From Fourth of July to Icicle Ridge

by Kyle Port, Manager of Plant Records and Terry Huang, Living Collections Fellow
September 7, 2018

Stuart Range

From Fourth of July to Icicle Ridge

The Campaign for the Living Collections is an ambitious, 10-year initiative of plant exploration, propagation, and collections development—a major effort to increase and diversify the living collection of the Arnold Arboretum. For the duration of the Campaign, the Arboretum is mounting four to five collecting expeditions each fall, both in temperate habitats in North America as well as those in other parts of the world. ARBlog features firsthand stories from the field by our intrepid staff explorers.

Pre-Summit: September 5, 2018
We write to you at sunset from the small town of Leavenworth, Washington (no relation to the infamous prison) where the architecture and layout is modeled after the Bavarian style. Our journey here began in Portland, Oregon and wound its way through the scenic Columbia River Gorge; the patchwork ponderosa forest and sagebrush clothed hillsides of the Yakima Indian Reservation; vast apple orchards, vineyards, and hop fields; finally arriving at the Stuart Range within the Wenatchee National Forest of central Washington.

Many of you may have heard of the forest rebuilding wildfires across the west, and tonight, from our lodging the mountains are veiled in smoke from distant fires. Tomorrow our ascent to Icicle Ridge will begin on the Fourth of July Trail, which switchbacks through swaths of forest burned in 2017. Our aim is to reach Pinus albicaulis (whitebark pine) and Larix lyallii (alpine larch), which have been untouched by fire. These very populations are found at elevations above 6000ft and our National Forest collaborators have assured us that we will find them there. We are writing off now, as we are carb-loading and resting in preparation for our vigorous hike, which will begin before dawn.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge at a trickle due to severe summer drought.

Yakima Indian Reservation

Yakima Indian Reservation, Washington.

Eastern slopes of the Stuart Range

The eastern slopes of the Stuart Range from the edge of Leavenworth, Washington.

Post-Summit: September 6, 2018
Our day began before sunrise at 6am to take advantage of the cooler temperatures, as it was projected to be the hottest day of week. We drove to the the Fourth of July Trailhead arriving at 6:30am. In the dim morning light we gathered all of our equipment and began our nearly 5 mile trek up to Icicle Ridge. Zigzagging several miles up this steep ridge, it took us 3 hours to reach the summit of 6100ft. Crossing small streams, sea of Ceanothus (California lilac or soap bush), and silvery stands of previously burnt trees, we enjoyed the beautiful alpenglow as we collected our first three collections of the day: Picea engelmannii (Engelmann spruce), Pinus albicaulis, and Abies lasiocarpa (Rocky Mountain fir). On the top of the ridge, we continued walking east for another mile and a half along Icicle Ridge in search of Larix lyallii. After more than an hour of searching we were able to find a handful of isolated individuals, but sadly none were supporting ripening cones. Despite this, we happily collected a herbarium specimen to document their existence and wished them well. We headed back down on the winding, steep path of the Fourth of July Trail as the sun slowly lowered in the horizon. At 6m, we finally returned to the moist valley below with the sun just beginning to set. From mountain shadow to mountain shadow, we wish you could have joined us for this memorable hike. Our trip ends tomorrow and we look forward to sharing more stories with you in the days ahead.

Stuart Range

Morning light on the Stuart Range, ‘The Enchantments’.

Larix lyallii

A young subalpine larch growing in a protected site amongst large stones, Abies lasiocarpa and Pinus albicaulis.

Pinus albicaulis

Collectors, Kyle Port and Terry Huang, stand in front of the remains of a large, old Pinus albicaulis.

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