Monday, March 30, 2015

3 Month Appalachian Trail Countdown

Signs of spring around town

Arcata Bottoms
If all goes as planned, I hope to be standing on top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine in about three months, and beginning a southbound hike of the A.T. Spring fever is raging within my being with a vengeance this year. Here in California, we've a great mix of sunny warm days and rainy days, so everything is green, wildflowers are blooming, sun is warm and intense, and I can't wait to get back on the trail. I think the hardest part about hiking a trail southbound is watching everyone else start their hikes right now, and having to patiently wait. I think the 3 extra months of income will help in the post trail transition. I feel myself "checking out" again, but know that I shouldn't until the time comes. I have made a list of things to do before departure time and posted it onto my wall (my real wall). Looks like I will have to purchase a few more gear items this year. Also excited about driving across the country once again back to Maryland where my parents live. I'd much rather spend a few days driving than fly...

Friday, March 27, 2015

This Week in Humboldt Redwoods State Park: Spring

Maple leaves are budding

Trillium are blooming

Spring has arrived in the redwoods. This week the redwoods received some fresh spring rains as well as glorious, bright, sunshine. Maple leaves are popping out as well as the white flowers of the trillium. The mountainsides of Northern California are bright green right now, and will eventually turn their characteristic golden brown this summer after the rain stops.

On a side note, I noticed quite a few more fresh blow downs from last months windstorm. It seems many of the groves were affected. Since Humboldt Redwoods State Park is basically a narrow band of old growth along the Eel River in most spots, and many of the groves are rather small, I have to wonder about the structural integrity of the groves. Is it normal to see so many blow downs? Does there come a point when the big trees start falling like dominoes after each intense storm? How much of a wind buffer did the logged surrounding mountains provide, or was the Eel River always a wind tunnel? Some groves look like a boxer with one of his front teeth knocked out.  I don't want to be an alarmist, just an observation.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Redwood National Park and Stumps

Redwood National Park morning fog

Ancient Snag, yellow backpack for scale
Steel cables left behind
Massive stump
Big stump with springboard notches
Stump and cables

This stump almost looks like a fountain with green bubbling water.

Ancient canopy
Huge cave redwood, with filtered photo
Drove up to Redwood National Park yesterday on a perfect, rainy, misty day. I did a poor job staying dry, and was pretty much soaked and exhausted by the end of the day. I spent more time looking through some of the logged portions of the forest. I find these areas exciting because you never know what you will find back there. There always seems to be a few random giant trees left behind for some reason. It's also a way for me to wake up to the reality of what our civilization has, and continues to do to our forests.

On a side note, it appears many portions of California continue to suffer from major drought conditions. Here are photos of Half Dome taken this time of year over the last four years. Snow pack appears almost non existent in the Sierra right now. I'd have to say the northern redwood parks are doing much better in that regard, we seem to be getting a fair amount of rain this year...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

World's Largest Totem Pole McKinleyville/Fieldbrook Stumps

One of many
It's amazing how getting out of a car and walking around allows one to see so much more. This past week I was getting an oil change in McKinleyville and decided to walk around while I waited for my car to be ready. I noticed a 160 foot tall totem pole for the first time, carved out of redwood in one of the parking lots in town. I've driven through the town dozens of times and had never seen it before. This morning I stopped by to take a few pictures.

After snapping a few photos of the totem pole, I decided to stop by the town of Fieldbrook. It's been several months since I've been there. I wanted to see some redwood stumps. Even knowing what to expect I still felt stunned today driving through there. That valley must have held one of the grandest stands of redwoods of our age. Now, one can only imagine what it once looked like. The stumps are gigantic.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Varied Thrush

Lot's of bird song in the groves recently. My favorite is the varied thrush, which I've been hearing more and more the last couple of weeks. They seem to be very vocal in the morning and evenings. Then, as if on cue, they all stop singing at once.

I tried to capture a couple samples of the various tones of the thrush's song last night in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. If I ever find myself lying on a deathbed somewhere, I'd like to hear this sound from time to time. Background noise is most likely the Eel River, as well as highway 101.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Yurok and Redwood Canoes

A canoe like, partially burned out redwood log. I believe the RNP visitor center has an actual Yurok canoe on display there.
On one of my recent redwood ramblings, I came across an old partially burned out redwood log in an area that had seen some fire activity. The way the tree had burned, when I stepped into it, I thought "This reminds me of a canoe." It was then that I remembered reading a passage from a book that one of my neighbors lent to me called "Exploring Redwood National Park." It reads as follows:

     "The Yurok. Most numerous among Native Americans living within the park were Indians of the Yurok tribe. They lived along Klamath River for many miles inland, as well as north and south along the seacoast. Their civilization is believed by historians to once have been the highest level attained by known groups of native Californians.
     Because the Yurok lived near park rivers and streams, they were a people of the water. When asked directions by early settlers, they had no words for north, south, east, or west. Instead, everything was described as upstream or downstream by the Indians.
     Indians of the Yurok tribe constructed large canoes from fallen redwood logs, carefully burning and scraping the interior until finished. Such canoes were highly maneuverable, and even crashing rapids of Klamath River could be run by skillful paddlers. Because they were round bottomed, they could easily be swung by strong strokes of the helmsman. While running rapids, rocks were often approached head on, then shot within touching distance by those inside. Although Yurok Indians sometimes took their dugout canoes to sea, they were unsuited for such travel. Their paddles were designed for river use, and were stout poles six feet or more in length. Such long paddles frequently required natives to remain standing while poling through shallow areas."

Monday, March 2, 2015

50 Shades of Green

Keep in mind that it is now tick season. I found the first tiny tick on my pant leg this past week. Over the last few years, I've been bitten by several ticks in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Hendy Woods, Navarro Redwoods State Park, Montgomery Woods, and Malliard Redwoods State Park. Most were tiny deer ticks. It's a miracle I don't have lyme disease, at least I don't think I have it. Humboldt Redwoods State Park seems to have a fair share of them. Just be careful when hiking and do a thorough tick check at the end of the day if you go hiking there...

Redwood Photo Debate

The debate continues in the tree community about online postings of certain redwood trees, location information, careless posts or photos, which eventually lead to habitat destruction, and worst case scenario, tree damage. It's a similar debate in the long distance trail hiking community where books, blogs, and movies like "Wild" are increasing popularity of trails, which in turn can create certain habitat and social stress with larger numbers of people on them.

One member of the tree community pointed out how John Muir's quote "Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints," may fall short at this moment in history, at least in the redwood forest. It's clear how just one trek off trail can practically create a new path, as the vegetation is so fragile. Multiple treks off trail in the same spot, and a new trail is absolutely created.

I've tried to be careful with my blog as far as what I post, how much info is given etc etc. I'm trying not to be an elitist asshole, I just don't want to take any chances. I could never forgive myself if something I posted created the destruction of one of the trees. I've deleted many photos and posts over time. Every now and then I will look back on the content of this blog and think "What the hell was I thinking?" and delete the post or photo as it may be too risky as far as revealing locations of certain redwood trees. If I am to be honest with myself, there is probably a bit of ego involved. I'm trying my best to smash my ego if possible, and understand I have a way to go to be more disciplined with my pictures and posts as I try to chart a course forward. I love getting out into the forest, I love trying to capture the best image possible, and I want to share those images, but I have to do it responsibly. Anyhow, the conversation continues, and hopefully this blog will reflect some results from that conversation...