Friday, December 30, 2011

California Wolf?

The wolf is back in California. (Found this article thanks to the Pct-l.)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sierra Snow

Sierra snow levels. Where's the precipitation? Today we've had our first day of rain in while it seems. Hopefully drought levels won't return again this year...

Avenue of the Giants

(Eel River above)
After driving up to Prairie Creek Redwoods under blue skies, I returned home under a more common Northern California winter scene. Clouds, fog, and rain. I wanted to see the Dyerville Giant, a massive tree that fell in 1991. I heard it was in the Founder's Grove, a very popular spot in the park that I have skipped for some reason the last couple of times I've been here.




(Founder's Tree above)

Before reaching the fallen Dyerville Giant, the trail immediately visits the Founders Tree measuring in at 346 feet.

( Founder's Tree with scuff marks above)

It looked like a redwood tree had fallen quite recently, hit the Founder's Tree on it's way down, smashed part of the fence, and now lies to the left. When this happened, I don't know. The fence has been repaired, but the fall looked recent looking at the debris. I wonder if the Founder's Trees roots were damaged in the fall?

(Fallen giant next to the Founder's Tree above)

(Dyerville Giant above)

Eventually, the trail led to the Dyerville Giant. 20 years since it has fallen, it now is beginning to decay, ferns grow along it's now upward side, and a new redwood tree is growing off the top of it's roots!

(Dyerville Giant above)

(Dyerville Giant above)

After spending time in the Founder's Grove, it began to grow dark and I hit the road for home. This particular road trip had come to an end.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Prairie Creek Redwoods Part 2

I awoke in the middle of the night, and had some trouble falling back to sleep. It was Christmas morning after all. I was filled with excitement. Not from unopened presents lying under the Christmas tree from Santa Claus, but from undiscovered trails to hike upon!


As I mentioned in the previous post, I couldn't believe it when I checked my car's clock when I awoke in the morning. It was already 9:00. The inside of my vehicle was filled with condensation from sleeping in it. When I opened my car door, there was a terrible racket coming from somewhere near camp. A very strange noise I had never heard before. I assumed it was the elk in a nearby field, but I wasn't so sure. I cooked some oatmeal and looked at mushrooms growing around my campsite.


By the time I finished eating, the noise died down, and I took a short walk to the field where elk often congregate. There was nothing to be seen except dark clouds rolling in from the coast. I walked back to camp, packed up my stuff, and drove to the nearest trail head.


I took the obligatory picture in front of "The Big Tree," a 1500 year old, 305 foot giant. Big, but not nearly as big as the biggest! It started to get dark again as I took the Cathedral Trees loop trail. Eventually it started to sprinkle, and then rain. Oh well, this is a rain forest after all.


The smell of the earth, the orange pine covered trail, the rain was all overwhelming. I yearned to hike off trail, but stayed on the well maintained route. At first the redwoods offered excellent cover from the rain. It didn't take long for huge droplets to fall from the upper boughs. My rain jacket started to get soaked. After an hour or so, I returned to my car, but wanted to see more. I crossed the street and hiked along the Prairie Creek Trail. The forest was simply incredible.


There were several other tourists hiking the trails this Christmas day. At one point I stepped inside a burned out, but still living redwood. There are many of these to be found in these old growth forests. It is pretty common for some of the oldest living trees to be completely hollowed out by fire, hardly a single growth ring to be counted when they fall. While stepping inside, it offered an excellent respite from the rain. I could imagine these trees offered an excellent temporary shelter to any human who lived here long ago. Is it possible that nature provided convenient, practical shelters for humans in these forests without us even having to lift a finger?


The rain really started to come down and I was getting pretty cold and soaked, so I decided to head back to my car. I passed another trail head and couldn't resist trying to hike a little more. I put my rain jacket back on, but by this point I was getting pretty cold. I decided to call it a day, and head south.


