Between holiday madness and family health issues, my planned winter foraging did not pan out. Yesterday's day hike to Tolt McDonald Park (Carnation, WA) was my first time in the woods since I was at Lake Quinault last summer. Here's to hoping I can get back sooner...
I used to wander and explore this place on a weekly basis but about 9 years ago, Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) began to aggressively take over sections of the mountain choking out the native plant life. I suspect that an attempt to eradicate it with pesticides was used but failed proving fatal to the Ames Lake frog population. A local paper then featured the park as a hot spot for mountain biking. Over the next few months a horde of too-often careless bikers descended upon the place leaving trash and carving new trails everywhere. As the frogs disappeared, the rest of the wildlife vanished soon thereafter and the forest became a silent overgrown jungle, even largely bereft of common bird life. Very depressing. I stopped visiting.
Since it had been almost a decade, I decided to give the place another shot, besides it's one of the few forests within an hour's drive of my home in Seattle. Only a few yards up the main entrance trail, I found very fresh Black-tail Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) prints. During the hike, bird activity was common at a baseline level and volume, I even saw three yearling Bald Eagles. Further up the mountain I found fresh Bobcat sign (photo below). Part of the mountain had been clear-cut, but the loggers had left a lot of the Oregon Maple (Acer macrophyllum) and Alder (Alnus rubra) alone, and replanted an unusually good variety of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), and Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) at healthy intervals from each other.
I was absolutely delighted to find the knotweed completely gone -without a trace.
This was really, really encouraging. The place had become such a ruin, it was wonderful seeing it coming back to life. I'll definitely be going back.
|Immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) over Tolt River, WA|
|Eastward view of Cascade Mtns from Ames Lake Plateau|