Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Brown Creek Noxious Weed Trail aka FS-400

Lunch time panorama with my point and shoot camera
On this day I decided to hike up the old Brown Creek road to the very top.  Until recently folks could drive up this road and they did.  Folks have posted pictures from the top on Google Earth.    But now the road has been destroyed in the name of conservation.  It is a difficult hike when ever you go down the decommissioned roads.  They really make a mess of the place.  I try to console myself by telling myself that it's better than bushwhacking or side hilling on scree slopes.  But still, it saps the energy to hike on these roads.

Black Fruited Stink Moss
Tetraplodon mnioides
This little patch survived

 There are softball sized rocks everywhere and the road has been sloped.  This is a good place to sprain an ankle.  As I  headed up, I was very worried that I would sprain my good ankle on the way down. I knew I was going to be exhausted on the way down and fatigue increases the chance or injury.  I told myself to stop worrying because it was pointless and I knew I was going to be extra careful not to roll my ankle on the way down.  It turned out that on the way back down the road slope put all the pressure on my bad ankle instead.  I don't worry about my bad ankle because I wear a brace that totally protects it.  So the trip down was not as scary as it could have been.  Perhaps I should wear a brace on both ankles the nice time I go up here.

I rolled my good ankle about 25 times but never hard enough to hurt, never far enough to sprain it.  After this hike my ankle felt like it had been through physical therapy.  That is it felt the way my bad ankle always felt after therapy, so perhaps my ankle is stronger now.  At one point on the way down I jammed my bad ankle straight down and I felt some pain in spite of my ankle brace.  There was no pain the next day, so no harm was done.

VERY, very fresh bear poop
I also smelled a bear on the way down

I started my hike at 10am and slowly picked my way up the very rough tread.  The going was slow, the route was tedious.  But eventually I broke out into the open and the views lifted my spirit up high.  I looked up and ahead and could see that I was about to go through a checkerboard square of old growth forest, that cheered me up too. 

Lunch spot # 1
Upward I trudged passing a great view of  Mount Ellinor and Washington and missing the turn off to one of my potential lunch spots, until I ended up at lunch spot number one.  Lunch spot number one was at about 2,400 feet and had a nice view of Lake Cushman.  There was a fire pit there too.  I had my tea and ate my lunch while enjoying the view and wondering how to get to my other planned lunch stop.  Light snow began to fall but it was not enough to stick. 

Lots of wood had been pushed down the hill in this spot.  I assume it was hemlock as Simpson was told to cut everything, but Simpson did not want hemclock so  in many places they seem to have left it to rot after cutting it.

While taking in the view, I spotted the road behind me, I had just missed a sharp switchback.  Unfortunately (I thought at the time) the road was covered in snow and it was already 1:30 PM. 

Still I decided I had to get to lunch spot number two, since I had gone so far.  So I put my shortie gaiters on over my running shoes and  upward I trudged in the snow.  I soon reached a saddle with a great view to the east and a view of Lake Cushman to the north.  The saddle was lined with old campfire pits.  I could imagine many families camped up here on a summer nights in days past.  I suspected there were old timers with fond memories of camping on this ridge when they were kids.

From the saddle, as I headed up,  I could see Seattle and the Cascades and the hood canal on one side and I could look down and see the causeway bridge over Lake Cushman, Mount Rose, Mount Ellinor, Mount Pershing, Mount Washington and more were on the other side.  What an nice view!  Too bad I had saved weight by only packing my point and shoot camera.

near the saddle looking back the way I came

Snow near the saddle

I want to go back and camp up there, and this is the perfect time of year to do it since it's a dry ridge but right now it is covered with snow, so one could melt snow rather than lug up a ton of heavy water.

Anyway I kept going up past the saddle to where the road ended at 3,350 feet.  Climbing in the snow made me tired, but I was determined to see the end of the road. When I reached the end of the road (it looked just like the end of the road on Prospect Ridge) I saw that just a short bushwhack would put me into old grown and onto the top of the ridge.  For some reason my heart started pounding and my adrenaline surged as I bushwhacked.  I was off the trail and time was running short and I was going past where I meant to turn around and what if I fell off the ridge?

