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Oregon: Regenerate Forests and Communities from Wildfires

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McKenzie Bridge, OR, USA APRIL, 2022

Learn, Serve & Immerse in Oregon's Willamette National Forest

Global Family Travels brings you this unique and enriching experience in partnership with First Nature Tours and Cascade Volunteers!  Lace up your boots and hit the trails of the Willamette National Forest, in the Cascade Mountain Range of Oregon, where some of our country’s worst wildfires recently took place in 2020. This adventure supports the McKenzie Regenerative Travel Project spearheaded by Cascade Volunteers, an initiative to support multiple communities along the McKenzie River corridor with wildfire recovery. 

A treasured destination with outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, such as hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and rafting, these communities depend on quality recreation sites that are currently in need of repair and revitalization. On this Learn, Serve and Immerse adventure, you’ll learn about wildfire recovery and prevention, and experience local outdoor adventure activities, and partake in trail-building projects.

This adventure will take place the weekend in April of 2022. We will be operating more regenerative adventures in 2022, so please contact us if you are interested, or join our mailing list:  Greater Seattle Community Tours.

Each adventure is led by a naturalist guide from First Nature Tours and focuses on a different project hosted by a local stewardship group managed by Cascade Volunteers.

For more information, please click on the LEARN, SERVE & IMMERSE elements in this experience to see all the details, and once you pay your $250 deposit, you will be able to secure your spot!

COVID-19 SAFETY PROTOCOLS

With the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), the health and safety of Global Family Travels and First Nature travelers, community partners, colleagues and guides are of paramount importance to us.

Please see our COVID-19 SAFETY PROTOCOLS documents, found under the Tasks section, which outlines our commitment to mitigate and manage the risks associated with COVID-19 when you travel with us.  Please also refer to the tasks which have specific details for your activity and destination. 

Thank you for helping to keep yourself and fellow travelers and guides safe!

GLOBAL FAMILY TRAVELS

Global Family Travels’ vision is to unite humanity and inspire travelers to take responsibility for the challenges and opportunities facing our increasingly interconnected planet.  Our mission is to Learn, Serve and Immerse, using travel as a means to build cultural bridges and to foster global citizens. Using tourism to help solve community challenges, we organize sustainable travel opportunities in partnership with local and global non-profit organizations and support many United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Through partnerships with many Seattle-area non-profit organizations that address community challenges, our one-day educational outings in Seattle are designed to create meaningful connections and support Destination Stewardship, including the preservation of diverse and native cultures, conservation, education, and economic growth of Greater Seattle. 

Learn more here: https://www.globalfamilytravels.com/our-company

About First Nature Tours

Based in Portland, Oregon, First Nature Tours is a custom private group tour operator that specializes in facilitating outdoor adventures and immersive experiences in the Pacific Northwest. Their professional naturalist guides aim to educate the intrepid traveler by exploring the beauty of the region through the lens of sustainable tourism and visit the naturally and culturally unique places that make the Pacific Northwest so special. Our foundation is built on increasing knowledge, appreciation, and understanding of the world around us through meaningful travel experiences.

About Cascade Volunteers

Cascade Volunteers (CV) was formed in 2005 by a group of passionate community members determined to maintain and create trails on the Willamette National Forest (WNF) in Oregon. More than 3,600 volunteers logged 193,000 hours from 2005 to 2018 — work valued at more than 4.9 million dollars. These contributions led the Willamette National Forest and CV to enter into a formal partnership in 2018. As the nonprofit friends group of the Willamette National Forest, CV works together with Forest staff to pursue a vision of public lands stewardship and appreciation that offers forest-wide support.

The mission of Cascade Volunteers is to connect individuals and communities to the Willamette National Forest and adjacent public lands through programs, stewardship, and education.

Overview of Tour

In 2020, the West Coast of the United States experienced a record breaking wildfire season, damaging numerous trails and recreation areas, along with the homes and businesses of neighboring rural communities. Many of the local economies of these “gateway communities” rely heavily on visitation to these treasured natural landscapes. Restoration is an essential aspect to revitalizing these impacted regions. 

