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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nisqually Land Trust ~ Mt. Rainier Gateway

Saturday I joined the Nisqually Land Trust in what is the first volunteer event of the new 2010-11 work party season. I wrote about several events I attended over the last year and we are off on a new season of working in the great outdoors, no matter the weather.

The forecasts for this weekend were nothing to be happy about. It seemed doom and gloom but the reality was not that bad. I was fully prepared to get soaked through and went prepared with a full change of clothes. We had, however, the most glorious morning. It did in fact get downright hot while working. Mind you we had pretty much full sun and digging and whacking is hard work.

The property is one I had not been to before, The "Allen Estate" on the east edge of Ashford, right at the Mt Rainier NP gateway. www.nisquallylanddtrust.org/mtrainier/php

I had not been this far up the road in so very long. This property is that of the historic homestead of Oscar Dana Allen. Mr Allen was a contemporary of Gifford Pinchot who was the first chief of the US Forest Service and coined the term "Conservation Ethic". Along with his sons , Mr Allen made the first botanical assay of the park. He and his sons went on to be key in the administration of the park and state forests in the early half of the 1900's

My drive took me through the Ohop valley where last Halloween we had a work party to plant the valley floor. I stopped along the way to take a picture. While you might not be able to tell, I can see the green shrubs and trees we planted, hiding amid the tall grasses that have since sprung back up. There will be another Halloween work party this year and you can bet I will try to attend. You can see the photos from last years event in my 10/31/2009 blog entry.

I passed wood art and metal art. Recycled Spirits of Iron by Dan Klennert is a fun stop along the way. There is also an excellent coffee stop at the Ashford HQ of International Mountain Guides. After working I stopped at Copper Creek Inn, near the park gate for an excellent bowl of stew.

Recycled Spirits of Iron by Dan Klennert

This work party was a two-part. Start by pulling out Scots Broom ( yippee violence mayhem and destruction) and then plant Douglas Fir trees. The Scots Broom pull is made easy with root jacks and plenty of hands. Our little group made short work and then got on to the trees. They were beautiful! One volunteer had nurtured them through the summer and she reports they had easily doubled in their size. Every pot, tree and hour spent in raising these trees along with the greenhouse space at Pack Forest was donated. A labor of love.

Look at these little darlings. Classic Christmas trees that will grow to be our regions iconic tree. The green tapes will make them easy to spot while they are little.

As usual, Joe Kennedy gave a demo on how to properly plant the trees.

The rough grass needs to be whacked back and the turf and soil removed, the hard part. Dig and plant, the easy part. Well the easy part was based on where you dug. Clearly there was a large rock topped drive under this spot. From the state highway we drove up what once was an access road. Joe's truck created a perfume of "mint" as he drove over the greenery that carpeted this path through the woods. The only native mint I know of is Self Heal. I have never crushed it to see if it smells as lovely as this. The open area was overgrown with native blackberry, nettle and non native Scots Broom. Hidden was where the access lane continued on. Shovels found it in the form of rough egg sized rocks covered over by soil.

We cleared the area of broom and planted 100 trees in three hours. There was time for a chat break where we learned about the property and of the long term effort in this area. The preservation of blocks of habitat provides for all of the animals and flora with particular attention of the habitat needed for Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet. The murrelet is a seabird which nests in the forest. They will fly out to the Pacific Ocean and back to this area EVERY DAY during nest season. That is about 125 miles one way. I have only ever seen murrelet on the ocean, never in the woods.
After work and a bit of lunch, I decided since I was all the way up here, I might as well go home the "pretty way". So I entered Mt Rainier NP and circled around via Paradise. I used to drive this road every summer when I lived further south from Seattle. Now it is much easier to access the park from the Sunrise area. I love this road from Longmire to Paradise as it is very wild. Much as it was in the early part of the 1900's it is two lanes almost no shoulder. Giant trees edge right up to the road much like the Hoh Rainforest Road. Every so often you see where one of these close trees have taken whacks from wide load motor homes. I have to imagine there are a lot of motor homes who have lost their passenger side mirrors. Deep scars about mirror high mark these trunks.

I stopped along the way at different points just to enjoy the sights. Mt Rainier creates it own weather and I went from the sunny clear miracle morning to a totally socked in mountain in about 40 minutes.

Sun Mountain

Some Mountain

No Mountain

I love seeing evidence of the historic CCC work crew constructions. Tunnels and stone bridges in particular. The view area for Christine Falls allows you to see the lovely stonework.

Box Canyon a 180 foot deep gouge made by the Muddy Fork Cowlitz River has a wonderful tunnel on its west side. Along the trail you can see the glacier carved stone that makes up this canyon and its walls. Here it is simply stone covered by moss and lichens.

This is glacier carved and smoothed rock covered in moss and lichen

Box Canyon, 180 feet down to the water.

I did find some evidence of late summers bloom but for the most part they are gone and now the hillsides are hues of yellow and gold with occasional Mountain and Vine Maple trees adding their color.
Paintbrush and Pearly everlasting.

An Earth Star type, Geastrum sp. puffball

Lovely Redwood Sorrel

The Nisqually Land trust takes its name for the beautiful river that carved this territory and the people who call it their homeland. The Nisqually River starts at the foot of Nisqually Glacier a sadly reduced glacier but never the less powerful to experience. I have been up on the trials above the glacier and you can hear sounds in the mists that tell you there is a power deep in this river of ice.
The young river in its glacial valley

Nisqually Glacier

PS This lovely lady showed up at the work party and was justly given a photo op. I tentitively id her as a Shamrock Spider, Araneus trifolium belonging to the Orb Weaver spider group. I owe some photos to a young man who was working with his Dad and was most excited about his discovery

As he should be, she is a beauty!!!


  1. What a beautiful country we live in! I read your blog, and see the majestic beauty of where you live. I read the Adirondack and Appalachian blogs, and see the softer beauty of those areas. The desert blogs show me the stark beauty there. And, I see the graceful beauty of where I live. All different, all magnificent in their own way. We're very lucky that we have so many unspoiled places to see. I hope that we always appreciate them.

  2. The country is so beautiful where you live and your posts are always so educational and interesting. I particularly liked the stone bridge and the spider. Thank you for this outdoor adventure.

  3. Gaye and Inger isn't it so true. I would wish that everyone could be so in love with where they are and find joy in the little things of every day life.