Category Archives: Play

Vernonia hosts many racing events

The Vernonia-Banks Trail has been a State Park and local gem for over a decade, and the number of running and cycling events using it has steadily grown. With the Crown-Zellerbach Trail, joining Scappoose to Vernonia, nearing completion, Vernonia has become part of a natural loop from Portland, joining the Columbia River to the Willamette Valley.


The new trails exclude cars, making them a preferred choice for runners and cyclists from across the Pacific Northwest wishing to explore inner Columbia County. The 2017 season is kick-started on June 17th with an active day in both road and off-road cycling in the Columbia Century Challenge.  Our county’s own locally organized, non-competitive, fully supported century (100+ miles) bicycle ride features routes that explore both forest and county roads.


These dedicated cyclists are also able to visit many towns within the county, see some of the attractions of each city, and meet local volunteers at the various aid stations. The inaugural Columbia Century Challenge, which was hosted in St. Helens in 2016, was voted the #2 Best Bike Ride in Oregon on

In 2017 the Columbia Century Challenge will start and end right in Vernonia’s Spencer City Park, offering rides of 118 miles, 100 kilometers, and a 40 mile ride that features a twelve mile section of the historic Columbia River Mainline.   Vernonia has hosted other organized rides in the past; including Cycle Oregon (twice!), the Timber Logjam, the Beaverton, Banks & Beyond Bicycle Tour, and Bicycle Rides NW.

Bikes aren’t the only way to enjoy the local trails, and many road runners favor the flat scenic routes available around Vernonia. Vernonia has three different charity runs each year. The Bear Creek Run in late July is a fundraiser for the Vernonia Cares food bank. The 5k/10k offers a zero elevation course on the loop around Vernonia Lake and a portion of the linear trail. There are brackets for children and adults, and a special short course for little kids.

The newly minted Graveyard Dash is a 3k/6k which can be challenging. The hilly course runs from cemetery to cemetery and costumes are encouraged. The course takes you through downtown Vernonia, so be sure to make a spectacle of yourself as you help raise money for local arts scholarships. There are cash prizes for best costumes, including best group costume.

The 5k Ugly Sweater run in December is a fundraiser for the local Chamber of Commerce, who host many different free community events during the year. The route takes you around Vernonia Lake and along the Nehalem River. This run, like the others, is open to walkers as well, who register in a separate category.

The Oregon Road Runners Club hosts the Vernonia Marathon and Half Marathon in April, which start near Vernonia and end in Banks or half way at Stub Stewart State Park. Several other running events happen more or less annually, and spontaneous events happen every weekend.

No matter what your fitness interest, there is something in Vernonia for you. With BMX destination Vernonia Springs recently opening just south of town, we’re sure to see regular races all summer long. Stub Stewart State Park has a wonderful mountain bike skills park that was created and maintained through a partnership between the park and local mountain biking associations.  A mix of freeride and cross-country trails provides for excitement for all skill levels.

Friends of WhoFish.Org


Some cool coverage by This Abandoned Oregon

Vernonians and visitors alike can appreciate the amenities of this little town, so it’s pretty neat to see the product of another’s appreciation.  Lance Reis has written a nice article about our gateway trestle, the focal point of the dramatic climax of the movie “Ring of Fire”. He’s also made us aware that a great little piece of drone film is available that shows off the Mitchell’s “chip shed” building.

Read his article here or just go straight to the drone footage.

Timberbound – Music Rooted in a Place and Time

VMP-Timberbound3web            Joe Seamons grew up listening to his parents playing music. He was enraptured by the musicians and instruments they played at the living room sing-alongs, parties and concerts his parents and their friends would organize.

The songs told tales of places and people Seamons knew or had heard stories about. They contained accounts of fishermen and loggers and folks working at the mill in Vernonia.

The musicians and folk songs left an indelible impression on Seamons, an impression he is now exploring in his own career as a musician and musical archivist.

Seamons is a banjo player who plays music with several different artists, performing a blend of traditional blues, bluegrass, ragtime and folk songs. He has studied Woody Guthrie’s Columbia River songs, written when Guthrie worked for the Bonneville Power Administration. He fronts a bluegrass band called The Renegade Stringband. He recently spent several weeks on the road with fiddler Ben Hunter, traveling up and down the Mississippi River region, playing house concerts, learning the roots of local music and soaking up the culture of the region. Seamons and Hunter also created The Rhapsody Project, taking folk music into schools and sharing it with young students.

Seamons is in the midst of a long and winding musical journey – an exploration of history and culture and reviving old songs – a journey that began right here in Vernonia in a small wooden shack, in an old logging camp at the end of a long, winding gravel road.

