Conifer Country: Book Review

Today I offer my first book review; Conifer Country; A natural history and hiking guide to 35 conifers of the Klamath Mountain region, by Micheal Kauffmann. It is put out by our very own Backcountry Press who has put out some real neat books in them past few years.

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The book is essentially a tree guide with companion hikes for all the species that occur in the region. But unlike most tree guides, which are generally about as exciting as dictionaries, Conifer Country describes each tree in a naturalist style of writing. There is just enough ‘technical’ information to properly identify the trees but the best part is the description of the trees ecology and how they fit into the landscape. This is done very well and makes the guide section fun to read, assuming you are interested in trees.

The author is certainly inspired by John Muir and like Muir, he really captures the essence of the Klamath that one only can obtain by spending significant time there. This is evident in the writing and I get the sense that the author is truly in love with these mountains and trees.

Confer Country is a great book for hikers and naturalists, beginners or veterans alike. Even if you are experienced in the area, you may just find several bits of interesting information that you did not know about the Klamath. I sure did! As a forester, I read technical writing all the time and while I of course enjoy the scientific aspect of things, I have always found great peace in naturalist writing.

If you are a follower of my blog and/or live in this area, i guarantee you will not be disappointed with this book. I have heard from one or two people that the hiking guide has pointed out a few peoples ‘secret’ spots, but I have always believed that when it comes to hiking back country, anyone who is willing to go to these remote places is probably someone I wont mind running into.

Be sure to check out Conifer Country online for Micheal Kauffmann’s blog. He also posts digital versions of the maps in the book that you can download after you buy the book – which is a pretty awesome idea.

I will also plug my favorite book store: Eureka Books. This bookstore has a whole section devoted to local books, and often you can find signed copied. Go there and get Conifer Country today!

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Fox Hole

I noticed this brush cave and decided to take a closer look. Its a willow of some sort. You can see how this would be an excellent hideout when it has leaves,and I probably would not have noticed this outside of the winter. I was actually pretty surprised when I noticed actual bones inside…

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Winter Burning

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Here are some pictures treating slash piles following the summers fuel reduction projects. Unfortunately, it was too wet to effectively burn and we found the piles to be not covered correctly. So, hopefully we will get a second chance this winter for things to dry out enough to burn.

Willow Creek Radio Tower

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I came across this place exploring off of Waterman Ridge above Willow Creek. If you ever marvel at your 3G reception in Willow Creek, you can thank this tower… It also apparently is a outpost for the fire department.

OK, so I got this wrong. What I meant to say was: “Ever wonder how emergency services transmit information in rural areas? Well, here is one of their remote antennas…”. Or something like that.

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2014: Year in Pictures

A New Years tradition continues here at Nook and Crannies! This is my third year and I have added The 2014 Gallery. Once again, picking a favorite image is very hard, so this year I decided to pick out a few:

VAN 081The Grandfather Tree. This remains the largest, most interesting Douglas-fir tree I have ever encountered in Humboldt County.

 

MR 559Mad River Rocks! This is one of the coolest rock formations I have found yet. I still hope to return to this location with better light and get some better pictures. However, I can say that I was able to return and confirm the presence of a peregrine falcon nesting on the rock.

 

ER 078Baby Owls! Speaking of wildlife, this was one of my luckiest experiences this year, at least being able to get such good pictures of spotted owl monitoring.

What will 2015 hold? I hope to keep it going with pictures of our wonderful area. I also hope to actually find the time to explore more public places, such as the Klamath and Siskiyou wilderness areas. Who knows, maybe Ill even get an actual camera which would be a serious upgrade from my current camera phone. Happy New Year!

The Lassics

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One of the great places to visit of our area, Black Lassic. The great thing about this peak (5,900′), is that it is very easy to get right up on top. A road essentially crosses a broad saddle where Black Lassic connects with Red Lassic and Signal Peak. There is a turn off where you can park then walk a relatively gentle trail and be on top in 15-20 minutes. If there is snow, you might not be able to get as close so be prepared to hike for a few hours depending on how close you can get. The mountain is always in plain view so its not hard to know where to go, just make sure you get to the uphill side of Lassic before you try to get to the top. All the other sides of the mountain get extremely steep and most of it is fractured and unstable.

The Lassics are considered a unique geologic area where different pieces of ancient history collide. This grey and red soil is called ‘serpentine’ and is highly acidic, and even has naturally occurring asbestos within in it. While allot of this land can be barren, stands of incense cedar and pines can grow on serpentine. Where more developed soils occur, stands true fir stands develop.

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I decided to scramble up to Red Lassic first. While this is not a hard hike, there is no trail so don’t try to take small kids or bad legs up here.

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At first glance it looks like a simple enough walk, but you must cross these talus slopes and that can be hard on your knees. My knees seem to feel it more and more each year, but I have always enjoyed scrambling over this kind of terrain.

Eventually you get to relatively stable rock and can take in some fantastic views.

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The highest point in this picture is called Signal Peak. I think there used to be a fire lookout here. When you visit this place, you can easily get to the top of all three of the peaks, Black Lassic, Red Lassic, and Signal Peak in a single day.

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A nice view of Mad River Rock. That is on my radar for my next adventure. I have always wanted to explore it! Someday Ill find the time.

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And of course a great view of Black Lassic from the top of Red.