I planned on stopping by the Avenue of the Giants on my way home, a couple hours south. I said goodbye to Redwood National Park, turned up the heat in my car, bought some coffee in Eureka, and headed down the 101.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Prairie Creek Redwoods

I drove up to Redwood National Park during my Christmas weekend since I could not go home this year. It was a different way to spend the holidays, I was a little apprehensive spending Christmas alone, but it was a gift nonetheless. I was not going to have a three day weekend for some time to come, so I wanted to take advantage of it. Prairie Creek is a place I hope to return to, a pleasant, pleasant surprise. I had no itinerary or plan, other than to drive north and see some Redwoods. Let me just say this is Forest with a capital F! Never have I seen a forest like this, and I guess nothing will ever be as grand from this point on. I was only to catch a small glimpse of it, due to time. I took a short hike Christmas eve and was literally swallowed by the forest. It seemed eternal if I didn't know any better. The woods were so thick, I couldn't imagine a bushwhack would even be possible, although some people do it. It felt like an enormous treasure chest, just waited to be discovered.

While hiking, I felt like a ruined man. Completely being ripped apart by the seems. So much to discover, so much to learn, so much to do, so many people to spend time with, so little time. To say it was all euphoria would be false. As enchanting as these forests are, my mood often becomes very gloomy in them. I was amazed how quickly light escaped. One moment, I'm looking at mushrooms and straining my neck to see the tops of the redwood giants, the next I'm hustling back towards my campsite cursing my curiosity for turning around too late. I arrived at camp after dark, relieved I did not get lost. $35.00 dollars a night to camp in a California State Park. At least give the poor the campgrounds for God's sake. Who can afford to camp for $35.00 a night?

I didn't bother setting up a tent and chose to sleep in my car instead. It's roomy enough where I can spread out. I didn't want to deal with a soaked tent in the morning. It was so dark that I fell asleep at 7:00pm. I couldn't believe it when I woke up at 9:00am on Christmas morning, it still seemed dark. Half the day was already gone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More Redwoods

While reading the book The Wild Trees, there was a brief reference to a park in Mendocino county that once held what was thought to be the world's tallest tree, discovered by Michael Taylor a few years ago. Immediately I began to wonder where it was. After a little research, I found out that it was good ol' Montgomery Woods. Locals were relieved when an even larger tree was found in a remote unexplored section of Redwood National Park by Taylor again. After a brief period where Montgomery Woods was "trampled," redwood enthusiasts focused their excitement elsewhere, and Montgomery Woods was left in relative peace. Currently, a tree dubbed Hyperion is the world record holder, discovered by Taylor in 2006 in Redwood National Park.

Spend enough time with any person, place, or thing, and you begin to appreciate it more and more. Like any relationship, time and effort is required, creating stronger bonds. I was happy to hear that "my" park was indeed quite special. In fact, several of the tallest trees remaining in the world are located in this humble grove. They are kept somewhat of a secret, it's any one's guess which ones are the tallest. Today, I had greater appreciation for the park's location and protection. It really is a magnificent place!

Driving from Ukiah this afternoon, the weather was warm and dry. Once I reached the area where the Redwood forest began to thicken, the temperature dropped noticeably, fog lingered in the air, and water droplets began to splash on my windshield. The weather had changed. Do the trees create their own weather, or does the area's location attract cooler, damper air? One can't help but think about the forest, our relationship with it, and what the future will bring when walking here. The scars are too noticeable not to think about it. The area's history is still unfolding, requiring one to think about it. The power of these gigantic trees beg one to question.

While hiking along the PCT in Southern California, Answerman and I hiked past a wildlife refuge located off a two lane highway just south of Aqua Dulce. The refuge was located a hundred feet or so below us. A huge fence was warning people of trespassing, alerting people of wild animals. Dilapidated structures, cages, tarps, and vehicles were littered about on the property. Every now and then, we would hear a roar coming from a cage down below. I remember telling Answerman how ironic it was, that if any of these animals happened to escape, they probably would be killed by law enforcement within a matter of minutes or hours. The evolutionary advantage, the wildness within each of these creatures was now a disadvantage in the modern world. For many large beasts, their hunting, aggressive nature is now an evolutionary liability.

