Monday, May 12, 2008

An Old Growth Forest with a History

Jason Imes, a Lewis County weed program specialist tasked with guarding the National Forests from invasive weeds, mentioned a piece of the forest near the Cispus River he thought odd. Our mutual interests and knowledge find us sharing information on a fairly frequent basis. He drove the 2506 road to the very end to a place called Bluff Mountain and was curious about the vegetation there. He also described the area as being snow free. In light of recent excursions, the last statement caught my attention.

As he described the location, I remembered the fire history in the area. In June of 1918, the Cispus Burn altered the landscape of nearly 230,000 acres with a version of catastrophic wildfire. Let me think, views and natural history. It was worth a visit.

To get there, take Highway 131 (USFS RD 25) 6.1 miles south of Randle. Turn left onto Forest Road 2506 and go about 2 miles. At the junction of FS road 2506 and FS road 037 veer to the right and continue for about ½ more. There is no problem finding the Kraus Ridge Trail #275 on the left side of the road. The excitement is getting turned around on the road in the muddy conditions. The Kraus Ridge trail winds through old growth and “naturally maintained stands” that are roughly 90 to years old. In 1918, fire licked at the ridge, burning the forest to near 100% consumption, but clearly leaving the typical mosaic pattern of survivorship. Here and there, were signs of the huge 200 to 400 year old stands of Douglas Fir that stood here before the outset of the Cispus fire. Some of them survived. Many have fire scars that reached 60 feet on their fire resistant bark.

The forest along the trail is a natural history buff’s dream. Each turn into a new ravine illustrates how the winds of flame rode the landscape. By looking at the fire scares on the older trees, a visitor can see how a fire that was driven east to west by winds, turned around and ran west to east to follow the uphill topography, actually burning the ridge multiple times.

Instead of following the trail all the way to the east trailhead off of Forest Road 23 (Cispus Road), I chose to take a look at the spot Imes pointed out to begin with. After 3.2 miles on the trail, I turned right, onto the FS2306 road which parallels and then crosses the trail, and hiked to the end. About a mile later, I found myself at a dead end on the summit of Bluff Mountain. Just off the road, a viewpoint offers a dramatic look at the Cispus Valley below.

How about that for a Monday conversation that led to a great hike on Sunday; An experience that amounted to a cerebral walk in some big, historic woods.

No comments:

eXTReMe Tracker