Four mountains survey the lands of Southern Washington, like sleeping giants. Wy'est (Hood) to the south, Loowit (St Helens) and Klickitat (Adams) making up the east west axis, and mighty Tahoma (Rainier) to the north like an anchor. Between these temples form a Diamond which the trail crosses, holding a deep forest and berry fields atop old Lava flows. Here a person is greeted with every shade of green imaginable. Stands of Old Growth Douglas Firs with their armor plated trunks reaching far into the sky. Here huckleberries cover ever bit of open ground, rolling through the undergrowth beneith lumbering giants. While the rain showers down with an echoing hush, captured by the oval leaves so small. A jewel unmistakably Washington, embodies these Diamond Forest beneith the mountains shadows.
There are many things that make the land north of the Columbia special, but it is the forests that captures the hikers attention when you first come here. Grand conifers vault sky-ward, almost reaching to connect heaven and earth with their green baughs. Cedars curve around rock and slope, tying themselves around old nurse logs with roots like delicate fingers weaving the earth. Hemlocks, row after row seem to stand at attention upon the hillslopes, dawning their white and grey coats against the constrasting green forest floor. And mighty Douglas, Psuedotsuga menzezii, with its towering height and thick bark, to anounce to all, its might and stature here in the evergreen forests.
The forest is alive with much more here. Shafts of light from the sky between rains lead the eyes lower to the Sea of Green that make up the land below these giants. Ferns with their outreaching fronds, give a sense of the ancient, here long before much else. These are the relatives of those upstarts that brought forests to life back in the Carboniferous Period, 300 million years ago. Then a mirid of flowering plants give highlights to this forest. Vannila leaf, with three leaves
appearing like the first few moments of a bird taking flight. Salal, bringing a shine to the remains of old stumps and logs. Each blue vase-like berry in a row almost to hearld the ringing of the bells on the final day. And last the variety of blue and huckleberries, who's array of small leaves and berries seem to reach up to the bear-like hiker who ambles along.
These forest inhabit animals that seem to walk like a spirits whisper behind the dense trunks and vinemaple. A mystery to those who first arrive from the southern forests, till their unearthly buggle echoes through these halls. With the tramp of brush and a sudden crack of branches, they are gone. Only a strike of brown a white in the far distances remains. There is the clatter of the Douglas squirel, offended at your presence. Making a ruckus of his territory while bumbarding a hiker with the remains of cones he had aleady pillaged for treasure. A few fox and coyot leave only tracks as marks of passage. And the sonnerous Kha of the black Raven, eyes of this woodland domain resounds from above. To the first people he was the mischievous spirit who brought salmon and fire to them. Wise, powerful, and dangerous.
These woods are alive, unlike any other we have crossed. They seem to demand your attention with their presents, even the rain mists brings your senses closer to you. And yet like many others, you understand how threatened these are. For outside the reach of the trail's protection, the land is shaved, and denuded of its aweinspiring power. These forests are special places indeed. One that has haunted my memories and desire since leaving Campo four months ago. They are home to part of ourselves, to a place that the great bear still roam. But with unwatched eyes, they are lost, and forgotten. Yet to the hiker who walks through them, they weave a spell of sense and image that can never be forgotten. For a man returning home, they remind one of no greater lesson. The land is alive, part of you, and above all should be respected...
From the backcountry mile