Memory Full

Well, Im maxed out. For a while they were offering straight memory for purchase, however currently the only option is 100/year. I just don’t have it in me to pay that much for my amateur camera/phone pictures. Not sure what Im going to do. I could delete from the archive, but was hoping to keep a record of how the world looked back then… Hopefully things will change. I mean really, cloud data storage? Should be cheaper than air! Maybe Ill move to Instagram or facebook. Im gunna give it some time, but no new pics for a while…

Paul Bunyan

KLA 164

Coming home from mom’s in Oregon we stopped by the Trees of Mystery, a favorite road side attraction on the 101. On a busy day they even have Paul talking to the guests and waving his huge hand. “Hey there, young girl in the pink shirt!”

I was always fond of Paul Bunyan, who I think of as our northwest version of John Henry. A champion of the working man who muscled his way ahead of technology. While John Henry could beat the stream shovel with his 9-pound hammer, old Paul Bunyan took on the chainsaw with his mighty axe.

As it turns out, Paul Bunyan has his roots in French-Canadian folklore, most likely from the woods of north eastern America. Eventually he made his way to the Dakotas where he becomes famous for cutting millions of feet of timber in the winter of the “blue snow”. And of course his trusty blue ox.

Eventually Paul met up with good-ole American marketing when the Red River Lumber Company incorporated Paul as a mascot in 1914. The new Paul Bunyan was ridiculously tall and the blue ox was affectionately named “Babe”. Apparently his camp stove and hotcake griddle were so large that it was greased by men using sides of bacon for skates! This is the Bunyan who was eventually memorialized in the Disney cartoons from the 1950s I watched as a kid.

Paul and babe


Final Stages of Encroachment

MR 471

Here is a good view of a stand that has almost fully transitioned from a black oak forest to a Douglas-fir stand. Encroachment began in this stand in the 1960s and finally the last of the taller oaks are reaching the end of their lives. Over then next ten or so years the oak stems will loose all of their limbs and begin to feel the pull of gravity as their root masses die. Many species of insects and fungus will invade these trees and speed up the fall. Once on the ground, the boles will persist for decades as the forest recyclers slowly and consistently do their work.

Meanwhile the Douglas-fir canopy will close in around the space previously occupied by the oaks and the little remaining areas of filtered light on the forest floor will become dark. This will also effect the shrub and ground cover component of the forest, severely limiting what can grow there in the absence of light.

Its interesting how the full encroachment cycle changes the bio-diversity of stand over time. It would seem that during the last phases of transition, like in the photo, the diversity is highest. This is in part due to the vertical structure offered by the overstory conifer, the decaying oak trees in the mid canopy, and the collection of downed wood on the forest floor. There are also pockets of shrubs that still receive light where the fir canopy has not closed in. Oak snags make potential cavities for numerous birds and mammals. The fallen trees become home to hosts of insects that in turn are feasted on by many of the locals.

While I generally speak of this encroachment as a negative, there is certainly a positive, or at least productive element to this process from a forest health prospective. In a truly “natural” setting, there would be recruitment of oak woodlands somewhere near-by while this process was occurring, creating the balance of habitats over the landscape. However in our fire starved environment, Douglas-fir encroachment is occurring much more frequently than the rate oak stands are developing. In fact, very little oak stands are developing at all in Humboldt County. This is why, I believe, that there is an urgency to prevent encroachment into woodlands.

Moonstone: Behind the Scenes

Leave it to children to be able to find neat places that you would otherwise never see. How often are you at a place like Moosntone Beach and have the desire to go crawl through the brush just to see whats in there? I used to have that urge, and while I do crawl through the brush at work, its the last thing I want to do when Im not working. But its hard to turn down your kid, so adventure it is. Lead on boy!

He had been going on and on about this so-called “sand slide”. Essentially Moonstone Rock is a sandstone bluff, almost completely covered with a mat of English ivy. Animal paths have been expanded by kids and make a maze of tunnels to explore. Once I got in there I remembered exploring these ivy tunnels as a teenager.


Although this is an exotic, invasive species – it sure is pretty looking. Who doesnt like to look at a ivy covered castle or brick wall? And ivy caves make for wonderful adventures. Once they really dominate an area like this, there is certainly habitat for many birds and mammals.

Blake Mountain, Humboldt County


I have promised myself for years to check out a few of the peaks that are right on Route 1 when I had the time. I finally did last December and stopped to check out Blake Mountain.

The view from 'lower' Blake. This spot is on a broad ridge with dense forest, and as such does not provide for much visibility.

