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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day Hike: Pacific Crest Trail Snoqualmie Pass

The Pacific Crest Trail runs from Canada to Mexico along the central spine of Washington Oregon and California. There are many people who through-hike the entire length in one go. Some have done it multiple times. This trail, #2000 , is well marked and in major access areas, well maintained. Often there will be excellent signs with mileage information and on weekends, the trails around the Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass area are well traveled. At Snoqualmie Pass the route to the north is more popular and scenic. The hike to the south is a little more easy going.
This hike area is also a good starting point because there is the nice Pancake House at the pass. You can have an early breakfast as an incentive to getting on the road before the crowds.

The trail started near noisy I-90 and by the time you are crossing the open area of the Snoqualmie Ski Area, the sound of cars start to fade. It is a good area for some basic wildflowers. Today there was a surprise, nothing basic about a Ladies Tress Orchid. I found a spot with four little blooms, right by the trail. No more than three inches tall they could be easily overlooked.

There were also tons of Huckleberry plants. Sad to say, however they were a bit on the sour side. I am sure in a week or so they will be excellent. More flavorful were Salmonberry. In the lowlands, Salmonberry don't seem to last long. They are eagerly eaten by Robins and other woodland birds. Here at higher elevation it seemed the berries were perhaps a bit larger and sweeter. They still don't match the blueberries I found last month.

Entering the woods at the top of the ski slope the trail becomes more or less level. The footing was a challenge due to many roots and rocks in the
and there was a fair amount of step up and down using roots and rocks as steps. The understory of the woods was filled with ferns, notably Deer Fern and there was a lot of Devils Club, Oplopanax horridum. Devils Club is a wicked plant. The stout stems and huge 15 inch leaves are lined with long sharp thorns. These thorns were used by native peoples as sewing needles and fish snags. Right now the Devils Club are in berry and their large red clusters really stand out in the green understory.

There were many large trees that had come down during windstorms and they give rise to nurse logs. Nurse log is an important part of the ecology. It holds soil and water. Seeds that land upon it often take root and flourish, gaining advantage of better light over plants on the ground. It is not unusual to see trees with roots that flair showing how they grew around an old, long gone log. The logs provide nutrients to the plants that grow on them.

In this environment many trees sport shelf fungus. These ear like projections are sometimes called Turkey Tails. They served as way markers and practice targets for native peoples. There is some mention that they were ground to powder and used as a body deodorant as well. Here you can see the brackets on the end of a cut log and see the moss and plants that have taken up residence on the log itself.

Further along I saw something I have never seen in such abundance. "Chicken of the Woods" Sulphur Bracket Fungus growing up the side of a large snag. I knew they were edible and I went up for a close look. Yes they were tender and fresh, not hard and woody like the bracket. Happily, three elected to jump into my pack for a ride to the big city.

At about two miles you come to Lodge Lake. Quiet and pretty I was disappointed there were no birds in residence. I was surprised at the lack of mosquitoes or flies and perhaps that accounts for the lack of frog noise too.

On this easy going trail the distance passes quickly and a handy signpost reading 2 1/2 mile lets you decide if you are content with a 5 mile hike or if you wish to press on. I definitely note that there are a lot of interesting plants that would make this a great hike in June as soon as the snows are melted.

I was able to appreciate the beautiful view to the north as I was coming down the ski slope. In the early morning hours the lights and clouds did not provide such a good vantage.

Returning home I invited the Sulfurs to have a bath in olive oil and butter. They had a little photo op on the plate before joining some Lemon Papperadelle pasta and cream. The map they are looking at is the Delorme I mentioned in my Friday entry. They are looking at the pages for the Snoqualmie Pass area. I guess they were astounded how far they went in life.

They were very tasty and had a light lemony / meaty flavor

a bit like chicken

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