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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lobaria and Pseudocyphellaria

 Lobaria (above)
I like how these lichen are described as indicators of ecosystem health, only to be found in old growth forests. How long does a forest need to exist before the lobaria arrive?
Pseudocyphellaria (above) 
Found near Montgomery Woods.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tree Hunting

 I took a drive "over the mountain" as the locals say around here, to do some tree hunting. Storm after storm continues to arrive here in Northern California. Seems we've had a lot of rain this month. I couldn't stay inside any longer and had to get back out into the forest. There was snow in the higher elevations this morning and even a little in the redwood forest.
 I spent most of the day bushwhacking around, looking for big trees, new trees, and albinos. The albino ghosts have kept hidden for now, perhaps I just got lucky last month.
 Found some more California nutmeg trees (above). This time, I could see the tiny nutmegs beginning to grow on the branches.
 Once again, there was plenty of lichen lying on the forest floor, blown from the upper branches of the redwoods. I think I read somewhere that these serve as fertilizer for the forest once they blow off, although I'm not 100% certain.
 There is nothing like coming across an unexpected giant. This ancient redwood was the largest tree I found all day. Once I stood inside the cave and looked up, there was a gaping hole at the top. This tree's main trunk seemed to be completely missing 100 feet up or so, but enormous reiterated trunks had grown along the sides. It was a magnificent specimen.
 I found this pine cone with a mushroom growing out the top. There were trees here that looked different from any I've noticed before. I can not tell if the above cone is from a Douglas fir or not, although it looks similar. I also could not tell if the trees were Douglas firs or something else.
 This massive wall of wood was an exciting find. Four redwood trees mashed together. It was amazingly skinny when I walked to the side to take a look.
I also found this massive Douglas fir growing on the top hill I was on. There was debris from the tree all over the place, massive chunks of bark and branches that had fallen from above. The tree looked like it might be in its final days. Before the day was over, I was retracing my steps and heard a loud crash and snarling noises. It scared the heck out of me, as I saw a large beast running through the forest with what appeared to be mountain lion colors, however I saw no tail on it. After freezing for a minute, I began walking again, and about 30 feet in front of me, I saw what looked like a giant black pig sprint along an old logging road right in front of me. Supposedly they are fairly common, but its the first I've seen during my hikes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Grand Fir

 I came across what I believe is the grand fir today while doing some forest exploration. This time, there were plenty of cones on the ground to help with the identification.
This tree was found near the coast, along with redwoods and Douglas firs. A pretty impressive tree in its own right.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Montgomery Woods

 It's been raining off and on for the last two weeks it seems. It's good to get some much needed rainfall after a dry fall and winter. I visited Montgomery Woods on Sunday despite fighting off a nasty, lingering cold. Before reaching the redwood grove, I was surprised to see some snow on the top of the mountain, dusting the distant tops of the trees.
 There was a lot of water flowing through the grove, the most I've ever seen. The trail was covered with flowing water for the most part. There were a lot of trillium in bloom.
 I had to stop by and say hello to my tree friend "Gnarles." Spent more time looking for the "ghost of Montgomery," still no luck.
 I came across some more logging equipment, at least that's what I think this is. Also found a pretty cool tree house some hermit was living in. It was basically a burned out old redwood stump, with a converted fire place and chimney coming out the top, with shelves and old bedding on the inside.

The calypso orchids are starting to bloom on the redwood forest floor now. I believe they are also called pink lady slipper as well.
 Also, there was a lot of different lichens lying on the ground, blown off from the upper branches. It was pretty windy on Sunday, and I watched some of the trees bend in a variety of ways. As far as I could tell, all of the old giants survived this weeks winter storm.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Redwood Fairy Ring

If the redwoods have one thing going for them in their battle for survival, it's their ability to sprout new trees off the roots of previously logged or burned stumps. After a short time, each tree develops its own root system. These growths are referred to as "redwood fairy rings." This particular cluster was found in a logged section of forest near Montgomery Woods.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What do the Redwoods Want?

I've been working with kids with autism now for several years. The severity of the autism has varied from case to case. I've worked with kids who can communicate very well on a one to one basis, and I've worked with kids who can not speak at all. One particular child I will name David (his name is not really David for privacy reasons.) I've been working with this child for almost a year, he can not speak at all, only makes a few sounds here and there. My supervisor and I have had the hardest time teaching David anything, because we have not been able to find anything that motivates him. Its common for kids with autism to have unusual interests. It's also very common to have to alter your approach with each child. Compromise is almost crucial. In David's case, he does not care about toys, isn't motivated by food, hardly motivated by candy, doesn't seek out attention or affection that much. "What does he want?" I wondered. For all intents and purposes, he is very, very passive.