 There was never any real danger, I was just panicking for no reason.  I tagged the ridge at 3:30, there was really no view there so I did not sit down at all, I just tagged the top and then headed back down to the road.

I figured I would make it back out to my Jeep by 7:30.  But, coming down in the snow I made really good time!  Maybe my GPS was getting goofy too but in no time at all I was only 4 miles from my Jeep and I had dropped 1,500 feet.  I figured I would make it back down to my Jeep by 5:30 and I relaxed a bit.

It's a long ways back down
But once I hit the lower elevation areas I slowed down a lot.  The decommissioning up high did not churn the road up as bad, but down low the road was really, really torn up. 

So I could make good time up on the ridge but had to slow to a crawl once I was back down to the creek.   I had to go slow in order to avoid injuring my ankles and I was getting very tired.

 I kept watching the clock, there was a chance that I would not make it out before sunset!   Sunset was at 8:30. 

Still, I stopped for a second tea break.  My new hiking strategy is to take two tea breaks, one at lunch time and another about half way back.  By slowing down I get some rest and that improves my morale and lessens the chance of me injuring my self due to fatigue.  I took my second tea about 2.5 miles from my Jeep.  Time was not on my side, but I did have my headlamp and could have hiked out in the dark if I had to.

I had three big obstacles between me and my Jeep, a landslide, an area with blow downs and a ravine all had to be crossed.

Landslide, decommissioning did not prevent this landslide, it might have even prompted it.
It's steeper than in looks.
Finally I reached what looked like the final berm, my Jeep would be on the other side of it.  I glanced and my GPS and it told a different story.  Well maybe my GPS way point was in the wrong place.  Maybe my Jeep would come in  sight as I crested the berm.  When I topped the berm my hopes of seeing my Jeep were crushed.  What game in sight was the HUGE gaping ravine that the forest service left when they took out the bridge.

 I was so tired, that ravine looked like Mount Rainer.  You can do this, I told myself as I trudged into the ravine and back up the other side.  It wasn't has hard as it looked.  At last, on the other side of the ravine I saw the final berm.  I made it back to my Jeep at 7:50.

The bottoms of my feet were sore from all the rocks, still I'm glad that I wore running shoes instead of boots.  My feet would have been so much more tired if I had worn boots here.

Ravine left where bridge was removed
lots of ups and downs

The other side of the ravine

The blow down

Patches was very hungry but she would not eat her waiting dog food that she had refused to eat at the start of the hike.  Patches would rather eat poop than dog food it seems.

I saw and heard a lot of grouse today, it must be the season.  There was a fair amount of litter on this route, mostly energy drink cans and water bottles.  Brush pickers are using this road and beating down a path.

12 miles with 2,500 feet elevation gain ten hours on the trail.

It felt like 15 miles.

Wasted wood, perhaps left over from road building or just tossed out due to it being hemlock.  A lot of wood was wasted when the Olympics were razed.  At least it was left to rot and return to the forest rather than being burned.


  When the forest service decommissions a road it churns everything up.  First they reopen the road, uproot a bunch of trees  make a new gravel pit (?) and dig up all the stream beds before they could begin work to "close" the road.   Sometimes they even punch in a new road as part of closing an old road! The last step is to spread a nice even layer of noxious invasive weed seeds (hay) over the entire surface.  This done to protect the native forest. 

 Later the forest service goes in and labels all the weeds and then sprays herbicides on them.  This is done to protect the native vegetation.  Do you see a problem with this?



Stinky Bob



Not a weed?

On a brighter note here are some bryophytes I found on the Brown Creek Road

Aneura pinguis

Tetraplodon mnoides
ephemeral dung loving moss

Blasia pulsilla Liverwort

Philontis moss

Aneura pinguis?

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