Students find lost logging camp

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The sole remaining steam donkey in northwest Oregon

In early November six students and two leaders from Catlin Gabel set out to find the last wild steam donkey in the northern Coast Range. The drive from the school took the group over the complex of old logging roads in the Tillamook State Forest  that cover the hills above the Salmonberry River. Six students ages 13-17 made up the intrepid group. 

Most of the first day was spent learning about the logging history and equipment that shaped the Northwest. A basecamp was set up above the Salmonberry River and a large smoky fire kept the group warm. After a dinner of flaming chicken and multiple pies the group turned in for the night.

The day of the search dawned rainy and a bit chilly. Two miles of hiking brought the party to the Salmonberry River. The search through the dense woods followed shortly thereafter. Using information provided by local historian Merv Johnson, who had visited the donkey in the late 70s, the group combed the steep hills above the river. Brush and sword fern, soaked thoroughly from weeks of rain, was scoured in the quest for the large piece of iron machinery. Shortly after noon the cry of "The burro has landed!" crackled across the two way radios in the party. A mad sprint through the brush followed and soon the poor donkey was surrounded.

The students clambered over the beast and could piece together the history of the huge machine. Back in the 1920s, before the great Tillamook Burn swept through the watershed of the Salmonberry River, these steam powered "yarders" were used to haul logs up and down the steep hillsides to a central location from where trains could take them to the mill. Once a particular operation or "show" was completed, the machine were hauled through the woods on a wooden sled to the next show. In some cases the machines were just left in the woods. This donkey was built in Seattle, probably during the early part of the last century. It has sat on this forested bench above the Salmonberry River since the day when the loggers walked away from it, many, many years ago.