Made a trip up to Trinidad Head a few weeks ago and caught a gem of a fall day for Humboldt County. Nothing but drippy dreary rain from now on … not that Im complaining about that.
Here is one of those magical nooks and crannies I love to find. No relation to the ‘real’ hidden springs, if one exists. However if you were not right on top of this one you might not find it. This unique spot has a fairly large Douglas-fir whoes roots create a Tolkienesque’ cave from which a mountain spring emerges. This ends up being one of the headwaters of Deer Creek in the Mad River.
Obsidian flake from a archaeological site above the Mad River near Pilot Ridge. A flake is a piece of rock or obsidian that ‘flakes’ off from a larger piece during the manufacture of stone tools. Think spearheads, arrowheads, an knifes. You also produce flakes when sharpening your stone tool. While chert flakes are very common in Humboldt County, I do not come across obsidian very often. It had to travel a long way to get up into the Mad River. The aboriginal people of California traded extensively and that could be how this ended up here. I think the nearest obsidian sources from here are in Lake County. You can date a site if you find a few points, as the type of arrow or spearhead technology is diagnostic of time periods of human habitation, some going back as far as 8,000 years. Its becoming increasingly rare to find a point at a site however, mainly due to a century of people picking up arrowheads.
This ancient hulk of a black* oak tree appears unstoppable. As parts of it die, new growth emerges. In this way, trees that produce sprouts can persist indefinitely, until site conditions change. Who knows how old this tree is. Technically, white oaks are thought to have a life span of up to 300 or so years. But I always have wondered if that takes into account new growth that eventually replaces the dying stem. Could some of these trees be thousands of years old? Regardless, trees like this contribute to the biodiversity of the landscape and have practically all flavors of the food web…
*I first thought this was a white oak, but a fellow forester pointed out that it is really a black oak. Thanks!
Maple Spring was a known watering hole for pack trains from the later 1800s through the early 1900s. A series of important pack trails crossed the rugged coastal mountains of Humboldt County to get from what is now Eureka area to Weaverville in Trinity County and beyond. There were a few important crossings on the Mad River near Pilot Creek, and this spring would have been the first stop to gather water before heading out of the canyon and up to Pilot Ridge.
The old pack trail is almost lost to entropy. There are still blazes that can found on some older trees, and occasionally you can see evidence of the trail, mostly in the form of “U” shaped depressions were millions of sheep once walked.
Here are the remnants of the very trees that gave this place its namesake over 150 years ago. Its neat that these old gnarly maple trees are still here. It even looks like they are doing a good job of re-sprouting into new trees as their previous trucks continue to break up from old age.
Here we are looking west(ish) down on the Mad River. To the very left Pilot Creek drains west into the mad. Slightly up river is Bear Creek, draining east. Now from left to right (or south to north) you can see several known points: Rattlesnake Rock, Amelia Butte, Soldiers Grove, Showers Head and Black Butte.
A few pictures from a trip to Patrick’s Point earlier this year. It was a typical coastal day for the north coast, completely overcast that is, so I dont have any good pics of the view. Excepting some pictures of total whiteout, I still like the colors of the forest and rocks when the sky is white. Its a accurate representation of what it looks like the majority of the time around here. Im going back today and if the sun comes out I may get better results…
About Ceremonial Rock, I could not find any history about it. I presume it was used by the Yurok People for – ahem – ceremonies, but I didnt find anything online as to any specific rites or rituals. The Sumeg village is a neat spot to visit, which is less than 1/4 from the rock. Its real fun for kids because you can actually go into most of the structures, something you have to appreciate in our fenced-off world of liabilities.
Here is a relic from another time. This massive incense cedar must have fallen decades ago. This tree is in an ‘old growth’ forest and the canopy gap it created from its fall now provides light to the understory and a new group of trees has eagerly sprung up along the edge. The tree itself will continue to breakdown over the next hundred years, gradually releasing its stored carbon, some to the atmosphere, some back into the soil.
Or not. The last of the black oak fall like dominoes. There is some light in this tunnel, as the Board of Forestry in CA is looking at changing the stocking rules to allow for more meaning full restoration in encroached woodlands. Will it be enough to allow for more significant restoration? Yet to be seen.
As much as I like to think that certain forest roads are “mine”, I accept that other people come to the woods – other than forest workers – which tends to be during hunting season. Ive been on USFS Route 1 allot this year and during deer season it goes from seeing absolutely no one to seeing dozens of people a day. Private ranch patrols are out and all the little hunting camps are suddenly occupied with tents or trailers. Good Luck!
I am not a hunter. I have no qualms over the idea however and am always grateful when I have the opportunity to eat deer. But for people who apparently ‘love the woods’, I will never understand all the trash that gets left behind. A minority of hunters Im sure are responsible for really ‘not givin a shit’ – but I think we need more boy/girl scouts. My mama always taught me to leave the woods cleaner than it was when you arrived. Pack it out boys!
Watch out! This right here is no joke. A “widowmaker” is any freely hanging branch, limb or tree, that can fall on you. Trees store a ton of water and even a little 6″ limb can weigh hundreds of pounds. Widowmaker accidents make up 10% of deaths related to logging in the US.
The tree in the picture once had a forked top and the another stem was laying on the ground to the left. This is why foresters like to mark forked top trees in selection logging, as they are very vulnerable to wind-throw and rot. And as shown here, somewhat dramatically, they can cause havoc for neighboring trees and obviously cause a safety threat. Not sure of the trusty old hardhat will help when that thing goes…
This thing landed on my field computer, so I took a quick picture. Insects are fascinating and their are hundreds of forest bugs that I consider myself lucky to see. Of course some of them can bite and sting, but they are generally easy to avoid. I think this is a type of flesh fly, but Im not really sure.
Just as I was about step foreword I thought I saw something moving. It was a western rattle snake. I remember hearing Neil deGrasse Tyson say during an episode of Cosmos that humans were gifted with a keen ability to recognize patterns. This was one of those moments I was very thankful for that ability!
Last year I identified a active goshawk nest, although their breeding attempt was unsuccessful. This year however they fledged two chicks. Here is one of the little killers at about 8 weeks old.
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.
Another view of Black Butte (in terrible light). Here are some pics from the other side: https://nooksand.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/black-butte/