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Roly Poly
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 6:53 am 
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Wolffie and I did a one night backpack to larch lake in the chiwaukums.  The hike in thru the 5 miles of previously burned forest seemed beautiful, the fireweed was head high and resplendent with the colors of autumn.  We got to larch lake just in time to make dinner and crawl into our tents.  I noticed that the wind picked up in the evening and seemed to increase during the night and even more so the next morning.  We were treated to a gorgeous sunrise with some morning clouds adding to the drama.


The sun cleared and we got quite distracted taking photos of the larches around the lake as well as the gorgeous colors in Ewing basin. And taking photos of Al, the corgi.


I got ahead of Wollfie on the way down as just as I was approaching the crossing of chiwaukum creek which is the upper end of the burned forest (6 miles from the TH) I heard some loud noises that I could not comprehend.  A little disconcerted I proceeded to cross the creek and heard the noise two more times.  Wollfie caught up with me and as we enjoyed a late lunch at the creek I saw an enormous tree come crashing down.  And the lightbulb finally turned on!  We were in a burned forest and the winds were picking up again.   eek.gif

I am writing this trip report as Wollfie would be way too stoic about his feelings.  I, however, was really frightened.  We heard the loud cracking sound of trees coming down.  They sounded like gun shots or rock fall.  At one point we heard rockfall too as presumably a tree came down and discharged some huge rocks with it.  Trees were falling around us.  In front of me, in front of Wollfie.  I turned around and saw a huge tree come down in front of him and on its way down it took out another adjacent tree. He just shouted to me " keep going". We had 5 miles of this stuff to get through as well as being slowed down by the 20 or more trees that had fallen over the trail during the night.  Wollfie had to carry Al over the deadfall as it was too thick and tangled for him to navigate.

I would never have thought to check the weather report for winds.  All I read was that it was supposed to be sunny and I didn't know the full extent of the burned area.  But the bottom line is that I didn't realize how dangerous burned forest can be in a wind.  The wind we experienced yesterday as the trees  were crashing down wasn't even that windy.  I can't imagine the gusts were more than 20 mph.   The two hours we spent in that five miles of burned forest felt like Russian roulette and there was nothing we could do but move as fast as we could.

The experience struck me as one where it would be random luck or bad luck if we made it out.  The trees that came down were close, I'm talking less than a hundred feet in front of us, falling across the trail.  Very sobering.

Post Script:

Al knows every single word in the dictionary that relates to food.  He is one third the size of my dogs yet consumed a hefty portion of their food.  I thought I had brought too much dog food but Al fixed that problem for me. smile.gif

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wildernessed
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 7:06 am 
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up.gif Nice ! A wind warning was in effect for several days now with mountain gusts over 50 mph at times. When we did our trip up the Chiwawa last week a 2' diameter tree just broke off and fell across the entire road since we entered in the a.m. we were able to roll it off with three of us. We usually carry a saw and rope and have had to cut our way out of areas in the past.

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zephyr
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 7:13 am 
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Roly Poly wrote:
I would never have thought to check the weather report for winds.  All I read was that it was supposed to be sunny and I didn't know the full extent of the burned area.

I was out and about in the Chiwawa River drainage on Thursday which is 20+ miles further north.  I saw the NWS weather for that day, Friday and beyond.  I do remember seeing they had the wind sock symbol posted for Friday.  And then yesterday afternoon in West Seattle we had strong wind gusts in the late afternoon--enough to raise dust and shake all the trees.  I remember thinking it wouldn't be a good day to be in the forest and wondered if we would lose power here.  I imagine it was quite stronger in the mountains.  Your adventure sounds very frightening. hairy.gif      Glad you all made it out.  ~z
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Hiker Mama
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 7:17 am 
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Beautiful photos! I'm so glad you guys made it out OK. That sounds terrifying. I've been in the woods when a tree fell over near me, it was a completely still, foggy day, and it was so creepy.

