Month: January 2013


Matole Peak

Simply labeled “Matole” on the maps. Its on telegraph ridge just above Ettersburg.


Death Match: Madrone vs Douglas-fir

Madrone the kraken

Its no secret that plants compete fiercely for resources. Its to the death! With higher order plants like trees it is no different. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see this whole sequence in time-lapse? The madrone looks like some alien tentacle that is about to devour the Douglas-fir tree. It is actually more of a wrestling match. The madrone is much older, and in its 150+ year life it has found itself fire starved and surrounded by young obnoxious fir trees that are over crowding its crown. In an attempt to prevent this fir from completely shading it out, is it attempting to squeeze it to death?

No pictures…

So I finally had some excellent pictures to put up, a graveyard, a collection of old beer cans, and some killer old growth tan oak trees – but I stupidly deleted the photos while transferring them to my PC. ARG! Im not sure If I will get to those places again but I will have more to post soon.

Photo History

Areal photos are really an amazing resource. There is a ton of information you can gain from them, especially in stereo. Humboldt County has a deep photo history too, which more or less begins in 1941. In order to better understand the forests we work in, these old photos enable us to pinpoint the age of most forests now, along with help explain their current structure and composition.

There has been considerable hype recently about the damages from pot grows. Now that we have free instant access to current high-resolution photos, we can watch the landscape in more or less real time. The images of 1-3 acre clearings are apparently so shocking that its leading people to jump to very interesting conclusions.

While looking through these pictures this week, this time in the Matole, I got thinking about the pot thing. There is nothing new about agriculture in our rural landscape. In fact, agriculture in general has been reduced to a mere remnant of what it once was in most areas that are considered ‘hot’ now. The scale of current agriculture, legal and clandestine, doesn’t even compare to the historic eras. Take logging. 200 acre clearcuts in the 60s. Yet a 40 acre clearcut (max in todays rules) seems enormous to most people, right? People struggle with understanding this evolution that has occurred here.

Look at these ‘grows’. What do they look like? Plants? You guessed it! Orchards. The key to sustenance for most homesteads…These pictures are from 1963. Many of the rural communities of Humboldt were developed in this era – and almost every little homestead had 20-40 acres of “orchards”, and in the case of the Matole, often huge conversions of forest to grazing land. All of this you see was done in a period with no rules, no oversight, and not much consideration if any of current or future impacts.

And what became of it all? The majority of these homesteads failed and the forest has re-taken the old orchards, roads, and fields. However is some places the old home is still there. Some of them even still persist of the land, while other space has been claimed for growing weed. Most of the grows I see in on-line sensation stories are the footprints of what came before them.

If I have a point to make its that pictures require more than just looking at them to come to some conclusions. The mere presence of forest openings for pot growing is not significant in the bigger picture. There could be a cumulative impact in localized watersheds due to water diversions, but I wonder what the water use for 20 acre orchards was in the 1950-1960s compared with a 1/2 acre pot grow? The bottom line is pot is a speck of a gold rush that will fade too. Will it always cling on as a remnant industry like ranching or timber has, or will it go the way of the tanbark industry? Here one day gone the next. Either way, our forests will continue to thrive with or without us.

Elk River Hiksari’ Trail

Mouth of Elk River 1

A brand new paved trail follows the mouth of Elk River to the Bay opened recently. Its a pretty neat trail, and a good spot to observe nature close to Eureka. Its also a great spot to take a child to ride a bike, or someone who cant get around as well. There are public restrooms near the bayshore mall access.

Elk River bottoms 2

The path is more or less flat and paved with perfectly smooth blacktop. My only complaint would be the gravel placed on the road edge – which makes skateboarding a little more treacherous…but its still a really good surface for skating. From the Herrick Park-n-Ride the path meanders along the banks of Elk River. The bottom lands are dominated by grasses and willow patches, with occasional stands of red alder.

You also see the fringe between a city and nature. These areas were all used in the past for various waterfront industries – lumber most likely. Its good that these areas are becoming accessible open space along with restoring bottom land habitats. It will be interesting to watch these areas through the years as the trees get larger and the vegetation regime changes.

Coastal Lodgepole Pine

Look for the ‘shore pine’ AKA lodgepole on the new path between Shamus and the Park-N-Ride. Its the only 2-needle pine native to the western US. More from the silvics manual:

Coastal Race (var. contorta)- The thick-barked trees are relatively small, short-lived, and inherently branchy. Now mostly confined to marginal sites (muskegs, dunes, serpentine soils, rocky sites), this race pioneered forest succession in the Pacific Coast region at the end of the lee Age.