Unless you are a hiker or horseback rider, the Tarbell Trail probably means nothing to you.
The trail runs from the top of Larch Mountain north of Camas to Dole Valley. It was named for George Lee Tarbell, whose only claim to fame was that he shot and killed a youth who was peeling cascara bark on his property.
Tarbell, who some described as a hermit but others remember as a kindly and sociable old man, lived alone in a shack in the woods, accessible only by a six mile trail. The trail was his only connection from his lonely cabin to the end of the road. He unsuccessfully mined for gold in the Yacolt area, farmed in the woods and died alone in his cabin in 1932.
In July 1925, Tarbell got into an argument with two young men from Yacolt who had been peeling cascara bark in the area. Tarbell accused them of peeling trees on his property and demanded three bags of bark as compensation. (Dried cascara bark is sold as a laxative ingredient.)
An argument followed and blows were struck. The next day the young men returned to the Tarbell place, a shooting followed and Hartman Campbell, 23, was fatally wounded.
A trial was held in Vancouver and the jury ruled Tarbell had acted in self-defense.
Tarbell’s name has been immortalized in the George Lee Tarbell Camp and Hiking Trail which was completed by the State Department of Natural Resources in 1970.
The trail roughly follows the course of the trail used for 30 years by Tarbell. At the north end of the trail is a large sign that tells the story, under the simple heading “The Hermit.”