Duncan Creek 12-13-18

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bobcat
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Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
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Duncan Creek 12-13-18

Post by bobcat » December 16th, 2018, 12:43 pm

I headed out to Skamania, Washington, for this short excursion on a balmy day that alternated clouds with wintry sunshine. Since I have a Discover Pass, I parked at the Nellie Corser Trailhead (The Nellie Corser Unit is part of the sprawling 15-unit Mount Saint Helens Wildlife Area). There is a cute notice from Sherman, the yellow lab, at the trailhead prevailing upon visitors to tolerate his friendly ways and not take him to the pound, but Sherman was not in evidence. According to a canyoneer site, another bored domestic critter, Francisco the rooster, also haunts the same spot hoping for some human contact and affection.

I hiked up Nellie’s “driveway” under old-growth Douglas-firs and came to the site of the Corser dwelling, where a most impressive English holly marks the spot. Not much is known about Nellie Corser, but she passed away in 1968, 18 years after her husband, and both are buried at River View Cemetery in Portland. Then I got to the East Fork of Duncan Creek and took the upper spur to admire the upper tiers of the Nellie Corser Cascades and the steel steps and mount for the waterwheel that serviced a pipe that leads to the homestead. I did not make the ford to reach the west side of the creek, but instead hiked down to admire more of the Cascades. There is a little patch of private property where the creek splits very picturesquely at Duncan Creek Falls, but the only No Trespassing sign is painted at a boulder at the road entrance to a campsite at the confluence of the two forks of Duncan Creek. There is a work around trail that stays on state land from Duncan Creek Falls out the road.

Douglas-fir driveway, Nellie Corser Unit.jpg
Nellie Corser Cascades, Nellie Corser Unit.jpg
Waterwheel apparatus, Nellie Corser Unit.jpg
At the Nellie Corser Cascades, Nellie Corser Unit.jpg
Mossy boughs, Nellie Corser Cascades, Nellie Corser Unit.jpg
At the ford, East Fork Duncan Creek, Nellie Corser Unit.jpg
The split, Duncan Creek Falls, Nellie Corser Unit.jpg
No Trspas, Nellie Corser Unit.jpg

I crossed the road bridge over Duncan Creek and went around the crash barrier to pick up a trail that leads up Duncan Creek. I split off and headed up to the bluff above the West Fork and then down between two cedars and some devil’s club to cross the West Fork on a makeshift footbridge. From there, I followed the trail up to more views of the Nellie Corser Cascades on the East Fork. Unfortunately, the 50 acres just north of the Nellie Corser Unit was clearcut in 2017, and this is just across the East Fork Duncan Creek. More waterfalls soon appeared, however – a series of cascades I took to be Lower Quad Falls and then a short spur to get a gander at Quad Falls spilling through a narrow ravine.

Dogleg falls, Nellie Corser Cascades, East Fork Duncan Creek.jpg
Upper tier of Lower Quad Falls, East Fork Duncan Creek.jpg
Quad Falls, East Fork Duncan Creek.jpg

Heading up from here, the creek is rather quiet, and you pass into Good’s Woods. These 50 acres, which straddle the creek, were donated to the Friends of the Gorge Land Trust this year in honor of Vern and Virginia Good, the previous owners. A stipulation of the transfer was that the land never be logged. The Friends Land Trust has markers on trees at the boundaries of the property. I passed where the Russ Jolley Trail to Cynthia Falls/Archer Mountain spins off to the west and went creekside to get a good look at Apron Falls, now in very decent spate. Then it was up to the Longview Timberlands clearcut, logging road, and the view from the railcar bridge over the brink of Railcar Falls. I did take the side trip to see the upper tier of Railcar Falls, but forgot to take pictures, so lower down below the clearcut I attempted a brushy bushwhack but had neglected to bring along the right gloves – the ones I had were not salmonberry/devil’s club-proof!

Yacolt Burn snag, East Fork Duncan Creek.jpg
Friends Land Trust sign, East Fork Duncan Creek.jpg
Junction with the Russ Jolley Trail, East Fork Duncan Creek.jpg
Apron Falls, East Fork Duncan Creek.jpg
Railcar Bridge, East Fork Duncan Creek.jpg

Once back down at Duncan Creek Road, I hiked up to the Nellie Corser Trailhead hoping to run into Sherman and Francisco, but they were nowhere to be found.

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K.Wagner
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Re: Duncan Creek 12-13-18

Post by K.Wagner » December 17th, 2018, 12:37 pm

As many times as I have read about that area, and as much time as I spend in Skamania County, I have never done any of those trails! Might be a fun winter destination.
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DannyH
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Re: Duncan Creek 12-13-18

Post by DannyH » December 18th, 2018, 12:25 pm

Hi Bobcat,

A quick google search for the trailhead you've mentioned gave me these directions.

"From SR 14 just west of the Skamania Store, turn north up hill on Duncan Creek Road, go 3 miles across bridge stay left on dirt road. Roadside parking about 1/4 mile from end of pavement."

Is that the access point you used?

