The Bull of the Woods

view toward Mt. Jefferson in the Bull of the Woods Wilderness
Published 2021-08-31

Someone had made a small camp at the broad junction of the Mother Lode and Pansy Lake Trails. We happened upon this spot late around mid-day, after summiting to the Bull of the Woods watch tower. We sat in the place where someone had obviously pitched a tent, and we ate our lunch of tortillas and cheese and sausages and almond butter. We noticed a thin stream of smoke rising from the dust of the trail. Whoever had camped there had buried their fire while the embers were still hot; I was worried it might burn slowly down into the roots of the old- and second-growth trees around us. We dug up the remains of the campfire and spread them around until they were cold.

A month and a half later, on Labor Day weekend, the Beachie Creek fire tore up the southward edge of the Bull of the Woods wilderness, along the beautiful Santiam River. Trapped in our house by the smoke outside, I obsessively refreshed the incident website, mentally marking the course of that trip — would this spot we loved be spared? By a narrow miracle, it was.

Not this year.

That trip last summer, before the fires, to the Bull of the Woods Wilderness, unexpectedly became one of our favorite backpacking trips. It wasn’t the easiest, and it wasn’t the most beautiful, but this is maybe why it was one of our favorites.

Zach Urness of the Salem Statesman Journal has written with obvious love about this piece of the Old Cascades. In 2018 he wrote a review of the fire watch tower, and he has been following the progress of the fire closely.

This is now the second place we love that has burned


Update 2021-09-07

Sometime this past weekend the lookout burned down