June 7, 2013

Treks reveal distinctive forests of Cascade Mountains — with photo gallery

News and Information

In the course “Spring Comes to the Cascades,” students don’t just read about the forests of the Western Cascade Mountains – they hike and snowshoe through them.

Students loop measuring tape around tree trunk

Sandra Hines

Natalie Oppliger, Taylor Biaggi and Ryan Steele take measurements in an old-growth stand during a trek up Mount Si.

Along the way they learn how climate, elevation, disturbances such as fire and insects and other factors shape the forests. Tom Hinckley, professor of environmental and forest sciences,  originated the course 12 years ago and has taught it every year since, even now that he’s retired.

Students don’t just learn from Hinckley, but from each other as well. Part of the homework involves researching assigned topics and explaining about plants – from the diminutive avalanche lily to towering Pacific silver fir tree – and processes – such as how long-ago glaciers and volcanoes shaped the topography and how topography then influences soils, water and vegetation.

The class is offered through the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, part of the College of the Environment, but the graduate and undergraduate students enrolled this year were studying everything from human physiology to fisheries.

Your trusty UW Today reporter snapped photos and survived all three field trips, including the final journey in the Teanaway region near Cle Elum, where the 2.5-mile climb involved an elevation change of 2,400 feet. Half the climb was in snow. (O.K., so your reporter wasn’t intrepid enough to make it to top of Iron Peak. She didn’t want to risk a newspaper, or UW Today, headline saying, “UW undergraduates carry 59-year-old woman off mountain.”)

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