Nature Notes

Vol. V August 1st, 1927 Summer Season No. 5


In 1899 Congress set aside Mount Rainier and the surrounding area as a National Park. The Rangers of the National Park Service have been placed in immediate charge to aid the tourist in deriving the fullest of pleasure from his sojourn in the Park. Incidentally they are authorized to enforce all regulations and prevent or stop any destruction of wild life, flowers, or trees. Happily it is only rarely necessary for them to exercise this authority. Probably the Ranger-Naturalist is the only one of the force who ever discovered within the limits of the Park a saw mill in full operation. Starting an early season hike from White River Public Camp to Owyhigh Lakes he found that the rampant White River, the largest of the more-than-20 ice fed streams that emanate from the mountain, had diverted more than half its volume from the straight and narrow path of its regular course plunged off south and east, wiping out a half mile of trail and entering Frying Pan Creek above Frying Pan Bridge. Consequently the trail leading from Owyhigh Lakes after crossing the bridge finds itself lost on a rough triangular island, the through sides of which are formed by the old course of the White River, the new course of a portion of the same stream, and Frying Pan Creek. Shut off from the usual method of approach to the trail the Naturalist fought his way up the Frying Pan through the dense undergrowth until a convenient log provided a crossing. After crossing he turned down stream expecting in about a half mile of travel to pick up the trail again. (Note: A trail crew is now at work on this section and the beautiful Owyhigh Lakes country will be open to the public again in a few days). Turning toward the hill on the east where more open woods might be expected he stumbled onto the aforementioned lumber mill with its entire crew at work. The mill might have escaped his attention but for the gigantic pile of saw dust which has accumulated. Accurate information as to the number of employees in the mill was not obtained but is no exageration to say that hundreds are at work. Perhaps the strangest feature of the unlawful industry was that one log provided sufficient raw material for full time operation of the mill. The log had fallen, its own branches holding it about three feet off the ground. The back had dropped off and the action of sun and rain had checked the old forest monarch. The "milling company" had widened one of those cracks from 1/16 inch to about 1/4 inch along about one foot of its length. From the interior of the log where the "crew" was at work, the head of a big black ant "workman" would appear with one piece of sawdust in his powerful jaws. Coming to the front of the opening he wold stick his head out, drop the piece of sawdust and disappear in the "mill". So numerous were the "workmen" and so rapidly did they work that there was an almost continuous row of black heads protruding along the entire opening, each with its grain of saw dust in its jaws. The pile of saw dust below measured more than 2 feet across its base and its altitude was more than one feet. Its apex was a line exactly the same length as the opening in the log above from which the grains of saw dust were steadily falling. The "workmen" displayed not the slightest sign of respect for the uniform of the Ranger nor for his badge of authority and the "mill" went merrily on; The Ranger, deeming caution the better part of valor, left the place without making any arrests. He will, perhaps, return later for further investigation into these illegal operations.

By Clarence W. Hickok-Ranger Naturalist.

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