On a misty morning in late October, this tree hugger got her fix in a BIG way in the Valley of the Giants. Getting to this magical, mystical place is much more challenging than the actual trail itself. It requires driving many winding miles of rugged logging roads, across private and public lands, through clear cuts and second growth timberland, to this amazing swath of old growth forest that is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Located in a remote part of the coast range in western Oregon, near the ruins of the abandoned logging town of Valsetz, this 51-acre forest preserve is protected by the Bureau of Land Management and is designated as an Outstanding Natural Area. It truly is that.
The day’s educational adventure was organized and led by members of the Build Local Alliance, who invited forest management experts and co-authors of the book Ecological Forest Management, Debora and Norman Johnson, to walk and talk with us along the way. We made several stops on the caravan style drive to the trailhead to observe and discuss the vast differences in forest management practices.
We arrived at the trailhead, dizzy from the bumpy drive but excited to get our eyes on what we had come all this way to see. Only a short distance into the woods, the first sight of one of these giants was enough to stop me in my tracks, slack jawed, wide eyed as a child. I’ve never seen trees like this since my time with the Redwoods.
As we stood under the canopy of some of the tallest trees in Oregon, Debora Johnson pointed out the layers of the forest in the understory of salmonberry, Oregon grape, devil’s club, sword ferns and vine maple that play a vital role in a healthy forest ecosystem. Towering nearly 300 feet overhead, the canopy of massive Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock was astounding. With trees estimated to be about 500 years old, this stand of old growth forest was teeming with life, rich in biodiversity and stood in stark contrast with the moonscape eeriness of the clear-cut land we had walked earlier in the day.
This area gets close to 200 inches of rainfall a year, and the result is a lush landscape, dripping with moss, lichen, and a variety of fungi, palpably alive. I could hear my colleagues and their breathless chorus of “Wows” ringing through the forest as we descended the trail toward the river, completely awe struck.
We stopped for lunch with the roar of the Stilez River in the background, while engaging conversations ensued around the topics of climate change, wildfires, Oregon state law regarding logging practices, economics vs environment, the secret life of fungi, and who packed the best sack lunch. This was an outing with people of all walks of life and interests, from toddlers to retirees, forest land owners to hobbyist wood workers, and the diversity of the people made for unique perspectives on the variety of topics that bubbled up throughout the day. As the day waned and the adventure came to a close, I walked away from this Walk in the Woods feeling an awe that only the ancients can inspire and deep gratitude that this Outstanding Natural Area will be preserved for generations to come.
Before visiting the Valley of the Giants, be sure to call the Bureau of Land Management in Salem 503.375.5646 to get information about logging road conditions, closures, and directions and print this handy BLM Map for detailed directions to navigate to this remote location that is more that worth the effort to find.
Many old homes, and many new homes being designed in a historic style, make use of Douglas fir for trim, flooring, cabinetry, and other interior finishes. Douglas fir is an iconic wood for period homes and represents an important era in American history.
Douglas fir was a popular choice for homes built in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Its warm amber color tones, distinctive grain patterns, and high strength-to-weight ratio contributed to this popularity. An ample supply of high-quality old growth lumber coming from the vast forests of the Pacific Northwest also contributed: A market was built to capitalize on this prolific native species.
Over time, the market changed and tastes began to evolve toward the modern marvels of the twentieth century. Hardwood flooring was replaced with synthetic carpet; wood trim was covered in vivid enamel paints; and wood countertops and furniture were replaced with patterned, shiny laminates. Today, it can be hard to find the authentic Douglas fir finishes needed to replicate and restore the period homes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Fortunately, Sustainable Northwest Wood offers a wide array of Douglas fir products that can be used for historical preservation, restoration, and replica projects. And in a reflection of contemporary values, all of these products are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure the good management and sustainable practices of the forests that produce them.
