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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
[aka Mark Twain]