Our Visit to Babyfoot Lake Awesome views! Too bad about the trees ... By Paul Rauber
Last summer, our family finally decided to visit Babyfoot Lake. All the guidebooks say it's one of the prettiest hikes in Oregon's Siskiyou National Forest. I was particularly excited because it's in a special botanical area, full of rare plants and trees. Part of it got burned up pretty bad in that big wildfire a couple years ago, but we heard plants were already coming back, just like at Yellowstone. The Medford paper quoted some guy who had hiked there: "I never saw so many wildflowers," he said. "There were so many fawn lilies blooming it looked like snow."
Our friend Rolf took this picture before the fire. These trees are Brewer's spruces, some of the rarest conifers in the country. Been around since the Ice Age.
Here we are at the trailhead! Looks like the Forest Service thinned things out a little.
Says here in the guidebook, "This trail provides a view of many wildflowers and old-growth timber." Maybe we took the wrong path?
This is apparently the Forest Service's new style of picnic table.
Great vistas, plus the kids were kept busy counting the rings--Katie got to 200 before she lost track. But we never did find those old trees.
A sign at the Babyfoot trailhead.
The family may be fictional, but the stumps in the illegally clearcut Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area are all too real. The old-growth sugar pine in the photo above was originally marked in orange as a protected "wildlife tree," then re-marked in blue to make it part of the cut. All told, between March and August of last year, 17 acres of the 352-acre Babyfoot preserve were logged as part of the enormous Fiddler timber sale, one of many "salvage" cuts following the 2002 Biscuit fire. Locals pleaded with the U.S. Forest Service to avoid logging in the vicinity, but no one ever imagined that the botanical area itself was at risk. In what the agency now terms "a serious error," its crews somehow misjudged the boundaries of the sale to include part of the preserve.
No outsiders were able to warn the timber markers of their mistake because the Forest Service had excluded the public from the sale area. It was only after it was reopened on August 1 that Barbara Ullian of the Siskiyou Project in Cave Junction, Oregon, discovered what had happened. "If I can look at the maps and tell the wrong area was logged, I cannot understand how professional timber-sale layout people couldn't do the same thing," she told the Portland Oregonian.
In the future, such out-of-touch operations may become the rule. Legislation introduced by Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.) would put postfire logging projects on a fast track, in part by limiting public participation. A better alternative by Representative Tom Udall (D-N.Mex.) specifically safeguards old-growth forests and roadless areas while encouraging fire protection for local communities.