South Fork Eel

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.

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.

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…

Old Growth Live Oak

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One of the neat things about working as a forester is passing through the hard to get to places. Not just off the path, but on rock faces, landslides, stream canyons, etc. Topography and geology can create a impressive diversity of habitats within a forest. This chaotic assemblage of micro sites is one of Humboldt Counties trademarks.

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Old growth live oak stands like this one are not uncommon in our region, at least where access is difficult. These trees can cling to these rock outcrops for centuries. These places tend to be very harsh. Poor soils and exposure to high winds can stunt tree growth and beat a tree down. They can persist, but will never grow very large. Occasionally they are sheltered from such effects and you can find huge live oaks that almost defy imagination.

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Here is another one. This tree is just ridiculous. There were a few more like it nearby, but this one had the perfect crown. Its like a plasma globe of branches reaching out for the power of the sun. Nooks and Crannies!

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Fuels Project

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Here is a shot (stitched) from a recent project where we are thinning the understory of the forest. There are many places where the stem density is very high and the brush layers connect to the over-story and create higher fire hazards. By removing fuel ladders and thinning out dense thickets of redwood and tanoak, the fire risk is reduced and forest productivity increased. Here we are piling the debris to be burned next year. After the burn we will be planting all the gaps with redwood. Historically the stand was logged intensively with no regard to the regeneration of the stand, which in turn shifted the species composition heavily towards tanoak. This landowner wants to restore the stand to a redwood dominated forest.

If you click to enlarge the image you can see where they have completed the piling on the left, and where they are still cutting on the right. Hard work my friends!

Ghost Redwood

I actually found this tree on accident, when I just happened to notice it from a distance. This is in Founders Grove, and my only hint is that its within a few hundred feet north of the parking lot. Supper cool, and certainly the only one I have ever seen living up in the canopy. Here is the wiki about albino redwoods:

An ‘albino’ redwood is a redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens) which is unable to produce chlorophyll, and so has white needles instead of the normal green. In order to survive it must join its roots to the roots of a normal redwood, usually the parent tree from whose base it has sprouted, from which it obtains nutrition as a parasite. Only about sixty examples are known. These can be found in both Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park, with eight trees in the first. The exact locations however, are not publicized to protect the rare trees. They reach a maximum height of about 20 m (66 ft).

Other conifers lack the ability to graft their roots, and so ‘albino’ mutants of other species do not survive to become sizable trees.

This one appears to be an exceptional specimen as it is living 100 feet up in the air, apparently nestled into a witches broom. I wonder how many of these exist…

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Sunset over the East Branch

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A perfect way to start the night…This time, me and my co-workers where in for a long night with Murphy’s Law in full effect. Thunder and lightning, unexpected road blockages and sketchy neighbors can make spotted owl surveying tense.

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The 4-wheeler lights didn’t work, so we had to strap on flashlights to get to our stations. Can you see the rain? Funny thing was the clouds were hard to see. It was like Hawaii rain, huge drops, but looking up into the sky all you could see was stars…We ended up hearing three owls that night, two spotted owls and one barred owl. A busy night. All kinds of other creatures are lurking around at night too, like this nasty….

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Old Homestead

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There were homesteads in many remote hard to reach locations. Were all the good spots taken? Or is it because you took a government land patent without knowing anything about it? I came across this one in a small isolated prairie on the Humboldt-Mendocino line. After spending several days near this spot, I was struck by how hard it was to reach it. While the site itself was pleasant, a gentle bench and a good spring near-by, it is surrounded by very steep terrain. Perhaps this is what lead to its ultimate failure. The stove looks circa 1910s-1920s.

Who were the people that decided to settle here? What were they doing and why did they leave everything behind?

Fuel Reduction in Coast Redwood

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Here are some pics from a project this summer. This property is in the South Fork Eel and less than a mile from where the Canoe Fire was stopped in 2004. That fire burned over 11,000 acres mostly in the State Parks. Many redwood forests are are at a higher fire risk than people think. First of all, it may surprise you to know that the fire return interval in redwoods was 6-15 years. Frequent low intensity fires were very common in redwood forests in part due to indians starting fires, but also the the massive amount of biomass (feuls) redwood and tanoak forests produce annually.

The Canoe Fire was a wake up call for many people who live in the South Fork and the proactive landowner will takes steps to reduce fire risk and make fighting it easier. In this case, the objective was to create a shaded fuel break along the main roads, as well as remove invasive species that had taken over on old log landings and ditches along the road (namely scotch broom). This practice reduces the intensity of fire as it moves into the fuel break making the road itself a potential fire line. It also improves the productivity of the trees near-by which will grow larger crowns, slowing understory growth, and thus reducing the development of ladder fuels within the fuel break.