New OR old-growth trail opening

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Fri Dec 18 21:28:09 EST 1998

The following article is from The Oregonian, Dec. 17, 1998 p ME1

Trail opens window to old forest

Workers punch a tunnel under Interstate 84 and restore another segment of the
1920s Columbia River Scenic Highway

By JACKIE SCOTT, of The Oregonian staff

	CASCADE LOCKS - Hikers bicyclists and people in wheelchairs can take
a trek back in time through a new rock-faced tunnel under Interstate 84 west
of Cascade Locks.     The Federal Highway Administration is close to
finishing a 2.5-mile segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway State
Trail for pedestrians and nonmotorized wheel traffic.  The paved path between
Eagle Creek and Cascade Locks winds past old-growth forest in a state park
that has lain dormant for nearly 40 years. Construction of I-84 wiped out
automobile access to the park in 1960.	    Few people know about the 11-acre
Sheridan State Scenic Corridor, said David Sell, a forester and land-use
coordinator for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area who is on loan
to the Federal Highway Administration. “It’s not even on the list of Oregon
state parks,” he said.	    The corridor, lush with sword ferns, lichens,
Douglas fir, hemlock and cedar, was named for Lt. Philip H. Sheridan. The
state acquired the land 41 miles east of Portland from the Oregon-Washington
Railway and Navigation Co. in 1923.	   Convenient access to undisturbed
old forests in Western Oregon is rare, Sell said. “It will be available for
folks who can’t get out to see other old-growth forests,” he said.	  
The corridor features trees ranging from 200 to 300 years old, but Sell said
age and size of trees aren’t the only characteristics of an old-growth
forest.     Old growth sports at least two canopies: one of very tall trees
and a second of shorter, younger trees. The forest floor is covered with
humus and woody debris but not choked by rampant brush.        Because of the
tail’s accessibiliy, educators could teach students about old-growth forests
and include a field trip to the Sheridan State Scenic Corridor, Sell said. 
The park soon will lose its obscurity, thanks to the $1.7 million universal
access trail to be managed by Oregon State Parks. The path is open now,
although the contractor will be finishing up next spring. State and federal
officials plan a grand opening in June. 	To explore the path, park at
the Cascade Fish Hatchery near Eagle Creek and hike east, or park under
Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks and hike west.	   Clifford Chew,
project engineer with the Federal Highway Administration, said tunneling
under I-84 was one of several challenges in renovating the old highway	for
foot traffic. The 150-foot-long tunnel, built in precast concrete and
finished with portals of hand-laid stone, cost about $500,000.	      Chew
said digging a tunnel was the only way to get trail users from one side of
the freeway to the other and still follow the old highway’s alignment.	Road,
tunnel and bridge projects in the Columbia River Gorge shunted I-84 traffic
into two narrow lanes last summer, causing backups and complaints from
motorists. Chew’s tunnel was responsible for only a slight amount of the
disruption, just one month when traffic above had to be shifted to the north
or south.	 Chew said the Eagle Creek-Cascade Locks trail attempts to
honor the spirit of the original highway, which featured frequent resting
spots for tourists to absorb the natural scenery of the gorge. Stone benches
can be found at the north and south portals of the tunnel.     But trail
builders employed heavy equipment in a way that Sam Hill, the early-day
visionary of good roads, could not have imagined. Chew said excavators using
power equipment lifted and stacked boulders to create a series of heavy
retaining walls molded to the landscape.

