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Perry Creek Research Natural Area, Darrington Ranger District — October 2002

By Fred Weinmann

Big trees and ferns from the front of 'the book' are the highlights of this gorgeous walk. Combine this with October's reds, golds, and yellows provided by three species of native maples and it adds up to a superb walk in the woods. Pick a nice day in October and walk the first 2 miles of the trail to the waterfall, or start early and go another 2 miles to the meadow. Descriptions here are for the first 2 miles of trail. The botany begins right in the parking area, where Douglas maple (Acer glabrum) and vine maple (Acer circinatum) grow side by side. Within a half mile up the trail you won?t be able to miss the Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Western redcedar (Thuja plicata) with diameters approaching 8 feet. Note the Western redcedar growing side by side with Alaska cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis), providing an opportunity to compare the morphology and gestalt of these two species.

Careful observation without leaving the trail will yield ten or more species of ferns along the first mile and up to fourteen in the first 2 miles. Some species not frequently encountered include the male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), leathery grape fern (Botrychium multifidum), and maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes). All of these occur along a gently uphill trail and in view of brilliantly fall-colored slopes across the valley of Perry Creek. October is a perfect time for a hike among the conifers when ripe cones have developed and to identify ferns with mature sporangia.

The Perry Creek Research Natural Area was established in the Darrington Ranger District in August 1997 by the United States Forest Service following many years of advocacy by Art Kruckeberg, Laura Potash, and other WNPS members. In total, over 250 vascular plant species have been identified within the RNA, a total which demands that the hike be repeated during the peak flowering season of next year. Take a moment to reflect and appreciate the effort to have this botanically diverse area designated as a research natural area.

How to get there: From Granite Falls take the Mountain Loop Highway (route 92) east to the Verlot Ranger Station, then continue 15.2 miles to the Perry Creek Road (4063), turn left, and go 1.1 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road. A Forest Service parking pass is required. The starting elevation is 2100 feet, and in the first 2 miles to the waterfall the trail gains 1000 feet. A description of the hike can be picked up at the Verlot Ranger Station (trail 711) and the trail is shown on Green Trails map 111, Sloan Peak.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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