Our Douglas fir products include:
- 3 1/4” CVG (clear vertical grain) Douglas fir flooring, in stock and ready to go
- Mixed grain and CVG plywood for cabinetry and furniture
- CVG fir solid surfaces in butcher block and plank styles
- Mixed grain and CVG lumber ready to be milled into trim, stair treads, decorative beams and mantels, and other interior accents
Here in the Pacific Northwest, CVG fir trim is everywhere. It's been the standard for unpainted wood trim for decades, and for good reason: Fir offers a rich, warm look and consistent quality.
However, it is not always the best choice. We often recommend Mixed Grain fir trim as an alternative. Here are three good reasons why:
- More environmentally friendly -- CVG means Clear Vertical Grain, which is the same as quarter-sawn wood. This cut demans big, tall trees to yield long runs of trim without any knots -- which means that in most cases, when you buy CVG fir, you're buying old growth trees. Mixed grain trim can come from smaller diameter trees and still provide supreme quality.
- More interesting to look at -- Mixed grain offers varied patterns and organic flow, with no two pieces alike. It shows more of the character of the wood and offers far more visual interest than the uniform stripes of CVG.
- More cost effective -- Mixed Grain fir is less costly than CVG because it is a more efficient way to slice the logs. Cutting logs into CVG results in a lot of waste that can't be used elsewhere, driving up the cost of the product. Our Mixed Grain trim, clear and high-grade, is a much better buy than CVG.
We offer and recommend FSC Certified Mixed Grain fir as a stylish and more sustainable alternative to classic CVG fir trim. While Mixed Grain fir meshes effortlessly with modern spaces, it is also ideal for historic remodels and was used in many of the style-setting turn-of-the-century homes in the Pacific Northwest.
Our FSC Certified Mixed Grain fir trim is clear (C&Btr grade), kiln-dried, and locally sourced. We stock it in 1"x6", 1"x8", and 1"x12" dimensions, as well as 2" thick, random-width lumber, in lengths of 8' through 16'.
It is ideal for window and door trim, thresholds, cabinetry, furniture, and other interior applications. We also provide custom-milled Mixed Grain paneling, flooring, and butcher blocks.
Contact us for current pricing and availability!
Photos at top and below: Mixed Grain fir provides the perfect look for this historic home, photographed by Craftsman Design and Renovation and Pete Eckert.
Photo at bottom: Mixed Grain fir pairs nicely with salvaged walnut for this modern custom art display by Urban Timberworks.
Though we are supportive of all our local Forest Stewardship Council certified businesses, we feel that those who were FSC certified "before certification was cool" deserve special mention. The Collins Companies has been based in Portland since 1918. Operating 4 mills in the Pacific Northwest, this family-owned company has been an important member of our community for generations.
Their commitment to place is matched by their commitment to sustainability: The Collins forests began implementing advanced sustainability practices nearly 100 years ago, and 20 years ago their forest and mill in Chester, CA became the very first to achieve FSC certification in North America.
The management of their forests has earned Collins accolades from groups including the Sierra Club, and the forests continue to provide habitat for a diverse number of species including Chinook salmon, black bears, beavers, mink and marmots, and many kinds of birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Like an oenophile waiting for special vintages, Sustainable Northwest Wood snatches up Douglas Fir lumber from Collins mills as often as we can.
The load of beautiful wane-free "Appearance Grade" lumber that just arrived at our warehouse demonstrates that quality, sustainability, and fair pricing can all come in the same package.
This month we're pleased to announce that our FSC lumber priced are considerably lower than the highs hit earlier this year. Be sure to contact us about bidding your next project with FSC wood!
Photo at top: Collins' Almanor forest is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species.
Photo at right: The Collins lumber mill in Chester, CA sits on the shore of Lake Almanor. This mill and the forest that surrounds it were the first to achieve FSC certification in North America.
One of the reasons the Ace Hotel is so enduringly cool is its commitment to sustainability. Case in point: The enhancements being made to guest rooms in the downtown Portland hotel.