The same seems to be true of the Redwoods. Whatever evolutionary advantage of growing 350 feet tall, living 2000 years, and containing 18,000 cubic feet of wood, (beautiful weather resistant wood no less), now seems like an evolutionary disadvantage. Today, while examining a recent blow down, I caught myself saying how nice the wood looked, imagining a patio, furniture, or house built with the lumber. Once again, 96% of the old growth Redwood forest has been cut. 96%!

Is the same true of humans? Has our perceived strength, our ability to control and thrive in our environment becoming an evolutionary liability as resources diminish?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Redwood Lecture by Richard Preston



An excellent lecture about Redwoods from the writer Richard Preston (author of The Hot Zone). He even includes a short discussion about the eastern Hemlock. I just picked up his book The Wild Trees and can't put it down! Highly recommended...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Redwoods

I took a couple of walks in some Redwood groves near the Navarro River on Friday and explored a little bit of the Montgomery Woods grove. Nothing extreme, just enough to get off the trail and take a look around. The forest was very cold again this weekend, damp, water dripping from the canopy, saturating the forest floor.

Where is the rain? This time last year, it seemed like it was raining every single day. It's been just over a year since I moved to Northern California. Other than an early storm system in October, and a day or two here and there, it hasn't really started raining this year.

What does it mean for the redwoods? I don't know. The fog seems to be doing a pretty darn good job keeping things damp. I wanted to focus on the trees, more than the mushrooms. I gave myself a pretty good crick in the neck from staring up at the canopy. I just read recently that huckleberry bushes can grow at the top of the trees, filled with ripe berries in the fall!

I know its obscene to take a picture of a dollar bill anywhere in these forests, but its all I had to show the scale of these giant mushrooms growing near the base of one particular redwood. How mystical are these forests! Spend some time in them, and they become a part of you.
Something draws you back time and time again to these forests. I don't particularly enjoy hiking in these woods either. Usually I am cold, coughing in the damp air, craving warmth and sunlight. My clothes get wet and muddy. There is probably no way I would choose to live amongst them. Yet they call for a visit regularly.
The trees and this unique ecosystem are easy to take for granted. On the way to work, I can easily put in a CD, drive through grove after grove, daydreaming about something else, mindlessly taking curve after curve.
Every so often, something will stir inside saying "Look where you are! Look at these magnificent trees! Get out of the car and take a look around!" The fact that this is a truly unique ecosystem, located only here in Northern California, is a reason to celebrate.
Until next time...

Monday, December 12, 2011

3 Women Lost in 3 Sisters Wilderness

I bought the Pacific Crest Trailside Reader last weekend. It's a collection of short stories from various hikers throughout the years compiled into one magnificent read. I've had to fight back tears a couple of times already, while reading. What a trail! Anyhow, one story I read this morning brought to mind a story that I would like to share that occurred in the Three Sisters Wilderness in Oregon. It's a story I am not particularly proud of. I have no pictures to share because unfortunately, this section of photos has been lost forever, thanks to a broken memory card. It's about three college aged women who were lost near Three Sisters. The story obviously will be written from my point of view. Here is my account of what happened on September 11, 2010:

Indie and I woke up at the break of dawn on a frigid morning in the Three Sister's Wilderness. It was one of the coldest mornings on the PCT. I ate my morning Pop Tarts and 2 packages of cold oatmeal, packed up my gear and was ready to hit the trail within 20 minutes. There was no point standing around, it was SO cold. Indie usually had more gear to pack up in the mornings so I began hiking while he was still packing up. The grass along the trail was covered with frost, and ice was forming in small creek beds. What a relief to know that the act of walking ignites the internal furnace. It wasn't long before my body was warming up to the early morning sun, however it was still too cold to take off my gloves and winter hat.

