Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Trail of Two Forests - August 7th

This morning I decided to go south out of the campground on Forest Road 25 through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest toward Pinecrest, on the south side of Mount St. Helens. Forest Road 25 is on the east side of Mount St. Helens. The 10-mile stretch from Randle to the campground has some pretty rough spots where the road dips a couple of inches, was repaired, then dips again, oftentimes from side to side as well as lengthwise. From the campground to Forest Road 99 where you turn to go to Windy Ridge wasn't quite as bad but has a couple of rough spots. Of course, driving through the mountains meant that there were a lot of curves and hills to go up and down too. I was just a little leary of taking it 50  miles futher but the camp hosts assured me that it was a "good" road once you got past Forest Road 99. Thankfully, they were right!

There were several viewpoints of Mount St. Helens along the way with signs pointing out how the area had changed since the eruption. During timber salvage, the Forest Service left 1/4 acre to 5 acre plots untouched for wildlife habitat and soil enrichment. Noble and Pacific silver fir wre planted at high elevations where they naturally occur. Contractors harvest fir boughs for holiday greenery with the proceeds funding watershed restoration. Trees were planted among downed wood and standing snags. The fallen trees eventually decompose, helping to build soil. Native Douglas and grand fir, and western redcedar were planted on the valley floor along with cottonwood and lodgepole pine to add diversity. All of the trees you see in the above photo were planted after the eruption.

After about 2 hours, I stopped in Pinecrest at the visitors center and talked to the nice lady there to get a map and some idea of what there was to see in the area. She recommended a few "key" sites so off I went.

First stop was the "Trail of Two Forests," a very short 1/4 mile loop trail mostly on boardwalk. A sign at the beginning of the trail stated "You are about to venture through a land of lava, where images of ancient forest are captured in stone. You will follow an ancient lava river that spilled down the flanks of Mount St. Helens nearly 2,000 years ago... you will travel through both an old forest now cast in stone, and an emerald forest that has risen from the black basaltic lava."

As the lava flowed, it encircled the trees. The cooled lava encased the smoldering trunk and as the flow receded it left a raised rim of rock around the pillar of charcoal, which eventually disintegrated leaving the stone hole where a tree once stood.

Vegetation is growing inside some of the lava/tree holes.

If you were brave enough, had a flash light, and were small enough, you could crawl through one of the lava tubes! Several youngsters crawled through and said it was "really neat!"

The entrance to the lava tube.

A portion of the board walk and exit from the lava tube.

Next stop was  at the Ape Cave Lava Tubes. The short lava tube is about 3/4 of a mile in length and the other about 1.5 miles. Both are accessed via long metal ladders. I ventured into the shorter tube. It was a cool 42 degrees once you got past the entrance area. And dark. The walls of the cave felt slightly damp but cold and were quite smooth. There were several "rocky" areas to be traversed but nothing major. I don't particularly like being in caves so only spent about 30 minutes inside. I'm glad I went but it was enough for me.

Back at the surface I drove on up the road to Lava Canyon.

Published under a Creative Commons License.
Becky Wiseman, "The Trail of Two Forests - August 7th," Kinexxions, posted September 22, 2015 (http://kinexxions.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-trail-of-two-forests-august-7th.html : accessed [access date])

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