Month: October 2012

A Day in the Redwoods

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Here are some pictures from last week. This is a all-aged redwood stand in extremely steep topography. I believe we descended 1000′ feet over 1/4 mile down a ridge we were working off of, which is about 75% slope. Steep.

The forest has a history of intensive management. First logged in the late 1800s, which would have been like a clear cut but small trees were left. The next entry was probably in the 1950s and again a clear cut, but this time they took everything they could feasibly get to. In the 1980s they return and get the last patches with helicopters. And finally a series of selective harvests occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s which were thinning the 40-50 year old stuff regenerated after the 50s cut.

So at this point you have four-five generations of trees over a several hundred acre area. Because the harvests that occurred after 1950s were significantly smaller (20-40 acres compared to 200-500 acres) the environment is not homogenous. With the exception of old growth habitat, which is lacking, most other habitat types are present in a apparently well balanced mosaic. A forest like this is the poster child for the resilience of redwood and for proof that selective logging is a viable method of harvesting. They dont stop growing!

These forests are teeming with life, and you see and hear many varieties of birds throughout the day. I also noticed several flocks of aleutian geese flying over us, a sure sign that winter is getting closer.

Suicide Rock

I was unable to find any story behind the name of this rock. The place names book has a vague description of it, but no historic suicide of note. To help with the scale, the face of the rock is close to 150 feet high. The top side can be easily reached and is more or less flat ground, so the name likely comes from the fact that it could be a easy place to jump from…

Pioneer

I found this ponderosa pine randomly in the middle of a small seasonal stream channel. It is a Douglas-fir forest type, an even aged stand about 75 years old. This is a stand that has transitioned from oak savannah to a coniferous forest – so i guess this area has a history of immigrants. The thing about the ponderosa is that its miles away from its ‘normal’ range. I guess the question is if this tree predates the current Douglas-fir dominated stand. It was certainly large enough to predate the formation of the fir stand. If had fire not been excluded from this area, there could have been a pine dominated forest here instead…

Old Yarding Machine

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Here is a cool find from earlier this summer. I stumbled on this hybrid-yarder in a semi-remote, or at least overgrown, portion of someone’s property. They had no idea it was there. Admittedly Im not an expert in the manufacture history of logging machinery, but I would consider this the final evolution of a stream donkey. There was a period in the 1950s where tractors, trucks, and smaller better chain saws became widely available. Still old technologies were still used. In this case, a stream donkey design, just replace the boiler engine with a big diesel engine. The plaque on the motor was stamped 1959.

Basically it is a powerful wench. Its sits on the wooden sled and can be dragged through the woods by simply wenching it along. You would find a location on the side of a hill anchor it with cables to nearby trees and stumps and then yard, or wench, up logs from way down the hill. This one must of broke down and was simply left there.

A Losing Battle

Here is an example of a dying Oregon white oak. This tree was 30 inches in diameter, and well over 150 years old. I could estimate that from old fire scars near the base of the tree. The larger Douglas-fir to the left, as well as the trees near by forming the over story, are around 55-65 years old. White oak is very shade intolerant and will die within 15-20 years after being over topped by other trees. This one had stretched its remaining limbs to the small pockets of light it had which eventually led to it falling over.

I find these skeleton oaks all throughout the Douglas-fir dominated forests from the South Fork Eel to the Mad River. I really believe we are witnessing a profound change in forest make up here in Humboldt county that is resulting from our suppression of fire and our traditional bias for conifer trees in land management.