A walk along the winding path of Raven’s Trail at Two Frog Bog finds many visitors shedding the stress and grind of hurried lives and pausing to absorb the beautiful details found within the forest. Elona Kafton loves her 20-acre woods in the Rainier foothills outside of Roy, WA. She and her family nurture an oasis where people and wildlife recharge.
Taking a stroll with Elona from her backyard permaculture garden into the forest is an immersive delight for one’s senses. Soon all focus is on clusters of golden brown mushrooms glistening with recent rain, red rosehips shining like polished jewels, verdant green velvety moss cloaking glacial erratics, the last gold aspen leaves fluttering to the ground, air tinged with the earthy smells of duff and fir boughs, and sounds of juncos flitting about the forest edge and mallards landing on the pond.
The Kaftons have great affection for their forest and wetland and are tending the land with the goal of enhancing its biodiversity. When they first purchased the forest in 2003, their other goals included wanting to earn some income from harvesting trees and establishing a homestead on the property. So far, they’ve succeeded in fulfilling their objectives, building their home in 2005 and conducting two small timber harvests.
A few years back, they commercially thinned the 40+ year mostly Douglas-fir forest to reduce the crowding and resource competition among the trees; as well as to make room for more flowering and mast producing plants to benefit pollinators and other wildlife. The harvest opened up space and allowed more sunlight to filter to the forest floor. In those openings Elona planted beaked hazelnut, western dog wood, cascara, vine maple, blue elderberry and baldhip wildrose. At some point, the Kaftons would like to do another thinning to further space the Douglas-fir so they can plant western red cedar and other trees. They want to diversify the forest’s species, age classes, and structure.
A friend helped build and clear several trails around the property and nowadays Elona and visitors can better access the forest and the wetland. The trail system has been helpful to Elona as she works on a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) cost-share project through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). For the project, she is committed to monitoring, protecting, and enhancing the wetland on her forest for the next five years. The wetland drains into Horn Creek which is a tributary to the Nisqually River. The cost-share program is helping Elona plant more native wetland trees and shrubs and other species preferred by pollinators. These conservation practices serve as a critical buffer to the forested wetland. In the last 15 years, the other properties surrounding the wetland have been clearcut and converted to other uses.
Elona is a keen observer, gentle doer and speaks with great affection about the forest and its woodland inhabitants. Two Frog Bog’s commitment to stewarding the forest has made it a haven for all sorts of birds including nuthatches, chickadees, wrens, swallows, blue birds, ravens, red tail hawks, great horned owls, red-wing blackbirds, Steller’s jays, tit mouse, brown creeper, several duck species, grouse, and quail. Other forest inhabitants and visitors include tree frogs (the namesake species of the wetland forest), salamanders, garter snakes, bats, raccoon, cougar, bobcat, elk, blacktail deer, porcupine, rabbits, coyote, Douglas squirrels, and chipmunks. On any given day and walk about the forest there are signs of critters to enjoy.
In the last year, Elona has grown a steady Airbnb business that highlights the charms of her forest and its proximity to Mount Rainier National Park. Opening her home and a few dwellings built on the property have been an opportunity to earn income and help connect travelers to nature. Visitors describe Two Frog Bog as an “enchanted forest abode” and “a very special place, with gardens, birds galore, and lovely trails in the woods.” They’ve also been able to learn about the stewardship ethic of Two Frog Bog that balances harvesting wood with ensuring that the forest thrives.
Two Frog Bog has been part of NNRG’s Forest Stewardship Council® group certificate for more than 10 years. The Kaftons first attended an NNRG workshop on Ecological Forestry and found kindred spirits in the philosophy expressed by NCF Director Kirk Hanson and other practitioners: stewarding forests to yield wood products and perpetuate healthy productive ecosystems. NNRG has been proud to call them a member of our FSC® group ever since.