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Nancyann
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 8:05 am 
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So glad you guys made it out safely. We thought you went up yesterday and were actually a little worried, because we visited one of the lady lakes and it was very windy and getting ready to snow when we left.
We had the same experience at Big Hidden Lake last June. The wind picked up and large burned trees were crashing down nearby, very spooky.
Great photos, did you use your camera or your cell phone?
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Roly Poly
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 8:28 am 
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Nancy Ann, it truly was terrifying as the burned forest was a long  5 miles.  It felt and was random.  We were either going to be lucky or unlucky.  No skill or special knowledge was going to help us out.  It reminded me of the day of the Oso mudslide where Josh Lewis and I drove thru Oso on that highway only one hour before the hill gave way.
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Nancyann
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 8:42 am 
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It seems like you have luck on your side when it really counts!
By the way, I went up to Larch Lake one fall many years ago, and it took two days to get there. You and Wolffie must have been hiking at a pretty brisk pace to do it in one day. smile.gif
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Joey
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 9:18 am 
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A sobering reminder that we should not complain when areas are sometimes closed after fires.
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MyFootHurts
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 9:54 am 
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There were even trees down blocking I-5 at Federal Way last night.
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Bootpathguy
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 10:01 am 
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Now, that's what I call an adventure!

Great images.

Thanks for sharing

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wolffie
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 10:33 am 
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When was that fire?  It's thick with stuff just ripe for falling.  It wasn't exactly terrifying, but we covered the last 5 miles in under 2 hours.
What impressed me was how little wind it took to knock that stuff down -- the dead treetops were swaying, but at ground level it was no more than moderate breeze, not cold at all (I was nearly shirtless).  It seemed calm when I heard a creak, and an 8"+ diameter snag 20 ft. from me leisurely fell over, taking another tree with it -- fortunately downwind and falling directly away from me.  I counted 30+ new blowdowns on the trail (2" to 2' dia.).  I'd taken out almost a dozen with my 16" Silky Sugowaza on the way in; on the way out, there were 2-3 dozen more, one almost 2'.
Also impressive was how live foliage breaks the wind.  There's an island of unburnt forest wherein it was totally calm; once past it, the wind picked up again.

The burn is the first 5 miles up to the N Fork Chiwaukum Creek jct.  (Trail 1591).  The N Fork was not burned.  There are about 30 old blowdown between there and Larch Lake, mostly before Chiwaukum Lake, a few over 2'.   The Chiwaukum crossing at 3800' is a bit of an issue -- the old bridge is long gone -- they very recently put in a nice sawn double-log crossing, should last a good while.  A slightly awkward detour is all. 
Above that, the trail deteriorates a bit for 1/4 -- 1/2 mile.  The switchbacks below 5000' desperately need heavy brushwork -- head-high willow and very thick woody brush is forcing the tread downslope in many places, and there's considerable rockfall on the trail, some of it very large.  Although it might need retreading in a few spots, the good news is that the tread is mostly sound, and a motivated brushing crew could rescue this very nice trail.  Meanwhile, don't let it deter you, it's not that long a stretch.

We almost got to Cup Lake.
Is there a route over Deadhorse Pass?  It looks much more "dead horse" than "pass".

Somebody has been working to keep 1571 and 1579 open -- we saw many fresh logouts --  but in the burn, it'll be falling down as fast as we can clear it out for years to come.  Thanks again to the trail crews and firefighters.

Al objects that although there is this maneuver affectionately known as the "Corgi Toss", he generally negotiates tough terrain on his own.  He was even able to inform me that I'd taken a wrong turn down the old trail, missing the new crossing logs.  But I didn't listen.
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Roly Poly
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 10:55 am 
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Lol, I KNEW Wolffie would downplay this.😊

Well if the sight of 20' trees crashing in front of you only 100 feet away isn't "terrifying ", I'm not sure what is?    eek.gif
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AlpineRose
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PostSat Oct 07, 2017 2:21 pm 
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I just finished Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation" for my book club.  The book describes how some animals and people are low-fear, some are high-fear.  Has to do with the way their brains are wired.  Evidently wolffie is the former.  Perhaps Rolypoly is the latter.  Both have evolutionary advantages.

There's being lucky, very lucky and d**n lucky.  Your luck was the third type.

Wind was strong enough to knock out power for several hours in Bellevue yesterday evening.
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Snowdog
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PostTue Oct 10, 2017 12:43 pm 
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You guys are not just lucky- but charmed!   I always think to myself "what are the odds of a tree falling & hitting me"?   Or "it's a great big forest, no way a tree will hit little ole' me."
Then I go up a trail after a storm or wind event & see just how many trees DO actually fall across the trail!

I would have been terrified!  agree.gif

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Brushbuffalo
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PostTue Oct 10, 2017 1:13 pm 
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Snowdog wrote:
what are the odds of a tree falling & hitting me"

You mean like this?

P.S. In 1948 my father was killed by a falling tree. It happens.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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