This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
From Salem to Portland by rail, Feb. lGtb. The country that, last August, was so refreshing to the eye after the scorched plains of California was now promising, rather than beautiful, presenting chiefly an alternation of newly-sown wheat-fields, and forest lands in process of clearing.
Oregon City, one of the oldest towns in the State, is the most picturesque in situation I have yet met with. Here are the falls of the Willame tte,and a line of high, rocky bluffts rise abruptly, leaving only a narrow strip of level ground along the river. The railroad is built on this. The town is wholly on the bluffs, and is reached by long flights of stairs, some of them set zig-zag in upright frames. The town is neat and pretty, with gardens, shade and fruit trees in abundance. The rocky face of the bluff is covered with mosses, ferns, and vines, and two or three little silver ribbons of mountain streams leap sparkling from its brow.
From Portland twelve miles down the Willamette to its confluence with the Columbia. The meeting of two such rivers is a theme for the poet's pen. Leaving their native mountains so far asunder, flowing onward through rocky gorges and dark forests, gathering tribute as they go, here they unite at last, and the great Ocean rolls in its waves to meet and embrace them.
Twenty-five miles more down the Columbia, its banks rising in bold precipitous cliffs, or clothed with dark fir forests to the water's edge, the sea-gulls sweeping round us, or diving for their prey. Scenery too lonely and sombre to be termed beautiful, yet nowhere unworthy the majestic river. Now we turn northward into Lewis river. It is a small stream, and very crooked in its course. Oaks and other forest trees mingle with the ever-present firs. Above high-water mark every trunk and bush is clothed with moss, and old trees are so densely matted with this moss, that great tufts of fern find root in its masses.
The little Hydra, true to its name, winds in and out the narrow, crooked river, and lands us safely at La Center, eight miles from its mouth.
The bank is steep and high, and there is just enough level ground for the street and its row of buildings, and the town lots run up the hill, and look over the tops of the houses.
Now we are out among the giant firs, three miles from the river. A young growth of fir is so closely set, and densely branched as to form a perfect hedge, almost impervious to light, or to any living creature. As growth advances, the lower branches die until the wood becomes only a collection of bare poles, with each a little tuft of green at the ton. Then I suppose that Nature begins the course of selection that results in"the survival of the fittest," and a fir tree in its perfect maturity is a noble and beautiful object. Towering straight upward, two hundred, and even three hundred feet, with a regular and beautiful taper of which the eye never tires, and though really large in girth, they are so tall that they seem slender, and have even an appearance of airy lightness as they wave to and fro in the wind:
At some time long past fires have swept over great tracts of these Fir Forests. A dense growth of underbrush has covered the ground, and the huge charred trunks encumber it, yet many still remain standing, black and hideous. These"•burned districts," however, are preferred, as being much easier to clear.
The climate is mild, such hardy flowers as daisies blooming in gardens all winter. Now, early in April, deciduous trees are nearly in full leaf, and many shrubs in flower, the most conspicuous being the Dog-wood (Cornus Nuttalli); the most beautiful the Oregon Currant (Ribes sanguin-ea). Of smaller flowers, Trillium grandiflorum is most noticeable, and Golden Club (Orontium) in low places.