“When the tide came in, the table was set.” These words describe early life for the Yaquo’n tribe once located in the native coastal forest edging Yaquina Bay, now the site of the Yakona Nature Preserve.
JoAnn and Bill Barton are Newport residents who, upon learning about the history of the Yaquina Bay, committed to “…the child [this land]we never had together. We’ve nurtured and tended a small remnant of the vast fog belt forests that once blanketed the Pacific Northwest coastline.” They know they cannot undo the devastation of the past, the egregious short-sightedness and inhumanity of European interlopers, but they are doing their best to ensure a respectful future.
On a glorious Friday morning, my sister and I hike in on an old logging road, sheltered and dappled by sunlight through tall trees. Unobtrusive signs alert disc golfers to the network of holes all but hidden in the woods, 18 of them. This is our first time here, and a volunteer we have met at the gate tells us that we’ll wend our way through the wooded road about a mile before actually arriving at Yakona.
“Do you want a ride in?” she offers.”Once you’re inside the preserve, you can wander the trails for hours.” We are grateful but decline. On foot the journey is slower but what we’re there for, to discover and spend time together. We are not disappointed—trees and native foliage, sloughs reflecting the tides, blue sky, and cotton-ball clouds, and the ease to enjoy them.
The Bartons’ “dream child” began with awareness of history, delving into this area’s past, and leading to their initial purchase of 77 acres in 2013 with the express intent,”…to allow Nature to reclaim much of the 400-acre peninsula that is home to the Preserve. As we prepare to pass along the care of this land to future generations we’ll never know…” Their child has grown to 340 preserved acres.
Since returning here, I’ve thought a lot about all that I didn’t know about my home as I was growing up. Our family had its routines, favorites; like people living anywhere, life was daily and quotidian. It is only now that I realize all I missed. And of course there was no sense of missing anything then. I had it all; I led a privileged existence.
I do recall learning about the “Flathead Indians” at some point in grade school, a European description given to the very natives that actually lived long, long before I did in the place I now call home but truly was theirs.
I am grateful for the chance to see this world with opened eyes and hopeful that future short-sightedness can be partially corrected. Perhaps it starts with walking in the woods.