VMPTimberboundGrnage2014web           Several years ago Seamons formed a band called Timberbound, a reincarnation of a previous group of musicians that Seamons grew up listening to. Seamons and the new Timberbound recorded a CD of old songs by the same name. The name Timberbound, the content of the music, and the source of the songs, are steeped in local significance. For many Vernonians the CD and the songs it contains are a treasure and a dream come true. For those unfamiliar with these old songs, it is masterpiece waiting to be discovered.

In the mid-seventies Kim and John Cunnick lived about twelve miles outside Vernonia in an abandoned logging camp called Keasey. Both were musicians, living with no electricity or running water, playing music and writing a small collection of folksongs. John was smart and funny – a self-educated and a self-taught musician who was beloved by those who knew him. His untimely death at age thirty in a car wreck was mourned by the wide circle of friends he made in his short time in Keasey.

Kim honored his legacy by forming the Timberbound Stringband (later shortened to just Timberbound) with some of their musician friends, Hobe Kytr, Dave Berge and Mark Loring.   They performed some of the music John and she had written together. In 1977 Kim published the Timberbound Songbook which contained the lyrics, music and introductions to the songs John and Kim had written and random notes that John had jotted down about being a musician.

Timberbound disbanded in 1978 before entering a recording studio to memorialize John and Kim’s songs. Kim moved away and eventually remarried. Kytr and Berge continued to play together and recorded the album Dog Salmon and Rutabagas in 1985, which featured songs about commercial fishing, logging and life in the Pacific Northwest.

The music and stories, and especially the songbook that John left behind made him a local legend of sorts. Several musicians recorded his iconic song, ‘Boys of Columbia County,’   but beyond those few tributes to his life and the fading memories of his friends, the legend of John Cunnick laid dormant over the next thirty years.

In June of 2010 Kim returned to the Keasey property where she and John had lived and joined Kytr, Berge and Loring for the weekend in a Timberbound reunion. They spent the time visiting with old friends, playing music and even went into a cabin and recorded some of their songs. The musical playing and the melodies were a bit rusty but the spirit was revived.

Joe Seamons was there that weekend and was enraptured by Kim’s stories. The Timberbound Project was born.

Seamons studied music at Lewis and Clark College. “I was already exploring and performing the Timberbound songs at Lewis and Clark a couple years before the reunion,” says Seamons. Seamons’s explorations and curiosity led him to more deeply explore the lore behind the Timberbound songs.

Seamons began gathering musician friends and performing songs under the name Timberbound Project. They chose songs that described life in the Pacific Northwest – mostly Kim and John’s songs from the songbook, but also songs by Kytr, Berge, and Woody Guthrie. Eventually Seamons received permission from the original band to change the name of his band to just Timberbound.

            The new incarnation of Timberbound has captured the tradition, atmosphere and VMPTimberboundGrange2014Joewebessence of the original string music. The band includes Seamons on banjo, harmonica and vocals, Kate Sandgren on vocals, Jenny Estrin on fiddle, and Gavin Duffy on guitars, vocals, mandolin and more.

Seamons and Timberbound have developed a mixture of influences that is grounded in the geography and history of this region. “This music is trying to be texturally like the northwest-extremely varied and very rich and dense and detailed,” says Seamons about the Timberbound music.

Completing the first CD was a great accomplishment for Seamons and his band mates. “This kind of gives us a central identity,” says Seamons. “It’s a foundation that has us rooted and anchored in a place and a time.”

Seamons says he plans to continue in his quest to gather more stories, information and folklore from the original Timberbound time period and expand on what he still considers the ‘Timberbound Project.’   The possibilities continue to develop and multiply.

“I like the concept of the richness and texture and the abstract idea of music that reflects the Pacific Northwest,”   says Seamons. “We want to broaden the horizons of that, because so far we’ve been very focused on this songbook and these songs. Now it can breathe a little bit and we can expand what we do. Maybe we’ll do more original songs. It’s all still fermenting.”

For Joe Seamons, his musical journey is just beginning.

Museum Showcases Logging and Pioneer Living

VMPMuseumChainSawweb            Built in 1922, the Vernonia Pioneer Museum was originally the headquarters of the Oregon-American Lumber Company. The men and women in the building oversaw the harvest of 2 billion board feet of old growth timber over 31 years, and shipped finished lumber of various grades and cuts all across the country. The innovative mill not only kiln dried the lumber to save shipping costs, they also custom milled lumber to fill large orders from home builders in the mid-West.

