Thursday, March 29, 2012

Van Damne State Park and Western Hemlock

Two Western Hemlock Trees (above)
I decided to go for a hike in Van Damne State Park along the Mendocino Coast after work yesterday afternoon. It's been a while since I've hiked here, and I was curious what I might find this time around. In my mind, I was going to find some large redwoods that I had missed before. However, that was not the case. In fact, I was very surprised how small the redwoods are here. It's definitely a second or third generation forest, all the monster redwoods have been logged and removed.
Western Hemlock (above)
Nonetheless, it's an exceptional forest in my opinion. While hiking along the trail, I noticed a tiny jelly bean sized pine cone that I've never seen before. After looking around for a minute and seeing only redwoods and Douglas firs, I saw the bark of a tree 20 feet up the hill that was new to me. There were many more of these small cones the closer I got to the tree. I recognized the roots from my California conifer book and suspected it was my first positive ID of the Western Hemlock. After taking a few photos and putting a few cones in my pocket, the identification matched my book when I got home. It's a beautiful tree.
 For all intents and purposes, this seems to be a very healthy forest. There were many large Douglas firs and Grand Firs mixed amongst the redwoods. Lobaria, and other lichens adorned the ground, blown down from upper branches. Vegetation was lush, fungi was ever present, and it felt like a rainforest. I did a little bushwhacking, but quickly returned to the trail after realizing that I did not have enough time, nor the will power to struggle through the underbrush.
 The Northern California Coast continues to get pummeled by storms this month, and more rain is expected the remainder of this week. Streams and rivers seem to be completely swollen at the moment. Better late than never I guess.
 I took a couple measurements as well. Above was a giant old Douglas Fir growing on a hillside.
Measured my first Grand Fir with a circumference at breast height of 14 feet, 8 inches. The tree had poison oak vines growing along the side, as well as snails climbing up and down the trunk. After a three hour walk, I had to head home and call it a day.

1 comment: