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500 and counting
This scenic area is 100 acres and houses some 1000 year old cedar trees according to the Kootenai Forest Service website and other articles I've read but most other sites say more around 500 years old. This is an interpretive loop trail about 0.9 miles. There is another optional trail along the way: Ross Creek Trail 142 is 4.5 miles that follows Ross Creek. In fact I seem to recall there were two trails.
Area loggers first noted the beauty of the grove and then worked to protect the tall trees. In 1960, the Kootenai National Forest set aside the Ross Creek Cedar grove and established it as a scenic area protecting it for scientific and recreational value.
The hike takes you through a modified temperate rain forest climate which has allowed many of the cedars to grow up to 12 feet in diameter and 175 feet tall. They say some of the trees are over 500 years old, both alive and fallen. No matter, the canopy is quite tall and the fallen trees are fascinating to see how they landed. It seems when they are on the ground, you can appreciate better how big they were. Ground level is lush and full of flora including ferns, moss covered rocks and trunks and lots of Devil's Club.
Follow the boardwalk alongside Ross Creek and it will take you past some moss-covered rock slides. In fact, you will see moss everywhere. You will get to read informative signs that tell you about where you are looking. The forest floor has fallen trees, large and small scattered about. If you are in low light, keep that in mind when taking your pictures. You need to be very still or they will come out blurry.
You eventually cross the first wood plank bridge over Ross Creek. You will start to see all sorts of fir trees including Engelmann Spruce, Western Cedar and Hemlock, Grand Fir and Western White Pine. Fortunately there is an interpretive sign that explains the differences. You will also see some hollowed out trees that you or your friends can slip into for a portrait. You will see lots of Twins: usually they start from from several sprouts of a fallen tree. The interpretive sign will give you further details. And then there are trees twisted around each other for almost the full length of their trunks.
There are benches scattered about as well so you can sit and soak up this incredible environment. Be sure to put people in your photos as it provides great scale to the tall, tall trees. You will also see tree trunks that are still standing though there tops are no where to be seen. Some of these trunks are huge. You will walk over huge root systems and pass by those old fallen trees, some that are hollow inside or split in half on the ground.
I agree with a comment I read about it seeming like you're in a chapel when you're walking through... well except for the screaming kids from time to time. If you like the serenity of a tall forest with big and wide and aromatic trees and a running creek, put this on your list of things to do while in NW Montana.
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