Following the acquisition of the company and lands by Long-Bell Lumber Company in 1953 which then merged with International Paper in 1956, the lands and property were slowly broken up and sold off, with the company headquarters donated to the city in July of 1961.

Preceding that donation, a group of Vernonians gathered to discuss possible uses of the building that would fulfill the stipulation of it being used “for the common good” and were most excited to hear that there was interest in using it as a historical society or museum.

In the spring of 1962, 25 Vernonia area residents met to discuss the formation of a Nehalem Valley Historical Society and establishing a museum in the former O-A headquarters building. Included in this preliminary discussion were items such as cost of glass cases, utilities to heat and light the building, and the cost of a museum curator. They also discussed the possibility of combining the library with the museum.

Several months later, presumably after the proposed historical society failed to materialize, the Columbia County Historical Society gladly accepted the city’s offer of the headquarter building for use as the county museum. Thirteen months later, after extensive remodeling and a fresh coat of paint, the museum had its grand opening during the 1963 Vernonia Jamboree.

The museum curator was able to live onsite because the city adapted the sales offices in the back of the building to accommodate living quarters. Over the next year various skilled members of the county historical society built the glass display cases and typed the artifact tabs which identified not only the item and its origin, but also the donor.

The curator was able to keep the museum open 6 days a week for two years, but cut back to four days a week at some point in 1964. The museum played host to many field trips of school children from the Willamette Valley who got a good glimpse of the hardships of pioneer life and the tools of taming the wilderness.

The decision was made sometime in the 1990s to no longer employ a curator, and that the museum would have to operate entirely with volunteers, who continue to do all the work involved with running the museum to this day.

During those first 30 years of activity, the collection of the museum swelled from a few hundred items to over 5000, all housed in 3500 square feet of space. For most visitors the highlight is the catalog of pictures showing various aspects of mill life. Many also marvel at the period dresses and menswear including a wedding dress and two wedding coats. This eclectic collection will find you admiring a square piano, a stuffed moose head, World War 1 and 2 militaria, and a rock collection, all in short order.

Several walls are covered with depictions of cutting crews, steam donkeys and the locomotives that transported raw logs to the mill and finished lumber out of the Nehalem Valley. The General Manager’s office now plays host to a diorama that shows the various activities that take place at a logging operation, including a spar tree, haystack boom, and a temporary plank road used by log trucks.

While there isn’t a specific display which makes the collection noteworthy, it is an important and impressive collection of ordinary life objects from the time of 1880 through 1960 that make this county museum a worthwhile stop for both residents and visitors to Vernonia.

The building itself, built in the Craftsman style, was recognized for its significance by the National Park Service in 2002 by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was one of only three lumber mill offices that remained standing in Oregon.

The museum is open weekends from 1-4pm all year, and Fridays in June through mid September. Visitors can also arrange for private tours by calling 503-429-3713 at least 3 weeks in advance of your visit.

Biking and Hiking Around Vernonia

Stub-Top of Buxton TrestlewebOregon is well known internationally as a bicycling destination. Vernonia has been capturing its share of those cyclists, as well as hikers and equestrian riders, due to its proximity to two regional trails. Combine that with nearby Stub Stewart State Park and the multitude of logging roads surrounding the town, and Vernonia finds itself turning into a biking and hiking mecca.

The Banks -Vernonia State Trail, managed and maintained by Oregon State Parks, was extended in 2013 and became part of the new Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway. The entire trail system now stretches for fifty miles, beginning in Hillsboro and ending in Vernonia. It starts on mostly rural roads through fertile farmlands and lush natural areas before joining the paved trail in Banks and heading into the forest.

The Banks-Vernonia Trail was the first Rails-to-Trails project in the state of Oregon.   It has an easy grade with thirteen bridges, including the scenic Buxton trestle. The trail can be accessed at six trailheads and permits only non-motorized use at a safe, slow speed.

The middle portion of the Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail travels through a portion of Stub Stewart State Park and features a gentle climb of 600 feet. Overall the Scenic Bikeway is rated as a moderately challenging ride and can be enjoyed by a wide range of cyclists.

Many cyclists have discovered the joy of riding to Vernonia in the morning and enjoying the scenery, fresh air, and solitude, then stopping off for a bite to eat at one of several eclectic restaurants the downtown has to offer before heading back down the trail towards home.

Paved trails in and around Vernonia give families a chance to ride together as well. The connection from the Banks-Vernonia Trail to Webb Way at Anderson Park is a flat and easy ride for even the youngest cyclists and takes riders to scenic Vernonia Lake.

