Elk are large animals with good-sized whitish rumps or “wapiti”, which is also the Indian name for elk. Clear-cuts and forest fires provide necessary food for these magnificent creatures. The day after Christmas I drove northwest to the town of Kalama. After obtaining a fresh cup of hot coffee, I headed up the Kalama River for ten-plus miles to the 6300 Road. In less than one mile a locked gate at the entrance to Weyerhaeuser’s forest land west of Mt. St. Helens was reached.
For the next five hours logging roads were my hiking trails as I looked for elk in the upper Gobar Creek drainage. Road 6310 ended at a five to ten-year old clear-cut that was clearly prime elk habitat. There was much fresh sign. And, in one brushy area I smelled the pungent odor of elk, meaning they had been there in the last few minutes. Seeing no elk, I hiked to the end of Road 6324, the site of an old elk camp. Again there was lots of fresh sign, but no elk to be seen. It goes to show that even a long-time elk hunter can be skunked. Due to the heavy annual precipitation in the area, dense rainforest is the rule. Elk could literally be within a few yards and not be visible.
Returning to the trailhead, I came to a bridge over Gobar Creek. Ravens were everywhere, as were eight to ten bald eagles. Looking down at the stream, I noticed many dead and partially eaten salmon. Due to the warning cries of the ravens, the bald eagles wouldn’t come very close for photographs. However, there could not have been a better example of the cycle of life. After depositing their eggs in the stream, the dead and dying salmon were contributing sustenance to ravens, bald eagles and much else.
For a dark, gloomy, misty day, it turned out to be a fine outing – – – 11 miles in length with 2,100 feet of elevation gain.