Mission Peak

Mission Peak elevation 6,878 feet is located one mile NW of the top of Mission Ridge Ski Area, near Wenatchee.  It is best reached by taking Forest Road 9712 past Beehive Reservoir, and walking up abandoned spur 330. 

The views from here are a strong testimony of how over eighty years time, the gaps in the forest have filled in with trees, making it more dense and continuous.  To the uninitiated, more trees sounds better, but it is not.  Gaps in the forest are places where fire might stop for lack of fuel.  Continuous forest promotes fire spread.  Historically, fires pared back young trees, without killing very many mature trees.  As saplings, Douglas-fir can with stand fire better than grand fir, and ponderosa pine saplings are even more tolerant of fire.  Over-time the species mix has shifted from being predominately ponderosa pine to Douglas-fir and grand fir, all as a result of fire suppression.  Overly dense forests are susceptible to very large high intensity fires, that leave few live trees.  A wildfire on a hot windy day can be a very bad thing in places like this.

Another phenomenon related to fire exclusion is at work in these photos.  There are large areas of brown trees, that have been attacked by the western spruce budworm.  Caterpillars feed on the new needles of grand fir, Douglas fir, subalpine fir, and spruce but not pines.  This landscape historically would not have been hospitable to the western spruce budworm, as it would have been largely ponderosa pine.  Now there are continuous areas that provide food for the budworm caterpillars.  The budworm epidemic seen in 2010 has subsided.  Interestingly most trees that are pole size or larger seem to have survived.  

 

 1934 by Reino R. Sarlin from National Archives and Records Administration, Seattle, WA.  2010 repeat photo by John F Marshall funded by Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Wenatchee Forestry Sciences Lab of Pacific NW Research Station. 

1934 by Reino R. Sarlin from National Archives and Records Administration, Seattle, WA.  2010 repeat photo by John F Marshall funded by Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Wenatchee Forestry Sciences Lab of Pacific NW Research Station. 

 The brown color is due to defoliation by western spruce budworm caterpillars, which feeds on fir trees but not pines. 

The brown color is due to defoliation by western spruce budworm caterpillars, which feeds on fir trees but not pines.