A Lovely Afternoon in the Woods
I had a vision for a photograph: a long mountain valley with sides rising into a ceiling of cloud. Friday night I used Google Earth to examine all nearby, accessible valleys, looking for the right shape and for a viewpoint above the trees. A clearing in a valley in the Cascade Mountains, near the confluence of the Taylor and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers looked promising. According to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest web site, the Middle Fork road, which goes deep into the mountains, was open, though uncleared and with patches of snow.
Saturday morning the SEATAC aviation weather forecast gave a ceiling of 3200 feet, which seemed a little high (ain’t the Internet amazing?). I waffled and read the paper, then walked up the street to a tony neighborhood that has a view of the mountains. They were swathed in clouds. No more dinking around. Time to go.
The Middle Fork road, wide, gravel, and flat, seemed to have even more potholes than usual, and it usually has a lot, but the snow wasn’t too bad. The clearing I’d seen in the satellite photos on Google Earth turned out to be the Middle Fork campground. The trees around it were tall, however, and I had to scramble up the slope behind to get a clear view up the valley. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite meet the vision. The clouds were too high, and the valley curved more than I’d realized. The lead photo is my favorite of the ones from the viewpoint. It’s one of the peaks of Mt. Garfield.
But it didn’t really matter. My idea had gotten me out there, and there were so many other wonderful things to photograph that I stayed all afternoon and stopped repeatedly on the drive back. These are young Red alders, often the first trees to grow after a disturbance, especially where it’s wet.
For you out-of-towners, these are springboard notches in a big stump, roughly 100 years old. They’re common in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Loggers chopped them in the sides of Western Redcedar trees, then jammed in the spiked ends of long boards. They stood on the boards so they could saw the tree above its wide base. Cedar is rot-resistant; the stumps last a long time. I’ve seen notched stumps clinging to the tops of near cliffs. Imagine the logger standing on that board, cantilevered over emptiness, hauling on his end of the long saw, with the great tree looming above getting ready to topple.
Second (or third) growth by the road. It comes in dense, very unlike the sparsely distributed monsters that were there before.
Moss on everything. It rains a lot more here than in Seattle. Seattle is in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains and actually gets fewer inches than New York City, though they’re spread out over more of the year. Here, the air rises over the Cascades, which wrings out moisture.
Bigger Red alders and the light’s fading. Time for home. Hope it won’t be too long before I can get back here.