Forests

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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2014: Year in Pictures

A New Years tradition continues here at Nook and Crannies! This is my third year and I have added The 2014 Gallery. Once again, picking a favorite image is very hard, so this year I decided to pick out a few:

VAN 081The Grandfather Tree. This remains the largest, most interesting Douglas-fir tree I have ever encountered in Humboldt County.

 

MR 559Mad River Rocks! This is one of the coolest rock formations I have found yet. I still hope to return to this location with better light and get some better pictures. However, I can say that I was able to return and confirm the presence of a peregrine falcon nesting on the rock.

 

ER 078Baby Owls! Speaking of wildlife, this was one of my luckiest experiences this year, at least being able to get such good pictures of spotted owl monitoring.

What will 2015 hold? I hope to keep it going with pictures of our wonderful area. I also hope to actually find the time to explore more public places, such as the Klamath and Siskiyou wilderness areas. Who knows, maybe Ill even get an actual camera which would be a serious upgrade from my current camera phone. Happy New Year!

Afforestation

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Afforestation is the establishment of a forest or stand of trees in an area where there was no forest. This landowner has established this redwood plantation in what was a brush field/pasture in the past.

Afforestation is different than reforestation, which is replanting areas that were already forests, such as in a clearcut or fire. Since the modern era, humans have greatly reduced the overall forest cover all over the world. In some places dramatically. I found some of these facts interesting about forests in other countries regarding Afforestation:

Iran is considered a low forest cover region of the world with present cover approximating seven percent of the land area. This is a value reduced by an estimated six million hectares of virgin forest, which includes oak, almond and pistachio. Due to soil substrates, it is difficult to achieve afforestation on a large scale compared to other temperate areas endowed with more fertile and less rocky and arid soil conditions. Consequently, most of the afforestation is conducted with non-native species, leading to habitat destruction for native flora and fauna, and resulting in an accelerated loss of biodiversity.

China has deforested most of its historically wooded areas. China reached the point where timber yields declined far below historic levels, due to over-harvesting of trees beyond sustainable yield. Although it has set official goals for reforestation, these goals were set for an 80 year time horizon and are not significantly met by 2008. China is trying to correct these problems by projects as the Green Wall of China, which aims to replant a great deal of forests and halt the expansion of the Gobi desert. A law promulgated in 1981 requires that every school student over the age of 11 plant at least one tree per year. As a result, China currently has the highest afforestation rate of any country or region in the world, with 47,000 square kilometers of afforestation in 2008. However, the forest area per capita is still far lower than the international average.

Here are some interesting facts about forests in the US taken from the State of America’s Forests report by the Society of American Foresters:

• The United States ranks fourth on the list of most forest-rich countries, following the Russian Federation, Brazil, and Canada, with 8 percent of the world’s primary forest.
• The number of acres of forestland in the United States has remained essentially the same during the past century.
• On average, 11 percent of the world’s forestland benefits from some type of conservation effort. In the United States, 20 percent is protected by conservation initiatives.
• Assessments of biodiversity on the nation’s forests have found that the annual rate at which species are listed as threatened or endangered has declined five- fold.
• Historical trends indicate that the standing inventory (the volume of growing stock) of hardwood and softwood tree species in US forests has grown by 49 percent between 1953 and 2006.
• Forest management also has been recognized as an effective means of sequestering carbon over the long term. In the United States, the total amount of carbon sequestered by forests and the creation of wood products during the 1990s was estimated at almost 200 megatons per year, an amount equal to approximately 10 percent of US carbon dioxide emissions.

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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