Our Totems: Sculptured Natural Art in the Forest

Skiing the Chickadee Trail is a heavenly experience. The trail features only one long but gentle hill, a few shorter hills, openings to the valley, a deep Fir forest and, at the north hairpin, a beautiful viewpoint. These features were not accidental, it took two years to design that trail.

One of the unique elements is the amazing burnt cedar snag that you ski by half way around. It looks like someone carved scoops out of the tree years ago then burnt it. It is a wildlife tree that has housed many birds and squirrels over its lifetime. 

And what is its lifetime you may ask?

The tree is one of the many remnants of the 1926 fire that razed the whole west bench and put a near end to the logging operations there that were part of the Columbia River Lumber Company. That company built its own railway on the bench to move timber from near Donald to Nicholson, where the railcars umped the logs into the river to float them to the mill site near Golden’s current sewage lagoons. Dawn Mt’s Raven trail runs on a section of that railbed. The forest was prime Fir and the Cedar snags that remained standing were more resistant to rot so many are still standing right now. 

When we were running our original youth program back in the 1990’s we decided to call these trees our Totems. They are protected as wildlife trees and we don’t know how long they will last, especially in the wild weather we get at Dawn Mt. Right now, the snow load is very high and large live Firs are toppling over. Imagine the weight pulling on these old Cedar Totems!

The Totems we have are just beautiful right now with the puffs of snow captured in the scoops on the trunk. Again, this is quite unique to this area…

Another Totem is on the Lower Eagle trial at the same elevation as the Chickadee trail. If you keep your eyes peeled and ski in that Zone1 pace, you will seen many more along most of our trails below the elevation of the Stadium. Certainly lovely places for artistic contemplation. 

We hope they last for decades to come!

Jeff Dolinsky