One day, I happened to observe that David really seemed to enjoy watching the credits roll at the end of a movie he showed no interest in. He started "stimming", which is a term used to describe when a child with autism becomes stimulated. David started flapping his arms, making noises, and seemed to really become happy watching those credits roll. I mentioned this to my supervisor, and we attempted to use the credits as a reward for following simple commands. Sure enough, for the first time in a year, David started responding to the commands as long as he was immediately rewarded with a couple minutes of credits to watch on TV. David started to come out of his autistic world, if ever so briefly.

Anyhow, I woke up in the middle of the night the last couple of nights and for some reason started thinking about the redwoods. Now that most of the old growth forest has been logged and the challenge now becomes how to manage the second and third and fourth generation redwoods, what is the best approach? How do we balance the need (or want) for quality lumber, with the health of the overall redwood ecosystem?

Is it possible that we can listen, and observe the redwood forest and fully understand what the redwoods want? Obviously water and sunlight are great motivators, but is there anything else? Redwoods also want to live and thrive, I have no doubt about that. Do they desire a greater habitat? Can we put their needs first and develop a symbiotic relationship where the redwoods can provide the lumber we desire along with helping them meet their ultimate desires? Is there a way we can encourage them to produce more wood for us, while we help them flourish and thrive at the same time? What do they need to help them do this?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Flowers in the Redwood Forest

 Redwood violet (above)

Here are a few new arrivals in the redwood forest this spring. Redwood violet is the first but I'm not sure what the other two are.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ponderosa Pine

 The Ponderosa Pine is a tree that has been growing on me lately, no pun intended of course. Today I had to drive to a place called Hidden Valley for work, I have no idea where I was, other than I saw a forest of Ponderosa Pines and wanted to set the bar with a few measurements.
 These trees were fairly large, but I've seen larger ones while driving all around the county. Today I just had to stop since I had my measuring tape with me. I had time to measure about two trees before it got too dark.
 The bark on both trees had holes all over it. Woodpeckers? The photo below was taken on one of my trips towards Humboldt county. According to Michael Taylor's website, the tallest Ponderosa Pine comes in at 268.29 feet a tree in Southwest Oregon.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mailliard Redwoods and Douglas Firs

 After speaking with Michael Taylor a couple of months ago, one of the places he suggested I check out was Mailliard Redwoods State Reserve since it's in Mendocino county. I had never heard of it before, and decided to check it out today. It's located several miles south of Hendy Woods, off Fish Rock Road, a few miles off the 128. Although the redwoods here are smaller, there were some impressive Douglas Firs growing here. The biggest I have seen since I started searching this winter.

 Just as I can now tell when a redwood will have a 40 foot circumference, ( a "Wow! automatically escapes the lips) I think the same can now be said of a Douglas Fir with a 20 foot cbh (circumference breast height.) If an automatic reaction occurs, it's worth measuring.

 I spent several hours combing the hillsides and slogging through the ravines. Unfortunately, looking for big trees is turning into an addiction. It's like I need to get a fix after a few days of town life. Thankfully, there was plenty to see, experience, and enjoy today.

 It's funny, while struggling up the hillsides in Montgomery Woods yesterday, the thought popped in my mind  how I wished I had one of my hiking poles with me. Today, I rediscovered the joys of carrying a walking stick. It's been years since I carried one! The thought never occurred to me yesterday that all I had to do was find a staff on the ground! There is just something about a walking stick that a hiking pole does not have. I don't know what it is. I just feel more like a sage with a staff.

 The highlights of the day were finding the Douglas Firs, the California Nutmeg (see post below) and this one particular ancient redwood giant (pictured below). It had such a unique base, hollowed out by fire. I had to wonder if its days are numbered. As robust and alive as its crown appeared, it seemed as if the slightest nudge would topple the old beast.

After I had my fill, the day ended with one of the biggest turkey sandwiches I've ever eaten in my life from the market in Boonville. Another great day of redwood exploration.

Montgomery Woods

 I spent the weekend exploring a little more in Montgomery Woods on Saturday and Mailliard Redwoods State Reserve Sunday. Both days included exhausting bushwhacks. It was nice to see a lot of water flowing in Montgomery Woods yesterday. The winter storm that passed a few days ago seems to have left a lot of water in the grove.
 During my exploration of Montgomery Woods, I found an interesting spot way up on the mountainside. It was like a mini lost grove. There were some descent sized trees up there. Just before the ridge top was a shelf maybe a hundred yards long or so that held several large trees and a fern garden. It was really peaceful here. There was just the faint sound of trickling water, but otherwise very quiet, and very secluded.
 After spending some time measuring the circumferences of some of the trees there, I hiked up the remaining few hundred feet to the top. The Redwoods were replaced by oaks and prairie grass, and I had a nice view into one of the valley's below.
The tree above was one of the largest in the lost grove up on the hillside. An ancient giant with a cavernous base. After exhausting my curiosity, I headed back down and called it a day.