Month: December 2013

Massive Live Oak

MR 429

Continuing on my old growth theme, here is another massive live oak.

MR 430

Fire scares and goose-pen cavities reveal the trees old age. Many, many fires in the first few hundred years of this trees life.

MR 431 MR 432


Old Growth Live Oak

MR 426

Quercus chrysolepis. It is not uncommon to find old growth live oak in Humboldt County. Because it tends to grow in places that are not easy to get to, it has been largely unaffected by past management.

MR 424

These trees are known to be long-lived and may reach ages exceeding 300 years. If you ever come across exceptionally large live oak, you can start pondering the past several hundred years and what these trees have witnessed.

MR 425

Want to find big live-oaks? Look near rock outcrops and poor soils. The biggest live-oaks I tend to find in hard to get places, often in steep canyons and bluffs.

Oak Woodlands: The Last of the Great Old Growth Forests

MR 414

When we think of old growth, we tend to think of the redwoods or the great Douglas-fir forests of the north west. You probably do not think of oak woodlands of when you hear the term old growth. They do not have the spotted owl or marbled murrelet to enshrine them into the sacred. But perhaps they should. Oak woodlands are known for their biodiversity, and support a huge array of plants and animals – all – year long, including foraging habitat for rare and important animals like the pacific fisher and the northern goshawk.

MR 416

These larger trees are several hundred years old. In this healthy woodland, we see a forest comprised of all ages, so hopefully there will be ongoing recruitment of larger oaks as the older trees reach the end of their lifespans. In Humboldt County, we are concerned that many stands of oaks have been lost to encroachment and regeneration of oaks may be in trouble because of our fire policies.

MR 441

In the past, old growth has been at risk from development and timber harvesting. This was true of most areas of the north west, and still is in many parts of the world. In the case of woodland, ironically harvesting may be the savior of the oak. Conifer forests have made a significant recovery since society began to care and conserve for older aged forests on the landscape. Woodlands have been generally overlooked however, and we are only beginning to understand the consequences of the loss of oak stands. The time is now to start aggressively reclaiming these woodlands and preventing encroachment from destroying some of the last remaining old forests in northern California.

Stuck on a Airplane

VAN 046

When I returned from my recent trip to southern California, I had the pleasure of being held on the plane circling for an hour before being sent back to Sacramento. As beautiful as it was in 90% of the county, apparently there was heavy fog at the Aracta airport – and well, you all know the drill around here. At least I got some awesome views of our county. This is over the central-east portion of Humboldt. If you note the savannah-grasslands above the wing, you can see Indian Creek, which is in between the two open ridges. From this vantage you can really see how isolated the oak and savannah types are becoming, as they continue to be rapidly encroached by Douglas-fir.

VAN 045

When I took this picture, the plane was right over McClellan Mountain. The Van Duzen River cuts through the melange geology here. You can still see the grey scars remnant from the 1964 flood. The strange formation in the center of the picture is the Eaton Roughs. I have written about the roughs previously here:

Pickens Canyon

Pickens Canyon 01

In a recent trip, I visited the southern California town of my youth, La Crescenta. Although it was a short trip, I had to take a quick morning hike up into Pickens Canyon, where I spent many teenage days and nights exploring some of LA’s hidden open spaces.

Pickens Canyon 02

This creek at one time was the principle water supply for the rural community below, which eventually became La Crescenta and Montrose. If you look carefully in the pictures you might see the old water pipes that were installed near the turn of the century. We used to use them as supports, climbing along them to get higher up into the canyon.

Pickens Canyon 03

A wonderful coast live oak here in all its fire adapted glory. There was a fire in this canyon in 2009 which has substantially altered the vegetation from when I was last there – over 15 years ago. And while I did note some tree mortality, most of the mature trees, particularly the ones hanging on the canyon walls have survived. I also saw the canyon live oak and the California scrub oak, as well as maple, alder, and willow species.

Another observation was of the apparent debris torrent that has scoured the stream channel in places and deposited sediments in low gradient areas. These mountain streams are very incised and have many narrow, steep side channels making their watershed areas larger than you would think – the result is a huge peak flow result, especially after fires have burned most of the understory vegetation in the upper portions of the watershed. Here is a video I found of the recent floods, taken about 1 mile down from where my pictures were taken:

Wow, and that was nothing compared to what happened in the infamous flood of 1934:

Pickens Canyon 04

A view out of the canyon. Bye-bye LA. Hopefully next time I will get to spend some time in up in the Angles Crest.

First Snow

MR 404

I had the pleasure of working around 4,000′ feet up in the Mad River on Friday. This is how the day started, around 8:15 here, with a nice powder shower.

MR 407

Within a few hours about an inch accumulated. Officially snow at this point.


MR 406

While the powder is dry(ish), I was just about as soaked through at the end of the day as a rainy day.

MR 405

My hands still hurt!

MR 408

Mad River rocks!

MR 409

By 4 PM, there was a good 3-4 inches on the ground. Enough to make the drive down the hill a little precarious. You really do appreciate through-cuts when sliding down logging roads in a pick-up. I stopped to take a quick shot of this buck, who although it looks like hes looking right at me, is totally oblivious, staring at the doe who was behind the oak tree to the right.