Glittering diamonds of dew; emerald leaves, needles, and moss; ripe ruby huckleberries; opalescent water and stone under a brilliant lapis lazuli sky. These are the many jewels of Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center, Mother Nature’s living, breathing cathedral of earth, water, sometimes fire, and air. Despite their glimmering and pristine character, they hardly encompass the magic and wonder of this truly special place.
As I am one who sees the beauty, power, and resilience of the natural world wherever I go, urban and rural settings alike, I thought I knew what to expect at the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center – a grand place of primal waters and trees older than the nation I call home. After all, I’ve been to myriad forests and seen the majesty of trees towering above me. I’ve witnessed the scrappy plant proudly blossoming from a tiny crack in the sidewalk. I’ve seen water of such blindingly brilliant hues as to leave me speechless. Despite all of this, I was wholly unprepared for my experience at Opal Creek. The beauty and peace I felt was staggering and resonated deep in my bones. Every step, glance, and sound steeped in the sublime.
It all starts with the journey, literally and figuratively. We load the car here at home, drive south through the cacophony of morning rush hour before turning east. Already there is a shift. There are fewer cars, more trees, large stands of oaks peppered between farms, shopping centers, and even a prison. The landscape changes again as we make gains in elevation, and the grassy knolls turn into vast stands of evergreens. Their clean scent mingles with the dust of the dirt road under our wheels. We park the car, but we aren’t quite to the end of our journey. We walk three miles out of time. It could be the 1930’s of rustic wood cabins, gold panning, starlit skies, and cast iron. And in those places where there is no sound save the chirp of a camouflaged bird or the drip of of a watercourse borne of centuries, we might just be in America before it was, two nameless faces living off the land.