Field Notes - Lisa Parsons

Field Notes

  • Sun, 07 Jan 2018 21:30:46 -0500

    Hanging Gardens

    Why is it called Hanging Gardens?

    Hanging Gardens is was so aptly named by Wolf Bauer because of the native vegetation perched along the edges of eroding sandstone.  Small Cedars along with other smaller native plants cling to their narrow purchase.



    Hanging Gardens is a hidden gem that is little known by outsiders.  From its unmarked trail head (find the red gate on the north side of Enumclaw/Franklin Road SE) it is a short walk down an old road and then a primitive trail down to the Green River.

    The trail starts as a wide grass footpath through forest and then along a chain link fence on the right.  The fence is to protect city of Black Diamond’s water supply which consists of three under ground springs. On the other side look out for a trail that shoots off to the left.  This undocumented trail meanders along the upper rim of the gorge and eventually connects, via an old grass covered road, that leads to the Icy Creek trail route.

    Continue past the chain link and stay on the trail to the right past a widened clearing.  The trail continues downward and is muddy in some places during the wet months.  Towards the bottom, the trail gets significantly steeper as it descends along the sloping ridge line.  Before it reaches a flat area on the left, the trail is steep and there is exposed clay that can be slippery.  Still all the trail is navigable with care and a good pair of shoes or hiking boots.



    The flat area to the left, near the bottom, offers up views downstream and across the river where a large sandstone cliff curves away from the river.  People have used this as an unofficial campsite in the past but camping is not allowed by Washington State Parks on this site.

    The trail descends to a flat area through a forest of Cedar, Western Hemlock and Douglas Fir.  As you walk towards the river you get a glimpse of cliff beyond the forest.  A white back drop behind the towering trees.  



    The trail opens up to a beach that grows and shrinks depending on the river level.  Across from the beach is a 150 sandstone cliff  at the sharp bend in the jade green river.  The “hanging Gardens” of small Cedars and alder along with other smaller native plants cling to their narrow purchase along the edges of eroding sandstone.



    This spot in the Green River Gorge is great any time of year!  In the fall the orange, yellow, and red colors of autumn contrast with the white cliff wall and the jade green of the river.  In the winter the high water fills the channel and the white water riffles become waves worthy of rafters.  If you are lucky you may even see a white water kayaker or two braving the winter chill to kayak one of Washington State’s top 10 white water runs.  In the spring the new green pops as vine and giant maple along with alder leaves create a new canopy.  Western sword and fiddlehead ferns unfurl and fill in the space between Salal and Oregon Grape.


    Then there is summer.  In the late summer the towering wall and thick native forest create a private, deep pool that is ideal for taking a dip and cooling off.


    In the warm evenings, the air will be filled with sparrows who have emerged from their hiding places nestled in the cliff walls.  They dart like agile aviators as they catch insects for an evening meal.



    Advice

    For information about driving directions, access, and a map visit now posted on the Outdoor Project’s website at: Green River Gorge Swimming Hole

    The best time to swim in the Gorge is in July and August when the river levels is generally low enough to swim safely.  The best days are the really hot ones!  

    For some of the best views of the gorge, head 2.0 miles further northeast on Enumclaw Franklin Road SE all the way to the Bridge Overlook at the Green River Gorge Resort, where under ground springs emerge as waterfalls cascading down into a narrow green alley surrounded by moss covered sandstone.

    For more photos of Hanging Gardens.

  • Sun, 31 Dec 2017 21:30:50 -0500

    Winter in the Green River Gorge

    Snow in the Green River Gorge.


    Snow has a magical way of transforming the stark bareness of a winter landscape.  A white blanket of snow covering the ground hides the decaying leaves and limp brown grass.  The bare branches of trees dramatically contrast against the white.  Red berries hidden in dark shadows of winter bushes pop as the shadows are now brightened by snow.  The forest canopy is renewed below dark snow laden clouds.  Quiet lingers between crunching sweeps of footsteps through the snow.

