Out Our Back Door By Tom Baake
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Learn Local Lore During The ‘Walkable North Bend’ Event
By Tom Baake
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Hikers on last year’s Walkable North Bend event arrive at the North Bend Boardwalk. This year’s outing is Saturday, Jan. 27, and will again feature a long and short guided walk.

Among the most popular events on the South Coast Striders hiking group schedule are the annual “Walkable North Bend” guided hikes, set for this Saturday, Jan. 27. A short and longer walk are scheduled, and attendance is free and open to all ages.

The short walk will again be led by local historian and author Dick Wagner, who along with his wife Judy literally wrote the book(s) on North Bend and some of its colorful characters and incidents.

Striders organizer Tom Orsi will lead the longer walk. He’s helped out on many of the previous walks and says he’s been steeping himself in North Bend history with the help the Wagner books, which include the definitive biography of town founder Louis J. Simpson – “LJ:. The Uncommon Life of Louis J. Simpson,” -- as well as “Instigator: the troubled life of Lorenzo Dow Kinney,” and the intriguingly-titled “Sex, Lies and Radio,” all with strong North Bend connections.

One of the neat things about the walks is that they’ve evolved through the years, with the hike leaders coming up with new information, making the walks entertaining for first-timers as well as returnees. On several occasions walkers who’ve been on past excursions have come along again and shared old photos or newspaper clippings to expand on a topic. And once in a while residents of a historic home or business have come outside to talk to the group. It all contributes to what might be called the organic growth of these town-history hikes.

On the longer walk, participants may hear about everything from the rare trees in Simpson Park to the float houses in Pony Slough, all while absorbing many seldom-scenes views and sights.

The longer hike also follows a segment of the Sawmill & Tribal Trail, a historic route between Indian villages, later used by settlers and townspeople.

Walkers make their way up to the residential section of upper Sherman Avenue, where the extra-wide roadway once featured landscaping down the middle, complete with palm trees. The group will also take on unique and curvy Highway Street, another little-known gem. Also discussed – and surmounted – are some historic stairways that were once used to get around North Bend in earlier times when fewer people had automobiles. The stairways were actually part of many peoples’ daily commutes to work or school.

Then it’s back downtown, with a stop at the North Bend Boardwalk. After that it’s on to Simpson Heights and a trail system that offers views of McCullough Bridge – and eventually passes beneath it – before heading back to the starting point.

Meantime, Dick Wagner’s hike visits Simpson and Ferry Road parks via a hiking trail that passes beneath an approach to McCullough Bridge, where walkers can enjoy the ornate concrete “plaza” and view the vanishing point created by the bridge’s Gothic arches marching northward.

In Ferry Road Park, Wagner discusses early-day Indian villages as well as some of the historic homes. A plaque set into a large rock acknowledges the villages.

There’s also fascinating trivia. For example, the most famous person to live in North Bend wasn’t town founder LJ Simpson, whose many exploits included the creation of his fabulous estate, Shore Acres, and a run for governor. In fact, North Bend was home to an even more notable – some might say notorious – individual in a profession that might surprise you – but you’ll have to go on the Wagner tour to learn the answer.

On both tours, you’ll see another a famous home built in the shape of a boat by another notable North Bender. And speaking of nice homes, Wagner may discuss the historic homes that are “facing the wrong way.”

In addition to sharing town history, these in-town Strider hikes are also meant to show people suggested routes for a bit of exercise right out their back door, as it were. You don’t need a guided hike, either, to enjoy these places at any time of the year.

The Walkable North Bend hikes this Saturday, Jan. 27, will depart at 9:45 a.m. from the parking area at the North Bend Info Center in Simpson Park, 1220 Sherman Ave., North Bend. More details at www.coostrails.com. Bring rain gear and appropriate layers. And get ready for a fun visit “back in time.” 

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of regional guidebooks.)

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