The view from ‘lower’ Blake. This spot is on a broad ridge with dense forest and does not provide for much visibility.

Next I went over to Blake Spring Campground or at least what is left of it. An old jeep road runs down to the spring, but there is not much of a camp there. There is little flat ground, and it appears that camping on the ridge would be more comfortable. Perhaps the road used to go further past the spring to a more suitable spot, but if there is a road it is completely over grown past the spring.

Blake Spring. Yes its frozen!

Blake Spring

The view from the so-called Blake Spring Camp.

The view from the so-called Blake Spring Camp.

Just to the north of the camp is the high spot on Blake Mountain. A jeep trail traverses the ridge and the bench mark was easy to find.

Blake Mountain bench mark; 5,905 ft above sea level.

Blake Mountain bench mark; 5,905 ft above sea level.

Looking north east into Trinity County from Blake Mountain.

Looking north east into Trinity County from Blake Mountain.

From there you can check out the “South Fork” bench mark, a little further to the north. I would like to know how this spot got its name, as the ‘real’ South Fork Mountain peak is many miles to the south. Regardless, this is a neat spot, and perhaps the most interesting of the three bench marks on Blake.

Unlike the other two spots, the topogrophy really drops away from the top allowing for some spectacular views of the Middle Mad River.

Unlike the other two spots, the topogrophy really drops away from the top allowing for some spectacular views of the Middle Mad River.

Can you make a difference?

MR 367

We have been putting significant effort into trying to prevent Douglas-fir from over topping our last remaining oak woodlands. The scale on which this phenomena is occurring is overwhelming to say the least…

Hopefully there is a growing awareness of the necessity to maintain the oak and prairie areas that will result in landowners big and small physically removing small fir trees from the oak woodlands before they get unmanageable. And more importantly (and idealistic), the reintroduction of fire to our forests.


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This is a huge crack in Blue Rock that fractures the bluff right through the center. Looking in, I could see down at least 50 feet or more into the darkness. It could go down easily a 100 feet into the rock.

Are Woodlands Important?

MR 28 oakwoodland at risk

As more and more studies are being completed, all signs point towards a severe decline in White Oak and Black Oak forests. This appears to be a phenomena that afflicts the entire range of these trees, from California to Canada. While deforestation may still be an issue (think wineries), the common thread throughout the western US is fire exclusion.

We have a pretty accurate picture of historic fire patterns. For woodland areas throughout Humboldt, a fire would burn any given area every 6-15 years. This is going back several thousand years…that is up until the early 1900s. By the 1920s the west had begun to implement a fire prevention policy for forests. In other words, put out forest fires no matter what. As result, we now have some forests that have not had a fire for over 100 years. Frequent fires historically prevented Douglas-fir from encroaching into oak woodlands, as seedlings would die before becoming large enough to withstand the fires.

Now unchecked by fire, we have rapidly growing Douglas-fir replacing oak forests that are hundreds of years old. In the next 20-30 years we will loose tens of thousands of acres of oak woodland. It will not be feasible to “save” all of this forest. Many people are trying, or at least learning how to conserve what they have on their land.

While its impractical, and probably pointless, to be trying to convert established Douglas-fir forests back to oak (assuming they were oak forests pre-fire exclusion), it could be time to be preventing the encroachment were it hasn’t killed the oaks. These oak trees are surprisingly resilient. But they need light to live. Once the Douglas-fir is dominating the overstory, the oaks have no chance. Its do or die for areas in these pictures. I believe in 20 years these oak woodlands will be Douglas-fir timberlands – unless the fir is removed.

Comercial DF in oak

Are oak woodlands important? Consider that they are are a less common habitat type in Humboldt, even more so from what has been lost in the past 40 years. Yet these woodlands are the most diverse forests in terms of plants and animals. They are crucial in maintaining our deer and up in coming elk herds. There is a reason the indigenous people of the area favored the oak woodland.

Intrinsically one forest type is not more important then the other. Yet considering the relative abundance of old growth Douglas-fir, I would consider this type important, especially in Humboldt County.

MR 28 oakwoodland at risk2

Skeletons of the Past

MR DF 80y Forest

As I work my way down towards the Mad River, I am walking through a Douglas-fir forest. This forest type is a new phenomena for this area, as there are very few trees older than 100 years and no stumps. The evidence of the white oak forest that existed previously is abundant.


This change in forest type is a natural process called succession. Species who favor light are eventually over topped by shade tolerant species who have been slowly making their way through the canopy. The problem is, although succession is a natural processes, the real reason behind this change is Man. Prior to 1920, these areas had a regular factor in the climate that is now absent: fire. Fire maintained a balance of forest types which supported a wide array of mixed species forests. That diversity is on the decline as Douglas-fir comes to dominate these areas. We are just coming to understand the scope of this problem but is it too late? We can not expect a natural fire regime to return to our forests. So what should we do?