    The magic is that a visit to an old familiar haunt becomes a new adventure and an exploration of a foreign landscape that just the day before was so well known as to seem common place and routine.

    The Gorge is one of those places that is worth a visit after the passing of the northern winds of winter.  Cold freezing temperatures transform the drip, drip of smaller springs along a cliff wall at Icy creek into layers of icycles and icy lace encrusted moss.  Currents of river and stream flow like dark inky strands between snow covered rocks and the white lined shoreline.


    At the Green River Gorge resort a look over the one lane bridge presents new prominent features outlined in white, edged by snow, and encrusted in ice.  The falls, the giant rock on river left, the dark cliff wall behind the forest.  The dark wet sandstone becomes a white path along the river’s edge.


    Check  out the photos (above) from previous winters in the Gorge.  Get ready for the next snow storm by planning your route for adventure in the Green River Gorge.

    Green River Access



    Also visit Nolte State Park

    Here is to great adventures in 2018!

    Happy New Year!

  • Sun, 10 Dec 2017 21:30:34 -0500

    Icy Creek Spring Hike

    Winter, spring, summer, and fall.  Icy creek is a great hike any time of year.  This year I added trail information on the website to help guide adventurers out to some of the best locations along the Green River Gorge.  Recently, as a volunteer contributor, I added the Icy Creek Spring in the Green River Gorge hike to the Outdoor Project website.  Adding this hike to the Outdoor project allowed me to add existing GPS information with a more formal description of the hike including length, elevation loss and gain, driving instructions, and access information.  Additionally you can view photos and learn more about the highlights of the area before you visit.

    For the Icy Creek Spring in the Green River Gorge hike click this link.

    For more information about the Outdoor Project click this link.

    Stay tuned.  I’m working with contributors to update some of the other hikes in the Green River Gorge and add new hikes in the area.

    More About Icy Creek Spring

    In approximately 2000 I discovered an area along the Green River Gorge called Icy Creek.  It is an underground spring that emerges from the ground where the slope downward before cliffs steep slopes plunge downward into the Green River Gorge.



    The southern rim of the Green River Gorge has unique hydro-geology.  Glacial rocky soil sits a top bedrock of sandstone.  Water quickly filters through the gravelly soil into bedrock spring channels.  These channels, or underground streams, then flow downward towards the twelve mile Green River Gorge.  There are approximately seven large springs that flow into the Green River Gorge along the southern rim.  One is those springs is located at the Green River Gorge Resort. Locals and Cascadia Spring water company fill up at a roadside stop where the spring water flows before crossing under the road and making its way down to a waterfall along the gorge. Further downstream there are three springs that Black Diamond gets their municipal water supply from.  Then there are the private Shangri-la springs next door to the Black Diamond springs.  Then Icy Creek spring.  These springs supply cold clear water to cool the temperature of the river as it flows through the gorge.  There continued existence is critical to preserve colder temperatures in the river.


    Icy Creek spring may emerge in two places up stream of where it comes out of the ground as well.  Upstream to the southwest is a large open water pond that can be seen from the roadway on the north side.  On the other side of the the Enumclaw / Franklin road was a large forested bog that was clearcut in 2015.



    The main spring appears out of the ground in a subtle way.  A sunken side hill lined with trees at the top serves as the opening where the spring flows out of the ground between rocks and through ferns.  The spring then widens and narrows again as it goes through an old culvert on an abandoned road.  Below the road is a widened area before the water reaches a small dam that used to hold water back for trout ponds.  Not too long ago the  Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife even tried to use the ponds to raise Bass at one point.  However the steepness of the spring beat up the Bass as they plummeted down waterfalls and steep rocky channels. They would emerge at the bottom of the gorge missing fins and scales.  Or so the story goes.


    In the wide area wildlife trails spill down the adjacent hillsides where they have made a habit of coming down to drink.  Watercress turns the slower moving water into a bright green garden.  The water then tumbles over the channels of the dam to a rocky free flowing channel below.  



