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Last Chance Adventure: Oregon’s Umpqua National Forest

Can you see the forest through the trees? Join a bittersweet trek through an old-growth wilderness in its final days.

Adams, 28, is upbeat and seemingly unflappable, a Californian who stopped in southern Oregon on her way back home from Seattle, and never left. She says she’s an advocate for direct actions such as a temporary “forest rescue station” that Greenpeace set up earlier this year, to call attention to the Kelsey Whisky sale.

In the early 1980s, this region was the birthplace of the ancient-forest protection movement. After conventional advocacy tactics failed to halt old-growth logging in the Siskiyou National Forest, environmentalists turned to nonviolent civil disobedience. The tree-sits and roadblocks sparked campaigns throughout the area and elsewhere, capturing media attention and turning public opinion against old-growth logging. Now, as legal remedies and other traditional tactics are frustrated, there are indications that direct action may reemerge as a primary tactic. “We’ve already had 60 arrests at the Biscuit [timber sale],” said Adams, “including one 72-year-old woman who parked her lawn chair on a bridge to defend the forest.”

Downstream, Kelsey Creek spills into the Rogue, a famously scenic river that bisects the Zane Grey Roadless Area. On the previous day, Adams and I had walked part of the 40-mile Rogue River National Recreation Trail, which zigzags along the boulder-strewn riverbank. More than 25,000 people either walk or raft here each year, infusing some $13 million into the local economy while getting a glimpse of what is perhaps the largest concentration of unspoiled, unfragmented land on the West Coast.

After a short hike downriver from Grave Creek, we stopped at Rainy Falls to watch the salmon jump. The Rogue is one of the last self-sustaining salmon rivers on the continent; near here, an angler landed the world-record fly-caught chinook.

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