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About Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 1, 2008)
voice outdoors and recreation
Winter at Stub Stewart State Park
By Scott Laird
Most people don’t think about going to a state park in
the winter. State parks are for the summer time when you
can camp and hike and swim and sit around the campfire.
But a recent visit to L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park ten miles
south of Vernonia reminded me that there are lots of activi-
ties to be enjoyed at Oregon’s newest full service park
“We have staff and volunteers here all year round,”
said Park Manager Dan Lucas after I had finished a short
tour of the park. “We want people to come up and see the
park during this time of year. There’s a lot to do. This has
been a good year to play in the snow which we’ve had quite
a bit of so far.”
Winter also seems to be a good time to observe wildlife.
Although not a birder myself, I saw a number of different
species and assume that might be a fun way to spend some
time in the park. I took a walk down to the Beaver Pond that
is adjacent to the Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail and checked
out the work of the local residents. A message board at the
visitor center noted the recent sightings of a juvenile bald
eagle and a pack of nine coyotes in the park.
So besides enjoying the incredible beauty the park has
to offer this time of year, there are also other benefits. The
park is quieter, and the rates are lower. Cabins are available
for $39.00 per night and come with sleeping area, a living
area, and a table and chairs. The cabins are equipped with
electric heat so you will always stay toasty warm; they also
have a covered deck that can be enjoyed in any weather.
The cabins have been popular throughout the first fall sea-
son, but availability is plentiful during the winter season.
“We’ve stayed fairly busy during the weekends through-
out the fall, but once the snow started attendance has re-
ally dropped off,” explained Lucas. “People have differ-
ent expectations of what they want in a park experience.
Some people want a primitive, back country experience,
some want to tent camp, some want to stay in a lodge. The
Oregon State Park system offers the opportunity to have
a more upscale experience, with lots of amenities. At our
Cabin Village we are able to offer an experience that people
can’t find just anywhere.”
There is also camping available: in the main camp-
ground RV areas, in the walk in tent sites, and in the hike-in
tent area. If you are looking for a quiet time to camp, but
with all the amenities, Stub Stewart might fit the bill. There
are hot showers and flush toilets in the main campground.
“This is good for people that want a more developed and
managed facility,” said Lucas. “We offer good security. We
have people keeping an eye on things. And we also offer a
more primitive back country atmosphere with our hike-in
campground which is really quiet this time of year – the
park is usable and open year-round.”
The day I visited the park there was fresh snow. “We
have people up here looking for places to sled. People are
using our trails to cross country ski and to snow shoe,” said
Lucas. “Of course it depends on the weather, but we have
really nice facilities for those activities, and it’s a safe place
to try it out, especially if you’re new to those winter sports.
We have seventeen miles of trails, some that are real chal-
lenging or some that are very flat.”
A Successful Hunting Season Concludes
By Dolly Keenon
After nearly three weeks of deer season slipping by,
we finally got to spend a couple of days hunting. Although
we did pack up the trailer house, daughter and grand-
daughter and head off to Eastern Oregon, we were only
visiting a few days, relaxing, sightseeing and enjoying our
friends around the campfire. There the food tastes better,
the air is crisp and clean, and coming home smelling like
a campfire is expected.
So by now we were anxious to get out in the woods,
searching for the elusive blacktail buck. Our first day out,
we spotted a doe and fawn standing under some vine
maple. Midday, while driving between hunts, a herd of
fifteen cow elk and their calves crossed the road in front
of us. They were not hanging around and climbed the hills
with little difficulty. I have always been impressed with
the power in those legs. I have seen them bail off a land-
ing, jumping over bucked and felled timber, looking like
a scene from “The Man from Snowy River.” I have often
wondered how they didn’t break a leg.
Our second day out, we found Chanterelle mush-
rooms, and picked enough for a good meal. Jerry cleans
them, and I cook them. And yes, they do taste like chick-
en. This year seems to have produced quite a few varieties
of mushrooms, and I took some time to snap a few photos.
I wish I knew all their names.
On our next stop, we chose a very brushy hillside
to hunt through. Jerry took the high side, and I took the
easy route down a grassy road that had been littered with
blowdowns from a winter storm. The tracks on the ground
showed me coyote, deer and elk tracks, all fresh in the
muddy trail. I took my time, slowly and quietly look-
ing into the draws, listening for a crack of a limb or the
swishing of the ferns. I never did hear Jerry who was a
couple of hundred yards to my left. The recent rains made
our footfall so much quieter. I kept on the trail, taking in
the sights and sounds of the woods. A squirrel sounded
an alarm, warning everything within range of his bark-
ing that a stranger was near. This little guy stomped his
hind feet while he scolded me for entering his territory.