    The dam is now covered with bright green moss, bright orange lichens and licorice ferns.  There is even a cedar or two growing from between the grates along the top.  Past floods have cut channels around it’s concrete base, but it still stands as a reminder of another time.  Beyond that icy creek enters the rocky course and immediately plunges down a series of waterfalls through deep forest.


    Icy Creek spring emerges at the bottom of the gorge through a tumbling field of rocks that curve sharply around a dark wall of coal laced with undulating maidenhair ferns. Dripping devil’s club sprouts at the base of the cliff like guard dogs constantly on alert.  All along a curved dark wall are more springs forming a row of waterfalls that seem to disappear into the undergrowth of salmon berry and salal.



    Colored stones beneath the moving water lie at the base of the cliff as the water turns yet again and spills over a small diversion dam.  Most of the water goes downstream to the river but some is siphoned off to provide water for a salmon pen that lies between the steep slopes of the gorge and the river.


    In the winter and early summer icy cold water fills the narrow channel.  In late summer after the mountains snow has melted the current lessens and green moss grows atop exposed stones.  At this time of year it is easy to boulder hop from one side of the creek to the other.
    In autumn the shallow spring becomes the final resting place for both native and hatchery salmon. They stage in the confluence of spring and river in the deeper water of the river.  They wait for the rains.  When it is time they make their last ditch effort to swim and flail their bodies through the shallow water as far as they can reach.  Then spawn before dying.  


    Salmon spawn where Icy Creek spring enters the Green River Gorge.  Their eggs, exposed, are food for water ouzels who flit from rock to rock collecting the bright pink irridescant eggs.  River otters and bear feast on their flesh.  Animals, carrying their feast, spread their remains across the forest, putting nutrients back into the soil.  Salmon give life to many critters.  The cold cool water of Icy Creek spring gives life to the salmon.



    In the gorge, forest crowds between cliff and water.  Upstream and down the forest is alive with bob cat, raccoons, deer, coyotes, and bear.  In the river, springs, and in the narrow airspace Mergansers, Osprey, Eagles, and King Fishers call the gorge home.  Here there is a different rhythm in daylight and night that exists.  This wild paradise is so close to over 2 million people and yet here, you would never know it.  
    These springs, like Icy Creek, are the arteries that connect the mountains of the Cascade Foothills to the Puget Sound lowlands.  Arteries that bring mountain snow downstream in the form of moving water and brings salmon back home from their travels in the ocean.  The river connects everything together, but only here in the Green River Gorge does the river reveal a wild remnant of it’s former self.  A snap shot of a wild untamed river that can teach us about what we have lost and what is still left to protect!


    Check out the new Icy Creek Spring hike on Outdoor Project.

  • Thu, 23 Nov 2017 22:00:24 -0500

    Thankful for the Small Things

    Over the years I’ve found my solitude and peace in the open spaces and natural areas.  This is especially true in the Green River Gorge.  This landscape has the power to distract my attention from life’s more tumultuous events like then end of a relationship, a heartbreaking call as a paramedic, or the transitions that life has a way of throwing at us when we least expect it.

    Today, with gratitude, I’d like to share some of the small things I’ve discovered in the Green River Gorge that affirm that life continues in the rhythm of seasons, cycles of life, and that everything has it’s place and time.


    Happy Thanksgiving!  Be grateful for what you have right now!

    and while you are at it #optoutside tomorrow!

  • Sun, 19 Nov 2017 21:00:54 -0500

    Welcome to November

    Welcome to winter in the northwest.  As the rain descends out of the dark grey sky and the damp cold sinks into my bones.  I find myself wanting to hibernate.  Cuddle up in a warm blanket by the fire and binge on Netflix.

    However, I know from braving the harsher elements that there is another Green River Gorge waiting in the winter months.  It is a time of wildness, sinking grey skies broken by hours of darkness.  The color of the water becomes a steel blue-green instead of the color of jade.  The lazy lower water of summer months becomes a torrent of crashing waves, crowded currents, and an energy that is rarely seen in the summer.