While approaching a shadowed, frost covered meadow, I saw three distant figures walking northbound on the PCT. From a distance, I could see that neither of the hikers were carrying backpacks.
"Must be camping nearby," I remembered thinking. "The nearest road is several miles away. Probably out for a morning stroll."
As I approached, I noticed that it was three young women, and they were all wearing hooded sweatshirts, sweatpants, and they had a tiny dog with them. It seemed a bit odd.
"Good morning!" I said, happy to see three attractive females in the wilderness.
"Good morning," they responded.
"Are you camping nearby?" I asked.
"No," one of the women answered. "We slept on the trail last night."
"Where's your gear?" I asked.
"We don't have any, we got lost hiking yesterday, couldn't find our way out, and decided to sleep on the trail last night. Are we on the PCT?"
"Yes!" I said. "You slept on the trail last night? Without a sleeping bag or tent? It was freezing!"

Turns out, the women sandwiched each other throughout the night, and took turns being the person in the middle with the little dog. They said they were shivering all night, did not sleep at all. I couldn't believe it. I asked them if they were hungry, although I only had a small amount of extra food. I gave them what I could spare, and volunteered to walk with them until they reached safety.

It was every man's dream! Three pretty damsels in distress! Here I am, a man of the mountains with super hero like stamina and strength! I will show you the way to safety!

"Do you know where we are?" One of the women asked.
Flustered, I actually had no idea where I was. I knew I was on the PCT. In fact, I hadn't checked my guidebook maps in days, and I knew they were buried in my pack somewhere. I fumbled with my pack and out spilled several unopened zip locks filled with data book descriptions, Yogi pages, and several sections of guidebook maps. There was no way I was going to be able to pinpoint our location. I didn't even know what section I was technically in.
"We are walking north on the PCT," I answered, trying to project confidence. "Where are you trying to go?"
"Oh good, we want to be on the PCT. Our car is at South Mathieu Lake," one of the women informed me.
I had no clue where that was, or what it looked like. One of the females assured me that we were heading in the right direction, so I attempted my best to lighten the situation with small talk. The little dog seemed to be the most confident of all of us, happily marching up the trail.

One of the three women really began to fall behind a mile or so up the trail. I couldn't tell if she was frustrated, tired, or didn't want to be rescued. I was feeling insecure. One of the females began to insist that they were OK, that they could make it out now. I still hadn't quite grasped the seriousness of the situation and relented.
"OK, well at least take my last Snickers." I said, giving the candy bar to the girl who was falling behind. Before departing I asked for a photo.
"This is going to be a great story for my blog!" I exclaimed stupidly.
The girls posed for a group photo, and then I said my goodbyes. Instantly, I began to beat myself up for asking for a photo. I also began to question whether I did the right thing by leaving them. At least Indie was behind us. If the girls got into trouble, he would be hiking up behind them in half an hour or so.

About five minutes after leaving the women behind, A caravan of search and rescue came galloping up the trail on horseback, decked out with emergency equipment, bright yellow jackets, and first aid.
"Did you see three college aged females this morning?" One of the crew asked somewhat frantically.
"Yes, they are a couple minutes down the trail!" I exclaimed.
"Thank God!" one of the crew members said, as they quickly sped off.

All of a sudden I felt the gravity of the situation. I continued to beat myself up the rest of the morning as I questioned whether or not I did the right thing. When I reached South Mathieu Lake, there were emergency vehicles everywhere in the parking lot. Cops talking on walkie talkies, tourists asking what was going on. I sheepishly avoided all of them, took a side trail, and filled up my water bottles at the lake. During this time, Indie had unknowingly hiked in front me, and was eating lunch at highway 242 at McKenzie Pass. I was in desperate need to talk. Trail therapy was in order.

Upon seeing Indie sitting along the highway, he greeted me by screaming, "YOU TRAIL PAPARAZZI!!!"
"NOOOOO!" was all I could say. "What did you hear???"
Indie proceeded to tell me how he met the girls after they had been rescued. They told him how I asked for their photo in their time of distress. I felt like a fool. However, I was not the only trail paparazzi that morning. You can see Indie's photos and account of the day here!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lunar Eclipse