After the Holiday Farm Fire, the McKenzie River area of Oregon’s Willamette National Forest is one such region looking to rebuild its communities and natural public spaces. Global Family Travels and First Nature Tours have partnered with Cascade Volunteers, a local non-profit organization in Oregon, to host four weekend immersion trips blending education, service, and recreation, themed around a different recreational “user group.”  Our September date focuses on helping to rebuild the biking trails in the McKenzie River area, and will include about 10 - 12 hours over two days on a service project in an impacted area, along with guided outdoor adventures and facilitated discussions with community partners about the lifecycle of wildfires, major environmental and cultural impacts of public land management and the importance of stewardship of public lands. This is a small group tour (up to 10 participants max.) with set departures from Portland and Eugene. Additional dates may be added based on demand, private tours available upon request. Highlights are below, but please view the itinerary section for overview of the weekend schedule. 

September 24 - 26: Mountain Bike Trail Work 

  • Project: Mountain bike trail work on in the McKenzie River Ranger District
  • Community Partners: Cascade Volunteers and Disciples of Dirt 
  • Accommodations: McKenzie Riverside Cottages
  • Activity: Mountain biking - the group will be shuttled to a trailhead for a oneway downhill ride along the McKenzie River (this activity is optional and participants can choose to hike at a nearby trail instead)
  • Work Intensity: Moderate to Advanced

Capacity: Capacity of each tours is 10 people for a full trip package including overnight stay.

 

McKenzie Regenerative Travel Project

These tours are an outcome of the McKenzie Regenerative Travel Project, a program sponsored by a Travel Oregon Destination Ready Grant with the generous in-kind and financial support of Cascade Volunteers, Willamette Valley Visitors Association, Travel Lane County, First Nature Tours, Horse Creek Lodge, McKenzie General Store, Friends of the Central Cascades Wilderness, and Disciples of Dirt. Tour costs have been offset by funding provided by the grant and supporting partners. 

LEARN

We believe the most powerful way to learn is through hands-on community-based travel experiences. We let the destination and its people be your teachers, and supplement experiences with reading lists, informal discussions, and a pre-trip orientation to better equip participants with the practical information needed to understand the culture, history, and community challenges of our destination.   

This community-based experience provides participants with the opportunity to learn and grow by working on a regenerative project to help rebuild natural public spaces in the McKenzie River area of Oregon’s Willamette National Forest. 

  • Learning themes unique to the educational experience with the Cascade Volunteers include:
  • Learning how public lands are managed, particularly regions overseen by the National Forest Service. 
  • Impact and management of wildfires on public lands and neighboring communities.  
  • Land stewardship, including forest restoration and rehabilitation practices.
  • Codes of conduct and safety protocols as a volunteer in a public lands.
  • Develop knowledge and skills about trail maintenance, tree planting, and campsite restoration.
  • Decision-making and best practices in cooperative work environments.
  • Understanding ecosystems, and the intersection of human needs and natural cycles. 

SERVE

For the trip in September, participants will volunteer for 10 - 12 hours helping to maintain mountain bike trails in the McKenzie River Ranger District as directed by professional volunteer coordinators within Cascade Volunteers’ organizational network.

Fitness level demands for the project range between Moderate to Advanced. Participants will receive training and orientation by volunteer coordinators, and will be presented with an overview of safety protocols. Participants sign a liability waiver as an official volunteer with the National Forest Service.

IMMERSE

By working and staying directly in the wildfire impacted communities of the McKenzie River corridor, participants will hear the stories and perspectives of local citizens and organizations working towards restoring vitality to the region. 

Participants will also connect with the natural environment through several adventure activities like hiking and mountain biking.