    After the autumn leaves have fallen and all that is left is the giant cedars, western hemlock, Douglas Firs, and naked trunks of maples, birch, and wild cherry it is easier to see the landscape beneath.  Giant boulders along the river’s edge poke through the bare branches of Red Twig Dogwood and Vine Maple. White, orange, and brown sandstone cliffs that were hidden during the summer reveal themselves to be the outer edge of a wider forested Gorge.  In others they are front and center as the high water laps at the water carved walls.

    In the winter of 2015 and 2016, my explorations revealed new things about the this wild corridor.  These explorations were my reconnaissance for my 2016 summer hike of the entire Green River Gorge and a time when I could be less worried about getting the right shot and instead relax and rediscover the landscape.

    Here are a few images of winter.  If you are adventurous, try some winter hiking at Kanaskat State Park, Flaming Geyser State Park, Icy Creek, or the old historic town of Franklin.

    Access to Green River Gorge

  • Fri, 10 Nov 2017 15:00:26 -0500

    Don't Forget!

    November Event

    Join me for a visual journey down the

    Green River Gorge Mountains to Valley Greenway

    November 12th

     Presentation 4 to 5 pm

    At the new Tukwila Library

    14380 Tukwila International Boulevard
    Tukwila WA 98168

    Its winter and the river has transformed from slow moving summer currents into something different.  Jade green currents fill tight channels.  Bright green moss contrasts against the wet sandstone walls.  The edges are quiet, foreboding, and wild.  The river itself is louder and proclaims it domination of the narrow gorge.  The currents etch new courses, scouring sandstone walls. 

    We’re exploring the edges of the river near the old historic town of Franklin.  I’ve been told by the local old timers that there is an old coal car that rests within the river channel…


    The Green River Gorge is upstream on the Green-Duwamish river. This 12 mile long gorge is the last lowland wilderness left on the river. Steep sandstone cliffs tower 150-300 feet above the river.  Springs emerge from the rim of the gorge and cascade into the water below. Otters, mink, bobcat, eagles, osprey, bear, and cougar find solitude along the secluded corridor.  Its rugged remoteness has allowed this special place to survive as the area around it is developed.

    Experience the Green-Duwamish like never before.  Local conservationist and adventurer, Lisa Parsons, hiked, bushwacked, swam, and kayaked the entire 12 mile long Green River Gorge last summer to document this incredible riverscape. Now she brings her images and stories to communities along the entire Green-Duwamish.

    Learn how you can help protect the Green-Duwamish River in your own community.  Here from local Green River advocate Dennis Robertson.

  • Sun, 05 Nov 2017 21:30:41 -0500

    Need a Little Nature Therapy? Upcoming Events

    November Events

    Join me for a visual journey down the

    Green River Gorge Mountains to Valley Greenway

    November 12th

     Presentation 4 to 5 pm

    At the new Tukwila Library

    14380 Tukwila International Boulevard
    Tukwila WA 98168

    The Green River Gorge is upstream on the Green-Duwamish river. This 12 mile long gorge is the last lowland wilderness left on the river. Steep sandstone cliffs tower 150-300 feet above the river.  Springs emerge from the rim of the gorge and cascade into the water below. Otters, mink, bobcat, eagles, osprey, bear, and cougar find solitude along the secluded corridor.  Its rugged remoteness has allowed this special place to survive as the area around it is developed.

    Experience the Green-Duwamish like never before.  Local conservationist and adventurer, Lisa Parsons, hiked, bushwacked, swam, and kayaked the entire 12 mile long Green River Gorge last summer to document this incredible riverscape. Now she brings her images and stories to communities along the entire Green-Duwamish.

    Learn how you can help protect the Green-Duwamish River in your own community.  Here from local Green River advocate Dennis Robertson.