Custom woodwork is being crafted in-house to add texture and warmth--and a little storage and privacy--to the rooms.
The folks at the Ace are using fir that is locally harvested and FSC 100%, but its story goes much deeper than that: It is part of an oak grove restoration project being undertaken by Sarah Deumling at Zena Forest, just west of Salem.
The fir is being cleared from the forest to allow neighboring oak trees to grow to their full potential. The fir and the oak took root at the same time, about 50 to 60 years ago, when the cleared pasture was allowed to revert back to its preferred wooded state. Fir grows much faster than oak, however, and the fir trees are shading out the oaks and, ultimately, killing them.
By selectively harvesting the fir and leaving the oaks to grow, Deumling is ensuring a continual supply of valuable hardwood lumber for her family to mill decades down the road while preserving endangered oak habitat -- a far-sighted plan that is far too uncommon in forest management.
In true Zena style, the harvest of the fir is being undertaken with the utmost care. Logs are pulled from the woods in a way that minimizes damage to the understory and deliberately preserves the integrity of the soil.
As the logging progresses, the forest canopy opens up, allowing ample rays of sunlight to reach the oaks for the first time in decades (see photo at left). And with the exception of the scattered stumps remaining in the soil, it is hard to tell that logging has even occurred: The forest is still lush, green, and rife with life.
A Bit About Oak
Oregon White Oak is native to the Willamette Valley and historically was the most common species of tree found in the area. It prefers the open grassland savannahs that were cultivated by Native Americans with frequent-but-small fires.
After settlement, however, oak began to decline as groves were cleared to make way for pasture and cropland, and then plantations of Douglas fir. Today it remains in only about 5% of its historical range. Its current biggest threat is the conversion of woodland to other land uses including vineyards and housing developments.
Oregon White Oak's hardwood is beautiful and durable, but Oregonians have had a preference for importing oak from the East Coast for flooring and furniture. As a result, the millions of local oak trees cleared during the conversion of the native forest to more profitable uses resulted in oak being viewed as a "trash tree," and most frequently "dumped down the canyon," as the local saying goes, or sent to chip yards.
Zena Forest and other modern-day pioneers of sustainable forestry are working to change that view and encourage the cultivation and local use of Oregon White Oak. Through the creation of a market for the wood, foresters and landowners in the Willamette Valley are encouraged to preserve existing trees and plant new ones.
Photo at right: A mature Oregon White Oak stretches its limbs in the sun at Zena Forest.
Portlanders go to great lengths to enjoy fresh, local food from responsible producers.
Increasingly, we're also demanding that the spaces in which we dine live up to these values. And Portland's restaurateurs seem happy to oblige!
From the Pearl to Hawthorne, from deep in the Ace to under the Wonder Ballroom, new restaurants are cropping up that spotlight locally-harvested wood from Sustainable Northwest Wood.
Here are a few that opened recently or are opening soon. Be sure to stop in, ogle the exceptional wood, and enjoy the delectable fare!
- Streetcar Bistro (Campground Blue Pine paneling and live-edge slabs, Restoration Juniper tables)
- Lardo (FSC Doug fir)
- Pepe le Moko (FSC Doug fir)
- Trigger (FSC Doug fir, FSC Western Red Cedar)
- Ava Genes (FSC Doug fir)
- Lauretta Jean's (Campground Blue Pine live-edge slabs)
- Hokusei (FSC Doug fir)
Is it just a coincidence that so many of these well-appointed eateries made it onto Portland Monthly's list of Best Restaurants 2012? Pick up the November issue to see the full list.
Photo, above: Lardo, on SE 12th Ave and Hawthorne, was designed by Shannon Quimby and built by Tim Mencer. It spotlights FSC Douglas fir throughout the interior.