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Looking back at Red Lassic, it does not look that impressive, although shooting a picture into the sun never really works…

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Making my way up Black Lassic, you can really see the black color of the rocks and soil, which is indeed in contrast to the red hue of Red Lassic.

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And finally, the truly epic view. Mad River Rock again. Its the Van Duzen River between us and the Rock. The next ridge you see is ‘South Fork Mountain’ which drains the Mad River. I do not know what to call the next ridge line, however I know that the east side of South Fork drains into the South Fork Trinity River. I have some panoramas Ill be posting next taken from these peaks.

Northern Goshawk

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If you want to see one of these cool birds up close, and do know any falconers, you can see this one in the Mad River Ranger Station of the Six Rivers National Forest. This is located off HWY 36 between Dinsmore and Mad River. Here are some of my pictures from Goshawks in the wild:

Hidden Spring

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Here is one of those magical nooks and crannies I love to find. No relation to the ‘real’ hidden springs, if one exists. However if you were not right on top of this one you might not find it. This unique spot has a fairly large Douglas-fir whoes roots create a Tolkienesque’ cave from which a mountain spring emerges. This ends up being one of the headwaters of Deer Creek in the Mad River.

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Obsidian

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Obsidian flake from a archaeological site above the Mad River near Pilot Ridge. A flake is a piece of rock or obsidian that ‘flakes’ off from a larger piece during the manufacture of stone tools. Think spearheads, arrowheads, an knifes. You also produce flakes when sharpening your stone tool. While chert flakes are very common in Humboldt County, I do not come across obsidian very often. It had to travel a long way to get up into the Mad River. The aboriginal people of California traded extensively and that could be how this ended up here. I think the nearest obsidian sources from here are in Lake County. You can date a site if you find a few points, as the type of arrow or spearhead technology is diagnostic of time periods of human habitation, some going back as far as 8,000 years. Its becoming increasingly rare to find a point at a site however, mainly due to a century of people picking up arrowheads.

Old Growth *Black* Oak

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This ancient hulk of a black* oak tree appears unstoppable. As parts of it die, new growth emerges. In this way, trees that produce sprouts can persist indefinitely, until site conditions change. Who knows how old this tree is. Technically, white oaks are thought to have a life span of up to 300 or so years. But I always have wondered if that takes into account new growth that eventually replaces the dying stem. Could some of these trees be thousands of years old? Regardless, trees like this contribute to the biodiversity of the landscape and have practically all flavors of the food web…

*I first thought this was a white oak, but a fellow forester pointed out that it is really a black oak. Thanks!

Maple Spring

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Maple Spring was a known watering hole for pack trains from the later 1800s through the early 1900s. A series of important pack trails crossed the rugged coastal mountains of Humboldt County to get from what is now Eureka area to Weaverville in Trinity County and beyond. There were a few important crossings on the Mad River near Pilot Creek, and this spring would have been the first stop to gather water before heading out of the canyon and up to Pilot Ridge.

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The old pack trail is almost lost to entropy. There are still blazes that can found on some older trees, and occasionally you can see evidence of the trail, mostly in the form of “U” shaped depressions were millions of sheep once walked.

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Here are the remnants of the very trees that gave this place its namesake over 150 years ago. Its neat that these old gnarly maple trees are still here. It even looks like they are doing a good job of re-sprouting into new trees as their previous trucks continue to break up from old age.

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Ceremonial Rock

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A few pictures from a trip to Patrick’s Point earlier this year. It was a typical coastal day for the north coast, completely overcast that is, so I dont have any good pics of the view. Excepting some pictures of total whiteout, I still like the colors of the forest and rocks when the sky is white. Its a accurate representation of what it looks like the majority of the time around here. Im going back today and if the sun comes out I may get better results…

About Ceremonial Rock, I could not find any history about it. I presume it was used by the Yurok People for – ahem – ceremonies, but I didnt find anything online as to any specific rites or rituals. The Sumeg village is a neat spot to visit, which is less than 1/4 from the rock. Its real fun for kids because you can actually go into most of the structures, something you have to appreciate in our fenced-off world of liabilities.

A Tree Falls

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Here is a relic from another time. This massive incense cedar must have fallen decades ago. This tree is in an ‘old growth’ forest and the canopy gap it created from its fall now provides light to the understory and a new group of trees has eagerly sprung up along the edge. The tree itself will continue to breakdown over the next hundred years, gradually releasing its stored carbon, some to the atmosphere, some back into the soil.

Hunting Season

As much as I like to think that certain forest roads are “mine”, I accept that other people come to the woods – other than forest workers – which tends to be during hunting season. Ive been on USFS Route 1 allot this year and during deer season it goes from seeing absolutely no one to seeing dozens of people a day. Private ranch patrols are out and all the little hunting camps are suddenly occupied with tents or trailers. Good Luck!

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One of dozens of hunters camps along South Fork Mountain.

I am not a hunter. I have no qualms over the idea however and am always grateful when I have the opportunity to eat deer. But for people who apparently ‘love the woods’, I will never understand all the trash that gets left behind. A minority of hunters Im sure are responsible for really ‘not givin a shit’ – but I think we need more boy/girl scouts. My mama always taught me to leave the woods cleaner than it was when you arrived. Pack it out boys!

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Come on guys, your giving everyone else a bad name. Dont trash your forest!