Stop Pushing Dirt into Creeks!

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Driving on a ranch road I frequent, I must pass through dozens of ownerships before I get to my job site. I was dumbfounded when I noticed this. Some jackass decides to build a motorcycle track right up the damn creek! This is particularly frustrating because of all the work we are doing to remove sediment from the stream system. Yet right next door people are putting it right back in. What do you think will happen to this spot in the winter time? Not good. Sad thing is, this is a widespread problem in rural Humboldt County.

Arrow Tree

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Here is another road side landmark that gets much less attention. Just above Korbel on the road to Maple Creek, you can see this tree on the left side of the road. Here in the entry from Place Names of Humboldt County:

About a mile east of Camp Bauer on the road to Maple Creek, there is a famous redwood tree called the Arrow Tree. Over the years hundreds of people, when passing the tree, would place a twig, an arrow, a feather or stick in the bark. The origin of the custom is unknown and even the Indians have more than one explanation. One account states that the Indians respected a tall and straight redwood tree and considered it a great warrior. They would shoot arrows into the tree on passing it as a form of salute and respect. Another account says the Indians from the Hoopa and Korbel tribes were at war. At last the Korbel Indians won and the Indians would shoot an arrow into the tree in passing to show that they came in peace. In 1915 this was still practiced by some of the older Indians. Another explanation says that according to Indian legend, a great drought forced the mountain Indians from their home into the lower Mad River where rain was abundant. The Mad River Indians resented the invasion and war broke out. The Great Spirit summoned the two leaders to a certain tree where he directed them to end fighting and return to their homes and there would be plenty of rain. In memory of the peace treaty, each tribe, when passing, must shoot an arrow into it’s bark.

From the Peter E. Palmquist collection, ca, 1930

From the Peter E. Palmquist collection, ca, 1930

The road you see in the picture was also once a major pack trail connecting up to major trails in Snow Camp and Pilot Ridge. No doubt the Indians also traversed these broad ridges. Take a look at that old photograph from the 30s’. Now look at this picture, circa 2014. Notice how much in-growth there has been!

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Paul Bunyan

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Coming home from mom’s in Oregon we stopped by the Trees of Mystery, a favorite road side attraction on the 101. On a busy day they even have Paul talking to the guests and waving his huge hand. “Hey there, young girl in the pink shirt!”

I was always fond of Paul Bunyan, who I think of as our northwest version of John Henry. A champion of the working man who muscled his way ahead of technology. While John Henry could beat the stream shovel with his 9-pound hammer, old Paul Bunyan took on the chainsaw with his mighty axe.

As it turns out, Paul Bunyan has his roots in French-Canadian folklore, most likely from the woods of north eastern America. Eventually he made his way to the Dakotas where he becomes famous for cutting millions of feet of timber in the winter of the “blue snow”. And of course his trusty blue ox.

Eventually Paul met up with good-ole American marketing when the Red River Lumber Company incorporated Paul as a mascot in 1914. The new Paul Bunyan was ridiculously tall and the blue ox was affectionately named “Babe”. Apparently his camp stove and hotcake griddle were so large that it was greased by men using sides of bacon for skates! This is the Bunyan who was eventually memorialized in the Disney cartoons from the 1950s I watched as a kid.

Paul and babe

‘Timber!’

Baby Owls!

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Meet my friend HU563. Ive known her for close to 10 years now. She resides right on the edge of the forest in the Fortuna area. Its amazing how close this owl will get me, some times downright startling. Owls flight is virtually silent, so once your in her territory you may just look up and see this owl perched 2 feet away from you – black eyes staring…

Its been a couple of years since I checked in on this owl and I found her at one of her nesting sites after a few tries. She was by herself and at first appeared to be non-nesting. She ate down the first mouse I offered in seconds. But then she flew off with the second mouse forcing me to scramble up the hill…

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On the edge of a clearing in a little alder grove, she led me to her two fledglings. I have posted several pictures on this blog feeding mice to owls and this is why we do it. First and foremost is nest site protection and correctly establishing where their core area will be. Second is population monitoring, so scientists can track the population and reproductive trends of this species. But for now we can just admire the cute owlets…

Afforestation

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Afforestation is the establishment of a forest or stand of trees in an area where there was no forest. This landowner has established this redwood plantation in what was a brush field/pasture in the past.

Afforestation is different than reforestation, which is replanting areas that were already forests, such as in a clearcut or fire. Since the modern era, humans have greatly reduced the overall forest cover all over the world. In some places dramatically. I found some of these facts interesting about forests in other countries regarding Afforestation:

Iran is considered a low forest cover region of the world with present cover approximating seven percent of the land area. This is a value reduced by an estimated six million hectares of virgin forest, which includes oak, almond and pistachio. Due to soil substrates, it is difficult to achieve afforestation on a large scale compared to other temperate areas endowed with more fertile and less rocky and arid soil conditions. Consequently, most of the afforestation is conducted with non-native species, leading to habitat destruction for native flora and fauna, and resulting in an accelerated loss of biodiversity.

China has deforested most of its historically wooded areas. China reached the point where timber yields declined far below historic levels, due to over-harvesting of trees beyond sustainable yield. Although it has set official goals for reforestation, these goals were set for an 80 year time horizon and are not significantly met by 2008. China is trying to correct these problems by projects as the Green Wall of China, which aims to replant a great deal of forests and halt the expansion of the Gobi desert. A law promulgated in 1981 requires that every school student over the age of 11 plant at least one tree per year. As a result, China currently has the highest afforestation rate of any country or region in the world, with 47,000 square kilometers of afforestation in 2008. However, the forest area per capita is still far lower than the international average.

Here are some interesting facts about forests in the US taken from the State of America’s Forests report by the Society of American Foresters:

• The United States ranks fourth on the list of most forest-rich countries, following the Russian Federation, Brazil, and Canada, with 8 percent of the world’s primary forest.
• The number of acres of forestland in the United States has remained essentially the same during the past century.
• On average, 11 percent of the world’s forestland benefits from some type of conservation effort. In the United States, 20 percent is protected by conservation initiatives.
• Assessments of biodiversity on the nation’s forests have found that the annual rate at which species are listed as threatened or endangered has declined five- fold.
• Historical trends indicate that the standing inventory (the volume of growing stock) of hardwood and softwood tree species in US forests has grown by 49 percent between 1953 and 2006.
• Forest management also has been recognized as an effective means of sequestering carbon over the long term. In the United States, the total amount of carbon sequestered by forests and the creation of wood products during the 1990s was estimated at almost 200 megatons per year, an amount equal to approximately 10 percent of US carbon dioxide emissions.

Salmon River

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Some pictures from this years trip to the Salmon River.

Sleeping Owl

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I am proud of this one. While conducting follow-up visits for Northern Spotted Owls, we often only find one of a mating pair, or none at all. In this instance I was able to get the male to respond and when I first came under the owl I heard a faint whistle call of the female, but did not see or hear her again. After feeding the male to find that that they had no nest or fledgling juveniles, I did one last faithful scan of the trees to try to spot a nest or the female. Looking where I thought I heard the sound I suddenly saw her! What luck. These owls are extremely camouflaged and if they are still and silent, virtually impossible see. The pic is a shot through my binoculars.

The Jungle

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What do the mountains behind Ferndale look like right now? Thick, impenetrable, thorny, brush hell holes? Well, thats what they look like to a human being who is trying walk through them in the summertime. Its absolutely remarkable how persistent and vibrant these forest types are. Diverse in every way: from species composition to forest structure, these forests have it all. Its just not very fun to walk through.

Shoe Tree

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The Shoe Tree. This uncommon variety springs strings up from time to time in across the country side. This one is on Highway 36, and if you spend any time driving over McClellan Mountain you know this tree. There used to another one, just a few miles west of here. It was close to the house that has the big wagon wheel set into wall above the driveway. I picked up a kid hitch hiking once years ago who lived there. He told me his dad started it, but eventually decided to cut it down as it became too much of a “thing”. He told me the final straw was noticing some ice skates in the tree. Well, now the legend lives on, in a place were the falling fruit is less likely to hurt anyone…

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Crazy Trees

Look at this crazy Douglas-fir. This tree is in the stand I wrote about last time. Judging by its appearance, Id sat that this gnarly bastard has been around for a while. It is likely one of the parent trees that ultimately led to the widespread encroachment of this previous woodland.

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I also came across this oddity. Well, at least it is unique to this particular stand and is pushing the extreme western portion of its range. Like the Douglas-fir above this tree appears to be a veteran is quite old. Can you tell what it is?

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Significant Change

Here are more pictures from forest stands that have completely succumbed to conifer encroachment. Prior to fire exclusion, these stands were dominated by California Black Oak. Now, all that is left are a few hold outs which are more or less walking dead in this forest. As you can see, many of the large oak stems left are in serious stages of decay and will likely be on the ground within the next 10 years.

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In Humboldt County, our true oak component is a relatively small portion of our vast forest resource (10-15%), however its value is much more than its spatial area. Most of these woodlands are old and support a diverse array of species such as big game, migrating tropical birds, and a host of small mammals and insects that all contribute to our forests food web.

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Much of the renaming oak woodlands are on a rapid trajectory to a similar fate as the stands pictured above. Sadly our forest regulation and policy is preventing widespread treatment of encroached woodlands. If I was to imagine something the Board of Forestry could do, it would be to create a special designation for oak woodlands in CA, allowing conditional permitting for management within woodlands. This means recognizing the private and public benefit of managing for forest resources that are not centered on forest products (MSP).

High Salt Ground

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This may look like a regular mountain meadow, but it has an interesting history. A local historian told me this story a few years back, hopefully Im remembering it right!

Apparently during the Indian Wars (1850s-1860s), the US carvery had captured a number of Nongatl Indians and were taking them to the Round Valley reservation in Covelo. By some luck, the Indians managed to escape. However their luck was not long lived, as they were attacked by Lassic Indians on their way home. When the survivors made it back to their territory with their tale, they set upon their revenge, with a little help from their neighbors.

It was at High Salt Ground where a coalition of tribes (Nongatls, Whilikuts, and Chilula) gathered before heading south to battle with the Lassic Tribe. This was in 1863.

This is a surprising story (to me) considering the amount of pressure all of the aboriginal people were facing from the US Calvary – who had been fighting with all of the tribes for over a decade. Chief Lassic had many incursions with the foreign invaders himself, being captured and escaping many times. Was this the best time to battle other Indians when they all were being attacked by the whites? Obviously these were people of principle, and when war was need, they were not making any exceptions.

Pilot Rock

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Approximately 40 – 50 miles east of Eureka, Pilot Rock was named by sheep herders who used the landmark to guide them from the coast to inland areas. In the late 1800s there was significant traffic along the major ridges in Humboldt and Trinity County, way more than there is now. Here are some pics I took a little closer to the rock a while back.

If you are interested in this area, check this out: Historic Trails of Pilot Ridge Country by Thomas Keter.

An Overview. Thomas Keter, the author of the paper I linked above, shows this picture in his paper. This is really cool, because you can really see the big picture. Im would be standing right below what is labeled High Salt Ground.  Check it out.

An Overview. Thomas Keter, the author of the paper I linked above, shows this picture in his paper. This is really cool, because you can really see the big picture. When I took the picture of Pilot, I was near what is labeled “High Salt Ground”.

Fractured Earth

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This is one of those ‘wow’ landslides. The river in the background is the East Branch South Fork Eel River and just above where you can see the water is where Tom Long Creek joins it. This massive slide actually went all the way across the canyon, completely damming Tom Long, causing the laws of physics to work overtime for months. Eventually the water downcut back through the mountain of debris and the channel found its place. This is great vantage and while vertical perspective is really hard (especially looking down), if you can see the tree heights, and the shadow of the wall I am standing on, you can start to grasp the enormity of it all. The edge of the shadow is approximately 200 – 300 feet straight down from where I am standing.

Albino Redwood – 150 Feet Up

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Following a lead I received last year I went looking for another albino in Founders Grove, about 100 feet from where I found this one. It was rumored to be about 100 feet away and 100 feet higher in the canopy. So with some binoculars I set to looking up and after a while I found it!

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My attempt to take the picture through binoculars…

Pilot Creek

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The confluence of Pilot and the Mad River. One of the critical tributaries of the Mad River. There are resident rainbow trout that spawn in Pilot Creek but do not migrate to the ocean. A natural migration barrier prevents summer steelhead from reaching this region of the Mad, though every so often winter steelhead can get through the barrier. This explains why you may notice rainbow trout may have either white or red flesh: white from the resident trout and red being the ocean going winter steelhead.