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Hiking in the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest

June 1, 2024—A friend and I spent the morning hiking a couple of trails within the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest, which Oregon State University’s (OSU) College of Forestry, my alma mater, manages. There is an extensive trail system through the forest that winds through mixed wooded forests, conifer forests, and grass fields bursting with wildflowers. Some of the trails take hikers to Cronemiller Lake, a small lake in the northeast corner of the forest. All the trails are open to hiking, and several trails also allow biking and horseback riding. Refer to this map for which trails are open to different activities. We chose to hike in the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest because dogs are allowed on the trails, and we encountered many hikers with their dogs.

The weather was slightly overcast when we set out, so it wasn’t too hot; it did make it hard for photography, however. We started out just north of the Adair Gate trailhead off Hwy 99W, hiking a short distance uphill on a gravel road before setting out on the Calloway Creek Trail. We hiked south on the trail and eventually crossed Calloway Creek.

From the Calloway Creek Trail, we then headed west on the IM Trail. The trail ends at Cronemiller Lake. Today was Get Outdoors Day, an annual event hosted by OSU’s Research Forests, OSU Extension Service, and Community Health Centers of Linn and Benton County. The lake is normally off limits to fishing, but today it was open to a kid’s fishing activity. Some kids successfully hooked rainbow trout, which they got to keep. I hoped that I might bump into one or two of my former college professors, but no such luck.

The hike gave me the opportunity to break in my new Oboz hiking boots I bought to replace my Keen Targhee III hiking boots that did not perform well when descending a trail at Drift Creek Falls. My Keen hiking boots slid out from underneath me, causing me to fall on a trail and injure my right knee. The Oboz performed beautifully going up and down the slopes.

Hikers be warned. You need to keep a watchful eye out along the trail. My companion and I encountered a lot of poison oak along the trail. I spotted some flowering plants I had never seen before—(blue) larkspur and (purple) fork-tongued ookow—and we came upon a maple tree I referred to as the "octopus tree" because of the many trunks (or perhaps large branches) growing out of one apparent root source. We encountered very little wildlife—a Douglas squirrels, woodpecker, American robins, and a few other songbirds was it—but being outdoors was relaxing and rejuvenating, and the exercise did me good. This was my first hike since my hiking accident last April at Drift Creek Falls.

After a couple of hours, my companion and I headed back to her SUV to travel home, but not before stopping by the Peavy Arboretum. I would encourage people hiking in the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest to stop by Peavy Arboretum, which is in the research forest. There are some unique trees there. I was desirous to stop by the arboretum where I had completed a park-planning capstone project in 2022 that entailed developing a plan to make the trails in the arboretum more accessible to people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the arboretum was closed for the Get Outdoors Day event, so I unable to see if OSU had implemented any of the improvements to improve accessibility outlined in the capstone project.



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