July 21, 2012

Hike to Crane Prairie offers tall timber and small meadows filled with flowers

Boulder Creek
So many of Oregon's trails wind through forests made up of old growth, second growth, Douglas fir, hemlock, pine, cedar and spruce trees. I hiked one of those trails this morning for the first time, paralleling Boulder Creek and ending at Crane Prairie just outside Badger Creek Wilderness.

 The trailhead is located 6 1/2 miles up road 4880 after turning off highway 48. The parking area for the hike is shared by those choosing the trail to Boulder Lake, which seemed much more popular, at least on this day.

The trail descends from the road 1/2 mile to Boulder Creek, where a foot bridge carries hikers across the creek. A few steps after crossing the creek is where the junction with Crane Creek Trail is located. On this day, I chose to take a left and hike the gradual uphill hike to Crane Prairie.
Footbridge over Boulder Creek

The trail is full of views of giant old growth Douglas firs. Many have lived out their lives and have fallen or seem to be ready to crash to earth in the next big storm. Occasionally, large chunks of bark are piled along the trail, having peeled away from dead old growth trees.
What was once an old growth tree fallen along the trail
The trail is mostly a leisurely uphill grade, one in which you can barely perceive an uphill grade at all. After a mile or so the surroundings become wetter. Several tiny creeks, some no larger than a foot wide are crossed. Look for frogs darting for cover when you approach these creeks. They are numerous. The trail also meanders through several tiny meadows, filled with wildflowers.

You can tell you've reached Crane Prairie by the size of trees. Trees suddenly are shorter, with some appearing as though they are stunted from mountain winters. Less tree canopy and increased ground water, to the point where several areas are marshy, allows for greater plant growth on the forest floor.

Bog near the trail
One of the numerous frog along the trail
The trail begins to fade after awhile, and after taking some short detours, I discovered the trail had vanished in the undergrowth.
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