The Lost Forest that I Recently Found
Intern Elizabeth Medford recounts a visit to The Lost Forest is south eastern Oregon
This past weekend consisted of one of the farthest and quickest road trips of my young life. Driving the 250 miles out to Christmas Valley, Oregon and back to Portland again in one weekend might not sound like a good time to everyone but what I witnessed out in Oregon’s south eastern desert made the ride well worth it.
Learn more about forests and fire here
Besides Fort Rock, Crack in the Ground, sand dunes, and a few other geologic features, one of my favorite natural occurrences that I saw was the Lost Forest. This receding 9,000 acre grove of old growth Ponderosa Pines sits in the middle of the desert 35 miles from the nearest forests.
While watching the sun recede behind the cascade mountain range, my group of Catlin Gabel students and leaders discusses what we could see. One student mentioned all of the junipers they saw interspersed between the ponderosas so we spoke for a while about how modern fire suppression practices have encouraged the thirsty shrubs to take over the previously ponderosa dominated landscape. How before we controlled fires, the sage would all but burn away while the ponderosas would thrive in the charred soil. Now one can almost see the junipers soaking up the limited moisture left in what used to be a lake valley.
Another student mentioned the abundance of spiny sagebrush plants prompting a discussion about how grazing cattle decimated the native Oregon grasses that used to cover the desert hills. Our instructor described the beautiful waist high reeds that used to bend in the breeze and tickle the feet of horse-riding explorers before the cattle were introduced. Now only one small plot of native grasses remains for viewing out in the Columbia River Gorge.After the sun had descended and we began to climb back down the rock face, I gazed out over the grove of ancient pines and visualized what their wilderness looked like before human influence or modern fire suppression practices. I saw the waving grasses and the strong ponderosas towering above them and wondered if we can ever get back to that other forest we have lost.