Tag Archive: camping

A Spring Weekend on the Upper McKenzie River

Trip Report:
Leader: Mark Hougardy
Organization: Obsidians
Dates: May 2018
Participants: 5
Type: Hiking and Car Camping

The season’s first warm weather brought significant snowmelt into the McKenzie River watershed and over the majestic Sahalie Falls and Koosah Falls. Our plan to hike to Tamolitch Falls (Blue Pool) was cut short when a sign stated a mile of trail was closed because water had flooded the path in places to a depth of 3 feet. Even with the closure, there was plenty to appreciate further upstream at Clear Lake with its crystalline waters and turquoise colored Great Spring. Animals that were seen along trail also appeared to appreciate the warmer weather as fish jumped in the lake, several species of birds flew overhead, and a garter snake warmed itself on the rocks. In shaded areas winter still managed to hold its grip as large patches of snow remained. Springs spontaneously appeared on the trail sometimes forming small ponds, and at one point, all of us were mesmerized by a plate-sized vortex that had formed in such a pool. After a solid day of hiking, we visited Belknap Hot Springs for a relaxing soak. Because we timed our visit before the Memorial Day crowds the U.S. Forest Service campground was basically empty. Our campsite was green with moss and located next to a white rushing stream that looked like it was born from a Tolkien novel. The next day we enjoyed the comfort of a morning campfire, broke camp, and explored several more miles of trail before heading home.

   

What’s Up with Oregon’s Elliott State Forest?

blog-2015-10-10-img-05Along Oregon’s southern coast is a massive 130-square mile chunk of land that is basically unknown to the larger public. The area is known as the Elliot State Forest Lands, or “Elliott” for short. It is located near Reedsport. I wanted to know more about this place so I joined a group of curious folks for a weekend visit. What I found is a land that is ground zero for contentious issues surrounding aerial spraying, clearcutting, and conservation efforts.

blog-2015-10-10-img-14Our group camped at a BLM campground on the northern shore of Loon Lake (shown with the red dot). The lake is 7 miles south of Hwy 38. We made day trips into the Elliott.

blog-2015-10-10-img-07This Google map shows the 1.5-mile long Loon Lake (the campground location is also displayed with a red dot) and the general region where we explored. The patches of dark green, light green, and tan shades are sections of forests, tree plantations and clearcuts.

blog-2015-10-10-img-08To visit, it’s helpful to have a local navigate the spaghetti works of logging roads, accessible parcels, and trails that crisscross the region. Our guides were from the Coast Range Forest Watch, a grassroots group concerned about the health of forests and watersheds in the Pacific Northwest.

We made a caravan into the forest on the Elliott’s extensive and well-maintained system of roads; we drove over ridges, into valleys, through deep forests, and along barren mountainsides.

After a 45-minute drive we parked near a creek and unpacked ourselves from our cars. I was stunned by the crispness of the air in the forest. Looking up, the trees were long and straight – up to 180-feet tall – like giant infantry pikes lancing the sky.

blog-2015-10-10-img-13We visited a Grandmother Tree, an immense giant with a width at breast height of 7-feet. The tree was well over 200-feet tall! The naturalist in the group thought it was between 300-400 years old. Seen another way, this tree is 15-20 human generations old!

elliott_01Around the Grandmother tree the air was moist, the ground spongy, and the forest floor vibrant with moss and plants. There were signs of elk and bear scat nearby. The temperature was a cool 65 degrees. Sadly though, even this far into the woods, there were signs of discarded beer cans hidden in the bushes.

We visited a large clearcut that had been harvested about 5-6 years earlier. Here the open mountainside was dry, the temperature was in the low-80’s and the ground was hard. It was not a pleasant place.
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Here is a panoramic view of the clearcut, Robin from Cascadia Wildlands is shown.
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The Elliott is being turned into a giant patchwork of tree plantations, where sections of forest are clearcut, replanted, and then harvested again roughly 40 years later. After a harvest the forest industry wants to protect desired tree species and prevent other species from growing. To do this a toxic cocktail of insecticides and herbicides are sprayed. This happens generally with a helicopter. The mixture is so potent that often only several applications are needed. Current state law states that a 60-foot buffer be maintained, but the law is vague and spraying has been attributed to water quality issues downstream, degradation of salmon habitat, and human health issues.

blog-2015-10-10-img-09The left photo shows the composition of the forest floor near the old growth Grandmother Tree; while the right shows the composition of the ground in a clearcut.

blog-2015-10-10-img-15Sometime we had to bushwhack and cross ravines.

I was glad to return to Loon Lake where the air was cool, moist, and the forest was vibrant. Also, there was lots of food! The image shows part of our campsite.

