The forest was a wonderful misture of Western Larch and Englemann’s Spruce with a few firs thrown in. The understory included blueberries, mountain ash and a number of wildflowers. The trail climbed through the forest with plenty of places to gaze out on the magnificient wildness in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Area. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
With first light on Saturday morning, I left the Diamond Peak trailhead toward Sheephead Corral. Here in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness the forest is a wonderful mixture of Western Larch and Engelmann Spruce with a scattering of firs. It had rained the night before and the blueberry understory glistened with water droplets. About a mile up the trail, the forest opened into a wide and long open bald filled with flowers. The bald extended north over the top of the hill for a third of a mile and was at least a tenth of a mile wide. I settled to study closely the abundant lupines, larkspurs, and groundsels that were blooming.
Blueberries glizzen in the soft light, highlighty waterdroplets from the recent rains. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
The early summer wildflowers were in full bloom in the open bald near Diamond Peak. Thick stands of larkspur and groundsel were blooming. The lupines were just starting to open. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
The Hairy Woodpecker surveyed from the top of a tree the surrounding area. She had a nest in a nearby tree and was not happy I was in the area. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
After a while, I realized that a Hairy Woodpecker was scolding loudly from a small group of trees to my west. I was several hundred feet from the clump and should not have been bothering the woodpecker in the least but here in the wilderness maybe they are more sensitive. I stood up to walk over to investigate. As I moved closer the female woodpecker screamed loudly and flew from the top of one tree to another in this small clump. The male called from the main forest another few hundred feet to the west. Several large standing snags were in this clump and I searched quickly to see if I could spot a hole but never found one. I had several excellent looks at the woodpecker. A few times I heard the chattering of young in the nest calling loudly for more food! After a few minutes I decided I should let them be and I moved out of the small clump of trees and back over the ridge out of their sight.
It was a great blessing to enjoy this wonderful wild moment in this spectacular wilderness. I will remember this experience well into the future.
The Hairy Woodpecker took off to fly over me, screaming loudly that I was near her nest. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
Lily Lake glowed in soft light as the sun began to set. Varied thrush, Towsend warbler and many song sparrows sang during the final light of the day. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
In early June, I camped by Lily Lake in Goat Rock Wilderness. I wanted to see how the lake changes as light passed through sunset to twilight. Red cedars, Douglas firs, and western hemlocks lined the shoreline of the lake. A wide band of alders extended out into the lake. It looked like a trail extended through the alders that made me wonder if lake level drops as the summer progresses. I looked for a place that I could climb farther out into the alder band and get a good view across the lake. I discovered a place along the north shore that I could squeeze around a cedar trunk and walk a few feet out on small mound to have a nice view. I decided to return here later in the evening to watch. As I turned to return to my campsite a cascade frog jumped into the water, maybe I will hear them calling tonight?
I returned around 8 pm to watch and listen as light decreased in the forest. Two common mergansers flew into the lake right when I arrived at my perch. Song sparrows were singing loudly on either side of me and one hoped through the bushes in front of me. A varied thrush whistle penetrated the forest from behind me, and a Townsend warbler’s buzzy song drifted from the canopy above me. After about 20 minutes, the cascade frogs began to call and clearly there were a lot of frogs. Their calls grew and declined repeatedly. It seemed that if one began to call then all the rest attempted to over shadow their neighbor. After a few minutes of full call, they would quite down until the next male started it all over again. Just before 9 pm, a very small bat began flying back and forth over the alders in an erratic flight pattern as it tried to grab insects from the air. I hoped it might come closer to me because the mosquitos were a little annoying.
The sun was off to my right and I could not see it. The clouds above the far ridge changed color as the sun gradually set below the horizon and the lake shifted from yellow-green to having a blue cast as the sun dropped below the horizon. A little after 9 pm, I turned to work my way back to my camp and listening to the frogs calling as I drifted to sleep.
The light turned blue after the sun dropped below the horizon. This created a soft cast to the vegetation while pink continued to show on the clouds above. Cascade frogs continued to call vigorously as we passed to darkness. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
The old growth trees were massive is size, both in diameter and in how high they reached for the sky. These were well over a hundred feet tall. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
Have you ever fallen into a trance when looking vertically into the canopy of big trees until you realized your neck was hurting from how you were holding your head? I was hiking in Goat Rock Wilderness along the Lily Lake Trail last week and was just mesmerized by the magnificent forest protected there. I saw lots of trees well over four-feeet in diameter; Douglas Firs, Noble Firs, Red Cedars, and Western Hemlocks. It was just incredible. I had a hard time covering much ground on the trail because I would see another monarch and have to stop and admire it. I suspect the big Douglas fir on the left side of the photograph was probably a pretty nice tree when Christopher Columbus was sailing to the new world. The Red Cedar on the other side of the photo is not quite as old, maybe only 200 or 300 hundred year! I felt honored to stand amongst them and I tried to walk softly and leave not trace.