MR Dead Oak

Cumulative Impact

I have made a case that small forests openings, at the average intensity and size that is occurring here, is having little effect on the overall forest health. I am not talking about areas with dense subdivided lands. We have our share of rural subdivisions where the average parcel size is less than 160 acres, where the population density can greatly effect forest systems like wildlife and erosion. On the balance however, the parcels are 160a or greater over hundreds of thousands of acres.

For the case of these openings used for weed, what sometimes occurs in the vicinity of these openings is probably having a cumulative impact on watershed resources more often than not. The unanswered question in my mind is what extent of grows actually have significant chronic pollution. One in twenty? One in five? Of what I have seen on the ground, Id say at least 10% of grows I come across have a significant chronic sediment source that was caused by or was accelerated by growers. But I dont believe I have seen enough to really know. The majority of the time I am seeing abandoned grows anyways, so by their nature there is a higher probability for problems.

Where the biggest impacts are occurring is where they interact with past land use, primarily logging. Once you get off the beaten path you find yourself in steep terrain with old skid trails everywhere. Growers find these old trails and reopen them for various uses and it is here where things go bad.


Most, if not all, of these legecy trails simply pushed the fill from cutting through the mountain right over the side and into the creeks and draws they passed by. Following the historic logging blitzes of the 50-60s, most of the stream crossings are still gradually bleeding out the deposited dirt. When we encounter these in Timber Harvest Plans today, we pull all the old fill, excavate and restore the correct channel bed, stabilize the banks, and put it to rest.

Unfortunately one out of (a unquantified number) of rural landowners are attempting to re-use these relic roads. In some cases they re-awaken old wounds that have stabilized, often leading to drastic consequences like debris slides that deliver into important streams.


If the growers want to avoid the Simpsons Mobs (aka the public), they will be wise to avoid such issues and actively educate themselves and their peers about preventing sediment pollution. If I were a grower, I would start here: http://www.krisweb.com/biblio/gen_mcrcd_weaveretal_1994_handbook.pdf

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.

Winter in the Mad River

Snowy Morning in the Mad

The day started with completely clear skies over a fresh blanket of snow. Terribly cold. Winter has this quality of beauty that somehow justifies shitty weather. Just after the sun came up, a wall of darkness covered the sky bringing heavy snow.

invisible mnt stream

All the creeks are raging full force right now. You can even hear the Mad River over a mile away. I can only image what the Mad looks like during all of this. When you consider the countless watercourses that are pumping water like this, you start to understand how the Mad River can move such enormous boulders.

Giant Chinkapin

This is one of our more interesting tree we have here in north coast forests. I typically see this tree outside of the redwood fringe in Douglas-fir and tanoak forests. Apparently chinkapin (castanopsis chrysophylla) is considered the ancient condition, or gentic form of the Beech (fagaceae) family, which of course today looks much different. There are only 2 species of castanopsis in America, but over 148 species known in Asia. I wonder if these trees are indeed hold outs from ancient times, like redwoods. Does the rare dawn redwood found in Asia also point to the possibility that our forests are some how connected?

I never really notice the young trees, as they look just like tanoak. And who likes young, thick tanoak? But, just like tanoak, when you come across mature large trees you realize how beautiful they are. They remind me Tolkiens’ Ents.

All the rain brings…

bear creek falls

Having spent allot of time in forests around the Colombia Gorge and a fair amount in the Sierras, I have generally considered waterfalls to be scarce in Humboldt. Our sandstone bedrock simply wont allow the power of large streams to form into waterfalls. There are a few out there though, this one my favorite so far. This one forms from a stream which cuts through meadow before its forced around a large rock outcrop. I actually visited this one about two years ago right when we were having a serious cold snap. I tell no lie the falls were frozen! If Im lucky enough to be there again in similar circumstances Ill be sure to have a camera with me!

Van Duzen Rocks

There are places you encounter where the Earths surface shows evidence of some ancient cataclysm. Where the Van Duzen narrows near Eaton Roughs there are huge rock formations that cover large areas like this one. These areas are urban neighborhoods for small mammals.

Mountain Quail

Here is some more stitching fun. I was taking some notes when nearby this flock of quail walked by. There was about 20 of them and they nervously got up on the log in single file and one by one jumped to the next one. I took like 20 pictures of them as they walked, then stitched them and got that cool ‘ghosting’ effect…