Friday, August 2, 2013

Racehorse Landslide Fossil Beds 07-07-2013

Almost a month ago my schedule provided the right combination of a blue sky day, warm weather, a day off from Ragnar training and a wide open schedule.  If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll already realize that is a perfect equation for HIKE DAY!

There were a wide variety of destinations under consideration for the day, but instead of pushing the limits I opted to do the exact opposite.  I took it easy (mostly) and went for a trek out to a place that has been on my 'to visit' list for about four years:  the Racehorse Creek Landslide.

Never heard of it?  Chances are you are not a local geologist.  Or, maybe you have a real life instead of one that consists primarily of dogs, accountants and intestinal biopsies.

Located in the vicinity of the Mount Baker Highway / Mosquito Lake Road, Racehorse creek connects with the Nooksack River.  Up-river from the confluence there is a popular little waterfall called Racehorse Falls.  Up-creek from the falls there was a large landslide off the side of Racehorse Mountain (ok, not really sure if there is any high point named Racehorse Mountain but it makes for a nice sounding destination, yes?) back in 2009.

If you have passion for geologic stuff, Dave Tucker can provide you all sorts of more in depth discussion about that landslide via his NWGeology blog.    Recently, Dave noted on his blog that the 'trail' had been brushed out but at this time of year the growth can fill in quickly.

Why would someone want to go look at something that is not longer there (it slid away... landslide... remember)?  Well, it's been reported that the landslide unearthed a truckload of fossils.  They are just sitting up there, waiting to be discovered.

So... that was my mission.  Fossil Hunting.

And Trail Brushing (yes, that's a real thing, dog lovers; it refers to cutting back the vegetation that grows on/around trails that obscure the trail).

That's what I did.  Cut brush.  Found Fossils.  Went Home.  Waited a Month.  Wrote a Trip Report for the blog.

The road was easy to follow, but a bit steep and washboarding in places.
I parked in a clearing at the last road intersection because I wasn't sure of the conditions beyond that point... not minding the half mile road walk to the trail.

For the record, the road beyond the final intersection is totally fine.  A bit steep at some points, but mostly wide and solid.  Plenty of turnaround space and parking at the end of the road - although there is also a fair bit of broken glass/beer bottles around waiting to pierce your tires.

My hiking was minimal, brush cutting was extensive.

As such, I stopped at the second clearing where I began fossil hunting after finding at least five samples left for visitors on a log next to the trail.  Seeing those helped me to visualize what I should look for and gave me confidence that I'd be able to find some on my own instead of just looking at stuff other people had already discovered.

It was a success!

Now some pictures and then 'the rest of the story'.

This is the end of the road.  There is also a spur off to the right... plenty of room up there.
 You can kind of see a cliff through the trees, inset below, where I imagine the landslide originated from.
 Looking back down the road, to the north.  Wide open... go ahead and drive to the end.
 98% driving, 2 % hiking.

The rest of the story, part 1:
Dave Tucker's blog noted there was another landslide in this area this past winter that went unnoticed until a recent visit.  Near as I can tell, if you can get past the fossil hunting, proceed deeper into the landslide area for a better sense of how large the original slide was and to see the new slide area.  Take note of how quickly nature comes in to start the process all over again.

The rest of the story, part 2:
Hiking may not sound exciting.  Fossil hunting may not sound exciting.  Some may even think it sounds, oh, lame.

Heck, it even sounds lame when I say it.  Thus, I just don't say it very often.  Mostly, I only tell kids about it.  Kids think it's awesome.
Well, not MY kids, but other people's kids think it's awesome.

As an example, this last weekend I led a scavenger hunt for a group of 4H kids in the little community of Blanchard, just south of the Chuckanuts.  One of the items on the list was a fossil.  Since it was unlikely that anyone would just stumble upon a fossil in Blanchard on this particular morning, I stashed a couple of them in an easy to find spot.  They were indeed found.  One child in particular (a sibling of a 4H member) was enthralled with the fossil and was thrilled to carry it the half mile back to our starting point.  That in and of itself wasn't quite as telling as was the complete emotional breakdown that erupted when he had to let go of it & head home.

I suppose I'd better plan a return trip next spring.

If you head up there, please do as Dave T. recommended, bring some brush cutters and help keep the trail easy to follow so others can explore this hidden gem in our corner of the world.


Stay tuned for an overdue trip report to Artist Point and a not-really-hiking-related-but-outdoors-and-on-feet write up for the 2013 Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay Run.  Those will hopefully be followed up with a TBD August hike and a late August Lake Ozette hike.

Thanks for being patient while waiting for the reports. 

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