New Mt. Hagen Road, Ecological Succession of Douglas Fir

July 10, 1976

Lois Schreiner kindly offered to meet the group and bring them up to Burwell’s place on the McKenzie so that the leader did not have an extra 50 miles to travel. We drove on to the New Mt. Hagen Road across from the old Orme Mill site, fumbling blind through five padlocks in an 8" square steel box upside down, we miraculously got the right key in the right lock and got in with our three car caravan. The road is rough for the first mile but smooth beyond. We parked at the Mt. Hagen turnout and walked up through the forest. Stopped to look at a survey corner and Joel McClure found a beautifully worked Obsidian spearhead. The half mile climb through the beautiful 12 year old forest was broken with many rest stops and lively discussions on its origin. Obviously by fire, growth, countless trees have died due to heavy shade from the tallest trees and death, snow break and patches of bark beetle kills. At the top we climbed the tower for the view of the McKenzie valley from Chambers Lakes to Mt. Nebo. Back down to the cars by road and ate lunch in a newly completed clear cut with many concerned about the economics of wood utilization and the future of slash disposal and reforestation. On to an area where the old fire had killed about half the 400 year old Douglas firs creating a natural partial cut. Only Western Hemlocks had grown in and these were mostly either very suppressed in growth or dwarf mistletoe infected or both. Many were dead or dying resulting in a negative growth for the forest. Only clearcutting could restore this forest. Back through the second growth forest marked for thinning to improve the growth of the better trees and salvage the wood of those doomed to die. Back down the road, stop briefly one mile above the gate where the old homesteader burned the hill every spring to kill the young trees and brush and increase the grass for his livestock. All original stumps had been burned out. A very dense forest about 40 years old testified that the last spring burn was during the depression 30s. Only a few relics of the brush field remained. Choke Cherry bark would probably remain for another 50 years. Hundreds of dead spindly stems of firs which lost their fight to reach the sunshine still standing because there is no room to fall. Only rarely is there a bit of a green leaf on a forest floor which never sees the sun. If this forest had been thinned precommercially (like a bed of carrots) it might have produced a commercial thinning at age 30. Without, it would still be a marginal operation at age 40. Back to fumbling the locks on the gate and home.

On the trip: Dave Burwell, leader, Kenneth Hixson, Bernice Leibel, Jerry Leibel, Joel McClure, Evelyn McCornack, Herbert McCornack, Ruth Nichols, Art Porter, Isabel Porter, Lois Schreiner.

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