Trinity River

Love Letter Springs

I had the fortune of driving to a job near Hayfork, CA this summer. The job went super quick and I ended up with a day to kill – so I set our to explore some backroads between Hayfork and Big Bar. You can take Barker Creek Road to eventually get to Coral Bottom Road and then over to Big Bar. There are also endless USFS roads that go off in all directions. I happened to notice a neat looking ridge that had a spot named Love Letter Springs on the map. With a name like that, I couldn’t resist checking it out.

So many roads I tell you...

So many roads I tell you…

In the lowlands, the forest transitions from oak woodlands to conifer forests. It is evident that there once was way more of this oak woodland, largely due to Douglas-fir encroachment. As fire suppression in northern California reaches its 100th year, we see the last of the oak stands being swallowed up by conifers.

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As you leave the lowland valleys the road leads into the deep forests that make up the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. These forests are diverse, and many different forest types are found along these roads. Douglas-fir stands appear to be the most common.

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In the higher elevations, true fir species, pine and incense cedar become more common. The composition of these forests are largely driven by fire disturbance. Indeed most of these ridge lines have been used as fire lines during firefighting efforts in the past several decades.

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This became more evident as the road passes through more recently burned timber. Many view forest forest fires as devastating, however this is seldom the case. In wilderness areas, fire – while they may look destructive – create tremendous life. Dead trees lure large populations of insects and as result chum up the food chain in the form of food for birds and reptiles, while advancing decay in standing snags that will provide nesting structure for many birds and small mammals.

Fire also creates a mosaic of forest layers that increase diversity. Grass and herbaceous plants tend to thrive post fire and these reinvigorated regrowth is highly nutritious for grazing animals like deer and elk. I write this is the wake of a busy fire season Humboldt County and indeed the whole State. While many people get frustrated by “let it burn” policies in national forests, its important to understand the benefits of fire. It also should be known that fires have always been part of the climate in western forests. Millions of years of evolution have shaped the disturbance-response effects of forests, from the serotonous cones of pine trees that only open following fires, to the development of large cavities in trees that many species depend on.

Love Letter Springs

Love Letter Springs

Tried as I might to find the backstory of this place, I found nothing. Most place names tend to be either practical names, like the names of homesteaders or ranches, or names that signify some hardship – like Hells Hole or Devils Elbow or Starvation Flat…This spot got a name that seems inspired by someones love. A rare thing, at least on a map. And sitting near this cold water spring, high on a mountain you can see how one would find inspiration. A magnificent view perhaps fueled the longing to write to a loved one in the mists of desolation.

Even if you prove to me that you have the blemishes you think you have, it cannot appall me any, because with them, you will still be better, and nobler, and lovelier than anyone I have known. I will help you to weed out your faults when they are revealed to me but don’t you be troubled about the matter, for you have a harder task before you, which is helping me to weed out mine. Let me pay my due homage to your worth; let me honor you above all others; let me love you with a love that knows no doubt, no question– for you are my world, my life, my pride, my all of earth that is worth the having. Let us hope and believe that we shall walk hand in hand down the lengthening highway of life, one in heart, one in impulse, and one in love, bearing each other’s burdens, sharing each other’s joys, soothing each other’s griefs. What we will lose of youth, we will make up in love, so that the account is squared, and to nobody’s disadvantage. I love you, my darling, and this my love will increase, step by step as tooth by tooth falls out, mile-stoning my way down to the great mystery and the Sweet Bye & Bye.

For I do love you… as the dew loves the flowers; as the birds love the sunshine; as the wavelets love the breeze, as mothers love their first-born; as memory loves old faces; as the yearning tides love the moon; as the angels love the pure in heart…

Take my kiss and my benediction, and try to be reconciled to the fact that I am

Yours forever,
S.L.C
[aka Mark Twain]

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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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Grays Falls

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I was recently driving on 299 after a sort of “day killer”, meaning I had to go way out somewhere to work for 2 hours and found my self at 1 PM with nothing to do. Then I passed by Grays Falls and remembered a fellow blogger had recently mentioned that spot (Thanks Ross!). So I doubled back and walked down to the falls.

More like rapids than a true waterfall, but a neat spot just the same. The steep cliffs on either side of the Trinity are really impressive. The trail is a easy enough walk, although it is a little slippery in spots. It was raining lightly when I was there, and think the river was up from melting snow in the highlands. You can also take a short trail down to the banks of the river, which goes though a pretty Douglas-fir forests. If you want to go there, just look for the sign on the 299 near Burnt Ranch.

East Fork Willow Creek

Old Growth in East Fork Willow Creek.

Old Growth in East Fork Willow Creek.

I have wanted to hike around this forest for years. You can see this area from the highway and can access it pretty easily from the East Fork Camp ground when its open. I happened to have some extra time last month and hiked up into the forest a little west of the camp ground from the 299.

This is one of the largest pacific yew trees I have ever seen. I find it impressive that it is living right off the highway turnout.

This is one of the largest pacific yew trees I have ever seen. I find it impressive that it is living right off the highway turnout.

This forest has it all. Douglas-fir, tanoak, madrone, golden chinquapin, and more. The understory has the same species where light allows, as well as the occasional pacific yew. Sword fern and huckleberry make up the bulk of the ground cover. Eventually I saw a huge tree that appeared to be the biggest in the area.

After tromping around for a bit, one tree caught my eye.

After tromping around for a bit, one tree caught my eye.

I only has a few hours, and Id like to get in here someday and explore a little more thoroughly. The campground looks like a nice escape from a hot summer and even in this dry summer we are gearing up for, I bet the East Fork will keep water.

Forest Panorama

Forest Panorama

Nooks and Crannies

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The picture above is looking north towards Hoopa. Im standing on a very cool rock formation. Where the Klamath Mountains meet the Franciscan geology of the coast range you might come across a limestone rock outcrop like this. Whenever I come across limestone (which is extremely rare in Humboldt) the first thing I think of is caves.

You never know what you might find in some of the nooks and crannies around these rock out crops. Good thing my phone has a flashlight, otherwise I would have never been able to take these pictures.

Yes, that is a bat. Funny thing is, I didn’t realize it was there until later when I was home looking at the pictures. Its even funnier because I was specifically looking for bats! lol In my defense, there are allot of shadows being cast with my light – the cave walls are by no means uniform and smooth – so one bat is easy to miss. After reading up on bats, I think I am calling this little dude Myotis californicus AKA California Myotis. Or possibly a Silver Hair, but caves where not listed in their habitat type – which isn’t always exactly true… Any bat experts out there?

http://www.norcalbats.org/aboutbats.shtml#batsCom

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Continuing to explore I see this spot up the hill. Looks pretty dark behind that live oak…

A closer look…

Part of me is scared that there is a ferocious lion or bear in the cave, but so far, I haven’t encountered those animals in these places.

So now Im about 40 feet into the rock. Its hard with pictures to get the perspective, but this tunnel is trending down into the earth. Im more or less crouched down bracing myself as I shine the light down the cave which continues on for as far as I can see. I can also see many little opening through the fractured rocks which reminds me – these aren’t the limestone caves of the sierras. Earthquakes where a major force in the creation of these features and the likely destroyer of them. With a sudden and intense rush of claustrophobic anxiety, I am compelled to leave the tunnel as fast as possible! Which I do.