[Tweeters] A Fine Forest

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Mon Sep 22 12:48:09 PDT 2014

About 40 years ago I was on top of Mt. Erie, that grand viewing point on Fidalgo Island, looking all around. Fidalgo is like a loose cork in the northern-most entrance to Puget Sound - a bit of the Salish Sea sneaks around it through Deception Pass and the Swinomish Slough, into, and out of, the Sound.
Yes, it was quite a view - and still is - of Puget Sound country; a great perspective of the lowlands between the Olympics and Cascades. But what really got to me at the time, was realizing that across this vast lowland area, nearly every bit of old-growth forest had been cut. Yup, in just over 100 years the new kids on the block cut down all that. Kind of amazing, what people are capable of.
They did miss a few spots though, and whether by design or happy accident, we still have a few remnants of the old lowland forest to experience in the present. Seattle has two bits of old forest in Seward and Schmitz Parks. Somebody valued those tall ol' trees.
And then we have Everett (where I've had a couch parked for 27 years now). In Everett the aesthetic standard of trees was measured not by height, but length - as in board feet. My theory is that Seattle had a few civilized folks that actually lived where they worked, while Everett was largely started as a business trip run by big absentee lords of industry. At any rate, in Everett they cut every darn old tree down, and were proud of it. I've seen exactly one Doug-fir that might have been original growth - but probably it's a big second growth.
Oh well. There are a few other lowland old forest remnants around; near Mountain Lake in Moran State Park on Orcas Island; a bit at Hoypus Point in Deception Pass State Park; and another bit at South Whidbey State Park - all with some nice big trees. Those are a few places I know of. Wonderful samples of original vegetation.
As a native habitat freak, I was interested to read an article in the Port Townsend Leader back in April, about Fort Townsend State Park, just south of town. I'd driven by the turnoff to the place more than a hundred times and never checked it out till this spring. The article notes that the park has been designated a "Natural Forest Area" by the Washington State Natural Heritage Program (which has preserved many fine habitats in the state). Supposed to be one of the finest examples of a" mature forest of Douglas fir, Western Red cedar, and Western Hemlock, with an under-story of Pacific Rhododendron" in the Puget Sound region.
So I've checked it out several times since. At first, on quickie walks around the edges, I was wondering what the big deal was. "Geez, Gibson, what an old-growth snob you've turned out to be!", I chided myself one day (I have spent a lot of time in various old growth forests in the hills), "you oughta check this place out some more!" And so I did. And soon I was farther into the forest, smiling.
Old - growth? Well this forest got going a bit over 150 years ago, based on many of the older Doug firs around (I found some down logs to count rings on). A few older firs and a few largish cedars around, and lots of upcoming Hemlock and Cedar. In some areas of the forest there is a truly wonderful undergrowth of Pacific Rhododendron and lush Evergreen Huckleberry etc. - quite unlike the east side of the Sound. To see the tall Rhody's in bloom is quite the experience.This is a fine forest with a lot of plant diversity. ( the Peninsula Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society has a good plant list for the place online). Lots of nice snags too - always good to see.
I have heard, and seen many Douglas Squirrels there, which always make me feel better - also saw several shrews one day. Most of the walks I've taken have been in the recent summer bird doldrums, but have seen such forest dwellers as Ravens, Pileated and Hairy Woodpeckers, Brown Creepers, RB Nuthatches, Red Crossbills, Pacific Wren and Juncos.
In the darkest, densest parts of the forest, especially on calm days, I have a sense of lurking fungi down in the duff - places that look like a mushroom about to happen. Just add water. Could happen any week now.
Anyway, the place is crisscrossed by trails, each allowing unique perspectives of this fine forest. You might wanna check it out.
Jeff Gibsonforest freak, inPort Townsend Wa

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