Thanks for another informative trip report!
"It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out; it's the grain of sand in your shoe."

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adamschneider
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Re: Duncan Creek 12-13-18

Post by adamschneider » December 18th, 2018, 12:40 pm

DannyH wrote:
December 18th, 2018, 12:25 pm
"From SR 14 just west of the Skamania Store, turn north up hill on Duncan Creek Road, go 3 miles across bridge stay left on dirt road. Roadside parking about 1/4 mile from end of pavement."
That's the one; you can park under the power lines. If you keep driving up the dirt road, you need a Discover Pass.

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bobcat
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Re: Duncan Creek 12-13-18

Post by bobcat » December 19th, 2018, 8:03 pm

DannyH wrote:
December 18th, 2018, 12:25 pm
"From SR 14 just west of the Skamania Store, turn north up hill on Duncan Creek Road, go 3 miles across bridge stay left on dirt road. Roadside parking about 1/4 mile from end of pavement."
Just to be clear, these are the directions for the Nellie Corser Trailhead where, as Adam says, you need a Discover Pass. The paved road ends at a turnaround which is used by school buses, so don't park in the turnaround on a weekday during the school year.

You can connect the short Nellie Corser Loop by fording the West Fork Duncan Creek near the old water intake remains, but most people would not want to do that in the wet season. The Duncan Creek Trail begins just west of the road bridge. Twenty-five yards up the creek, you'll ascend to the bluff and then down again to cross the West Fork on the log with the plank railing. The trail will cross over to the East Fork opposite the Nellie Corser property.

Nellie Corser is Washington DNR. The Duncan Creek Trail is on DNR, Friends of Gorge Land Trust, Gifford Pinchot, and Longview Timberlands property. It's only two miles from the road bridge to Railcar Falls.

Some day, the trans-Gorge Trail (Chinook Trail) will come through this area, probably following the general route of Russ Jolley's trail from Hardy Ridge to Archer Mountain. The Friends purchased another property, just east of Railcar Falls, with just this in mind.

beag
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Re: Duncan Creek 12-13-18

Post by beag » December 20th, 2018, 11:43 am

One of my Favorite places I've been going in there for 18 Years. Some info.

You can find a lot of info on Nellie Corser on line.Her Family lived in the Stone house on14.
I've been parking on east side of bridge with no problems. Bus does not come up there anymore. Maybe no kids to pick up.
For years Sherman would hear my pickup and he would join me for a hike, either on the east or west loop from Apron Falls. I guess he followed someone and they adopted him. Owners are the Hopkins on West side of Bridge.

Russ Jolley used to lead hikes to Apron Falls on a route which barely touched present route. Corser owned property that time so his trail went west from Creek Crossing, crossed West Duncan and came out on Hi Way west of Bridge. I have a winter crossing that way now. Just go in west of Bridge and hike up goat track on left. Follow for short distance and you will find a great fallen tree crossing. After wending way uphill you will find old RJ trail heading over to main
trail.

I have followed RJs trail from Phlox Point across 3 branches of Woodward Creek, Cedar Swamps Road and through The Good property that FOG now owns. It ran below Archer on the East side and eventually came out at ST Cloud park. RJ crossed Duncan above Apron Falls where he had a camping spot. In his map he showed 4 teepees as camping spots. Three near Woodward creek one which he called Big Momma and another Sunrise. Because of my age I am limited on how much I can do now. A lot of RJs trail will have to b used when they build the Washougal Stevenson trail. Thankfully there are GPS tracks now so it will b easier in the future to find trail. I had to look for lop marks and other signs to recover the trail. It is not 100% where Russ hiked and I'm sure in the future it won't b either. Russ was color blind so he used blue tape to mark crossings, some of which is still visible in places. One of his signature wool caps was hanging on a log near Woodward Creek but it disappeared a few yrs ago.

Too bad some of the land above RC Falls was logged but I guess a bridge can easily b built across Duncan to access FOG property on East side.

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bobcat
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Re: Duncan Creek 12-13-18

Post by bobcat » December 22nd, 2018, 8:56 am

Thanks, beag, for all the information. Good to know about the school bus not being an issue anymore. Delighted that Sherman had such a joyous response to the sound of your pickup.
beag wrote:
December 20th, 2018, 11:43 am
Follow for short distance and you will find a great fallen tree crossing.
This has new railing as per my illustration . . .

I would take issue with one idea, though. Online, Nellie Corser is often conflated with the stone house down by Highway 14. This misunderstanding arose when Scott Cook put both as part of the same entry in Curious Gorge. Even though, he explicitly disavows any connection between the two, his readers don't necessarily read above a certain grade level, and it's been known as the "Nellie Corser Stone House" ever since, the online world being the greatest purveyor of fake information humankind has ever known. I remember seeing somewhere (and I can't verify this now - repeat, can't verify) that the stone house actually belonged to Charles "Tin Can" Johnson, Henry Biddle's foreman in the construction of the walkway to the top of Beacon Rock. There was a dwelling on the Nellie Corser property itself (where the holly tree is); probably it was dismantled in the 1960s or 70s.

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