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We had visited Loon Lake at the end of the season and the campground was still very full. I talked to a ranger who said the area is very busy during the summer, which underscores a point – a lot of people like to visit this region, but only a small percentage of land is targeted for recreation. Recreation could be really big as a revenue generator, but are people open to the idea?

I had an opportunity to measure this during one of the outings. Coming down the path were 2 camouflaged men, they had been bow hunting and looked like they just stepped out of a Cabelas advertisement. Everyone said hello as people do when they see someone on the trail. The hunters were returning empty-handed and they were a bit perplexed by our presence. Our guide quickly explained that he wants to keep the lands in the public domain so that he and the hunters could keep returning. The men raised an eyebrow when “public” was mentioned; however, they wanted to keep the Elliott a place where they could also visit, hunt, and spend time with their families. The encounter was an interesting exchange and hinted at a grand relationship that might just keep this land protected in such a way that allows multiple parties to profit, not just one industry.

Why is the Elliott a hot zone for so many interests? It’s complicated. Back in the early 1970s Oregon passed the “Oregon Forest Practices Act,” a law that provided protection for soil, air, water, fish, wildlife and forest resources. The law has changed little in 40 years, yet the scientific understanding and economics of timber have evolved. Surrounding states have enacted laws that provide for a longer-term vision of forests, the idea being that forests should provide jobs, resources, and recreation for today, and for our children. In the meantime, Oregon’s private companies have fought hard to prevent any changes to this outdated law, including working hard to affect public perceptions about logging. Further complicating matters are taxation dollars, received from timber harvests, which are tied to the general education fund.

Timber businesses in the Elliott (and their investors) see clearcuts as an effective method to maximize the return on a business model. They don’t want government interference because it can be slow, costly, and a headache – I get that. But, timber companies are not being their Brother’s Keeper. When neighbors are unable to make a living because of water pollution, when salmon habitat that supports the local fishing industry is significantly diminished by sediment runoff, and when communities are impacted because of spraying, something is wrong.

The issue in the Elliott is not about harvesting trees; our society needs trees to build homes and schools, and to use in trade. The issue is not about loggers; loggers are hard-working people putting food on the table for their families. It’s not just about hunters who hunt on the land, or anglers that fish in the streams, or those who want to conserve old growth and this amazing ecosystem. On the contrary, it’s about all of these things working together. The Elliott is a vibrant location with a rich natural heritage that should be honored with protection while allowing businesses with a long-term vision to both profit and support local communities.

As someone who advocates for the outdoors I would love to revisit the Elliott for camping, hiking, even backpacking. The Elliott is home to some giant-sized trees, some much larger than the Grandmother tree shown in this article. I would love to see those trees, and would be happy to spend my recreation dollars in this region.

Find Out More:

Visit-
If you’re interested in visiting the Elliott with your group, or want additional information, contact the Coast Range Forest Watch for more information.
CoastRangeForestWatch.org

Audiocast-
City Club of Eugene. “What Fate For The Elliott State Forest” (1 hour)
http://klcc.org/post/what-fate-elliott-state-forest-city-club-eugene

Background on the Issue:
Cascadia Wildlands
https://www.cascwild.org/campaigns/protecting-forests-and-wild-places/save-the-elliot-rainforest/

Movie Preview-
Pacific Rivers. “Behind the Emerald Curtain”
See what’s happening on Oregon’s private timberlands, and how it’s harming our rivers, water, air, and communities.

Old-growth map-
An Oregon Wild map showing the old-growth forests in the Elliott:
http://www.oregonwild.org/sites/default/files/pdf-files/ElliotStateForest10.22.14.pdf

Aerial spraying issues-
The Oregonian. “How average Oregonians challenged the timber industry – and lost”
http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2015/04/how_average_oregonians_challen.html

Different viewpoints on aerial spraying-
http://www.beyondtoxics.org/wp-content/uploads/AerialSprayingArticle_1859-OregonsMag_Sept-Oct2015_BEST.pdf

Map source-
https://nestcascadia.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/lawsuit-launched-to-protect-threatened-marbled-murrelets-from-clearcutting-in-oregon-state-forests/

One last view of the Grandmother Tree-
blog-2015-10-10-img-01

Keeping It Wild – Camping 101 Event

Organization: Grand Opening Camping Festival at Little Basin
Date: April 20, 2102
Trip Facilitator: Mark Hougardy

In the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains is a beautiful area of redwoods that most people have never seen. Until recently the area was a retreat for employees of Hewlett-Packard. The area called, Little Basin is a new acquisition of the California state park system that has been annexed by Big Basin Redwoods State Park, yet run as a separate entity. In April of 2012 Little Basin, held a Grand Opening Camping Festival. I organized and facilitated a “Camping 101” event. Here are some photos:

       

Exploring Santa Rosa Island, Channel Islands National Park

Located off the Santa Barbara coast, the California’s Channel Islands reflect a natural beauty reminiscent of California before the modern age. Join us as we make the 40-mile channel crossing to Santa Rosa Island and enjoy 3 days exploring this rarely visiting landscape. The island is the second largest (52,794 acres) in the park and offers grass-covered hills, canyons, creeks, rocky intertidal areas and sandy beaches.

