Destinations, Lebanon

twoOregonians Visit the Tannourine Cedar Reserve

August 31, 2012

After a lifetime reading about the Cedars of Lebanon, spotting Cedrus libani in plant walks around the University of Oregon campus, and spec’ing Cedrus deodora ‘Silver Mist’ on more than a few job sites, I was awed by visiting the weathered trunks and sprays of green in situ.

During our weekend in Northern Lebanon, Jimmy and Madeleine took us to visit one of the few remaining preserved forest communities: The Tannourine Cedar Reserve.

So few of the ancient Cedars remain, and by ancient, I’m only speaking about a few hundred years. The truly ancient specimens are erased from the landscape. The prized cedar wood was harvested for palaces, temples, and kingdom plunder; the fabled towers of old now live in myth and legend alongside enormous fir trees of Oregon old growth forests.

The modern-day cedar reserves are precious, small, tenacious in their ongoing plight to stand against illegal harvest and hauling. Tannourine is the second largest reserve in Lebanon, home to 60,000 Cedar Trees.

A large number; a modest patch.

A final stronghold. A last encampment.

Lingering sentinels growing side by side on their remaining territory.

The reserve was formed in 1999, and visitors are welcome to pay a visit, make use of walking trails, and admire the remnants of Lebanese natural history.

Jimmy and Madeleine led the way. We parked, paid our entry fee, and headed into the canopy.

Evegreen Cedar of Lebanon needles
Oak species also making a home in the reserve
Euphorbias growing wild

Rugged, rocky landscape of Northern Lebanon


Madeleine & Jimmy

It’s hard to put the experience into words (hence, the pictures – I’m banking on them each being worth about a thousand, right?).

Photos and feeble field-sketched watercolors couldn’t quite capture the moment, but sitting in the cedars’ shade while ants crawled on my legs and afternoon heat evaporated the liquid from my paint palette sealed the memory into my spirit.

Haunting and majestic, these ancient characters.

Oh yes, God brings grain from the land, wine to make people happy, Their faces glowing with health, a people well-fed and hearty. God’s trees are well-watered— the Lebanon cedars he planted. Birds build their nests in those trees; look—the stork at home in the treetop.

Mountain goats climb about the cliffs; badgers burrow among the rocks. The moon keeps track of the seasons, the sun is in charge of each day. When it’s dark and night takes over, all the forest creatures come out. The young lions roar for their prey, clamoring to God for their supper. When the sun comes up, they vanish, lazily stretched out in their dens. Meanwhile, men and women go out to work, busy at their jobs until evening.

What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations. Oh, look—the deep, wide sea, brimming with fish past counting, sardines and sharks and salmon. Ships plow those waters, and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them. All the creatures look expectantly to you to give them their meals on time. You come, and they gather around; you open your hand and they eat from it. If you turned your back, they’d die in a minute— Take back your Spirit and they die, revert to original mud; Send out your Spirit and they spring to life— the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.
-The Book of Psalms, 104:15-30

I’ll hold to the memories and forever think of this place when I see Cedars growing in back yards and parks and college campuses…and I’ll hope that the conservation projects in Lebanon are successful in keeping these beauties protected for generations to come.

Visitor’s Information: Tannourine Cedar Reserve.
Our Recommendations: Take water, take a book, and take your time…

One final note: here’s a fascinating (if you’re a nerdy tree and history lover like me!) academic paper on the Cedars of Lebanon and Phoenicians. Enjoy!

Have you ever traveled somewhere because of a plant?
(Hey, I might just give you a gold star if your answer is yes… A gold star and a plant-nerd high-five.)

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  • Reply Judy Loucks September 2, 2012 at 6:00 am

    No high-five for me…..sorry. We have a few Cedars of Lebanon here at the camp.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians September 3, 2012 at 11:28 am

      Aww…well, I’ll give you a plant nerd high-five anyway, just for taking care of such a great piece of Oregon forestland! : )

  • Reply Andrew Buck September 4, 2012 at 3:14 am

    I was pulled along to more than one Tulip Festival in my youth. Does that count as traveling for a plant? ; )
    Great article. I miss you a lot. Still bragging about my big sister seeing the world and such.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians September 4, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      Gold star!! Yes, it counts. For certain. Plus, it was *local* travel, so you get a double high-five for appreciating your own back yard. : ) Now I miss you and Oregon springtime tulips.

  • Reply Kirsten September 4, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I went to Muir Woods outside San Francisco specifically to see these trees: Great minds?! ;)

    Yet it is the cedar trees that I too dreamt of as a child. I’m disappointed to hear the ancient ones are gone but thrilled to know that conservation efforts remain and cultivate “new” trees. Your photographs do indeed make me feel as if I was there with you, or have gone myself. What a beautiful place it seems. What a beautiful experience. Thank you for sharing dear friends.

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians September 4, 2012 at 10:48 pm

      Beautiful photo! I don’t want to rattle off words about it, I just want to admire the way the sunshine filters through the canopy…
      Just gorgeous.

      I’m glad you appreciate the cedars, too! That genuinely makes my heart happy. : ) Sending you a hug from halfway around the world! xx

  • Reply Susan Buck September 16, 2012 at 2:58 am

    Well, I got up early in summers from the time I was 5 to 13 years old to go to berry fields– that was traveling to see plants. When I went to college across the continent I took Botany for Non-majors because I was falling in love, and I ended up “coming home to marry my tree farmer.” That was a lot of traveling to learn about plants and love. That eventually led to you. And your first science fair project took us around the Willamette Valley looking for flowers. Now you’ve continued on your own and I get to enjoy the whole world with you. Thanks for sharing and relating in such beautiful ways–photos, narratives and virtual high fives. Love you, Sis. –Mom

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