Tale of two tours: In Corvallis, let the locals lead

      CORVALLIS, Ore. If you're looking to spend a day in Corvallis, you can hop on for a trolley ride or head out of town to walk through a working forest. Benton County offers both historic tours every week.

      This group of tourists is hopping on the trolley for a Saturday afternoon cruise.

      "When you have limited time, it's nice to pack in as much as you can," traveler Ken Warn said. "And it seemed like a great way to see a lot of nice things in a relatively short period of time."

      Warn is visiting from Palm Desert, California.

      With guide Zel Brook leading the way, this group is getting the nickel tour of the history of Corvallis, including notable homes and famous landmarks.

      "Some of the stories connected with the houses are really quite interesting," Brook said. "Some of them have been moved as many as five times."

      Or if you prefer to tour history on foot, you can travel a little west of Corvallis where Dick Powell, a public outreach forester, leads a walking tour through Starker Forest near Philomath.

      "We're not just looking at the trees, but we're looking at the wildlife, the plants, the waters, the recreational aspects," Richard Powell said. "All of those things are needed to manage today's forest. It's a complex thing."

      Along the walking tour, you might come across a dead tree or two labeled with an "S". That doesn't stand for stump, it stands for snag. And the reason they don't cut it down and haul it out is because they're creating more habitat. That'll attract the termites which attracts the birds.

      "They're kind of in awe sometimes, not just at the size of the tree, but how much you can get out of the tree," Powell said.

      On this tour, people will see places where the canopy all but blocks out the sun, to other thinned out patches that allow for undergrowth, proving that in the woods, sometimes less is more.

      On Saturdays through August, you can join a guided tour of historic homes aboard a trolley car. It's free, but a $5 donation is recommended.

      On Wednesday afternoons through September 18, you can join a free tour of the Starker Forest. Bus tours leave the Comfort Suites Hotel in Corvallis at 1 p.m. Tours return to the hotel by 5 p.m.

      On August 21 and September 11, an alternate tour that visits the mill and forest leaves the hotel at 10:30 a.m.