Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"This is stunning. I am stunned."

Sally and I hiked the Lookout Mountain trail at Cascade River State Park today. That's me with the poodle up the trail in the first picture. I had called ahead to ensure that the trail had been cleared after the big windstorm of September, but I had no idea how bad it had been.

Sally: "This is stunning. I am stunned."

The Lookout Mountain trail winds up through what had been old birch and spruce forest to the crest of the cuesta, the tip of the sawtooth formation that makes up one tooth of the Sawtooth Mountains. Note the past tense. Had been birch and spruce.

The birch? Mostly dead or dying along with most of the birch on the North Shore. The super-strong northwest winds of September 28th took care of the top halves of the dead ones, shattering birch branches across the now-airy forest floor.

The spruce? Flattened on September 28th, nearly all the old ones, one atop the other.

Signs were all askew, and you had to guess which way they originally pointed.

My favorite image: an old wooden bench, full of moss. It had obviously been in a dark damp forest for 20 or 30 years, getting rotten in the shade. Now it's in full sun and had just missed getting smooshed by a tall spruce into rotten splinters.

Thank goodness for trail crews, for strong people with chainsaws. The 2.8 mile loop had nary a stick across the treadway today, but you can see what a disaster zone it had been.

I have to admit, with the gray skies today and all these trees downed so violently, I felt like I was walking through a Matthew Brady Civil War photograph:

It's been a busy year for trail crews on the North Shore. First the ice storm in the spring broke and bent half the forest onto the trails. Then the winds this fall took down tens of thousands of big trees from Little Marais to Grand Portage.

A decade of death for the birch, followed by a day of disaster for the spruce. All leading to open skies on an autumn day...where a deep forest had recently been. Stunning.


Unknown said...

I know this trail and I agree, I am stunned. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Wow is that sad, I like to hike
the Cascade River area. Never
made it this year however.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Andrew- I used a couple of quotes from you and one photo with a link back to your blog today at

Thanks. The trail sure has gotten hammered by ice and wind the past few years.