April 24, 2012

Olsen Creek revisited

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — geezerwriter @ 12:04 pm
Y Road trailhead

Y Road trailhead

On Monday my dentist appointment interfered with my usual trip to the YMCA for my dollop of exercise, so afterward I drove over to Olsen Creek to check on the status of the work that I reported on in an earlier posting. The goal was to see A) if the big machines were still tearing up the landscape and B) how much damage has been done to the trails.

The short answers: A) No. B) Less than expected.

Bows & Ribbons

Bows & Ribbons

The trailhead is back to normal, with all the dire warnings removed – just the information sign about the Olsen Creek Seed Orchard remains. I started up the trail and as I got to the corner of the big fenced field the first big change was evident. Where there had been a couple of trees festooned with ribbons on the edge of the woods, those ribboned trees were about the only ones left standing. On my earlier trip I’d seen machinery operating up there and it was no surprise that a large area east (uphill) from the fenced field has been clearcut. The main question was whether it extended over to the new Trail #2 that we use on the way up the mountain.

The fence line

The fence line

The trail then crosses the road and drops into a shady, damp swale before coming out on the orchard’s fence line. The swale was untouched, probably because the trees there are alders and other deciduous ones whose pollen would not pollute the “pollen cloud” for the conifers in the orchard – the expressed reason for the recent cutting. But the view to the east past the red storage shed looked pretty bare and, sure enough, when I got to the place where Trail #2 takes off from the road the head of the trail had been completely obliterated.

#2 Trailhead

The old #2 Trailhead

The tiny little trail marked with a single orange ribbon has been replaced by a broad new road which seemed to be heading in roughly the direction of the trail – I’d forgotten to download my old tracks onto my GPS so I was going on memory. The road heads almost directly uphill and where it leaves the clearcut there is a partial opening in the trees. My best hope was that it was Trail #2 (or near enough to find it.)

And that’s just how it worked. The new section of road is less than 0.2 mile and has a dirt surface, rather than the usual coarse, rough gravel and leads directly to the remains of Trail #2. The picture below was taken from the edge of the clearcut back toward the red storage shed and shows that it is not a very great distance. (The new road runs near the bottom of the picture; the old road cuts across the middle in the distance.)

new #2 trailhead

New #2 Trailhead

So this was about as good news as any hiker could have expected. The first half mile of the hike is a bit less shady but only small amount of trail has been lost. I went on another half mile or so to check things over and wandered around on some old trails and found no other big changes.

Muddy horse tracks

Muddy horse tracks

It was pretty obvious that the horsemen and -women have been using the trails this spring – they’ve been tearing up the soft earth as only they can do. But I can’t complain too much (well, obviously I CAN complain, but probably shouldn’t) since the Whatcom Backcountry Horsemen do maintain the trailhead and provide a porta-potty.

My last picture shows the area as seen from space on Google Earth. Recent clearings are (roughly) outlined in white; the new one is the inverted L-shape near the top. Green lines and the chain of dots are old tracks from our hikes, and the yellow is my track from yesterday. Next week, May 3rd, we are scheduled to go on the Olsen Creek South loop, which is the the green line that runs off the south end of the picture and will scarcely be affected by the new cuts.

Visible from space

Visible from space


1 Comment »

  1. This doesn’t look so bad. I guess we’ll find out on May 3rd, but it’s good to know it’s not another total clearcut. Thanks, Al. See you Thursday! 🙂

    Comment by DJan — April 24, 2012 @ 5:28 pm

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