Our House in the Big Woods

One of our favorite stories growing up were the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Little House in the Big Woods series. The first time we heard the story was during our nightly ritual when mom would read books to my sisters & me before bed. We loved it! Probably one of the reasons we liked that story so much is that we lived in a house out in the big woods, too! We lived 5 miles outside of Nehalem, at town at that time of 250 people. The sign today says 271. Huge population increase over the last 30 years!

My sister, Angie, & I were sharing a room back then & we had a big king sized mattress on the floor. Our whole family would gather in there while mom would read. Angie & I tucked in bed, Beth curled up with dad. Sometimes, dad would tell us stories that he would make up as well. Every story he told would start “Once upon a time… now have you EVER heard a story that starts once upon a time?” And we would giggle & giggle! We didn’t have TV the whole time when I was growing up, so story time each evening was our entertainment.

I loved growing up out in the woods. We lived on 4 ½ acres, but were surrounded by miles & miles of forests… my sisters & I divvied up the forests closest to the house, each getting our “own” forest. We had “houses” out in the forests – the walls were huge fallen trees so aged and rotten they were mother logs now for ferns, huckleberry bushes, and other trees. There were also lots of huge stumps we’d climb & clamber to the top, then make forts up there. One old log was so decayed it was barely more than a mound with lots of smaller trees growing out of it; it was the barn for all my stick ponies one summer. We played & played in those woods for hours.

We also had a menagerie of animals… cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, cows, turkeys, and goats over the years. And most importantly, I had a pony named Shasta when I was young and a horse named Rayah when I was older. Oh the adventures I had with both of them, riding the land all around our house, as well as heading up Gods Valley Road, the main logging road, that was about ¼ mile down the driveway from our house. I could ride all day up there & never see another person. Just me & my horse adventuring; it was awesome!

All of these memories and more of growing up were swirling through my head as I headed up Hwy 53 that morning. I was actually driving slowly… savoring each twist & turn of the road. I finally got to the big bend in the road that overlooked the upper Mohler Valley. The Nehalem River running through it, Porter’s dairy farm on the right side of the river & Woodard’s on the left, Onion Peak, the rounded mountain, & Sugarloaf, the triangle one, behind. Gods Valley Road is at the far end of the valley. As I was growing up, we always appreciated the view of this valley heading home each time, and I still do.

Upper Mohler Valley

Upper Mohler Valley

I turned up Gods Valley Road & then onto Storm Drive. Of course I had to stop & take a picture of the street sign! I decided to stop first at Snuffy’s for some coffee before continuing up the hill to our old home. Snuffy always had coffee on Saturday morning around 9am. There were many mornings my dad & I would go down & have coffee with him. It was a nice way to start the weekend. He’s pretty much like my grandpa, being that he lived so close to us. He always tells the story about when he was clearing land with his Cat when I was really young, probably about 4 or so. Every time he would start his Cat he would wait to move it until he saw my little head appear in the grasses.

Snuffy'S Cat

Snuffy’S Cat

I’d climb up & stand right beside his seat, hang on to the cage in the back, & ride there as long as he’d let me while he bulldozed roads & cleared brush. I loved it! He says I’d just sing the whole day long. Sometimes he’s make me get off the Cat if he had to do something a little scary. I remember being so disappointed that I couldn’t ride during the “really good” stuff! Snuffy hasn’t been on his Cat in years… but he still has it out back.

Old gauges

Old gauges

Snuffy was so happy to see me when I arrived! Last fall he broke his leg while getting 4 cord of wood & actually drove himself out with his broken leg! I seriously can’t believe that he was still out there getting firewood, he’s got to be in his mid-80’s at least. Obviously the broken leg has slowed him down, a lot. He’s doing OK all things considered. He’s not quite as sharp as he was before; I think that’s just a normal part of the aging process. His wife died a few years ago, so he’s just there by himself, although he does have a caretaker staying with him as well. He was still just as chatty as always though, which made me happy. He doesn’t, however, drink coffee any longer, which works for me, because I don’t either! I definitely would have made an exception to have a cup with him, though. And so, we just chatted. Talked about times when I was growing up there & caught him up a bit on what I’m doing now. He couldn’t believe I was driving that “big rig” all over alone. He got quite a chuckle out of that. 🙂

After our visit I walked up the trail through the forest we made years ago from his place to ours, passing by some of the old roads Snuffy & I cleared with the Cat that I used to ride my pony on.

Trails I used to ride...

Trails I used to ride…

And then, there I was, at our property line. I wandered down the driveway & saw our old home. Its changed a bit over the years with new owners changing the yard some, the color of the house & doing a bit of remodeling. But all in all, its still pretty much the same.

Home where I grew up

The home where I grew up…

I knocked on the door & introduced myself & asked if I could wander around in the forest for a bit. I thought I should do that, even though I could have just wandered in the back way through the forests & she would never have known that I was there. I saw the Hemlock tree I used to climb, it was my favorite climbing tree & I’d climb so high I felt like I was at the complete top.

I also saw the big Cedar tree… we loved having a huge cedar tree on our property!

Our Big Cedar Tree

Our Big Cedar Tree

I don’t know how big around it is, but its much older than any of the other trees in the area.

The Cedar tree even still has the sign we put on it “Bearing Tree Do Not Cut”.

Close to the Cedar tree is a big Spruce tree that I always loved too… I love those big trees in those forests.

Spruce Tree

Spruce Tree

Wandering through the forest I found these cute little cup fungi. I remember playing with these when I was a kid, little faerie cups.

Cup Fungi

Cup Fungi

As I wandered slowly down the driveway on my way out, I stopped by the blueberry patch & helped myself to a few handfuls of the biggest most delicious blueberries ever! The tiny bushes my mom planted are now easily 8’ tall and as happy as ever. It was surreal to have gone back & seen our old home, I’m glad I had the opportunity just to wander through the forests alone as I had done so many times growing up. What a magical place.

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