I forced myself out of bed this morning at 4:45 to check out the lunar eclipse. It's been a while since I've seen one, so I figured it was time. It was very cold this morning in town, and I walked a mile or so until I reached the base of the mountains and out from under the orange glow of the streetlights. As I was walking, the earth's shadow slowly began to cover the face of the moon. There were some incredible shooting stars as well! One streaked across the sky, leaving a greenish trail behind it, that took about 10 seconds for it to dissipate. Once the moon was covered, I waited and waited for the sliver to reappear, but it never did. The moon dipped behind the mountains, so I walked home in the twilight.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Spirit Eagle

Here is an excellent resource about the CDT (Continental Divide Trail.) It's a blog called Spirit Eagle and contains information from Jim and Ginny Owen who have hiked the CDT twice.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Backpacking Bug

The backpacking bug has bitten again, and I have found myself spending a lot of time researching the mysterious Continental Divide Trail. A few fortunate backpackers have achieved the "Triple Crown," which is the completion of the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. I first heard of the triple crown many years ago while in college, and have dreamed of achieving that goal at some point in my life ever since. I think if I'm ever fortunate to hike another trail, the CDT will be the next one. I ordered Yogi's CDT handbook last month, and also ordered Jonathan Ley's maps a few days ago. I'm keeping a watchful eye on my bank account to see if this dream can become a reality this year or not. Some dreams are great to have whether they are achieved or not in my opinion. So, if you happen to see future posts on the CDT, you will know the reason why. It's on my mind! The next few months, I am going to be making the preparations involved to attempt a southbound CDT thruhike beginning sometime in mid to late June. I will have to decide whether the financial risk will be worth it probably sometime in April or May. If the financial risk is too great, I will continue to work and wait another year. There is a lot to do in the meantime...


Mushroom Hunting

I went mushroom hunting for a couple of hours over the weekend and found a few more shrooms for the first time this year. Some pictured above are repeats. The forest felt like a freezer this weekend. The air was much warmer, and the forest floor much drier, a hundred feet or so up the mountainside. I'm starting to finally distinguish between the different kinds of fungus, no better way to learn, than to be outdoors looking at them in person.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Albino Deer?

videoI came across this small herd of white animals a few evenings ago while I was driving on a desolate mountain road. I stopped the car to take a couple of pictures and a short video. I thought the scene was absurd. Were they farm animals? Goats? Llamas? My brain was telling me they were deer. A herd of albino deer? That's preposterous!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World











Here's an interesting lecture from a man obviously passionate about mushrooms. I came across this video on the PCT-L a couple days ago.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mushroomfest

I took a hike near Montgomery Woods this afternoon and was simply blown away by the mushrooms. Never in my life can I recall seeing so many everywhere I looked. It was like one of those blurry pictures, that if you stare at it long enough, you can read what it says or see the picture come to life. On the forest floor, if I stopped and stared at the ground, all of a sudden, all these mushrooms became visible that seemed invisible at first glance.
Unfortunately, I ran out of daylight, and was unable to explore as much as I wanted. I was blessed with a natural high that I have not felt in a long time, it was simply incredible.
The picture above is one of my favorite of the day. I overturned a large rock and this amazing fungi was growing underneath. It was like a giant cracked dinosaur egg. The gray blob on top was as fleshy as it looks.
These fungi are extremely fragile, and once again, had to constantly watch my step when travelling off trail. There was no way to spare the destruction of a careless step. Many mushrooms had already been overturned by previous hikers as well. Right now, I am content to photograph the shrooms and have no desire to accidentally poison myself by eating one.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

More Shrooms

I think this time of year may be the favorite for these forests as they come back to life with all the rain...


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rain

Several days of rain are in the forecast. I enjoyed driving through the coastal redwoods and experiencing this ancient weather cycle that is so crucial to these forests. Brings to mind the question. Which came first, the rain or the redwood?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mushroom Season







I spent the morning walking under the big trees in Montgomery Woods. Mushroom season has begun...

Friday, November 11, 2011

11-11-11











Another stunning day along the NorCal coast. Winds were blowing from the east creating clean, glassy waves. I discovered a stretch of public beach access I've never been to before and was completely blown away. Not a soul to be seen on this Veteran's Day. Also spent some time in Pt. Arena and Ft. Bragg. Colors were tremendous.