Organization: GlyphGuy Adventure Travel
Date: August, 1999 (two trips: one was a scouting trip)
Trip leader: Mark Hougardy
Participants: 3

 

Springtime Exploration of Pinnacles National Monument

Pinnacles National Monument is a dry terrain capped with disfigured spires that reach into the sky. In the springtime, Pinnacles National Monument brings temperate weather, colorful blooms, flowing streams and abundant wildlife.

Day hikes are roughly 8.5 miles in length and about 7-9 hours in duration. Trails include rough stairs hewn from the rock face, several tight fits and low overhangs. Sections of the trail are very steep and a moderate level of physical activity is required. Folks who are afraid of heights or claustrophobic may feel uncomfortable.

Meet at the Sanborn Park Hostel by 6:15 pm Friday, April 23, to determine carpool arrangements.

GEAR

  • Participants are responsible for their own camping equipment, gear, and food. A small, communal cooking stove for hot water etc. will be provided. Wear layered clothes and come prepared for any kind of weather.
  • Recommended gear for campground: tent, sleeping bag, comfortable shoes, cook stove, cooking utensils, mosquito repellent, flashlight.
  • Recommended gear for day hikes: day pack, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, hiking boots, comfortable pair of extra shoes, camera, lunch, two liters of water per person per day. A flashlight is required for the cave.

ITINERARY
Friday, April 23, 1999
We will depart Sanborn Park Hostel as a group at 6:30 pm, arriving at Pinnacles Campground around 8:30 pm to unpack. We’ll enjoy a dessert of marshmallows and hot chocolate around the fire.

Saturday, April 24, 1999
We begin the morning with a decent breakfast and hit the trail by 8 am. We’ll hike to the Chalone Creek area and ascend the High Peaks Trail. After an initial steep incline, the trail opens and offers substantial views of Bear Gulch Reservoir, Balconies Cliffs, Mount Defiance and parts of the lush Moses Spring area. The trail winds among the spires then suddenly climb up the rock face, over support bridges, and to the picturesque top. We break for lunch overlooking the monument at our feet. Descending the trail we are likely to encounter a multitude of rock climbers near a small reservoir. We enter the Bear Gulch Caves, though we quickly yield onto the lush Moses Spring Trail. The cave is a roosting colony for endangered bats in the spring and should not be disturbed. Arriving at the Visitors Center we break for water and a short rest before continuing along a tree lined stream and returning to the camp. In the evening we “put our feet up”, enjoy the night and relax around the fire.

Sunday, April 25, 1999
Sunday we pack our tents and clean our camp site before hiking the Old Pinnacles Trail. This is a rocky, yet relatively easy hike to the base of some spectacular spires – a short distance beyond lie the quarter of a mile long, Balconies Cave. The cave is dark and will require flashlights. After the cave, the trail ascends to the Balconies Cliff Trail (.8 mile) with imposing views of Machete Ridge and Balconies which are sometimes called, “Little Yosemite.” Look for prairie falcons and golden eagles. The path returns to the Old Pinnacles Trail and a gentle descent to the parking area. We’ll depart in the afternoon about 2 pm with plenty of light for a safe drive back to the South Bay.

CAMPGROUND & FACILITIES
The Pinnacles Campground is just outside the park boundary and provides a good base for exploring the monument. We will be tent camping. The camping areas include two adjoined sites along a creek. Parking for two vehicles is provided. Additional vehicles can park for $3 per day in the campgrounds lot. The campground includes toilets, coin-operated showers, and a campground store. Fires are permitted in fire pits. Wood for a central fire will be included.

DIRECTIONS
Pinnacles National Monument is roughly a two-hour drive south from San Jose. From Sanborn Park Hostel drive to 85 Freeway and head south. Junction of Hwy 101 continues south. Drive past Gilroy to Hwy 25, drive toward Hollister. Continue through Hollister on Hwy 25, drive 31 miles south is the monument. Turn right on Hwy 146 follow signs. Pinnacles Campground is located on the left.

Dates: April 23-25, 1999
Participants: 12
Trip Leader: Mark Hougardy
Price: $32.00 per person (reservations required)
Carpool Fee: $15
Accommodations: Tent Camping
Trip Rating: Moderate