NASELLE — If you’re driving on State Route 401 you might notice two trees located just a short way North of mile marker 5 that are larger than the others standing near the road. The smaller of the two is a hemlock about 5 feet in diameter and the larger is a spruce a little over 7 feet in diameter. You might say they are sole survivors of the 1960s.
In the early 1960s Naselle resident Bill Wuorinen was a faller for Crown Zellerbach. They had a logging show going on the river side of Knappton hill. Like many, Wuorinen considered trees to be a renewable crop. As a logger, it was his job to harvest that crop so the country would have the lumber and wood products needed for new homes, apartments and businesses. After days of labor falling trees, only those two remained standing, the spruce and the hemlock.
Older residents might remember this was at the same time the road was being expanded in preparation for the new bridge that was going to span the Columbia between Megler Landing and Astoria. With the instructions from the wood’s boss to drop those two trees, Wuorinen prepared to put in the undercut on the spruce.
According to Wuorinen, a fellow from the State Highway Department showed up out of nowhere and informed him he couldn’t fall the tree because it was on State property. You can imagine Wuorinen regarded that revelation with a certain amount of disgust at the time. Negotiations ensued between the highway man and the woods boss. The hemlock was on Crown property and rightfully could have been fallen. However, at the end of the discussion, he was told by the woods boss to let both of the trees stay.
Over the next 50-plus years, Wuorinen and those trees developed a bifurcated relationship. On the one hand, he felt a sense of regret since the trees represented a crop not fully harvested. On the other hand, he took pride that these were trees of his past and a reminder of the days when trees like these were truly the giants of the woods. No passenger in his car passed that spot without hearing a mention of their continued existence.
Wuorinen, a war hero, a logger and a much-loved member of the community, passed away last October. The spruce and the hemlock stand as silent reminders of Wuorinen and seasons past. They help to keep a part of Wuorinen alive, at least in memory, so give him a wave when you’re passing by.