A pair of camp robbers (Clark’s Nutcrackers) seemed to
follow me as I made my way down the well used trail.
Eventually, the tracks separated; the coyote tracks just dis-
appeared. The buck’s trail led off into a ravine so dense I
could barely see through it. I had now been in the woods
for over an hour and wasn’t sure where Jerry was, so I
quietly radioed that I would cow call to give him my lo-
cation. When he answered with his cow call, there was
movement about seventy five yards in front of me. A nice
looking three point bull elk stood up from behind a group
of trees and took two steps toward the sound of Jerry’s
call. I had my binoculars on him as he intently tried to
decide where that call came from. He was a small three
point, with long spikes and double eye guards. I stood still
and watched as he slowly turned and walked off to my
right where he simply dissolved into the landscape- just
slipped away with hardly a sound. It made my day.
Jerry made his way down to the road I was on, and we
talked about my chance encounter with the elk. It is thrill-
ing to be able to get close to them. As we walked back to
the truck, I looked down and saw a shed spike antler lying
under a small fir tree. Maybe it was the three-point’s loss
during the long winter months. I could see the alder trees
and small firs in the area were raked and shredded from
the polishing of newly grown antlers. Some of the rub-
bings were from deer trying to rid themselves of the vel-
vet. The deep gouges higher up the tree trunk obviously
Ta k e
the trails I
ing trails right
up until the
the park and
is brand new.
The trails did
not have time
to stabilize and firm up. The trails at the north end of the
park were used for the logging that was done this summer.
That was really rough on those roads that we have turned
into trails. Our goal is to leave the trails natural if possible.
But we will add rock if we have to, to make them usable
year-round. It’s been hard this first year. We will be fine tun-
ing things and making adjustments as the trails have time to
I also asked Lucas about the future of the Banks-Ver-
nonia Linear Trail considering the damage it received dur-
ing the 2007 flooding. The trail runs through the park and is
also managed by Lucas. “The trail received extensive dam-
age in places,” said Lucas. “We need to get engineers in to
evaluate before we can begin repairs. Almost all the dam-
age occurred north of the park. We had two major slides
that plugged culverts and are causing problems. Those are
going to take some big equipment. We have mud and de-
bris that have affected drainage. We’ve had some serious
erosion both underneath the trail and to the stream banks
beside the trail. We had some large areas where the black
top is completely gone. It’s going to be more than our staff
is able to deal with. The linear trail north of the park will be
closed for the foreseeable future.”
What I found when I made my winter visit to Stub
Stewart State Park was quiet and solitude. There was also
attentive staff that had time to talk and offer advice about
activities. The facilities and amenities were open and clean.
I had no problem finding parking – I was the only visitor
there! And of course the beauty of nature was just a short
drive from home.
were signs of elk working to polish up their headgear.
We pulled into our driveway at dusk and were greeted
by a doe and twin fawns looking for apples in our orchard.
Ironically, they were the only deer we saw that day.
On the last weekend of the season, Jerry dropped me
along the creek about five miles from home, and I started
a slow walk into an area that would take me about forty-
five minutes to get into. Jerry drove the five miles around
to come in from the backside. I was about fifteen minutes
from the truck, when I heard his shot. A nice three point
had been following a doe up through a draw tight with
salal (a native evergreen shrub); he stood broadside for
a look back. By the time I reached Jerry, it was a Kodak
moment. I carried his gun back downhill as he headed out
with his buck. I took a walk across the logging road and
up the hillside following an elk trail and headed towards
a small clearcut. Lo and behold, a three point buck was
walking right towards me. Our paths were intersecting
at the edge of the timber. I waited for him to slip into the
edge of the trees, and, just like that, we both had our deer
on the same morning. I radioed for help, and it wasn’t long
before Jerry showed up with a smile and a strong back to
drag it to the road. We tried to recall the last time we had
both been successful on the same day. It has only hap-
pened once before. We had finished our hunting season
with some nice venison for the freezer and we’re looking
forward to having some fresh pepperoni made.
Even though we didn’t find our elk on our earlier
hunts, we are happy with the bountiful gifts we received
and will look forward to the next adventure in our favorite
neck of the woods.