As a young writer, Opal Whiteley loved to give special names to animals, people and places. This tour takes you near many places she lived in and wrote about. There are also three covered bridges to explore. Cottage Grove is the "Covered Bridge Captial of Oregon".
Opal called this area Fairyland. One of Opal's gifts was to see the hidden beauty and magic in the everyday things around us. She taught this in her famed nature lectures and hikes. While much has changed in nearly a century, many landmarks that Opal knew can still be found. This tour can be taken by car, bike, or, on horseback on the new Row River Trail. You can begin the tour in downtown Cottage Grove by the mural of Opal at 7th and Main Street.
From the Mural at Downtown Cottage Grove, drive east. Just outside town Main St. becomes Mosby Creek Rd.. Drive approx 2.5 miles to where Quaglia Road meets Mosby Creek. Quaglia goes south from Mosby Creek. The south hills you see were what Opal called "the far woods". This is the location of the lumber mill where the Man Who Wears Grey Neckties worked and where the home of Sadie McKibben stood.
Continue to the intersection of Layng Road, Mosby Creek & Jenkins. This is Walden, where, as Opal says, "the road goes three ways." The large two-story ranch house at he junction was Opal's grandparents. A photo of the house is on Page 18 of Opal's diary.
Unfortunately, you cannot walk or drive to the actual site where Opal lived as a child, or find the "singing creek." It is some distance from the road. Please drive carefully in this area.
Avoid driving down Walden Lane. It is used as the driveway by the people who live on it and children may be playing nearby. Please respect people's privacy along the route!
From the place where the road goes three ways, turn left onto Layng Road. You will soon cross the covered bridge over Mosby Creek itself. When Opal mentions the "riviere," she means Mosby Creek. Opal describes crossing this bridge on Page 178 (Chapter 14) of Benjamin Hoff's 1995 paperback. Or, you can follow the old railroad line from here. The historic Old Slow and Easy railroad is now a beautiful bike path. The Row River Trails is part of a national network of "Rails to Trails." This trail is over 20 miles long - and every foot of it goes through areas where Opal lived and wrote.
Starting at Walden, the bike path follows the Row River to the Currin covered bridge, Cerro Gordo Mt. and goes on 18 miles up Dorena lake to Star and the covered bridge. Friends of Opal Whiteley have adopted the Trail Head at Walden.
Continue 1 mile down Layng Road to the Currin Covered Bridge. This one mile drive from "the place where the road goes three ways" to the Currin Bridge over the Row River is where Opal takes her long ride on William Shakespeare, the old logging horse. This beautiful story is in Chapter 14 (Pages 177 to 183) Currin bridge is cared for by kindly neighbors - whom Opal would have liked very much.
To find the Dorena Bridge, & Star, go right on Row River Road at the Currin Bridge. Turn left just past Kestler's Market. Row River Road continues here. Go one mile up Cerro Gordo Mt. At the top, you overlook Dorena Lake, where the village of Dorena was and where Opal lived as a teenager. As you come down the mountain look for a green hiking sign pointing right. The Row River Trail has a rest area here. Also, stop at Rat Creek & Harm's Park.
Opal Whiteley spent her teenage years around Dorena. There was a school up on Paradise Hill and Opal did nature hikes in this area. At that time the town of Dorena stood where the lake is now. The entire Row River Valley used to be called Star. The Star post office (where Opal's mother worked) was closed in 1923. Only a sign saying "Star Ranch" stands today. The community of Dorena is now found where the village of Star used to sit. The newly restored Dorena Covered Bridge is a beautiful place to stop and enjoy the river at Rocky Point. Opal used to catch salmon here.