Humboldt County

Spring Recap

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Hard to find blogging time as of late, so I thought I catch up and post a few of my last good pictures from this spring.

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Last time Lassic caught a dusting of snow. Sadly it is apparently an inferno now, as the Lassic fire continues to burn. I plan on taking a photographic adventure up there this winter to document the fire.

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And a few more from the same day. This little bit of snow was just not enough to have any measurable impact on ground water recharge. Normally, where I took these pictures, snow drifts would be in spots like this until at least June – generally preventing access. This year all the snow was gone by early May – and it was a pathetic showing. What will El Nino bring? Warm rain? We need a snow pack bad, so hopefully we get good rains but more importantly snow.

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Houdini the Owl

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Meet the elusive Houdini. I have been monitoring this owl for about 5 years now. Normally we find the birds, offer them prey and if they are nesting will fly to their nest, or young, or mate… This is how you define a spotted owls territory and thus are able to protect it from nearby logging. Every so often a owl pair will not play along. Like this one, who has never shown me a nest. In fact they always disappear in the prime nesting weeks. The male here, is not shy however. As long as I bring gifts…

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Fractured Earth

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While exploring a rock outcrop, I found that it had a crack that more or less went through the whole formation. Caves are rare in our area, so I was curious if I could [safely] find one in this sandstone rock complex. While fractured rock is the name of the game in the Fransican sandstone make up of most of Humboldt County, its neat when you can explore a large, intact chunk of solid rock.

From the top of the rock I could see down in some places into a deep crevasse. This fracture went down as far as I could see, at least one hundred feet. I followed the crack to the edge of the cliff, and did my best to memorize a few trees that were growing at the base of the rock, in hopes I could find them on the other side. In this way I could try to find this fissure from the bottom and see if there were any caves.

From the bottom, I note that shadows create the illusion of potential caves, but closer inspection revels that this outcrop is solid. And massive, at least relative to other rocks near it. The cliffs here are 100-200 feet. I find the trees I remember, but dont see any openings. But there is a large talus slope, broken up rock the accumulates on the base of cliffs, that leads up to a small ‘valley’ in the rock face.

And…lo and behold there is a cave, of sorts. Right off the bat, this place is dicey. A cave has formed by large pieces of rock becoming wedged into the large crack. It looks precarious for sure, but its not moving. Well, unless there was an earthquake…. Still I work up the courage to go in…I didnt sweat all the way up here for nothing!

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I work my way in about 50 feet before I start to have second thoughts. Infact the thought of an earthquake is really hard to shake from my mind. I know as a fact that this rock outcrop sits right on a local fault known as the Gordon Fault.

Then I get to this spot where the ‘floor’ just disappears into darkness. I realize I am standing on large rock fragments wedged into the crack, much like the ‘ceiling’ above me. As I look down, I cant see anything that resembles a bottom. I attempted to use my camera flash to capture this depth, but the perspective was hard to shoot – at least with my phone camera.

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Well, no long lost treasure or hundreds of bats. But I was pretty satisfied with my adventure. For Humboldt County, this is a pretty unique rock formation. One for books for sure.

Old Growth Trip

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When I have the opportunity, I love to explore old growth forests. These are plentiful in Six Rivers National Forest, as well as Shasta-Trinity and Mendocino National Forests. Here some pictures from a recent adventure. This forest is almost what would be called “California Mixed Conifer” but has some coastal nuances. Less pine and the presence of tanoak, alder and certain willow. These forests are also what we call “primary” forests, never been logged. Many thousands of acres of forest along South Fork Mountain transitioned from oak woodlands and savannah in the past several hundred years. Here is another example of transition – in an extreme sense – from oak to conifer forest.

The Juniper Tree

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Once again I have had the fortune to enter a strange, unique wilderness located in the back country of Humboldt County. This place is known as the Eaton Roughs, which is a sandstone block that has surfaced in the past few million years via faulting. The Roughs now hold a small island of unique vegetation, for the coast range, with many plants that you would expect to see in the Klamath Mountains or the Yolla Bollys.

One species in particular was on my mind for the day; Juniperus sp.. Last time I was in this area I came across what I was fairly confident was a juniper, however I was unable to key it properly. This time I was set to verify what kind of tree this is, or at the very least collect enough data to have people smarter than me help identify it.

There are only a few species that this tree can be. Juniperus grandis (Sierra), Juniperus occidentalis (Western) or Juniperus communis (Common). Initially I thought that these could potentially be sierra juniper – due to their form. While pretty limited, my experience with western and common juniper were that they often where more shrub-like. However after more research and examination, I am now pretty confident that these are indeed Juniperus occidentalis, or western juniper.

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According to Michael Kauffmann in Conifer Country, the oldest known western junipers are 1,000-1,500 years old. I found several trees that looked like the one above, gnarly and obviously quite old. Could they be over 1,000 years old? Another interesting fact is how apparently their range has increased in the past 50 years. While climate change is one potential explanation, fire exclusion seems to be the most likely reason. This has certainly been true in this region as well, and this may be why I found abundant regeneration throughout the Roughs.

I would appreciate any comments to confirm or refute if this is western juniper. I did collect some leaves, bark and berries – if required.

Return to the Hidden Canyon

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I was able to crawl up into my secret canyon again. This place in one of the coolest places I stumbled on, and despite its impressive scale, it is very well hidden. The canyon is about 400-500 feet long and has sheer cliff walls that are close to 80 feet. Too bad I only have a phone to take pictures with. This spot certainly deserves better, and as with last time, I am a little disappointed in the pictures. The light was not the best for me and well lets face it, Im just a forester with a camera phone. LOL Someday I will get a real camera, or take a real photographer here.

Conifer Country: Book Review

Today I offer my first book review; Conifer Country; A natural history and hiking guide to 35 conifers of the Klamath Mountain region, by Micheal Kauffmann. It is put out by our very own Backcountry Press who has put out some real neat books in them past few years.

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The book is essentially a tree guide with companion hikes for all the species that occur in the region. But unlike most tree guides, which are generally about as exciting as dictionaries, Conifer Country describes each tree in a naturalist style of writing. There is just enough ‘technical’ information to properly identify the trees but the best part is the description of the trees ecology and how they fit into the landscape. This is done very well and makes the guide section fun to read, assuming you are interested in trees.

The author is certainly inspired by John Muir and like Muir, he really captures the essence of the Klamath that one only can obtain by spending significant time there. This is evident in the writing and I get the sense that the author is truly in love with these mountains and trees.

Confer Country is a great book for hikers and naturalists, beginners or veterans alike. Even if you are experienced in the area, you may just find several bits of interesting information that you did not know about the Klamath. I sure did! As a forester, I read technical writing all the time and while I of course enjoy the scientific aspect of things, I have always found great peace in naturalist writing.

If you are a follower of my blog and/or live in this area, i guarantee you will not be disappointed with this book. I have heard from one or two people that the hiking guide has pointed out a few peoples ‘secret’ spots, but I have always believed that when it comes to hiking back country, anyone who is willing to go to these remote places is probably someone I wont mind running into.

Be sure to check out Conifer Country online for Micheal Kauffmann’s blog. He also posts digital versions of the maps in the book that you can download after you buy the book – which is a pretty awesome idea.

I will also plug my favorite book store: Eureka Books. This bookstore has a whole section devoted to local books, and often you can find signed copied. Go there and get Conifer Country today!

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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.

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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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!

Hidden Spring

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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.

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Obsidian

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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.

Old Growth *Black* Oak

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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!