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To The Woods

Pete Springer/OPB

Evelyn and David Hess aren’t the first Americans to deliberately retreat to the woods. Nor will they be the last to search out a new life in the wet hills Oregon’s Coast Range. (Click here for the story of a young couple from Brooklyn who landed 30 miles from Evelyn and David after a cross-country trek.) Still, the Hesses blazed their own path with their move.

In their mid-fifties, Evelyn left a horticulturist job at the University of Oregon, and David left work as a private practice architect. They moved to a small trailer on 21 acres near Lorane, not far from Eugene, to pursue their dream of starting a nursery business.

Economic stresses and hopes of reigniting their relationship also drove them to the woods. They lived with little electricity and no running water, managing a major health crisis and a steep learning curve about Mother Nature.

Seventeen years later, they’re still there and planning to stay for the rest of their lives. Evelyn has written a book about their experiences. What have she and David learned? 

Have you ever retreated to the woods? Do you deliberately spend time out of “civilization”? What do you gain? What do you lose?


  • Evelyn Hess, co-founder, Lorane Hills Farm & Nursery. Author of To The Woods: Sinking Roots, Living Lightly, and Finding True Home.
  • David Hess, co-founder, Lorane Hills Farm & Nursery. Retired architect.

If you are interested in more: Evelyn Hess will be reading Wednesday evening at Broadway Books in NE Portland and Thursday evening at Third Street Books in McMinnville.

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