I was headed up Denny Creek trail to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness when I caught a slight scent in the air. I rounded a corner to discover a wet depression in the forest floor filled with skunk cabbages shooting up flowering spikes. Some very impressive western cedar trees surrounded the depression. Two cedars were more than three feet in diameter and rose over a hundred feet into the air. These old growth cedars must be many hundred years old. Cedars like these wet depressions too. I was not quite to the official wilderness boundary but it was clear this patch of forest had wilderness character.
The flower stalk and yellow bract that partially surrounds the stalk form the flower on the Skunk Cabbage. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
The skunk cabbages are quite showy. A large yellow bract or spathe partially surrounds the flowering stalk or spadix. The spadix is covered by small florets. Each floret can develop into a berry like fruit. The foul scent attracts rove beetles which pollinate the flowers by walking around them looking for the source of the smell. The large green leaves were only just starting to grow. In another few weeks, these plants will have dark green leaves up to 2 feet long and half as wide. In Pennsylvania, where I was raised, a different skunk cabbage was the first flower of spring and finding it helped provide the emotional support that spring was coming soon. Keep you eye out for these interesting plants next time you are out in the woods.
The yellow bract or spathe of a skunk cabbage is quite pretty when you study it closely. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
Old growth hemlocks line the valley sides as one hikes up Denny Creek Trail in the Alpine Wilderness. This primeval forest was messmerizing, the size of many trees and complexity of the understory community were fascinating to watch. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
The forest along Denny Creek Trail in the Alpine Wilderness is a wonderful old growth hemlock dominated community. I was hiking up the trail a week ago and had to stop regularly to gaze at the massive trees, some several feet in diameter, and the complex understory. The sword ferns and bushes were only just starting to put out new leaves for the summer. What was even more amazing was the incredible community of lichens, mosses, and other epiphytes on the trunks of these trees that formed a complex mosaic of colors and patterns. The Pacific Northwest has a large number of epiphytic lichens and mosses and many of the patches I studied on the lower part of the trunks had more than six different species in a square foot. The composition seemed to change from one side of the trunk to the other, probably related to humidity differences, but I really couldn’t see what determined the mosaic.
The lichens formed a complex mosaic on the hemoloc trunk. I was intriquid by the pattern formed by the various species and the competition that must go on between them for space. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
Snow was still on the trail in a number of places and some of the drifts were still several feet thick. The flow in Denny Creek was up as the snow here and higher in the mountains was melting with our spring weather. Varied Thrushes were singing their melancholy flutelike whistle as I hiked up the trail. Each note is a few seconds long and then a pause before it calls again. I tried in a number of places to find one of these birds but they blend extremely well into the dense foliage and I never saw one. The Pacific Wrens were in full song with their complex series of trills and notes that last for 10 to 20 seconds. I was also fortunate to spot several Dippers along the stream. These small black birds dive directly into the rapids to looks for aquatic insects, popping back up on rocks where they bob up and down before diving into the next water patch.
Denny Creek was definitely a great place to spend a spring morning.
The mosses and lichens compete for limited space on the massive hemlock trunk. I wonder what determines which species wins the fight for this space. Is it first come or does one out compete the others. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
Twilight settled along Ingalls Creek in the Alpine Wilderness Area. The water rushed from top to bottom across these three photographs, dropping almost 30 feet over a short distance. (G. Thomas Bancroft)
I found a large boulder along Ingalls Creek in Alpine Lakes Wilderness where I could sit to watch the light change as we passed through sunset into twilight. A mixture of cedars, Douglas firs, hemlocks over hung the creek. Vine maples, alders, serviceberry bordered the sides and a lush carpet of mosses, ferns and other plants stretched across the ground. It is amazing how comfortable a granite rock can be when set in this landscape. A Wilson’s warbler sung softly in the understory on the far side of the stream and a Townsend’s warbler declared its ownership of the canopy behind me. It made a perfect atmosphere to wait for the light to change.
Ingalls Creek drains east out of the Cascades. I was a couple of miles up from US97. The valley is relatively step sided and the creek drops pretty continuously down through the valley forming an incredible chain of rapids and small waterfalls. I had found a place where three small falls-rapids complexes occurred in less than a hundred yards and the total fall in elevation was probably close to 30 feet. Water flow was relatively high with the warm weather increasing snowmelt at higher elevations. The sound and sight of the rapids were mesmerizing. It was very serene and easy to allow time to drift by.
The light gradually turned blue as we moved into twilight. It is such a tranquil time to be in the woods and enjoy watching the forest drift into nighttime. I created this triptych of the three rapids where I was sitting. The slow shutter speed made the churning water turn into whipped cream and helped complement the serene feeling I had; definitely a wonderful place to be and experience.
If you want to hear the sound of these rapids, you can watch this video of the one section. Let me know what feelings these create for you?
Ingalls Creek Click on this to watch the movie