Spreading out crowd

	Michael Ferris, public information officer for the national scenic
area, said as people become aware of the trail, it might relieve congestion
at other scenic attractions in the gorge. He envisions the Eagle
Creek-Cascade Locks segment as part of a daylong excursion.	“If you’re an
active family, and you’re looking for some things to do with your kids, you
could spend a whole day out there,” Ferris said. He suggested the first stop
could be at Bonneville Dam to see Herman the sturgeon, the 60-year- old,
450-pound fish, in his new quarters.	The advantage of the new connection
between Eagle Creek and Cascade Locks is that people can stop for a meal, a
hot drink or other services at the beginning, end or mid-point of their trek.
Jeanette Kloos, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said
hikers or bicyclists could consider a journey all the way from Tanner creek
to Cascade Locks and back, a round trip of eight or nine miles. 	“I
can see people parking at the Toothrock Trailhead parking lot (accessible
from Bonneville Dam Exit 40), and when they get to Cascade Locks, stopping
for a soda or ice cream,” she said. The state plans to pave the access road
to the Toothrock lot, which will make the lot easier to find.	    Kloos
said the area west of Cascade Locks is full of cultural history, especially
transportation. The Oregon Pony, the first locomotive in Oregon, began
transporting goods and passengers around a series of waterfalls on the
Columbia River in 1862. Sternwheelers met the train on either side of the
falls. The Oregon Pony reposes in a shelter outside the museum at the Cascade
Locks Marine Park.	Chew said renovating a portion of the Columbia River
Highway gave him a chance to examine the work of early road builders. The
highway’s original concrete curbs and gutters are still in place, although
many were buried by landslides for decades.

Sound engineering

	Uncovering the curbs was a bit like participating in an archeological
dig. Chew said the original engineers recognized the importance of installing
curbs, gutters and cross-drains to carry away the profuse run-off in the
Columbia River Gorge.	   Few other highways in the Northwest featured
anything more elaborate than drainage ditches at the time the Columbia River
Highway was built, Chew said. The highway’s original clay culverts are still
in place under the renovated trail.	 Renovation has restored the bridge
railing over Ruckel Creek to its full length of four arches. Once again,
travelers will be able to pause at the sparkling creek. For decades, the only
people who visited the rustic bridge were hikers on the nearby Ruckel Creek
Trail or Gorge Trail 400.	  Kloos said the state soon will begin design
work on the western-most segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway State
Trail, the 1.3 miles from Warrendale to Moffett Creek. “It’s the missing
link,” she said.     The drivable portion of the highway begins at Troutdale
and ends at Warrendale. People eventually will be able to reach the
pedestrian-bike trail by parking at John B. Yeon State Park at Warrendale,
then back-tracking north under the freeway to a new trailhead.	 Kloos said a
bridge for foot traffic must be built over McCord Creek. Construction on the
Warrendale-Moffett Creek trail probably won’t begin until the year 2002. The
state is halfway through design work on the 1.5 miles of trail between
Moffett Creek and Tanner Creek.   “You can hike it now, but it isn’t paved,”
Kloos said. The trail will be paved and upgraded for bicycles in 2000.	    
“As we get more connections, there are more possibilities where you can start
or stop your trip,” she said. The neew Cascade Locks segment should attract
tourists and provide recreation for local residents.

New light on Cascade Locks

	“It’s an anchor in our community, and it’s going to kick off our plan
to make Cascade Locks more bike and pedestrian friendly,” said Tobin White,
general manager of the Port of Cascade Locks. “We also expect to see some
visitors that we would not see otherwise.”  Typically, tourists from Portland
stop at Multnomah Falls and head back to town instead of traveling the
additional 10 miles to Cascade Locks, White said.      Agencies cooperating
on the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail include the U.S. Forest
Service, Federal Highway Administration, Oregon Department of Transportation,
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife, Port of Cascade Locks, City of Cascade Locks, Historic Colubia
River Highway Advisory Committee, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
and Union Pacific Railway.

Comment by poster: Several years ago near this spot, I uncovered what Dr.
James Trappe has identified as a species novum Elaphomyces. The genus
Elaphomyces is abundant throughout the northern hemisphere, and the late
Alexander H. Smith once wrote that E. granulatus was the most common
hypogeous fungi of the northern hemisphere. Regretfully, many of these common
"Deer truffles" as David Aurora calls them in Mushrooms Demystified, are in
fact new species. This particular species novum was distinctive in having
spores of two different primary colors, as viewed under a 100x hand-held

Posted as a courtesy by:
Daniel B. Wheeler

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