Out of Place

You can still see a thick cable laying along an old logging road left over from a harvest conducted in the late 1980s. The cable will be here until rust cuts its way to the core, but I am amazed at how much the road bed has narrowed from encroaching foliage. 

This trail to Echo Basin passes through second growth of past logging operations into older stands of Douglas and silver fir. It crosses Echo Creek where the path narrows and the energy changes dramatically. I sense it in the air long before I see mature Alaska yellow cedars rising from their massive roots. Their reddish-brown shaggy bark contrasts with other trees more commonly found here—and their size reminds me of the redwoods growing far to the south.

Alaska yellow cedar is a rarity in the Cascade mountains. This is probably the oldest stand in Oregon, a testament to whatever agency decided to spare them from the chainsaw. As out of place as they appear to be, they speak the language of all old-growth forests. It is a palpable vibration only echoed in areas where nature is left to grow and change without human intervention.

The trail continues through alternating meadows and forest. It winds its way through incredibly dense populations of spiky devils club, salmon and thimble berry, and cow parsnip, along with tall bluebells, western columbine, and valerian. There are places where I cannot see my feet and I stumble a bit over hidden roots, rocks, and holes. I am happy to have trekking poles to correct my balance.

Eventually, I come to a head wall from which pour many springs that feed an abundance of wildflowers. I will not list them all. Tarn and I count at least 50 species in bloom. When the trail was created, they placed boardwalks through these moist meadows to protect sensitive plants. But the wooden treads are decaying as wildflowers, grasses, and sedges swallow them. 

It is somehow fitting that rare cedars act as sentinels guarding the entrance into this area. Their out of place presence commands attention and announces something out of the ordinary is about to happen. They tower over us bipeds trudging and tripping through the understory to view an uncommonly beautiful and profuse bloom. I imagine they snicker a little. It isn’t the cedars that are out of place …

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