Photos, below: The Streetcar Bistro, at Northrup and NW 11th Avenue, showcases our Campground Blue Pine paneling throughout the space. Builders Modern Organic made it look, well, modern, a most refreshing way to express blue pine beyond the cliche lodge look. The bistro also features remarkable live-edge blue pine and juniper tables built by FP Design.
As part of our mission to support Pacific Northwestern mills and the rural communities that depend on them, Sustainable Northwest Wood searched long and hard for a supplier of locally harvested, FSC certified plywood.
We now keep it in stock at our warehouse in Southeast Portland, where we carry AC and CDX grades in a variety of thicknesses, as well as maple hardwood panels.
The plywood we offer is harvested from FSC forests in Northern California and milled in Oregon's Umpqua Valley. In addition to being FSC certified and locally grown, our plywood is also NAUF, or no added urea formaldehyde, which means it won't off-gas carcinogenic fumes into your new construction.
According to the EPA, "In homes, the most significant sources of formaldehyde are likely to be pressed wood products made using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins." Why does urea formaldehyde matter? In addition to being a suspected cancer-causing agent, formaldehyde has been implicated in increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory problems.
NAUF plywood helps LEED-registered projects achieve additional points for Indoor Air Quality and is acceptible for use with the Living Building Challenge. Our NAUF plywood also complies with California's CARB regulations.
The Desert Rain home, a Living Building Challenge project that is under construction in Bend, is forging new frontiers in sustainable design. In addition to being net-zero energy, the home will collect and process all of its water needs. An ADU is being constructed on the property, next to the main house, which is also being built to meet the criteria of the Living Building Challenge.
Sustainable Northwest Wood is proud to be the provider of the FSC lumber for this project, in partnership with Parr Lumber Company. A site visit today showed the FSC certified Doug fir framing in full glory, as well as the sill plate, for which FSC Western Red Cedar was chosen.
Cedar isn't typically used for sill plate; contractors most often work with pressure-treated fir. In this project, though, cedar was chosen because it is naturally durable without the need for any added synthetic chemicals -- it will bear the weight of this home while naturally preventing the decay of its most sensitive structural components.
This FSC 100% Western Red Cedar was sourced from Zigzag, OR, where it was super-selectively harvested as part of a restorative forestry management program at the Homestead Girl Scout Camp.
The Desert Rain home was designed by Tozer Design and is being built by Timberline Construction.
Photos: Top, FSC 100% Cedar sill plate; bottom, the ADU's interior gets framed.
It's Michael Appreciation Day at Sustainable Northwest Wood. Michael is our awesome and talented warehouse manager who is always building us pretty things out of our wood: Samples, flooring displays, and now this beautiful table.
Michael gathered scraps of our Willamette Valley Walnut, Big Leaf Maple, Myrtle, and Doug fir and laminated strips together to make the butcher-block-style top, which was then sanded and finished with Osmo Polyx-Oil.
The legs are made out of Clear Vertical Grain Doug fir with a coat of Osmo One Coat Only in Rosewood, which adds depth and dimension while still allowing the grain of the fir to pop.
We love our new table, the perfect place for our juniper planter and business cards and the perfect way to showcase our local, sustainable woods. Thanks, Michael, for your good work!
Here's a larger shot for your ogling pleasure:
Looking for a reliable, easy, affordable source for lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council?
Look no further than Sustainable Northwest Wood! Our large inventory of high-quality FSC dimensional lumber is kept in Southeast Portland, just around the corner from McCoy Millworks.
We've got 2x, 4x, and 6x Douglas fir, as well as pressure-treated lumber (we use copper azole) and many thicknesses and grades of plywood (no added urea formaldehyde).
And, because it's coming from us, you know that it's all locally sourced, coming from sustainably managed forests in Oregon, Southern Washington, and Northern California.
Support our local economy by buying locally grown and milled wood -- this is the best way to keep those dollars in the Pacific Northwest, where they belong.
And be sure to choose FSC certified wood whenever you can. Here's why.