All Trails says this is a 1.8 mile easy trail … so why did I spend 2 hours there and covered less than half of it?
Blame it on photography … and wolf lichen (Letharia vulpina), that florescent green lichen found on pines, sometimes in huge masses. This showy, and toxic, lichen has long attracted my attention due to the presence of vulpinic acid which gives it that mesmerizing color and also earned this lichen its name as it was used in Europe to poison wolves. Interestingly, it is apparently only toxic to predators and does not harm herbivores.
Lichens grow slowly, sometimes for thousands of years, and tend to be sensitive to air pollution. Seeing wolf lichen is a signal that the air is good. One of the biggest predators of wolf lichen are florists who use its bright colors in flower arrangements, and in some areas, it has been harvested into extinction. Probably the biggest threat to it, however, is its use as a pest control in agriculture. (https://www.montananaturalist.org)
This photo made me stop and wonder why the tree on the left was such a different color from it’s neighbors.
When I went closer, the answer became obvious: it was dying; its bark had been girdled. I assumed it was done by some sort of pest or the Forest Service’s method of thinning the trees. However, according to Kirsten, the botanist I found at the Forest Service office, it was the work of porcupines who only target younger trees.
The Collins Pine Trail wanders through fifty acres of second growth woodland with mixed evergreen and deciduous tress, grassy flood plain, channels and beaver ponds, plus the North Fork of the Feather River.
Once you find the entrance (near the Chester Park Sports Field), this community favorite trail is well maintained and marked. There are twelve interpretative markers with descriptions available in the free brochures, and several benches scattered along the trail. The Chesterton Elks built a bridge over a boggy channel.
There was a smattering of wildflowers and some hollyleaved barberry (Oregon holly grape) already showing a touch of fall.