October 3, 2012

A high Cascades forum – the great stink box debates

outhouse (Photo credit: twofordssearchin)
The plan was to begin our Labor Day weekend at Jack Lake, located on the southeast edge of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. The Bakers used such glowing adjectives to describe this tiny lake and the hike into nearby Canyon Creek Meadows, my bride and I wanted to experience the area for ourselves.

But when we arrived at the lake, we were somewhat disappointed with what we discovered. A few extremely mild winters had transformed the small lake into no more than a mud puddle surrounded by a mucky shoreline. The setting was nice, but we had simply entered the area in a bad year. We should have hiked further into Canyon Creek Meadows, but decided to move on.

Seeing Red
Canyon Creek Meadows

English: The Metolius River near Wizard Falls ...
The Metolius River near Wizard Falls on June 18, 2007, taken by WorkinStiff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Plan B was to drive back toward the Metolius River and look for another spot to set up camp, but first, I desperately needed to rid my body of the Thermos full of coffee I had consumed on the trip to the area that morning.

Now, old wooden outhouses in the great outdoors are like any other public outhouse - they stink to varying degrees - and often are adorned with modern day petroglyphs, scribbled by bored souls who forgot to carry any reading material with them. This stink box was no different, and as I began reading the etches and scribbles on its walls, I discovered words more profound than profane. In this box, people had commented on some of the leading back country topics of the day. It was blogging 1990s style.

One debate raging on was whether horses should be allowed on wilderness trails. One proponent wrote that horses do belong in the wilderness, because for centuries they were used for wilderness travel. So why not now? Another reason given for horses to set hooves on trails was so folks who might not otherwise have the ability to experience wilderness would be able to do so on horseback.

An opponent of horseback riding on trails noted the destruction of trails by the heavy animals and that stepping on their butt biscuits (horse droppings) had grown tiresome.

English: Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidenta...
 Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina).(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Another timely debate within the outhouse raged over the spotted owl and its decreasing habitat, which at this point in time, back in the early 90s, was a very touchy subject. Both sides participating in this debate had compelling, educated arguments and both had what I considered rather abrupt, ignorant babble. Suddenly, the oppressive stench from the stink box seemed to drift away as I pondered over where I stood in this melee of opinions and ideas. I had actually done my business but found myself continuing to read on.

At the time, I was working in the timber industry. Not only that, the products I was directly involved with and relied on for my livelihood were dependent on the harvest of old growth forests. But in my journeys into the Cascades I had also viewed expansive, barren ridge tops, seemingly harvested with little regard for sustainability. I had seen clear-cuts high on steep mountainsides extending all the way down to riverbanks.

I believed in multi-purpose forest management. I, however, wasn't as sure the logging aspect of that management was treating the resource responsibly. What I had seen was telling me that forests were not always being managed correctly. Since then, with more focus on the ecological aspects of harvesting trees from forests, logging has come a long way. We need to remove logs from our forests in a sustainable fashion to provide jobs, fire suppression, carbon reduction, home construction and wood for a myriad of industrial uses.

Logs (Photo credit: crows_wood)

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