeply, and the group breathed along with him.

"When the sun hits the Douglas fir, it warms the sap and creates that sweet smell," he said.

He turned and led the visitors deeper into the forest.

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