About Kieron Weidner, First Nature Tours (Lead Guide)

A born naturalist, Kieron’s fascination with the natural world has led him from a childhood exploring rural Wisconsin to college study abroad trips to Costa Rica and Europe and eventually a career in Restoration Ecology. Since he began working in tourism in 2007 Kieron has been helping visitors to Portland, Seattle, Central and South America fill their trips with memorable experiences and outright adventure. His tourism career includes work for some of the top luxury travel companies in the world, such as Cruise West, Adventures by Disney and EverGreen Escapes. His experience leading groups through all corners of the Pacific Northwest have made him one of the most recognized guides in the region. On a private tour of Cascadia with Kieron you will get more than just an education, you’ll rediscover the sense of wonder that many lose with the onset of adulthood. For Kieron guiding is more than a career, it’s a passion, and nothing makes him happier than providing people with new ideas, new adventures, and new life experiences.

Location Information

The Willamette National Forest stretches for 110 miles along the western slopes of the Cascade Range in western Oregon and is about 1,675,407 acres in size.

The varied landscape of high mountains, narrow canyons, cascading streams, and wooded slopes offer excellent opportunities for visitors and make the Forest valuable for many purposes. The Forest’s northern extent is the upper reaches of the Santiam River as the melting snow flows off the glaciated slopes of Mount Jefferson. The Forest continues south where the McKenzie River flows west from the Cascade peaks of Mt Washington. This is where the tours will take place, centralized in the town of McKenzie Bridge and neighboring communities, about 50 miles from Oregon’s second largest city, Eugene.

About Belknap Hot Springs

Located in the unincorporated community of Belknap Springs, Belknap Hot Springs lies right along the banks of the McKenzie River. Onsite are two mineral hot springs pools where guests can relax and enjoy the benefits of soaking in mineral spring water. The location will serve as a central hub during the tour and the lodging location for the August tour date. Guests will stay in the lodge in double occupancy rooms that have two queen beds each.

About Horse Creek Lodge

Located in the town of McKenzie Bridge, Horse Creek Lodge is a friendly little enclave of cabins, event center and outdoor adventure outfitter specializing in whitewater rafting and mountain biking. The location will serve as a central hub during the tour and the lodging location for the April and May tour dates. Participants will be staying in the Delta House onsite. 

The lodge is a pillar of the community, serving thousands of participants per year with accommodations and activities to enjoy the surrounding public lands. Owner, Alyssa Brownlee, is very involved in community and recreation development initiatives in the region and will be one of the local voices sharing her story with the tour participants. 

About McKenzie Riverside Cottages

Located in the town of Blue River, McKenzie River Cottages are located along the banks of the McKenzie River. Each historic cabin has its own personality and unique charm. All cabins have private decks overlooking the river. The location will serve as a central hub during the tour and the lodging location for the September tour date.

Logistics (Safety, transport, parking, etc.)

Transportation: 

Participants will be escorted in a 12 passenger van and are required to wear masks while in the vehicle. We’ve limited the capacity to 10 participants.

Participants are welcome to drive on their own if they wish but this will not impact the cost of the trip. Some of the project locations are in very remote areas on undeveloped roads, therefore it is recommended that participants use the guide transport while in the McKenzie River region.

Parking:

Tour participants can choose to be picked up in either Portland or Eugene. Closer to the trip departure date, you will receive information on directions and vehicle parking near these pick-up locations. There is limited vehicle parking available onsite at McKenzie Riverside Cottages in Blue River.

Safety:

First Nature Tours will follow industry standard COVID-19 protocols according to the criteria established by the Adventure Travel Trade Association. First Nature guides are wilderness first responder certified and will take proper precautions to ensure the health and safety of the tour participants. 

Participants will receive training and orientation by volunteer coordinators and will be presented with an overview of safety protocols and are required to sign a liability waiver as an official volunteer with the National Forest Service.

Pack List: A pack list will be provided to participants prior approximately 1 week prior to trip departure.

Location
McKenzie Bridge, OR, USA
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