For other trail users not on two wheels visiting Vernonia, the paved Banks-Vernonia Trail is great in any weather for walking, running or just strolling and enjoying the scenery.

The Crown Zellerbach Trail is a different type of trail altogether and is Columbia County’s newest jewel.

Spanning the twenty miles from the outskirts of Vernonia to Chapman’s Landing on the Columbia River in Scappoose, this lightly used trail is accessible to all non-motorized traffic, including bikes, horses and hikers and is maintained by Columbia County. The trail is mostly hard pack, with some areas of gravel, and follows logging roads and abandoned rail lines. It is accessible at several locations along the Scappoose Vernonia Highway.

The CZ Trail gives users a new opportunity to experience the beauty and history of Columbia County. Its rougher surface makes it attractive for mountain bikes as well as equestrian trail riders and provides a great alternative to the paved Banks-Vernonia Trail.

For mountain bikes enthusiasts, Stub Stewart State Park, just 10 miles south of Vernonia, has a Free Ride Skills Area that is open to the public. A session/training area includes options for beginner to advanced Free Ride mountain bikers. All trails within Stub Stewart Park are open to mountain bike riders.

There are more than thirty miles of natural surface, shared-use forested trails of various difficulties meandering through the rolling hills to help you explore this 1800 acre park. For the equestrian enthusiast the park has the Hares Canyon Horse Camp, open March 1 through October 31, with full-hookup sites and corrals.

For others looking to explore more of the outdoors, the Vernonia region is literally covered with logging roads that are regularly used by hikers, bikers and equestrian riders.   Many of these trails are within walking distance of downtown and are open to the public for limited recreational use.

As you can see, it’s no wonder Vernonia is becoming a destination for bicycle riders as well as other trail users who want to enjoy the great outdoors.

Our Community Treasures

Our Community Treasures…We are rich beyond words!

The Nehalem River, Rock Creek, and our little lake
We’re surrounded by water, for goodness sake!
Right through the middle and down the length of our town
These streams of ours sure get around!

It’s the perfect time of year to get out the drift boat
As the sun rises, make an early morning float
They just stocked the lake, I know you can’t wait
Grab your fishing pole and some earthworms for bait

From the sounds of the frogs, I’d say it’s perfectly clear
In our little town, springtime is here!
The trees are in blossom, a sight to behold
Though in the morning, it’s still a bit cold

Our little neck of the woods is coming alive
We made it through winter! Once more we survived!
This year wasn’t bad, except for the snow
But it makes some great memories for the kids, you know

Spring has sprung! The golf course has been waiting
They’ve been working hard, anticipating
You should go play a round and stop in for some lunch
The people that work there are a nice, friendly bunch

Get out of the house! Take a stroll down the street
Grab a cup of coffee, Black Bear’s can’t be beat
Browse through some stores while you sip on your brew
I’m sure Out on a Limb has some treasures for you

Go for a bike ride, we have a great trail
All paved and so flat, hardly a hill
Visit our museum and see history unfold
Learn about our mill and our days of old

There’s so much to do in our quaint little town
Get up off the couch and take a look around
Don’t let this good weather just go to waste
Make some plans now to explore this great place

Our parks are perfect! Go play with your kids
At the end of the day, you’ll be glad that you did
They’ll fall into bed worn out from their play
You’ll know for sure some great memories were made

Take a walk in the woods, take your camera too
I bet you see wildlife looking right back at you!
We live in a rainforest and it’s coming awake
You’ll come back with some photos you just had to take

Take the time to enjoy our community treasures
A day in the outdoors brings nothing but pleasure
That’s what it’s about, that’s why we live here
In our small town, we have so much we hold dear

Our pioneers knew when they first settled down
There was something special about this little town
We’ve been blessed by this valley tucked back in the woods
If you’ve lived here a while, you know we’ve got it good!

Written by: Kala Cota

Lucky kids!

Lucky Kids!

Seriously, we’ve got it so good!
Who else has this in their neighborhood?
A place at the river where kiddos can wade
A good spot to skip rocks from the bank in the shade

A little waterfall, just the right size
They can walk along top, these little guys
Wading in the rapids, looking for crawdads
It’s the best fun that I’ve ever had!

Oh, the memories they’re making, they can’t be beat!
A great place to escape the hot summer heat
I have the same memories, I remember that spot
It’s where we’d all head when it got hot

I think I’m jealous, I wish I could do it again
Hang out at the river with my childhood friends
These are the places that stick with us like glue
If you grew up in Vernonia, it’s in your memory too!

Written by: Kala Cota

Photo credit to Kelli Krieger