    Need a Little Nature Therapy

    to Keep Your Spirits Up as we enter the 9 months of winter?

    Cedar Creek Park Trail Work Event

    November 18th from 9 am to 12 noon. 

    Our local King County Park Ambassador, Clare Nance, at Cedar Creek Park is organizing a volunteer trail work event to clean up the trails for winter walks.  The focus of the day will be to meet your fellow park advocates, remove fallen leaves and improve any drainage issues.

    To RSVP to Clare Nance.


  • Sun, 08 Oct 2017 21:00:33 -0400

    Returning the Favor in Black Diamond

    Normally in my blog I highlight the Green River Gorge’s natural environment.  However, I ran across this segment called “Returning the Favor” hosted by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs.  His segment is about remarkable people in communities all across America that go above and beyond to make the world a better place. 


    In Black Diamond that person is Mama Ginger who started the Soup Ladies, a nonprofit that brings food (soup) to first responders working on disasters, fires, and prolonged events.  Mama Ginger was also the owner of Mama Passarelli’s, a restaurant, located in Black Diamond. She recently closed the restaurant in order to pursue her passion of providing comfort and a hot bowl of soup to first responders full time.  As someone, that as a first responder (paramedic), I completely appreciate that invaluable support! A warm, home cooked meal, during a very taxing event, can be just what is needed to help get through those type of emergencies.


    I loved Mama Passarelli’s.  A local place with a touch of class where you went to sit down, take your time, and enjoy a fine meal.  Black Diamond is just north of the Green River Gorge. The current town is surrounded by forest.  Although that is quickly changing.  It is connected to the Green River Gorge via an old defunct railroad line that once brought miners out to the small town of Franklin just east of Black Diamond and hopefully one day will bring cyclists and walkers along the same route on a historic community trail.


    Above.  Photos of Historic Black Diamond

    Last spring, as part of my documentary project on the Green River Gorge, I gave a presentation to at the Black Diamond Historical society’s annual meeting.  It has been the highlight of my outreach.  Here was a gathering of people who had grown up with the Green River Gorge in their backyard and they had some great stories about the river gorge. Their are stories, like Howard Bott’s adventure painted a vivid picture of a different time.  Howard, as a kid,  with a group of his friends were scrambling around in the Gorge in late summer.  They found theirselves out after dark and ended up sleeping outside under an over hanging rock.  Another old timer,Clayton Mead, described fishing with his dad and catching fish “this big” gesturing with a wide open stretch of his arms.  Everyone had a story.  Newcomers learned about the Green River Gorge from my presentation but also from the rich history of locals who were born and raised in the area.




    It is people like Mama Ginger and the old timers at Black Diamond Historical Society that are the glue that hold communities together.  They are the history and the stability that help us hold on to tradition while engaging change and, at times, adversity.  It is the part of rural America that I love and that is often left out of headlines.  People who will always rally around a neighbor in need.  Pitch in to build a new community center or man the local fire department.  People who have big hearts and surprise you with their generosity.
    The stories along with the currents of the river can connect all our communities along the Green-Duwamish River together.  We need more mama Ginger’s that find value in volunteering. That cup of soup provided to first responders at a fire or natural disaster means more than just a warm meal.  It shows us that there people out there who care.  We are all like salmon swimming upstream against the currents of life and sometimes we just need a resting place to rebuild our strength with a hot bowl of soup and a big hug!


    Thank you Mama Ginger for all you do and inspire in all of us!

    Watch Returning the Favor Featuring Mama Ginger and the Soup Ladies.

  • Sat, 23 Sep 2017 17:59:43 -0400

    Nebras in the Green River Gorge. Introducing the Gorge to a...


    Nebras in the Green River Gorge. Introducing the Gorge to a Jordanian.

  • Sat, 23 Sep 2017 17:57:40 -0400

    Enjoying the fall sunshine in the Green River Gorge (at Green...


    Enjoying the fall sunshine in the Green River Gorge (at Green River Gorge Resort)

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